By Doug Hissom Special to Published Aug 06, 2010 at 4:04 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Milwaukee's graffiti gunner, Ald. Bob Donovan, is now getting involved in Milwaukee Public Schools recreation programming.

He was looking into an MPS Rec course offering called "Urban Art" when he was contacted by the Rec office that the course was canceled after the instructor left town.

Donovan recently scored some headlines after taking on a group called True Skool, which teaches its members responsible urban art that's not graffiti. Donovan didn't see it that way and vilified the group saying it promoted graffiti instead. After a True Skool mural was created, Donovan said his point was made when 10 tags appeared near on and near the mural. No arrests were made and police report that the marks were "tags" and not gang-related.

Donovan said he was contacted by a constituent about the class.

The course was to have been taught this fall at Riverside University High School by Damon ‘CEVE' Smith. The catalog entry says participants "will learn all the basics of handstyles, throw ups, bombs, pieces, character constructions and coloring techniques."

"This to me would be the very essence and embodiment of stupidity," he said.

No matter how the course is funded, he adds, "it would be clearly inappropriate and unwise to fund it with taxpayer dollars in any manner."

The course has been removed from the MPS Recreation Web site and staff has been notified not to accept applications.

Time to smile in Bay View: The newly-created Business Improvement District on Kinnickinnnic Ave. is making its first move in upgrading the quaint, yet feeble, shopping area in Bay View: it wants surveillance cameras.

Ald. Tony Zielinski said that in response to graffiti-and a highly-publicized urination incident in front of the Bay View Library-the BID is going for cameras. He says the cameras will be installed within the next couple of months and "significant resources" are being put towards the effort.

Zielinski says critics are wrong that cameras don't deter graffiti crime. He says the mere presence saves police at least $1,000 a month in getting a handle on the problem. The fact that cameras may move the vandals to other areas of the city has not been proven he said at a recent Anti-Graffiti Policy Committee meeting.

And it's not just a safety move, he adds. "Additional benefits include the ability to deter and/or apprehend quality of life violators such as urinating or after hours drunks causing disturbances in the neighborhoods along KK."

So drunks beware.

Truck tax tilt: It's rare in these tight budgetary times that the city would actually consider reducing a revenue stream of any kind, much less one that helps offset heavy damage to our fair city's streets.

In 2007 the city lowered its fee for oversize/overweight trucks from $305 to $150 for a one-month permit and from $555 to $250 for six months. And to no one's surprise, there was a precipitous drop in revenue from the move-from $419,638 in 2007 to $261,135 in 2008 and $188,071 in 2009. Prior to 2001 a city permit wasn't even required for big loads to cruise the city.

Since then, the city instead enacted a $20 "wheel tax" on all vehicles registered in Milwaukee.

A flood of ideas: When natural disasters happen, hand-wringing isn't enough. So why not form a task force? That's Milwaukee Ald. Jim Bohl's plan to deal with future flooding in the city after July's torrent of water on our humble town.

Bohl got the Common Council to put together a task force "to look at key flooding issues, including basement sewage backups and possible remedies for homeowners (including offering incentives for sewer backflow preventer valves), excessive flooding of streets and alleyways, and the overall capacity of the city's sewer and storm water systems." Quite the scope.

Whatever happens with the task force, it's bound not to be a feel-good report. Clearly there are problems with the city's sewers being able to handle such serious rains that poured more than five inches of rain on the North Side in about an hour. Most cities can't handle that liquid load either, nor can they afford the price tag to fix water back-ups so they don't happen. That would be utopia indeed.

Bohl's plan, which all 14 of his colleagues hopped on board to support, would put the infrastructure brain trust at the table: Representatives of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the city's Department of Public Works, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, council members and an appointee of Mayor Tom Barrett.

Bohl's northwest side district took a serious beating in the storm, although not as severe as homes on the near north side, which were literally tore off their foundations.

"It's my belief -- and there are studies also supporting my belief -- that this weather pattern goes back some 20 years, and that it may have ties to climate change or other factors," said Bohl. "To do nothing is unacceptable."

Bohl said he's read several research pieces that suggest the heavy rainfall trend will not only continue in Milwaukee, but that it is also likely to worsen.

He brought out a study from the Union of Concerned Scientists to back him up.

"Milwaukee is projected to experience a 50 percent increase in heavy rainfalls (defined as more than two inches of rain in one day) over the next few decades. Toward the end of the century, heavy rainfalls are projected to occur twice as often," reads the report. The city can usually handle two-inch rainstorms with aplomb.

Bohl wants the city to give residents $100 to offset the cost of putting in sewage back-up stoppage valves in basements.

Ald. Michael Murphy is also focused on MMSD.
"A key question is whether the system needs to be upgraded to a different capacity," he said.

And the two received back-up from Common Council President Willie Hines.

"The time has come for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District to step up to step up to the plate and fund a solution to this problem. Obviously, raw sewage in Lake Michigan is an environmental concern, but raw sewage in peoples' basements must also be an environmental concern," he commented.

Kamikaze candidate: Racine Democrat John Heckenlively has offered to fall on the sword for his fellow donkeys and challenge Republican Congressman Paul Ryan in November's election.

Ryan is considered the poster boy for all things bright and beautiful for the future of the Grand Old Party. He has tons of money in the bank and a national profile for proposing an alternative health care strategy and budget-planning in D.C.

The seat used to be strongly Democratic, but since Mark Neumann [now running for the statehouse] narrowly beat Peter Barca in 1994, the seat has tilted to the right, more so because the Dems couldn't put up a compelling candidate when the time was ripe for victory. Ryan succeeded Neumann in 1999 and has stomped the competition since.

Heckenlively, 46, has long been a behind the scenes strategist since his college days two decades ago. In Racine, he's been county party chair and was once editor of the Racine Labor Press, a newspaper that represented the union side of labor when Racine was actually considered a strong labor town. The paper went the way of organized labor in Racine, however.

He was recently allowed on the ballot for fall, after the state's election board dismissed a challenge to his signatures. He turned in 100 extra but many signers had date errors on the petition.

Joseph Kexel, a Libertarian from Kenosha, is also running against Ryan for the Nov. 2 election.

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.