By Doug Hissom Special to Published Nov 13, 2009 at 3:07 PM

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City of Milwaukee officials seem loathe to electronically file their campaign finance reports, and add transparency to fundraising,  even though it's a tool that's been available for years. 

The idea was that the interested public wouldn't have to go down to City Hall and have to page through the reports, but could view them online instead.

The city's Web site shows that only four public officials file electronically: Mayor Tom Barrett, Aldermen Robert Bauman and Terry Witkowski and School Board member Peter Blewett.

Barrett's report as of the end of July shows that he has $840,256.83 in his campaign fund -- a decent start for a run for governor, a decision he says he plans to make before the end of the week.

Bauman has $37,385.90 in his account and Witkowski lists $16,021.72. Blewett claimed $10,871.46 in the pre-spring election report, which does not get updated until the end of the year.

Money For Jobs: Everyone can agree that keeping 800 Midwest Airlines jobs here and the company's promise to bring another 800 here is good news, but at what cost?

Republic Airways, Midwest's new parent company, says it will bring in maintenance and operations jobs here and retain 800 jobs here, as well.

Mayor Barrett credited the persuasive work of the Milwaukee 7 economic development group.

"We were able to show Republic that this region has the skilled workforce and business environment Republic needs to succeed," Barrett said in his newsletter.

It certainly didn't hurt that the state is chipping in $27 million in state income and payroll tax credits to entice the company.

Siding Aside: All Betty Colla wanted to do is put new siding on an old house, but she ran into the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Committee. And that should be what one expects when owning a property in an historic district.

Colla, who lives in the 700 block of East Brady Street wanted to put fiber cement siding on the house she's lived in for 60-some years, but the commission said there were better substitutes to re-siding the building that way. Colla was cited for some deterioration on her house.

Brady Street was declared an historic district in 1990.

Colla argues that the house needs better insulation but the commission says that the original wood siding should be OK. Colla was denied her request twice already and is appealing to the Common Council's Zoning Committee.

Mary Colla, Sally's daughter, is spearheading the appeal. She argues that other homes on the street have different styles of siding and houses that old should be grandfathered from the historic arguments.

Park Plans Laid Out: Two Milwaukee lawmakers are pushing, in Madison, for what people in Milwaukee County say they want -- a sales tax to aid county parks.

Voters in Milwaukee supported a referendum that asked the state to increase sales taxes in Milwaukee County to support the bus system and the parks, but Gov. Jim Doyle took it out of the budget.

State Reps. Jon Richards and Christine Sinicki are sponsoring a bill that would correct that, offering a sales tax increase of one-half a percent for parks and cultural offerings.

"Our Milwaukee County Parks would benefit greatly from this increase, but the bill would also include funding for other quality of life entities supported by Milwaukee County such as the Zoo, Marcus Performing Arts Center, the Museum, Villa Terrace and the War Memorial Corporation," says Richards.

He says it would raise $38 million for the county and conversely lower property taxes by the same amount.

Partial Impartial Justice Reform: Not everyone in the state capitol is enamored of the latest attempt at campaign finance reform in Madison, including one of the leading champions for the past decade on campaign finance reform, State Sen. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah).

The bill sits on Gov. Jim Doyle's desk waiting for a yea or nay vote, but Ellis says the system would not be fixed. It limits spending by candidates but not by independent expenditure groups, which was the point.

"These are the very ads that have disgusted and scandalized voters across Wisconsin in recent curt elections. They escape any regulation or requirement to disclose who is spending the money and where it comes from," he said.

He said he offered two fixes to the bill but was rebuffed by the majority party.

Dam Shame: A couple of items were wrong in last week's story over the battle brewing over tearing down a dam on the Milwaukee River in Grafton.

The dam in Grafton that was removed with success is the Chair Factory Dam while the Lime Kiln Dam will be removed in spring. The Kletzsch Dam and falls near Glendale is not up for removal, the Estabrook Dam is.

And the Milwaukee Riverkeeper group that follows all things happening with area waterways has a new executive director, Karen Schapiro.

Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.