While Mike Gablemen is still spinning, bobbing, weaving and parsing like an everyday defendant.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Again, the media has the sad details: a drunk driver, far over the limit after leaving a bar, kills herself, and an innocent passenger in another vehicle.
Like the crash a couple of years ago in Franklin after which a heavily-intoxicated driver killed two people after hours of getting hammered at a tavern, this more recent crash in Washington County raises an old question:
What's the culpability of the tavern, and the server (s)?
In the Franklin case, the owner had to shut down for a few months, but the Milwaukee District Attorney, after making noises about bring what would have been a precedent-setting charging, basically chickened out.
The DA said the bar and the bartender cooperated, which isn't really saying much since much of their continual serving of an obviously intoxicated patron was caught on videotape.
It's part of the terrible truth about Wisconsin's drinking culture: the taverns get a pass.
Even though it's an obvious fact that as in the Washington County wreck, a woman who drinks herself to 0.24 BAC has had a great deal to drink, and the server (s) had to have been aware that she would not make a very safe motorist thereafter.
I can hear all the libertarian/denial-and-enabling excuse makers hammering away at their keyboards about the responsibilities of the drinker (even though she was extremely drunk and not a keen decision-maker at the critical moment), and the unfettered rights of establishments to sell their legal product, etc.
DA Chisholm could have sent all tavern owners and employees a strong message after the Franklin case, but chose not to.
I'm not saying the crash wouldn't have happened recently in Washington County, but I'm saying a valuable teaching lesson was left undelivered.
How many more people have to die under these circumstances before law enforcement accurately apportions out a full and fair measure of legal consequences?
Posted by James Rowen at 6:29 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 6:25 PM
Nearly been a year since federal officials came to Milwaukee and ran a semi-open house, semi-hearing (the hearing part with a microphone and an audience for comments was forced upon the process by attendees) to produce the recertification review that the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission needs to keep approving major transportation projects.
The review report was promised for March, then May, then it was, 'we'll let you know,' followed by non-responses to calls and emails.
So much for public input: a year's delay makes the process meaningless, which I presume was the feds' intentions.
No complaint from SEWRPC, either.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:23 AM
The effective, attention-garnering grassroots operation Growing Power gets an even-higher profile.
And does so on its non-profit merits, A lesson for the top-down model pushed by the M7, for example.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:20 AM
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
As predicted here, the seminal ruling two weeks ago by US District Court Lynn Adelman against the state transportation department over the Highway J expansion - - shoddy studies, bogus hearings, poor conclusions, etc. - - is leading to more probable legal challenges by citizen groups, says the Daily Reporter.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:51 PM
In February of this year I attended a panel discussion at UW-Milwaukee regarding the pending tidal wave of stimulus dollars and possibilities for green jobs in Milwaukee.
Those sure were some high-flying times back in early ’09 when non-profiteers like me were kept awake at night with Scrooge McDuck-like dreams of swimming backstroke in piles of grant dollars that would rained upon our agencies like pennies from heaven.
Not much news at that discussion - - however my old boss, former Milwaukee Alderman Mike D’Amato got off a great one-liner:
“The worst possible thing for Milwaukee is that this money is for shovel-ready projects only.”
It was funny then, and it is funny now how dated a reference like “shovel ready” gets in eight months.
While leaving the discussion I had an awkward exchange with another audience member who works in economic development for a planning committee in the region that will remain nameless.
It went something like this:
Man in sweater: “So… you’re Jim Rowen’s son…what do you do?”
SMR: “I do business and economic development on the North side of Milwaukee. Primarily I am focused on helping to attract new businesses that create jobs in areas like the 30th Street Industrial Corridor...”
Man in sweater: (eyes rolling) “Hmph…sheesh (eyes now bulging…how do you that?”
This is how: http://www.nwscdc.org/
Posted by James Rowen at 5:30 PM
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
6:30 pm – 8 pm, Tuesday, September 29, UWM Union, Wisconsin Room.
8:30 am – 10 am, Wednesday, September 30, UWM Union, Wisconsin Room.
The UWM Union is located at 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:48 PM
The Master Plan expansion envisioned by UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago is premised on big dollar donations from private sector partners.
Without them, the School of Freshwater Science and the engineering/research complex at the County Grounds will be slow to get off the ground and succeed.
I am hearing that the M7 Water Council has not been able quickly to bring in its private sector partners' contributions, nor has the engineering plan at the County Grounds found donors.
In fact, one expected contributor, Michael Cudahy, has announced he will not be a donor.
It's not clear if this is the result of a tough economy, or another example of the Milwaukee area private sector's penchant for penny-pinching.
There are always exceptions: Sheldon Lubar's generosity made the UWM business school a reality, for example, but the UWM community is beginning to wonder where the partners are for these two new schools.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:45 AM
You can make your opinions known about two pending UWM school site decisions - - a new engineering school on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa at the Zoo Interchange, and the new school of freshwater science at a yet-undesignated site - - at two sessions Tuesday and Wednesday at the Memorial Union.
I think both schools should go close to each other on the near South side, at or near the UWM Great Lakes WATER Institute, within walking distance of the Third Ward and downtown.
Here are the details:
6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., Tuesday, September 29, UWM Union, Wisconsin Room.
8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m., Wednesday, September 30, UWM Union, Wisconsin Room.
The UWM Union is located at 2200 E. Kenilworth Blvd. (for directions click here).
If you are unable to attend one of these meetings, you can send written comments for the record to the UWM Master Planners here.
Here's an earlier blog posting about the options.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:54 AM
Monday, September 28, 2009
If you are an environmental journalist, this is the place to be.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:42 PM
There are calls from some legislators and others for punitive action against Rep. Jeff Wood, an independent from Bloomer, because of another OWI arrest.
It's his fourth such arrest, and if convicted, would still only rate a misdemeanor, because under Wisconsin's 'You-Can-Drive-Drunk-And-Keep-Getting-Your-Wrist-Slapped-Laws' it takes a fifth conviction before your facing felony sentencing.
Wood's not the only OWI offender in the legislature, but he is certainly a high-profile, and repeat offender, and if he is convicted of the third-and-fourth offenses still pending, I think some in-house punishment should accompany the judicial, courtroom sentencing, too.
That is, unless his constituents recall him first, or he resigns.
But I have a problem with too much self-serving remonstrating on the part of legislators, because as a group they have dropped the ball when it comes to reacting to public pressure and seriously reforming the state's weak OWI statutes.
In fact, the Legislature's collective foot-dragging and capture by the liquor lobbies despite multiple, highly-publicized OWI fatalities is nothing short of scandalous.
So let's not pretend that one errant legislator who has abused a public trust is the problem.
It's far more institutionalized in Madison than that.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:58 PM
Supporters of repairing the Hoan Bridge - - a possible fix in the range of scores, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars - - must also understand that they are laying the foundation, literally, for the bridge's complete replacement in the coming decades that could cost in the billions.
Bringing the scale of the bridge closer to grade, and relocating the connections, could free up land for development that would do two things:
Reduce the eventual replacement costs:
Create land for development that could add tax base to Milwaukee.
That second outcome would create taxes on commercial or residential development - - and don't dismiss the residential component: look at Baltimore's Harbor development, which was visionary, and could be replicated in Milwaukee if there is the will - - and, in turn, keep basic city services in place.
Without additional revenue, Milwaukee cannot provide much more than police, fire and garbage pickup.
You want libraries? Street repairs? Cultural amenities? Comprehensive transit? Health services?
There has to be a comprehensive, a holistic approach to what cities do, provide, and contain.
Over-engineered and costly freeways, and, yes, even edifices like the Hoan Bridge, are drains on the public coffers.
And undermine Milwaukee.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:36 AM
Sunday, September 27, 2009
And why not in Wisconsin, where much of the state's population already lives in federal air quality non-attainment areas, and where health alerts are routine now in all seasons?
Posted by James Rowen at 10:37 PM
Years ago, when I was working for Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, the vo-tech board in that area decided to close most of its downtown campus and build a brand-spanking new complex out by the airport.
I remember the artist's renditions: nice buildings on a campus-like setting, leafy trees - - an effort to create something bucolic for the students.
There was a battle royal, because in the downtown there was housing, and transit service, and student amenities, but at the airport site, long commutes and little else.
The monument builders won.
It reminds me of the current struggle over UWM's plan to build a graduate engineering school and research center at the County grounds.
Why inconvenience students and faculty, force them into cross-town commutes and disconnect that school from the rest of the city's vitality?
Posted by James Rowen at 8:53 PM
Three years for a heckuva lot of dangerous behavior.
After all, even under Wisconsin's mild sentencing laws, a fifth OWI is a felony, so that offender is repeat felon, too.
What was the sentence for felony offense #1, or #2?
Wisconsin judges are still reluctant to hand out stiff sentence to repeat OWI offenders - - even repeat felons - - who are behaving recklessly on the roads where everyone is driving, bicycling, even walking.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:11 AM
E. Greenfield Site For Freshwater School Is Doable - - If UWM And The City Have The Will To Make It Happen
Put the new UWM School of Freshwater School at the WATER Institute site.
This is a seminal moment for Milwaukee and UWM and the private sector: Do all these institutions and powerful leaders have the will and vision to change the face of the near south side?
God, let's not have another big missed opportunity in this city: let's finally see the glass as half-full, and move from there and do something bold in this town.
Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel checks out the site and reports on its strengths and weaknesses, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:31 AM
The grassroots advocacy organization Milwaukee County First, on its blog, proposes that UWM's new engineering school be built at a county site on 27th and Wells St., in Milwaukee, and not on the county grounds.
Details here.., though still separated from the rest of UWM
Pretty interesting idea though, as it saves the County grounds and keeps the school in the city, close to Marquette, on a transit line, etc.
MCF is attentive to the revenue questions, as well as the political history that should have made the site chosen by UWM and sold by the County Board off-limits, so I appreciate the position of the group and its effort to keep decision-makers accountable.
And I'm glad to see additional voices raised to convince UWM and the County that the bargain to convey the land was, overall, a poor one.
From my perspective, I still think the engineering school belongs in the downtown, or in Walker's Point closer to Allen-Bradley, Bradley Tech High School and UWM's Great Lakes WATER Institute, but I am glad to see thoughtful alternatives being advanced - - which should make the Tuesday and Wednesday UWM Campus Master Plan meetings all the more informed.
The schedule for those meetings appears in several recent blog postings, will reappear later in the week and are in the MCF item, too, at the link above.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:54 AM
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Rep. Pedro Colon has publicly urged UWM to locate the new School of Freshwater Science in Walker's Point where the Great Lakes WATER Institute already there gives UWM a water research presence.
So where are his colleagues? Where is Richards? Plale? Carpenter? Taylor? Et al?
And why are they silent on the absurd decision to locate the new engineering school on the County Grounds, right in the middle of pending Zoo Interchange reconstruction.
Without transit or even the simplest amenity for students?
Students and faculty need a strong voice on their behalf, and a big turnout at the public meetings on campus Tuesday and Wednesday when the campus Master Plan is up for review.
Meetings' schedule and details, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:34 AM
Friday, September 25, 2009
Glad to see that the Journal Sentinel's development writer Tom Daykin is getting ready to weigh in about the near South Side as a possible location for the UWM School of Freshwater Science.
I've been writing and blogging about this for weeks, and recently, adding to the discussion the possible merger of the Freshwater School's location with UWM's new engineering school that is now ticketed for an all-wrong site at the County Grounds.
The near South side is, of course, a rougher location - - or is it more a authentic City environment - - than is the Lakefront site now occupied by the shuttered Pieces of Eight restaurant, but the Lakefront site is off the table now.
The current WATER Institute location on E. Greenfield Ave. at the Harbor is Geninely Milwaukee: an industrial, blue-collar site, but also in a changing urban environment where leveraged construction and development funding can make the newer Milwaukee even better.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:20 PM
Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate, predicts a rough ride for climate change legislation in the US Senate, in large part due to a campaign of deliberate misinformation.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:31 PM
The Wisconsin Public Research Institute ran this short, somewhat melancholy essay by George Lightbourn about the state's economy and executive branch - - and two of the layout's elements struck off-notes.
George is a smart guy, but I ask, first of all: what's up with the use of the word "strongman" in the title, as Lightbourn says that's what the state needs for dynamic statehouse leadership.
So women need not apply, or serve?
Then the graphic: a small child with tiny little flexed biceps, in silhouette. So the job is kids' stuff?
Yeah, I know. Literary license and graphic freedom, but I think the display undercuts the thesis.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:29 PM
The environmental group Milwaukee Riverkeeper is urging a turnout at next week's UWM campus planning sessions against siting the new engineering school on the county grounds where Wauwatosa meets the Waukesha border at the Zoo Interchange.
Details of the meetings are here
I've been arguing that the engineering school and the new school of freshwater science be consolidated or joined on the near south side in Walker's Point, where UWM's Great Lakes WATER Institute and other related corporate, scientific and cultural anchors make the area not far from downtown the perfect, coordinate site for a cutting edge UWM presence.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:11 AM
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker wants all county workers to take a pay cut and make an even higher percentage contribution to their pensions.
OK: that'll all have to be bargained, and without it, other service cuts or tax increases would be the alternatives but Walker's real goal is use this pose on budgeting as campaign material for his run for the GOP nomination for Governor in 2010.
This posturing is so blatant: maybe Walker should be required to report the results of the bargaining as an in-kind campaign contribution, and all workers report their drop in income as a Walker donation - - because this is 100% political and campaign-related.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:05 PM
I had earlier put up some information about the Central Park and arboretum finally taking shape on the east side along the Milwaukee River.
Here's another example of the multi-layered partnership that is making it happen: the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will hire a contractor to demolish and remove that old Wheelhouse restaurant and bar now empty at the river and Humboldt.
The River Revitalization Foundation is play a lead role, too, and other non-profits have been involved for a long time getting support for the entire concept.
Everyone's efforts will turn that site where the old restaurant now lies abandoned into a park as part of MMSD's watershed-based greenseams program.
So when the city finishes its bridge work in the area, you'll be able to enjoy a new urban park, and then Cajun food at Bayou - - all as part of Central Park.
A land-locked city like Milwaukee has to continually upgrade what it's got, and in this case, making the best use of property at water's edges is really smart policy-making.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:42 PM
So LaCrosse US Rep. Ron Kind (D) declines to run for Governor.
Makes sense: He's got a relatively safe seat, the Dems want to minimize off-year Congressional losses, his statewide name recognition and appeal are low, and so on.
This now puts the spotlight even more on Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, but also on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whose name-recognition and positives are probably sky-high right now.
But unlike County Executive Scott Walker, Barrett has a real job, with huge responsibilities and expectations along with it.
Walker has been able to zip around the state for years as a candidate-in-waiting without any damage from his absences to Milwaukee County governance.
County law enforcement is under the control of a separate elected official, the Sheriff, and other hot-button issues, like public health, economic development and basic public srvices (streets, garbage, water) are city or suburban municipal responsibilities, not county functions.
Little wonder that there are often moves to abandon the county as a form of government: even Walker is on board with variations on that.
In fact, some argue that the longer he is away, the more functional the county government becomes.
My unsolicited advices is that people give the Lawton campaign some space in which to define itself (disclosure: my son Matt briefly worked in that campaign months ago) and that our Mayor take his time.
And carefully determine where are the best and most-needed policy grounds on which to rally Democrats and independents if a candidacy becomes his choice.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:18 PM
Looks like Milwaukee's proposed Central Park along the Milwaukee River upstream from downtown is moving forward thanks to a huge boost from
Milwaukee Rotary, which is raising money to add an arboretum to the plan.
The effort to create this park district has been a real collaborative. Kudos all around.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:03 AM
Quite a telling tale in the effort by some south side suburban communities and other office holders to make the state repair, and then rebuild, the Hoan Bridge.
Initially over-engineered out of the highway planner's Interstate Highway pattern book to soar over the Harbor - - and for years so disconnected from the street grid in Bayview that it was known as the Bridge to Nowhere - - the Hoan now faces repairs, or perhaps total replacement that by 2050 could cost $3 billion, according to a Journal Sentinel account of a private meeting held among state and local officials.
Mind you: these whopping costs are on top of the $6.5 billion projected for the freeway reconstruction and expansion plan.
And is there any money to be spent on local road aids, and dare I say it: Transit? Perhaps rail?
Where is all this funding to come from?
Some suburban leaders have lapsed into Black Helicopter mode, thinking that there is a conspiracy among developers, Milwaukee officials and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to substitute a smaller, lower bridge in order to free up land for commercial or residential construction.
Trust me: WisDOT doesn't work that cooperatively with Milwaukee - - that it would go out of its way to add taxable property to the city. The opposite is true: homes and businesses and land have been gobbled up by the new Marquette Interchange, with more losses to come in future freeway system expansions.
The reason that WisDOT is discussing a smaller or alternative Hoan Bridge is because the department knows that sustaining a white elephant will help drown its budgets in red ink.
It always amazes me that in the face of massive state fiscal problems, the pro-highway crowd always wants more-more-more.
WisDOT needs to keep its eye on the financing issue, or else go out and tell the public the truth, which is if it wants to rebuild the Hoan Bridge as is, there will be substantial tax and fee increases statewide to pay for it.
Will the elected officials pushing for a big, tall, new bridge carry that weight?
Should people in Ashland and Boscobel and Blooming Grove pay that freight?
Transit upgrades are always hung up in the "how to we pay for it" conundrum.
It's way past due holding highway projects to a similar standard.
"Because I want it" is not a good enough reason to commit the state to billions in spending for a single bridge that was too big in the first place.
There's a real opportunity here to scale back the Hoan to something reasonable that continues to serve the south side and nearby communities and that also saves the state a big chunk of money.
And if that frees land for development, then that's great, too.
But let the conversation continue, and let's think big and broad at the same time.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:54 AM
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Lisa Kaiser nails the impact of Judge Lynn Adelman's strong decision against WisDOT and the feds for their high-handed and improper approval of a four-lane highway expansion in Washington and Washington Counties.
I continue to urge people to read the text of the decision. It's fascinating and important. You can find a link to the text, here.
Still to come: possible appeals, and the Judge's final order - - which could include everything from fresh environmental reviews, genuine hearings, penalty assessments, some highway re-routing, wetlands restoration, and even ripped up pavement.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:12 PM
Mayor Tom Barrett, in his 2010 Executive Budget proposal, suggests expending about $415,000 in federal stimulus dollars to add more trees to the city canopy, provide work to up to 30 low-income trainees over two years, and preserve five existing forestry jobs.
It's a nice use of stimulus dollars to green up the city, clean the air, extend a long tradition of urban forestry in Milwaukee and train people in personally and socially-productive work.
You hear a lot of talk about public financing adding value to a city: well, this is one way to do just that.
All in all, a solid use of federal stimulus funds targeted by a Mayor.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:19 PM
Good for Mayor Tom Barrett, forging ahead with a public planning session on his streetcar proposal.
The date is Thursday, October 8th, from 3-7 p.m.
More details, here.
Let's get rid of Milwaukee's backward designation as America's Last Lightrail-Free Zone.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:31 PM
Someone or something has hacked into the system. It ain't me, babe.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:35 PM
Including a downtown focus, with a rail stop.
Good ideas, but too bad it is taking a tanking Pabst Farms for downtown investments to start looking good.
Any community that neglects its downtown will, is and always has been making a huge mistake.
Hat tip: James Wigderson.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:29 PM
A drippy, insufficient design for the Lakefront, says the Journal Sentinel's arts and architecture critic.
UWM can tuns this misstep into a winner with a cutting-edge designfor the School of Freshwater Science near the Harbor where it already has the Great Lakes WATER Institute.
And make the siting process a home run if it adds contiguously or nearby the new engineering and research campus now also sited inappropriately at the distant County Grounds, on top of vital open space, and in the heart of an approaching, eight-year highway expansion nightmare.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:22 AM
The State Assembly has approved a bill restoring the power to appoint the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to the DNR's seven-member board.
Currently the power rests with the Governor - - a change engineered in 1995 by Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Ironic, then, that it is Gov. Jim Doyle who may pay the price for the politicization of a job that was somewhat insulated from outright gubernatorial control - - I say somewhat because DNR board members are gubernatorial appointees, too, though with staggered terms that can overlap a Governor's tenure.
But during Doyle's two terms in office, assertions spread around the Capitol and within the DNR that the Governor's office was over-managing the department.
And that the DNR's regulatory approach was too much appreciated by the Republican-leaning Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
But I'm guessing that the legislative effort to remove the Governor's direct appointing authority would not have picked up so much steam had Doyle replaced DNR Secretary Scott Hassett in 2007 with a DNR professional, or a known conservationist/environmentalist, rather than with Wisconsin Corrections Secretary Matt Frank.
And had offered a detailed explanation for Hassett's sudden resignation in the first place.
We'll see if the Senate approves the appointment powers' change, and if there are the votes to overturn a possible Doyle veto - - even though Doyle campaigned against Thompson's takeover of the Secretary's appointment and promised to support a return to the selection by the Board.
We'll also see if a more independent Secretary selection results in a stronger environmental and conservation agenda at the agency.
Let's hope so.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:05 AM
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Working in Waukesha behind closed doors to develop a Lake Michigan diversion application and plan that will cost tens of millions of dollars - - I was recently denied a copy under Open Records though City of Waukesha documents indicate diversion application drafts have been frequently circulated for months among officials, public relations consultants and scientific advisers under contract - - the city is none the less scheduling some meetings to finally disclose its official thinking and taxpayer-paid planning.
Waukesha officials and their contractors have been operating also without the checks-and-balances provided by normal state administrative rules processes during the nearly year-and-a-half since Wisconsin approved the Great Lakes Compact.
Under some language in, and possible interpretations of, the Compact, Waukesha could obtain a diversion of water, though all eight Great Lakes states that share management responsibilities over the waters must approve the application because Waukesha is entirely outside the Great Lakes basin.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources elected not to write those rules, a startling example of regulatory and public trust capitulation.
Its laissez-faire approach further opens the door to Waukesha's intended diversion of Lake Michigan water from the City of Milwaukee, and thus also Waukesha's probable return flushing of the water back from an expanding service territory (due to projected annexations) through Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa.
Talk about water problems being transferred with the resource itself from one basin and community to another.
I wonder when Wauwatosa is going to weigh in on becoming Waukesha's toilet - - a function blasted as unacceptable for his community when State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), found out that Waukesha initially considered the Root River through Racine as Waukesha's return point for diverted Lake Michigan water.
Read about halfway through this excellent 2008 regional water history in Milwaukee Magazine for Rep. Mason's assessment.
Waukesha has often referred to its eventual diversion application as a gold standard exercise in environmental improvement.
I'd argue that its penchant for closed Water Utility Commission meetings in pursuit of Lake Michigan water, and the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) recent and oh-so predictable endorsement of the diversion scheme - - while omitting careful study of reasonable alternatives - - makes the approaching Waukesha application a costly misstep, missed opportunity and procedural fumble.
And thus likely to be rejected as insufficient and unjustified by one of more of the other seven Great Lakes states.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:30 PM
Think globally, act locally.
Because of this fundamental truism, I'm posting information and guides to action through a link here in support of the United Nations Declaration of October 5th as World Habitat Day.
This is certainly relevant in southeastern Wisconsin, where everyday might as well be Habitat Action Day.
This is because fair and affordable housing for thousands of residents is and has been effectively limited, even denied, through a combination of a) the 1955 state law barring annexation that applies only to the City of Milwaukee, b) aggressive local zoning codes that ban multi-unit housing and c) regional enabling of suburban sprawl that has encouraged development far from the urban center in Milwaukee.
The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, yielding to pressure from community organizations and its new justice task force, has finally begun rewriting the last regional housing plan it adopted for the seven counties it represents - - a 1975 effort - - after decades of sprawl, distorted housing starts and spin-off business expansion that has carried growth and opportunity far from Milwaukee to the more suburban, exurban and rural Washington, Waukesha and Walworth Counties.
Little wonder that the region is among the most intensely segregated in the country.
Further so defined by a lack of transit to connect workers and residents with job openings, but makes those alternatives and opportunities more available on 127 miles of ever-expanding freeways to workers and families with cars.
The UN is reminding everyone that housing is a basic need and right, so check in with the website I linked for more information.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:26 AM
Monday, September 21, 2009
Readers of this blog know that there has been a lot of discussion here recently about where UWM should locate its new Engineering and research college, and also the School of Freshwater Science.
I think that the UWM Great Lakes WATER Institute, at the end of E. Greenfield Ave. at the Harbor, is the best site for the freshwater school, since that is where current UWM Lake Michigan water research takes place. (I put that argument into an August op-ed in the Journal Sentinel's Crossroads section.)
There is land at or near the Institute, as well as walkable, transit-served neighborhoods nearby, including the Fifth Ward, Third Ward, and downtown.
I also think UWM could seize the day and undo a land-use and transportation disaster in the making - - siting its new Engineering school on the County Grounds - - and combine it with the Freshwater School near the Water Institute.
That would create a cutting-edge science, research and development study center that also takes advantage of nearby Bradley Tech high school and one of the state's leading engineering firms - - Rockwell International - - among other valuable commercial, retail, housing and entertainment amenities.
I say disaster out at the County Grounds because even if there is a bus line created to it from the East side campus, most students and faculty will make the cross-town trip there and back by car, adding a bigger carbon footprint to the region.
Plus - - the County Grounds are right off the already-busy Zoo Interchange, and it is scheduled in the next few years for eight years of reconstruction, expansion and congestion.
That hardly sounds like a rational plan, especially since UWM is making nice progress on greening its main campus.
But here's the good news and serendipitous opportunity:
UWM has two public comment sessions set up next week at the student union to discuss these very school siting questions (Also included: a new public health school, which I believe is already ticketed for a downtown site slightly to the West that is the consensus choice.)
The school siting sessions are part of the campus' Master Plan study, on which consultants have been working - - but my hunch is that the consultants had done much of their work before the Pieces of Eight site was abandoned, and discussion began about putting Engineering with Freshwater Science, too.
So this is a great opportunity to urge UWM campus planners and administrators to locate the new Engineering and Freshwater Science schools together on the near south side - - a far better location for students, faculty and the City as a whole than were the County Grounds (Engineering) or the now-discarded Pieces of Eight lakefront site (Freshwater Science), too.
Here are the details; save the dates, bring your friends and organizations' position papers or comments, and weigh in:
Draft Campus Master Plan to be presented:
Master plan consultants from Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. (HGA) and Sasaki Associates will be on campus Tuesday, September 29, and Wednesday, September 30, to present a draft of the UWM Campus Master Plan:
When and Where:
6:30 pm – 8 pm, Tuesday, September 29, Union Wisconsin Room.
8:30 am – 10 am, Wednesday, September 30, Union Wisconsin Room.
Feedback on the draft plan will be accepted throughout October.
Based on feedback, the consultants will develop a final master plan, which they plan to present in December.
Further Details Online:
Visit http://www.masterplan.uwm.edu/ to review past presentations or submit feedback. [There were some access problems Monday afternoon, though not Monday morning, fyi]
For further information, or if you have special needs that require assistance, please reply to:
Posted by James Rowen at 3:22 PM
The Director of UWM's Great Lakes WATER Institute suggests that we water users pay a miniscule fee to help keep the Great Lakes plentiful and clean.
The cost per month: about the price of a cup of coffee, and I don't mean a triple shot mega grande latte, either.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:45 AM
Maybe privatizing the Zoo is the step-too-far that reveals the GOP gubernatorial candidate's overly one-dimensional approach to government.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:09 AM
I was in New Mexico not long ago and ran into an old friend who was thrilled about the new Rail Runner commuter passenger train line that connects Greater Albuquerque - - New Mexico's largest city - - to the capitol city of Santa Fe farther north.
My friend, an active senior and business owner, had just taken the Rail Runner from Albuquerque to an Indian Pueblo nearby for a statewide meeting. Cost of the ride: $3.
The system, long-discussed, and now in operation with a catchy name and brightly painted cars, has created a buzz.
More than 100 businesses already partner with the brand new Rail Runner by offering discounts on merchandise and services to riders.
Hotels are working train passes into package deals.
Special trains are added for University of New Mexico home football games in Albuquerque.
There's talk of running the line all the way to Denver.
In other words, New Mexicans love it - - and tourists will flock to it, because Santa Fe does not have scheduled airline service (locals rejected runway extensions, preferring their peace and quiet), so to get to the growing and popular State Capitol from Albuquerque's airport you need a ride, a bus ticket or a rental car loaded with taxes and fees.
You can read about Rail Runner here.
And you can read about Phoenix's embrace of its light rail system, which this New York Times story says has helped that city's downtown avoid the nationwide recession by delivering people on weekends to restaurants and other urban hot spots.
While business plunged across the city, revenues are actually up in the areas in the downtown served by light rail - - an unforeseen but greatly appreciated consequence.
And here in Wisconsin - - a state that had a reputation as a national laboratory for progressive thinking and policy experimentation - - we have, when it comes to urban rail...
Yes, there is a proposed commuter rail line to connect Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha - - and thus to northern Illinois and Metra links to Chicago - - but it is blocked by regional politics, fearful local officials and fumbled state leadership.
And light rail was blockaded by a mutually self-serving alliance of anti-Milwaukee right-wing talk radio jocks and Republican politicians (then-Waukesha County Executive Daniel Finley, then-Assembly Majority Leader Scott Jensen, and then-Gov. Tommy Thompson) a dozen years ago.
I can remember Mark Belling promising to fight light rail to his dying breath, and hearing Finley, live on the Belling show, deliver the good news that, through his veto, the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors had buried further consideration of a rail-and-highway improvement plan for both Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.
It was a plan that both County boards had preliminarily endorsed, and with separate reservations, but with a commitment to move forward, cooperatively.
Even promising Waukesha County it could opt out of the rail piece didn't satisfy the anti-Milwaukee movement, as it felt a sense of accomplishment by driving a stake into Milwaukee's image, economy and future.
The talkers are still at it: light rail is an all-purpose dart to throw whenever needed at Milwaukee, especially those trying to modernize transit beyond buses.
And current Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, now a GOP candidate for Governor, is only too happy to call up the talkers and oppose anything on a rail in Milwaukee - - opposition that cost the county millions in its most recent sharing of federal transit financing with the City.
What counts for normal around here is negativity over positive action, politics over common sense, rhetoric over reality and self-imposed economic restraint over business development in Milwaukee:
The politics of rail in this area, as driven by suburban, anti-city interests, is that self-destructive.
So...forbidden by a special, Milwaukee-only statute from expanding through annexation, and poisoned by some political leadership that plays to suburban, conservative ideology, Milwaukee remains one of America's poorest cities, and also among its largest cities without urban rail.
Talk about cause-and-effect.
[Some light rail history, here.]
And it is in this context that I was interested to see that The Journal Sentinel's Sunday Crossroads section carried a long, cover piece about Milwaukee's perilous financial situation and the state's contribution to it.
The article's focus is tax and fiscal policy.
I'd add to it - - here is a link - - the enforced absence in Milwaukee of rail as an economic tool and transportation choice.
The construction of the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha commuter line would be a remedial first step, connecting south suburban communities and and two medium-sized cities to the Big City, and helping people understand first hand that rail is a virtue - - a value added - - and not a virus.
This always happens in cities that finally build rail. "Ah-ha" moments abound. The New York Times story about Phoenix notes that even critics of the system are using it.
The same benefits, the same changes in attitude and outcomes would take place if a streetcar/light rail system could get built in Milwaukee.
The latest proposal has a focus on the densely-populated East side- University of Milwaukee campus area, according to Mayor Tom Barrett.
In the long run - - delayed by false starts and anti-urban politics - - the Milwaukee economy needs a comprehensive urban rail system to bring people to the new Intermodal station (to which Midwest High Speed Rail will connect), the airport, the Menonomee Valley, Miller Park, the multiple downtown housing/retail/
commercial and entertainment venues, the Third and Fifth Wards, and the Medical complex - - just to name a few.
Imagine the ridership to and from a light rail station within walking distance of a new UWM School of Freshwater Science - - perhaps also a new UWM School of Engineering and Research - - near Allen-Bradley on S. 1st. Street - - with stops also in Bayview, on Water St., at City Hall, on Brady St. - - and all the way to UWM's main East Side campus.
Shorewood would want it.
Bayshore - - a major new retail destination where Whitefish Bay meets Glendale would want it.
Franklin, and New Berlin and Downtown Waukesha would, too.
Around the country, the synergistic rail-and-development message has been received: it is resisted in and for Rail-Free Milwaukee by forces that do not have Milwaukee's best interests in mind.
Around the country, there are successes where the public and private sectors have decided to work together, break the right wing and talk-radio/anti-city/anti-rail hammerlock, and make things happen.
Houston, Denver, Dallas, St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore - - and now Phoenix and Albuquerque - - are reaping the benefits of adding rail to their transit mix.
Can you imagine the DC area without Metro Rail?
Or Portland without its Light Rail?
What separates these cities and regions from Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin is civic optimism, and an ability to move forward.
Around here, we have stultifying regional stubbornness, a fear of new ideas and experience and a tendency - - amplified on talk radio - - to say "No," or "We Can't" that keeps conservative radio ratings and suburban ballot counts sky high, and which keeps Milwaukee's stagnation intractable.
When will we begin to start saying "Yes?"
Posted by James Rowen at 12:01 AM
Sunday, September 20, 2009
This Washington Post story about poisonous World War I munitions still being found in an urban area caught my eye, for two reasons:
1. It's a reminder of how long-lasting are the environmental hazards from using, testing or storing hazardous products: Wisconsinites should take note, as there is a move afoot to add more nuclear power plants and thus more nuke waste - - perhaps even shipped from elsewhere - - in Wisconsin.
2. The effected neighborhood in the story - - Spring Valley, in Washington, DC - - is not far from where I grew up.
Because of family activities the last couple of years, including my mother's 2008 hospitalization, it's a neighborhood where I recently spent considerable time.
And never knew that there were old chemical weapons lying around from WW I tests conducted on the grounds of nearby American University!
Posted by James Rowen at 9:31 PM
Dave Dempsey brings us up to date on efforts to close the bottled water loophole opened during closed-door 'negotiations' that produced the Great Lakes Compact - - purportedly a water management and conservation document.
As written, critics say, the loophole continues to allow and encourage the wholesale and unregulated export Great Lakes water from the basin in bottles, large and small.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:33 PM
Someone said this to me recently:
"The State is incompetent, and Milwaukee gets hurt."
There was a dual context to the pointed, accurate remark:
The first was the failed state oversight of child care funding routed to scamming providers in Milwaukee.
The second was the monumental screw-up by state institutions which failed to collect required DNA samples for a data bank from 12,000 felons.
One such inmate, recently-arrested Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis: allegedly murdered one of his female victims after his release from prison - - so Ellis remained on the streets and that murder not solved at the time because the Ellis DNA sample wasn't on file.
The oft-discussed Madison-Milwaukee disconnect can have deadly, shameful consequences.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:47 AM
Saturday, September 19, 2009
State Rep. Pedro Colon, (D-Milwaukee), is promoting the existing WATER Institute site on E. Greenfield Ave. as the best location for UWM's new School of Freshwater Science, reports the Daily Reporter.
That's been the theme on this blog for weeks now.
Also in a recent Journal Sentinel Crossroads op-ed, too.
In fact...now that industrialist and philanthropist Mike Cudahy says he will not help finance UWM's proposed new Engineering and Research Center on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa - - an announcement made almost simultaneously with the evaporation of Cudahy's plan to help UWM build the Freshwater School on the lakefront next to his Pier Wisconsin facility - - it's time that UWM consolidates its two planned new schools - - Engineering and Freshwater Science - - near the WATER Institute.
Which is within walking distance of Rockwell International, formerly the Allen-Bradley Co. - - the iconic high-tech private sector firm on the near south side - - as well as Bradley Tech High School and a host of other manufacturing firms, engineering and architectural firms.
Then you've got a powerhouse public/private education/research/development complex in the City, close to the downtown, retail, housing, transit, rail connections, and the airport, too.
New, modern, strategically placed and linked engineering and freshwater science schools can help clarify, redefine and advance the Milwaukee and UWM's collective standing across the Great Lakes.
It's time for vision and leadership:
UWM, the City, the M7 and the neighborhoods should go for it.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:54 PM
I like to think I know my health foods, and that previous work at Consumers Union on nutrition, and other research and writing I've done makes me a savvy, healthy consumer.
So shame on me.
Long story short:
I was on a flight recently, and when it came to ordering beverages, my wife ordered a Coke (I disdain them completely: too much sugar, and the truth is, I've only sipped them and have never drunk an entire Coke or even, say, an eighth of one. Ever) and I ordered what I thought was Apple Cranberry juice.
Sounded like the healthiest choice: All those good northern Wisconsin cranberries...
What I got was a Minute Maid (Coca Cola Co. product) "All Natural Cranberry Apple Cocktail."
Compared to my wife's 39-grams-of-sugar-Coke, mine had 59 grams of sugars.
Her Coke had 140 calories. My all-natural juice cocktail: 220.
Either I didn't hear the key word "cocktail" in the flight attendant's spiel, since I know what that means (forget the juice: sugary conglomeration coming your way), or she offered it as a juice along with orange, apple, and so forth.
Isn't it interesting in this junk-food, waistline-expanding culture we live in that an all-natural juice beverage - - that's what it says on the can - - manages to contain 50% more calories and sugars than a Coke?
Posted by James Rowen at 5:01 AM
AM 620 WTMJ radio - - the most influential 50,000 watt station in Wisconsin, and a Journal Communications property - - turns its late night airwaves over to the far-right talker Michael Savage and his show, "Savage Nation."
You wonder why some of the anti-Obama protesters sound so goofy these days?
Savage speaks directly to the fringes. In fact, Savage, known for his anti-immigrant rants, and allegations that President Barack Obama's health care reforms would cover illegal immigrants - - flatly denied by Obama in his speech to the Joint Session of Congress last week - - was clearly being channeled by South Carolina Republican Joe "You Lie" Wilson's during his imfamous interruption.
It was as if Wilson opened his mouth and Savage spoke.
But Savage outdid himself late NaziThursdsay/early Friday (I wasn't watching the clock) when he twisted some remarks by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA), into a nutty, Nazi reference.
She is from San Francisco, from which Savage broadcasts, and is one of his favorite targets.
Pelosi had worried aloud that harsh rhetoric nationally in recent weeks could lead to violence - - an understandable remark, given the state of the country, a growing, hysterical Obama backlash, the appearance of guns at some Congressional town halls and Presidential events, and so on..
Savage said Pelosi's remarks to him meant that Democrats were planning a Reichstag fire episode, in which leftist agent provocateurs would stage an act of violence and blame it on the right.
Probably leaving some tea bags and Birther leaflets at the scene, Savage opined.
To which callers responded with, yeah, you're right Michael, etc.
Well, a day later - - early Saturday morning, and Savage is still at it.
Obama is a liar. Pelosi - - "this woman" - - is the worst Speaker ever, NBC and MSNBC are Communist networks.
On an on. Hour after hour. Day after day.
This is what's out there on national talk shows that pull in large numbers of listeners - - and in the state's largest market, aired courtesy of Journal Communications.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:27 AM
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wisconsin State Assembly members are hailing their unanimous adoption of some tepid, baby-step OWI reform proposals as a major move against Wisconsin's drunk driving epidemic.
What a joke.
What an insult to families whose relatives have been killed by drunk drivers who have, despite their numbing grief, pleaded with legislators to really get serious about curbing drunk driving in Wisconsin.
Assembly members are leaving virtually intact the Wisconsin provision - - unique among the 50 states - - that allows a first conviction to be a ticketing matter only, with the new wrinkle that it becomes a misdemeanor only if there is a passenger under 16 years old in the car.
Big deal. So it's still not to be a crime to drive drunk with your 17-year-old cousin in the car, and get pulled over as a first-time offender?
Your grandmother in the car? Or your uncle, or your best friend as you're driving someone to church, or the dentist, to dinner, or home from a restaurant, sporting event, Summerfest, etc?
Why the official tolerance for some drunken driving?
The so-called reform package also establishes some 4th convictions as a felony - - again, with many states already designating felony charges for a a second or third offense - - but only if the fourth occur within five years of the third.
So many 4th offenses will continue to be misdemeanors.
Right now, it takes a fifth offense to be a felony in Wisconsin - - right at the top of the chart of states' offense ratings.
All the language parsing and finely-drawn exceptions and exemptions keep more drunk drivers on the road, and without true consequences landing on them as early as possible.
What this bill does is serve the alcohol lobbies and impaired drinkers - - it's as if they drew up the bill - - not the vast majority of people who drive sober, and don't hang around at fundraisers, and don't make whiny excuses about the Wisconsin drinking culture rendering them powerless to find their backbones and do something modestly substantial.
The Assembly bill is an embarrassment - - because every alcoholic will tell you, and I know a few who are now in recovery - - that they drove drunk often, sometimes everyday, thus were repeat offenders many many times before their first so-called "first offense."
So to our state legislators:
After the fake and self-serving celebrations in the Assembly are over, and once the Senate falls into line, you will have produced little impact on drunk driving in Wisconsin because the laws you continue to validate - - and now, even worse, under the guise of "reform" - - enable offenders to keep our roads unsafe.
Legislators who cannot stand up to special interests and overcome their own weird tolerance for risky behavior will end up with blood on their hands; the data being what they are, and with Wisconsin leading the nation in drunk driving, the first victims of this legislative surrender will be identified a mere few hours after the voting and back-slapping and rationalizing about this so-called reform effort is over.
[By the way, props to AM620 WTMJ conservative talk show host Jeff Wagner for continuing to take a hard line on this issue and to call out legislative members of both parties for failing to show leadership on this issue,]
Posted by James Rowen at 3:17 PM
This installment about ag runoff poisoning drinking water is nothing new to Wisconsinites.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:12 AM
Thursday, September 17, 2009
UWM could initiate a design competition to capture the urban hipness of the 5th Ward, and views of the Harbor, freighters, tug boats and other water-based industrial sites if it choose to put its new School of Freshwater Science at or near the current Great Lakes WATER Institute where E. Greenfield Ave. meets the water.
The area is within walking distance of the downtown, the Third Ward, the near South side's restaurant district and other cool spots.
Remember philosopher/planner Richard Florida's concept of the "creative class," and its gravitation to funky urban settings?
The Fifth Ward fits that construct perfectly, enhanced by a new specialized big-city school.
And its close to transit connections, the airport and the Intermodal station downtown, too.
UWM has the chance to do something really great in the City if it is willing to make the leap.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:26 PM
Readers of this blog will know that I have been posting updates - - with no fresh news - - about the incomprehensible delay in the release of an every-four-years certification review by federal authorities who look at the work and outreach effort of Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - with which SEWRPC can approve major transportation projects in our seven-county region.
The 2004 review hearing was a public relations bloodbath for SEWRPC, and the resulting federal report forced some changes at the agency - - namely the creation of an Environmental Justice Task Force that since its 2007 founding - - yes, delay is the name of the game with many SEWRPC functions - - has been a growing force for planning openness and innovation.
When the 2008 review had its public 'meeting' phase - - October 22, to be exact - - the Federal Highway Administration officials who were in charge tried unsuccessfully to turn the formal hearing into a tepid, so-called open house, without amplified testimony directed to both officials and the large audience that had gathered.
People who had gathered protested, and a compromise was reached - - though after Federal Judge Lynn Adelman scolded federal officials in the Highway J (164) process for pulling the same stunt, I doubt this deadening format will be allowed as a hearing substitution around here again.
The certification report was to be released in March, 2009. Then May. Then the Federal officials stopped answering my emails and calls about the report's whereabouts and release date, though they have promised me a copy when it's done.
Now that we closing in on an entire year since the hearing-cum-open house, I've decided to enliven the process by seeing who among you can guess when the report is actually released.
Notice my optimism: I didn't say "if." I said "when."
So let's do this: Through my email - - email@example.com - - or on this blog comment section - - I will gather entries guessing when I will get notification that the report is a released public document, or when that notification gets posted on SEWRPC's or the FHWA's or another public sector website, whichever is sooner.
You should state the date and time.
You will win the following great prize from my personal library - - the very nice and collectible copy of the hardbound and illustrated 1949 Trees, Yearbook of Agriculture, a publication of the USDA.
And coffee and the location of your choice, where I will deliver your prize.
Rules: No entries from anyone at FHWA or SEWRPC: you might have some inside information.
One entry per person.
I guess I can send it to an anonymous entrant, but that will be up to you to resolve.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:10 PM
I could write this lede every day of the week:
You think you don't need daily newspapers: well think again.
Here's another solid exclusive - - Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel development beat writer - - sheds sunlight on some of the reasons that UWM stepped away from locating its School of Freshwater Science on the Milwaukee lakefront downtown.
Turns out that Michael Cudahy, the retired industrialist/inventor/donor/ driving force behind acquiring the Pieces of Eight restaurant site next door to Cudahy's Pier Wisconsin/Discovery World complex, wanted a level of control over the school's design that UWM found unacceptable, Daykin reports.
As I wrote earlier, the City had design difficulties when Pier Wisconsin was first proposed (then rejected, then downsized, relocated and approved), so there is some precedent for these kind of difficulties - - magnified with legal and community issues also on the table when lakefront developments are proposed.
Sometimes, philanthropy and development cannot be reconciled.
And now we know it wasn't some cabal of selfish tree-hugging environmentalists trying to preserve a grove of trees and a sliver of open space between Pier Wisconsin and the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum that prevented UWM and its private sector partner, the M7 Water Council, from building at the Pieces of Eight site.
As I have written here and in the Journal Sentinel's Crossroads section - - and believe me, these are not proprietary ideas - - the Pieces of Eight site on the lakefront, pretty as it is surely, is also too narrow, and too separated from UWM's signature WATER Institute labs and boat dock near the Harbor on E. Greenfield Ave., to insure that the new Freshwater School became a successful, coordinated and focused teaching and research campus.
I can understand why Cudahy wanted that input into the project, but if it was not a doable stance - - which seems to be confirmed by UWM's stepping back and Cudahy announcing he would turn the site that he now owns into a new restaurant - - then everyone should move forward with a different site selection process and agenda in mind.
Beginning with this premise: if more than $30 million in public funds were to be committed by taxpayers in the name of water education, research and development - - a solid idea for the University of Wisconsin system, and Milwaukee, absolutely - - then spending those dollars as strategically as possible has to be a perquisite.
And that should include leveraging the most employment from the investment - - from high-end R&D spinoffs to retail and service jobs emanating from new construction.
In an urban environment, that means spending those funds on Milwaukee's near south side/Harbor-area commercial district - - if you truly believe in public-private partnerships and the use of something like a social balance sheet of assets and liabilities that also fits with the traditional balance sheet, too.
No better place for the school than in the near south side 5th ward, where the WATER Institute resides where E. Greenfield Ave. ends at water's edge near the Harbor.
So to Tom Daykin: a tip of the hat.
To the community: let's keep Milwaukee's revival south of the downtown on track. Look at the Third and Fifth Wards, the Harley-Davidson Museum and the growth in an improved Menomonee Valley.
Add the School of Freshwater Science to the mix.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:51 AM
Foes of the public option and evil guvmint participation in health care should be opted out of Medicare, or their Cadillac publicly-funded health insurance, such as that enjoyed by state and federal legislators.
Might bring down the cost for the rest of us.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:43 AM
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Republicans in the Senate have decided to withhold support for already-compromised health care reform legislation put forward by the pivotal committee chair and long-time reasonable Capitol Hill leader Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat.
So there you have it: zero bi-partisanship by Congressional Republicans content to hide behind the far-rightists and anti-government tea bag protesters and their talk radio/Fox cable news controllers.
Democrats should rally around President Obama, approve a meaningful bill, and do the same with the Climate Protection Act - - then go out with backbone and stamina and campaign on these issues in 2010 and 2012.
The public put Democrats and President Obama in office in 2008 to make these fundamental changes, and now is the time to get that agenda moving forward towards adoption.
Let's not waste the 2008 mandate.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:31 PM
As promised, here is a link to the case file including US District Court Judge Lynn Adelman's Monday decision on allegations made by two Waukesha-area organizations that federal and state agencies violated various laws and procedures in approving the widening of State Highway 164.
Adelman found serious flaws in documentation, studies and hearings the agencies used to approve the 18-mile road-widening, wetlands-filling project - - portions of which have been completed.
It will be fascinating to see what remedies are ordered, or if and when appeals will be filed.
But this much is clear: any state or federal agency that embarks on a project with a similar mentality will find itself in court, and facing fines, mandatory remedial action, and other costly consequences.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:41 PM
It is fitting that the latest chapter of our blog series, The Road to Sprawlville, is an update to a long-standing matter: the dreaded Waukesha Bypass.
As planners and developers and local officials paved and overbuilt Waukesha County, and the City of Waukesha pushed beyonds its borders, the traffic demand set in motion the inevitable drumbeat:
Problem is: it's got to go through someone's properties.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:05 PM
Right now, OWI in Wisconsin does not rise to a felony until a 5th conviction.
Reforms that may pass the Legislature could bring that down to conviction #4: note that in neighboring Iowa and Illinois, the felony level begins at #3, and in Indiana, it can be as early as a second.
National chart, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:59 PM
It says a lot about the way that federal and state governments have been forcing highway expansion onto the land and the general public that citizens have had to resort to litigation to get officials to follow the law, and to ensure an open process, when public funds, public hearings, public projects and public property are all in play.
That's the underlying paradox in this week's US District Court decision that found a pattern of illegality and injustice in the way state and federal officials have carried out the expansion of Highway J (164) in Waukesha and Washington Counties.
I remember meeting the Highway J activists in a meeting in Waukesha County years ago when they invited Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist to a meeting.
The activists had had a petition signed by thousands of residents along the highway corridor turned aside by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - this was during the McCallum administration - - and, in their disbelief at the way their petition had been dismissed, thought Norquist might have some suggestions about how to fight the power.
And these were homeowners, farmers, and everyday rural and suburban folk, not East siders or Story Hill city dwellers who had been fighting against SEWRPC indifference and WisDOT bullying.
So it's taken nearly ten years, but the Highway J activists, having had the widening shoved down their throats, finally had a good day in court.
But it shouldn't have come to this: governors of both parties in Wisconsin have given their WisDOT administrators carte blanche to tear up the land, pave the tax base, spend billions, overbuild highways, bypasses and freeways, and enrich contractors, with little regard to the interests of everyday taxpayers and the landscape.
I hope Judge Lynn Adelman's ruling gets wide attention in the state and across the country, and that policy-makers get the message:
Law first. Then common sense, equity and sanity - - by people who work for the public and should do the public's business without a judge explaining the errors of their ways.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:25 AM
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Life on the fringes.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:24 PM
The Senate will vote on a proposal to make a Do-Not-Call violation a $10,000 fine.
Most first-time OWI offenses will still be a ticket, under an Assembly proposal.
You don't think lobbyists have power, or that legislators are cowed by the drinking culture, but want to look like they are doing something?
Posted by James Rowen at 5:37 PM
I have not yet read the decision, but I am hearing that the Highway 164/J Coalition and the Waukesha Environmental Action League (WEAL) have prevailed in US District Court Judge Lynn Adelman's courtroom on procedural and substantive challenges to the expansion of Highway 164/J through Waukesha and Washington Counties.
The Coalition is the same group booted out of two recen highway hearings by officials - - one of many recent posts about this issue, a first-person account is here - - so maybe now we know why, as the Coalition appears on solid footing when it has said that highway expansion in this region is rife with flaws and law violations that have stripped the public of its rights and property.
I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know what comes next as far as remedies, or appeals, but it appears as if a great victory on behalf of open and fair government and public policy-making, and environmental preservation, has been won.
It will be interesting to see if state highway officials, or the regional planning commission which works closely with those officials and often shares the same institutional arrogance, will take away any lessons from the way this case is heading.
I invite comments and when I see documents in the case in formats I can post, I will do so.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:49 AM
Monday, September 14, 2009
Growing Power, the internationally-acclaimed organic food and teaching business created by urban farmer Will Allen, has made a deal with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission to expand on an MMSD site in Oak Creek.
This is good news on many levels:
Allen's operations get much-needed new space.
The region will get a bigger outlet for recycled food waste and thus a greater output of healthy food.
More people will get trained in Allen's sustainable methods.
Milwaukee and region will get more solid media from Growing Power's work and presence.
All in all, a terrific outcome, but notice that it took place in a nice loop of public and private and non-profit partners and benefactors who worked towards a regionally-and-nationally-beneficial set of goals.
This is regional development that shows you don't have to have a glitzy corporate machine promoting the area's existing resources.
Just people willing to roll up their sleeves and get the work done.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:53 PM
They won't make it onto this blog (you can't keep it to yourself when talking about the Freshwater school or the Pieces of Eight??).
You know who you are, folks. Find another way or spot to express yourself.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:07 PM
Mike Cudahy wants to put a new restaurant at the failed Pieces of Eight eatery site on the Lakefront now that UWM has correctly decided it was never a good spot to locate the School of Freshwater Science.
Well, maybe, as the Pieces of Eight was always an illegal use of lakebed land, but let's hope there are better uses that cooler heads will choose.
Nice blog item and discussion in the Sunday Journal Sentinel by Mary Louise Schumacher about what else could be done with the site, and I'm glad to see mention in her story about how the current WATER Institute could be made into a showcase with imagination and commitment.
I've been pushing that site for a while, as it would provide a boost to an industrial site near the Harbor through the leveraging of public dollars.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:44 AM
Sunday, September 13, 2009
We're approaching the 11th month since Federal Highway Administration officials came to Milwaukee and held a listening session/hearing to gather input for the agency's every-fourth-year recertification review of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
And still, no report on the process released by the federal agency - - surely some kind of record for slow-going by the feds - - and a delaying action that renders useless the feedback offered by the many people who attended and gave feedback, most of which was negative.
As I have said on this blog several times, my efforts in the winter and spring produced little good information about the report's completion, and my last couple of requests for information went unanswered.
Meanwhile, SEWRPC continues to operate, I suppose, with some kind of continuing, de facto certification to approve federal transportation spending in the region - - even though both SEWRPC and federal highway contracting are still the subject of open discrimination complaints.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:52 PM
As self-employeds paying exhorbitant (north of $1,700/mo. for two) premiums monthy - - along with high deductibles and co-pays, but healthy enough to work seven days a week - - I'll be glad if a national health care reform proposal meets, say, 80% of a progressive's agendas and needs.
[Update: see the comment and response.]
Posted by James Rowen at 3:23 PM
Several Milwaukee-area legislators are holding a town hall meeting Monday on OWI reform options.
I regret that I cannot attend; my input would be, and has been on this blog, that real reforms to stem Wisconsin's OWI road carnage are long overdue.
And that nibbling around the edges with minor tweaks do not bring Wisconsin into line with the other 49 states that treat all first offenses and misdemeanors.
Legislators have to stop enabling bad behavior on the roads.
It is time for leadership, and while meetings are nice, and may give some legislators the cover, if you will, to support new legislation, we all know the problem on the roads is influenced by a drinking culture that gets too much tolerance.
First offenses should be criminalized.
All offenders get mandatory ignition devices.
Second offenses should be felonies.
No more messing around/
Posted by James Rowen at 11:57 AM
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Having foolishly begun an eight-year reconstruction and expansion of I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line - - and committing $1.9 billion in funding - - the state cannot rush ahead and begin an equally long project in the Zoo Interchange, which will cost at least $400 million more.
Some legislators and the Journal Sentinel are pressing the state to go ahead and the Zoo Interchange on a faster track - - but with what money?
Are the proponents willing to support added registration and other fees? A higher gas tax? Tolling the interchange, or all major state highway projects, for that matter?
Will the proponents agree to trim the new lanes from these two projects, saving hundreds of millions of dollars?
The state transportation fund is already over-committed. It's a perpetual problem in Wisconsin: over-expansion that has led to heavy debt, and now, too many projects at the same.
For the state to launch the Zoo project before the I-94 north/south leg is finished will have some fiscal consequences somewhere: cuts to local governments for transit or street aids, highway programs cancelled, or fees and taxes raised.
Wisconsin has been living without realistic budgeting or reasonable road-building/expansion priorities for years - - so jumping into $4.2 billion of major Interstate and interchange work is hardly the way to get an out-of-control situation better managed.
As I've said often on this blog, freeways are not free, despite the nomenclature, so what better time than now to begin to decide what projects and added lanes are really needed, and what can be cut or cut back so the state lives within its means.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:48 PM
Why are you listening to conservative talk radio, commenters ask?
Fair enough question.
Whether we like it or not, conservative talk radio in the Southeastern Wisconsin market is a force that frames, or inflames, some issues.
Along with the national programs - - Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, et al - - we have more local rightwing political talkers than do many other markets.
So listening here and there is a way to keep up with one strain of political influence in the greater Milwaukee area.
And posting some tidbits and low-lights, as I do, is a way to push some accountability their way, if only by telling non-listeners about the garbage that is regularly out there on the public airwaves.
All in all, I don't think it's a bad thing to listen.
I'm aware that most of the talkers lecture Milwaukee constantly, even though (Belling excepted) they live in the suburbs.
Those without kids (Wagner, Belling) are famous for tsk-tsking moms and dads about parenting, and the talkers self-proclaimed victimization at the hands of Democrats or Obama or the left is laughable, given the position of power and privilege from which the preach.
Talk about your unintended self-parody!
So I listen, aware of their contradictions and often fake bellicosity, and I figure the only thing lost to more creative or spiritual pursuits is a few minutes everyday.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:16 AM
Friday, September 11, 2009
Data, argument here.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:29 AM
You gotta wonder where these people have been all these years?
Jeff Wagner, the AM 620 WTMJ early afternoon conservative talker, was grousing Tuesday about apparent delays in widening and rebuilding the Zoo Interchange.
Wagner must think the $2.3 billion projected cost for the project can be cobbled together out of thin air.
He made a good point - - also made by what he dismissed in the same segment as the anti-freeway crowd - - that the $1.9 billion I-94 widening and rebuilding south of Milwaukee to the Illinois state line shouldn't have begun before the Zoo Interchange piece was reconstructed.
Of course, the anti-freeway crowd has pointed out that the I-94 North/South leg is more than expensive: it's widening was not supported by data - - but regardless, there is no way that the state could take on both the Zoo and North/South projects at the same time.
So the Zoo is going to have to wait. Interim repairs will be needed, and commuters going to and from Waukesha County, and north-south on State Highway 45 and I-894 are going to have to slow down or find alternative routes.
Yes, it's an inconvenience, but you know what: Not everyone gets to drive at so-called freeway speeds whenever he or she wants, just as freeways are not free.
Waukesha commuters can spend some of their time framing this question for their County Board supervisors and conservative talk show hosts:
Was killing further study of light rail connections linking Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties back in the 1990's really in commuters' long-term interests?
That option would have been in place right now as a comfortable, mitigating alternative to freeway congestion.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:00 AM
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Fascinating interview with a retired Republican senior Senator who understands the connections between environment and US security.
A must read.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:59 PM
With UWM abandoning the too-narrow Pieces of Eight restaurant site on the lakefront for the new School of Freshwater Science, there should be a quick consensus that the best site all along has been the existing UWM WATER Institute near the harbor on E. Greenfield Ave.
It meshes projected teaching with UWM's existing research and boating facility and will boost the neighborhood with the public construction and development funding.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:20 AM
Talk about a great event; Book this, and pass it on...
Eco Walk September 13th, 2009, 11 am
Join the UWM community, alumni, & neighbors for the first-ever Eco Walk. This walk will take you through the urban ecosystems & sustainable landscapes of UWM & Lake Park, while highlighting their unique features.
Even in the city, there are ways to encounter the natural environment.
By taking part in the Eco Walk, participants will experience the native woodlands of Downer Woods on the UWM campus, the Waterfall Ravine in Lake Park, and a rain garden at the North Point Lighthouse, as well as many other prairies and natural landscapes.
Register on UWM's Spaights Plaza, then enjoy breakfast snacks and pick up a free raffle ticket, making you eligible for the drawing of an Apple Laptop Computer.
All adult participants (18 years or older) will receive one free raffle ticket, but more can be purchased on the day of the event. The drawing will be held in the Marcia Coles Community Room in Lake Park (lower level of the Lake Park Pavilion) after the walk.
Extra raffle tickets will be available at $5 for one ticket or $20 for five tickets.
From Spaights Plaza, walk along a self-guided marked path through the UWM campus, Lake Park, & North Point Lighthouse grounds.
Interpreters will greet you at each special ecological site.
Finish with a hearty vegetarian chili lunch in the Marcia Coles Community Room. The walk will lead you there.
Proceeds support the UWM Sustainability Fund and Lake Park Friends.
Register at and find more information at: www.ecowalk.uwm.edu
Posted by James Rowen at 7:41 AM
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Go to this link and donate. I just did, and it feels good.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:12 PM
Great reporting by Tom Daykin: philanthropist Michael Cudahy says no dough for the new engineering school on land UWM has already bought from the cash-strapped county government.
That's a stunner: I thought the campus out there on the County Grounds was to bear his name.
Is this Cudahy's response to his failure to promote a new UWM School of Freshwater Science next door on the lakefront to his water industry museum, Discovery World?
Cudahy says "no."
I remember when Discovery World/Pier Wisconsin was on the drawing board some years ago, and when the initial, over-bearing design was nixed, Cudahy withdrew the plan entirely and said he was done with project sponsorship in Milwaukee.
After a while, a new design was approved through a competition, and Cudahy graciously returned as the building's funder.
I'm not sure if the same scenario will play out, but for now, UWM will have to do some fancy footwork and fundraising to make sure it hasn't bought a pig in a poke.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:23 PM
Gov. Jim Doyle laid out a complex plan Tuesday to rescue failing transit in Southeastern Wisconsin and improve services, too.
Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel does a good job explaining all the elements, here.
To succeed, the plan needs the approval of the legislature, officials in Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee County, and an infusion of federal funding, too.
That's a lot of moving parts that have to be meshed by several units and levels of government that have been at odds with each other, or that have been disengaged from the process, depending on your perspective.
And, of course, Waukesha County is a non-participant - - by choice - - in a regional solution, which does removes an overtly hostile player, but which also leaves potential transit improvements stalled at 124th St.
Without a real solution, Milwaukee County's transit system could shrink through fare increases and service cuts to irrelevancy, or fall into a form of receivership necessitating a state takeover or bailout.
We'll see if Doyle can pull off this regional rescue. It's true that he has made himself a lame duck, but can work on a deal for Milwaukee County without feeling like he's also campaigning against County Exec Scott Walker at the same time.
I wish Doyle well: the public need is immense.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:35 AM
Along with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - - which drained the economy of capital - - permanent damage to New Orleans and eight lost years of work towards cleaner air and reduced dependence on foreign oil.
Republicans can lay it all at incumbent Obama's doorstep, but the Bush administration's failures will drive the Bush legacy into Ulysses S. Grant territory.
Rightfully - - no pun intended.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:04 AM
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
A few days ago I said on this blog that taking shots at the union at Mercury Marine from the outside was of little value.
I forgot that's right-wing talk radio's bread-and-butter.
Today, within a few minutes, I heard Mark Belling on 1130 WISN-AM refer to union leaders or anti-contract members as "greaseball goobers...thugs...goons...stiffs."
So it goes on Milwaukee talk radio.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:44 PM
Tim Cuprisin, late of the Journal Sentinel and now at OnMilwaukee.com, told his readers last Friday that long-time AM 620 WTMJ radio personality Phil Cianciola was fired.
Since Tim is not at the newspaper or on jsonline.com anymore, having taken the last buyout, fewer people probably know about this big story in Milwaukee media.
Cianciola gave WTMJ's afternoon drive-time program "The Green House" most of its pulse and laughs, as its namesake, Jonathan Green, is a relatively humorless and crusty conservative.
[Late Tuesday update validated that assessment: In about an hour this afternoon, I managed to hear Green opine that problems with the cash-for-clunker program was proof that the government should never be allowed to run anything, except the military, and in response to a news story about a high school kid being baptized without his parents' permission during a football team outing, Green wondered aloud whether the kid's name was Mohammed? Turns out it was Danny.]
Green regularly undermined the more upbeat and informed chit-chat between Cianciola and sports guy Bill Michaels: the show absolutely sang when Green was on vacation and now-departed Mark Reardon (currently in St. Louis) filled in.
So it's a loss for WTMJ listeners, and proof that if you want to know what's happening in Milwaukee media, Cuprisin continues to be a must-read.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:40 PM
So the lefty New York Times says President Obama's address to school children will avoid politics, stressing hard work and big dreams.
Oh, sure. Like the Times doesn't tell Obama what to say, and vice-versa.
I heard Michael Savage say just last night that everything the AP writes about Obama is cleared with Rahm Emanuel, so why should the Times be any different?
I'll wait to hear what Rush Limbaugh has to say about the speech, since that's where I get my objective analysis.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:35 AM
As the dreaded hour of his sinister speech approaches, I thought I'd repost last week's public service blog here decoding the propaganda Chairman Obama will sneak into the young Socialists recruiting message beamed into your kids' classrooms.
Par for the course from our first foreign-born,Muslim President.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:30 AM
Gov. Doyle is speaking at the Intermodal Station on Tuesday, at 1 p.m., on transit plans.
Look for news about the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee Commuter line, which has inched forward to a ground-breaking, but is, like other transit needs in the region, stalled for lack of funding.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:06 AM
Monday, September 7, 2009
You gotta love the Milwaukee Public Market as it continues to redefine itself; there was a mob there Saturday as management and vendors keep improving the mix of hours and offerings.
Case in point: the new Margarita Paradise sit-down/carryout counter and produce market at the building's first-floor south end facing Water St.
Delicious, fresh food; friendly staff, fair prices.
Checked it out twice in a week, and I think it's the real deal.
I haven't been to the original Margarita Paradise on W. National Ave., in West Allis, but I will the next time I am that far west and want a meal or carryout.
The Public Market took a long time to complete, as it was a complicated public/private/neighborhood partnership, and matching sales and services to customer preferences has also been a work in progress.
The whole thing was an experiment.
I think things there are stabilizing, which is good news for the Third Ward and a downtown that is always looking for cool destinations.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:42 PM
Familiar Story: Doom And Gloom About The Zoo Interchange - - But Have You Noticed How Congested The New Marquette Interchange Remains?
More sky-is-falling data from state transportation planners, this time about the cost of delaying the reconstruction (and yes, let's widen it at the same time) of the Zoo Interchange.
But the state doesn't have the money - - $2.3 billion - - in part because it has begun flushing down the drain $1.9 billion to reconstruct - - and, yes, widen - - the I-system between Milwaukee and the Illinois state border, even though only phantom congestion there was in need of mitigation.
The same arguments were made about the dire need to repair - - and yes, then widen at the same time: why not? - - the Marquette Interchange, which I find just as congested as before, and less safe, given the traffic pouring off the High Rise bridge and a steeper entry ramp westbound on I-94.
It's such a shell game: fears are raised, money is committed, debt is increased, and the only thing certain along with new induced traffic is the need for another round of maintenance/repairs/redesign/expansion.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:56 PM
Call it special disinterest legislation:
State Rep. Alvin Ott, (R-Town of Brillion), is proposing that pedal-driven rolling bars - - on which patrons on board could imbibe and/or manipulate the steering and brakes - - be permitted on Wisconsin roads and other locations, the Associated Press reports.
It's not clear if drinkers could actually steer or brake the vehicle; regardless, it does put an entirely new spin on "open carry," to say the least.
Lest you think some practical joker is out there confusing Labor Day with April Fool's, here is one of many links in Midwestern media to Ott's Folly [my term, not his].
Yeah, this is some great PR for Wisconsin - - akin to the proposal from one of Ott's brethren also representing people in the 1st Senate District - - that school teachers pack guns in the classroom.
Ott's Folly comes to light just as other Wisconsin's legislators are talking about reforming the state's weak and ineffective drunk driving laws, which are part of the reason Wisconsin leads the nation in drunken driving.
Ott says there is interest in bars rolling through Lambeau Field parking lots.
I can't imagine stadium management wanting that liability on the property, or that pedestrians would appreciate the risk.
Can you picture these rolling bars (and yes, "pedal pubs" does sound a bit more quaint, something along the quiet, traditional British tavern model...) on Regent Street during the Badger football weekends, or through taligaters at Miller Park, or on Water Street in downtown Milwaukee on a hot summer night around bar-closing time?
Has Ott discovered an alcohol deficiency on Wisconsin roads or at sporting events that needs curing?
And please: don't tell me that criticizing the idea somehow is an argument for Prohibition.
Criticizing the proposal is an argument for sanity.
I predict Ott's 'idea' will be drowned by waves of laughter and condemnation.
And that the collective disbelief sure to follow the Folly may actually push more serious-minded legislators towards a true OWI reform package - - if only to distance themselves from a really bad idea that would make Wisconsin's drunk driving situation even worse.
But that a legislator would put his name on such a zany proposal underscores the ignorance or disinterest in certain corners of the State Capitol about Wisconsin's drinking-and-driving problems.
Ott has been in the legislature since 1986: you'd think he'd know and do better..
Posted by James Rowen at 10:00 AM