By Doug Hissom Special to Published Sep 05, 2007 at 5:23 AM

The passing of the last long weekend of the year creates a situation ripe for some short takes:

Road Rage and Taxes: Waukesha County Exec Dan Vrakas got front-page coverage for allegedly brokering a deal for a rehabbed I-94 off-ramp near the Pabst Farms mega-sprawl mall / city. The county's share of the $25 million project would be a mere $1.75 million, while the developer would chip in $1.75 million and a tax incremental district would add another $400,000. The rest will come from the state.

It seems from here that the Department of Transportation should be given the credit for chipping in $20 million so people can get to a shopping mall easier and Vrakas should quit breaking his arm patting himself on the back.

Shop the PIC: Changes at the Private Industry Council aren't going down without some noise. In fact, PIC probably has gotten more press this year than ever, after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's takeover of the job development agency and its $14 million budget. Workers affected by the change in leadership are trying to make some waves over former CEO Gerard Randall's handling of the agency.

Randall currently enjoys the largess of a golden parachute worth more than $60,000 for him to head into the sunset with some dignity. A recent missive from a PIC worker called Randal's budgeting ability "real wizardry."

It notes that PIC brass had their pay split between PIC and a subsidiary known as the Hire Center, even though the top dogs spent no time at the Hire Center and under the new leadership their jobs have been reduced to token at best. "As a result of this budget gimmickry, two lower-paid Hire Center staff employees have been laid off as of July 31," says the source. Calls for a complete audit of Randall's tenure continue.

Jonesin' on Jones: Jerell Jones seems to fancy himself as some sort of kingmaker. The owner of radio station WNOV takes credit for the recall effort that torpedoed Gary George and the rise of Michael McGee Jr. as an alderman. Jones disappeared quickly and silently though after the alderman was indicted on federal and state charges.

But now Jones' radio station building is sporting an old campaign banner that former police chief Art Jones used in his failed bid for mayor. The "jones4mayor" sign is flying stoutly on the building's facade, which has some speculating that Art Jones is thinking of another run for City Hall. It's even more interesting given the fact that Jones is a featured guest on rival station WMCS. Even though the sign emphasizes the Web site "," the site is defunct.

Butler Gets Conservative Nod: The normally conservative Milwaukee Police Association cast an early endorsement for state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, a noted progressive. Butler is expecting a tough attack from the right when he runs for election next year. Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Butler to the bench in 2004. Sun Prairie attorney Charlie Schutze announced his candidacy this week, offering himself as a "conservative alternative."

Holding the Budget Line: We've seen a load of media hand-wringing devoted to the fact that state Dems and Republicans aren't seeing eye-to-eye in budget negotiations. One refreshing take comes from the obscure Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc., which takes the slow-is-better approach. Since the budget impasse, state spending continues at last year's levels until something changes. That essentially puts certain plans for school districts and municipalities on hold.

The Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc., says that's OK. "There is no need to panic. ... We are hopeful that the committee will not respond to the tax spenders' pressure to act without taking the time to solicit and consider the taxpayers' input," touts a group statement. We're not sure exactly who the tax spenders are, since any budget is guaranteed to spend taxes.

Co-mingling Candidates: It's a twisted way to run a campaign, but it does garner some press. Jim Burkee and Jeff Walz have declared themselves "co-candidates" in a race against Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. Burkee is a Republican and Walz a Democrat, making it quite difficult for both of them to get votes in a primary.

But, it's gotten them some brief national attention. The two signed a "pact with the people" last week. It declares their intention to agree to "vote against deficit spending during times of economic growth, to serve no more than three consecutive terms in the House, and to refuse all lobbyist gifts." Check out for their splashy Web site.

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.