By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jan 30, 2008 at 5:05 AM

Racine's transit system has just become the most enlightened in the region.

Installing bike racks on the front of buses was all it took.

Groups like the Bike Federation of Wisconsin have long argued for racks on busses as a sensible way to encourage bus ridership in Milwaukee County. But county transit officials have given the lame excuse that buses wouldn't fit in the garage as easily if they had bike rack, even though advances in the technology make them fold up nicely.

Racine paid $545 each for the racks and $99 a pop for installation for a grand total of $22,000. That was the cost to outfit the entire fleet of 33 buses, with two spares. Racine used a federal grant to cover $18,000 and the city and local bike club chipped in the rest.

Tough Political Lesson for the Attorney General: Politicians should know not to make campaign promises if they can't control the outcome. Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen learned that last week when the state abandoned plans to expand the Milwaukee crime lab by 31 DNA analysts.

Bids to remodel an office building to accommodate the added help came in too high and the Department of Administration, which handles all things concerning building construction by the state, dropped the bidding process.

Van Hollen made adding analysts a key issue of his campaign to unseat incumbent Peg Lautenschlager, who was defeated in the primary, anyway. He portrayed it as an issue of mismanagement. Guess he didn't understand the complexities of trying to get things done on a state government level, a point made by Lautenschlager during the campaign.

Van Hollen did not issue a statement on the defeat, although his office pumped out press releases touting prosecutions for kiddie porn and sexual assault cases during the past two weeks.

The QT on Police OT: Milwaukee aldermen will get a taste of how the cost of police overtime has been managed for the second quarter of 2007. It seems that it took some time for the budget office to put together figures for the Common Council and a presentation this week will bring aldermen up to speed until mid-July of last year.

Through that time, police overtime was running at about $8.9 million, about $850,000 ahead of last year at the time.

The budget office projects total OT cost for 2007 to be around $18.3 million. The city budgeted $13.4 million for 2007. Nonetheless, city Budget Director Mark Nicolini wrote Ald. Michael Murphy in July that there was a "low probability that the MPD will need additional funds transferred into the salary account," while later writing that "it is evident that the MPD will likely exceed its overtime budget for 2007."

Nicolini noted in his letter that the increase in overtime is also due in part to pay increases under a new police contract and not that the number of hours has increased dramatically. Part of the increase is also due to the Neighborhood Safety Initiative, which uses saturation patrols in high-crime neighborhoods.

Rhetoric Rocks Contraception Debate: A bill that would require hospitals to have someone on staff that could administer emergency contraception to rape victims drew its share of dramatic comments at an Assembly hearing last week.

The chamber heard some testimony from opponents that claimed hospital rooms would have to close because smaller hospitals in the state couldn't afford to have such a doctor on staff. They also argued that the bill would require Catholic hospitals to go against their doctrines on the abortion issue as well as force doctors to question their conscience clause, which allows them not to distribute condoms and other birth control if they don't feel like it.

Under the measure, hospitals would be required to provide sexual assault victims with oral and written information about emergency contraception, let them know they have the option of receiving it and provide it to them immediately upon request.

Emergency contraception, known as the morning-after pill or by the brand name Plan B, is a higher dose of regular hormonal contraceptives. Taking it within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex can reduce the chances of pregnancy.

State Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), a former nurse, called it "politicizing the tragedy of rape." Rep. Terry Musser, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, simply said to the opponents, "Give me a break. ... You can side with the hospitals or you can side with the rape victims."

Rhetoric aside, the Assembly passed the bill, 65-31, but then opponents refused the customary procedure of immediately sending it onto the Senate. Instead, the bill must wait a few weeks, which, as the session nears an end, brings it closer to delaying passage permanently. Opponents also successfully stalled a vote in December.

"You roll over to a special interest group who wants to impose their theology on the rest of society," responded a rather irate Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids). "Compassionate Republicans is an oxymoron."

Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) said Assembly Republicans "seem to put their political agenda ahead of rape victims."

One For the Anti-war Crowd: The Bill Camplin Band, Jahmes Finlayson and One Drum, and Ceol Cairde "Music of Friends" will share the bill at a concert to benefit the Iraq Moratorium on 7 p.m. Thursday at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave.

Madison's Raging Grannies, who have won a following for their animated and amusing performances of well-known songs with new anti-war lyrics, will be special guests.

The Iraq Moratorium is a loosely knit grassroots movement uniting people and groups who act on the third Friday of every month to call for an end to the war in Iraq. More info can be found at the group's Web site --

Camplin is a singer-songwriter who has held a prominent place in the Wisconsin music scene for decades, and who plays and hosts musicians at Fort Atkinson's Café Carpe, which he and his wife operate. Finlayson and One Drum perform music rooted in the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, the Middle East and the Americas. Ceol Cairde, Gaelic for "The Music of Friends," performs traditional Irish and other Celtic music.

Joel McNally, columnist, activist and co-host of the Morning Magazine on WMCS Radio (1290 AM), will emcee this smoke-free event. The suggested donation is $10.

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.