By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jan 23, 2009 at 11:28 AM

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Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, seeking to spend the slush fund known as "asset forfeiture expenditures," sent a laundry list of ideas for the money to a Common Council committee last week.

As usual, many of the items don't necessarily qualify as "proper spending" under federal guidelines.

No one seems to care about that anymore.

The federal government distributes the asset forfeiture fund after seizures from drug busts. Originally, municipal police departments were to use the funds for drug interdiction efforts. Given the list submitted by the Police Department, some of the items qualify as a stretch under that category, but the standard police response is that if the money goes for items that the council won't normally approve as part of the normal budget process, that frees up budget money for drug busting.

Flynn notes in his list that the items were "discussed" (but not necessarily approved) as part of the 2008 plan.

Usually, some brass from the Police Department show up to defend the spending. In fact, previous chiefs Art Jones and Nan Hegerty showed up in person. No one from the department was there this time, though, and an exasperated committee held the measure until department reps could make it to City Hall.

Computer items top this year's wish list -- from spending $47,200 for new crime analysis software to $25,400 for faster wiring and cable for the internet. The horse patrol is making its annual appearance and Flynn wants to spend $38,275 for a new vehicle and trailer. Other items include:

  • $57,320 to pay for divers to look for explosives in the harbor
  • $12,4475 for surveillance equipment
  • $5,000 to feed and care for three drug dogs
  • $45,000 for cell phones
  • $13,000 for additional bike patrols

Long-range, Flynn wants to spend $450,000 to renovate the former District 3 building, which has been vacant since 2003.

Sick and tired: When Milwaukee aldermen asked for a sick leave report, they didn't get much of one, complained Ald. Terry Witkowski.

Even though Department of Employee Relations chief Maria Monteagudo was ready to detail the highlights of a 22-page breakdown of city sick leave, Witkowski complained that the department wasn't doing enough. He noted that the report was on 2007 sick leave and lost work and not 2008. He also complained that the department used to give sick leave status on a quarterly basis rather than an annual count.

"This has been a long time coming ... It should not be something that should be a addressed once a year," he said. "This is a $20 million problem."

In 2007, injury claims by city workers were down nine percent -- from 3,095 to 2,802. The Department of Public Works led the way in that category with 388 claims.

Not All Praise for Obama: The Wisconsin Right to Life wasted no time in chiding President Obama. He signed an executive order overturning a law that prevents taxpayers from funding overseas abortions.

"Barack Obama will be the most pro-abortion president in the history of our nation." said Susan Armacost, Legislative Director of Wisconsin Right to Life.

Armacost also raises the specter of the Freedom of Choice Act, which she says "would eliminate all of the federal and state laws passed in the past 35 years that restrict abortion and protect women and unborn babies."

Armacost said that if FOCA becomes law, taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions, partial-birth abortion will be legal again, secret abortions for minors will take place with no parental involvement and medical professionals and facilities will be forced to perform abortions. FOCA, she predicts, would prohibit the passage of future protective laws and abortions will skyrocket.

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.