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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Sometimes it's not so easy to put on a happy face for the public. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Putting on a happy face for the public can be a trying task


Way back in ancient times when the United States invaded Iraq, there was a guy named Tariq Aziz who was the public spokesman for Saddam Hussein and his band of marauders.

It was up to Aziz to put a positive spin on a leader who was being likened to Hitler and whoever the crazy leader of North Korea was at the time.

I always thought that Aziz had a tough job, perhaps an impossible one.

We have our own versions of Aziz in Milwaukee, people who deal with the public or the press and try to put a happy face on things when it's really next to impossible.

Fran McLaughlin was the spokesman for Sheriff David Clarke before her job was eliminated and he promoted her to some kind of sheriff inspector. Clarke is the wacko darling of the tea party who is apparently positioning himself to run for some bigger office and for McLaughlin to try and put a positive spin on this guy shows she probably deserved a promotion.

Ghassan Korban is a guy who never gets a happy phone call. Korban is the Commissioner of Public Works in the City of Milwaukee. He's responsible for lots of stuff, including picking up garbage, shoveling streets and FIXING POTHOLES. Nobody ever calls and says, "Hey Ghassan, good job." When people use the word "thankless," they are describing Korban's job.

The man or woman who sits at the information desk in any Dept. of Motor Vehicles location. Everybody who comes in is either perplexed, nervous or grumpy. And everyone, except 16-year-olds who have an appointment for a road test, ends up nearly crazed by how long things take. The question these information specialists hear most is "Hey! You! How much longer is this going to take?"

The poor kid who works at drive-through restaurants with faulty speakers. You've all been through this. You tell him your order, he repeats it back wrong and you do it again. You hear some mumbled response again and before long you shout so loud you hope he can hear you without the microphone, "A large black coffee for God's sake. That's all I want." Poor kid.

Another tough job is trying to get some attention for something nobody cares about. Off the top of my head I think of Mary Burke, who is running to be the latest candidate who becomes fodder for Scott Walker and nobody seems to care.

Ald. Bob Donovan gets plenty of attention on camera all the time but he just can't seem to resist ending up looking like some kind of little kid lost in the big kid's world. He dresses up and slicks back his hair but what's that saying about a sow's ear?

It's also tough being any restaurateur who serves food on regular-size plates and buys food from around the world, since it seems like the whole food service industry is into small plates and local products.

Another thing that can make a public relations job difficult is when there is nothing new to say. For example, what could you say about the Green Bay Packers that hasn't already been said? You have roster moves, but that's about it.

Or take being the PR person for the mayor. Outside of groundbreaking with a shovel, he does very little that seems to be of compelling interest, so it's hard to sell this guy.

In these trying times, it's obviously good to have a job, but some jobs are much harder than others.

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