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The Wisconsin Gas Flame will soon get a boost from new technology.
The Wisconsin Gas Flame will soon get a boost from new technology.

A Downtown beacon will shine brighter starting Dec. 7

A Milwaukee icon is about to shine a little brighter on the Downtown skyline.

On Wednesday, Richard H. Driehaus and Chicago-based M & J Wilkow, Ltd., owners of the Milwaukee Gas Light Building, at 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., will flip the switch on a newly completed lighting upgrade that will cause the weather-forecasting flame atop the building to burn more brightly.

The 1930 Art Deco building was designed by Milwaukee’s Eschweiler & Eschweiler architectural firm, which had its offices around the corner on Mason Street, and also designed this warehouse that I featured in an Urban Spelunking story this morning.

According to a statement issued by Wangard Investment Real Estate, which manages the building, the owners, "have taken advantage of advances in LED technology and upgraded the ... flame-shaped light that crowns the 20-story building.

"Thanks to a more sophisticated LED system, significantly more dynamic lighting schemes will be projected on the building’s upper floors. The unlimited light colors and patterns include the option to animate the flame-shaped light so it appears lit by gas instead of LED lights. While the building will feature a new lighting pattern, the flame will continue as it has for generations to serve as a weather beacon indicating the forecast by its color and flicker."

The lighting project was undertaken by MainStage Theatrical, Visual Terrain and Faith Technologies.

Technology will allow the 21-foot flame – it was added to the top of the building in 1956 – to be controlled autonomously using data from 11 weather stations around the city, which will determine the color of the flame, according to the now age-old Milwaukee stanza:

When the flame is red, it's warm weather ahead.
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold.
When the flame is blue, there's no change in view.
When there's a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

"The Gas Light building is a tremendous historic legacy," said Driehaus. "Old buildings tell us where we cam…

You can help kids improve reading skills at Forest Home Avenue School via a Donors Choose campaign.
You can help kids improve reading skills at Forest Home Avenue School via a Donors Choose campaign.

Help give the gift of education

Today is Giving Tuesday and thus I'm re-sharing this post from December 2013 about how you can use Donors Choose to help out a local public school. The only changes have been to update links and remove some information that is now past its sell-by date ...

Tis the season for opening your hearts and helping out around town. One way you can do that is to help a teacher in a classroom. I don’t mean in person – though you can do that at many schools, of course.

Instead, consider doing something like donating materials to a classroom at your child’s school, your neighborhood school or a school to which you feel some sort of connection (you went there, your mom went there, etc.).

At our school, for example, teachers have placed giving tree items on classroom doors. Parents can pluck a post-it and return it with the item listed on it. In many schools, budget line items for things like supplies have been swallowed up by lines that help make sure there are sufficient adults working in the building. So, classrooms can use some help with supplies.

If you’d like a suggestion for a school, I’m always happy to offer one. Email me.

Otherwise, always has great ways to give. There are many projects that teachers in Milwaukee Public Schools are trying to fund. For example, Forest Home Avenue School (which my mom and her grandmother attended) second grade teacher Angela Bohr was (when I first posted this) trying to raise about $300 to support materials to help boost the reading skills of the kids that are in her Tier 2 Response to Intervention (RTI) group. These are kids who are struggling and need intensive instruction to make progress.

"We have a daily, 45-minute Tier 2 time where I work with nine students that are in my Tier 2 group," said Bohr. "My students are loving and come to school to learn. They have had traumatic events happen to them which has caused many of them to have academic delays. My school serves students Pre-K-5th grade with over 8…

Testify, Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School, testify.
Testify, Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School, testify.

Powerful Milwaukeeans help reboot MPS Foundation

The idea of donating to public schools has raised questions over the years. Should a tax-funded system raise extra money from the private sector? And, the related and extremely relevant companion: should it HAVE to?

Then there’s the question of individual public schools seeking outside funds – grants, donations, fundraising events, kids selling candy bars – for specific programming.

Like many discussions surrounding schools, these can be complicated questions and the subject was addressed just this weekend in The New York Times Magazine, when a reader wrote to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s "The Ethicist" saying (s)he felt immense pressure to donate to a granddaughter’s public school.

"Is this level of pressure for large contributions to the operation of a public school unethical," the reader queried.

"All children deserve a fair shot at a decent education, let’s agree," Appiah replied in a long answer that I won’t quote in its entirety here. "Are inequalities among schools that aren’t a result of unequal government provision a threat to this ideal? Only if inequalities between private and public schools are. So it would be wrong for parents’ groups to bolster a public school by providing resources beyond what’s available to all children in the system only if it were also wrong to send children to private schools.

"Even affluent public schools have fewer resources than many private schools. Raising money from parents and other outside donors allows them to do a better job than they otherwise would, resulting in better educations for some children in the public system than for others. ... But inevitably, we confront a trade-off between increasing fairness and increasing the number of people who get a worthwhile good; in this case, a better education.

"Which returns us to the point with which I started. Certain values vary with roles: We expect an umpire to be a neutral party on the playing field, while Mom and Dad take a rooting interest in their ki…