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A stealth move by the Milwaukee County Board this week could take lakefront parkland and give it to the War Memorial Center for a parking lot. The WMC wants to expand its parking lot on the north end of the center, which also house a part of the Milwaukee Art museum.
Parks supporters got out the e-mail chain once they heard of the effort, but that wasn't until this week.
The Lakefront Development Advisory Commission, an advisory board on lakefront issues, recommended the plan be put on hold after objectors showed up en masse. But the board is scheduled to consider the parking lot anyway, according to the parks supporters, by suspending its rules at its monthly meeting this week. They term the land-for-parking lot deal illegal.
"It does exactly what it sounds like: bypassing the existing and proper rules to ram this proposal through the County Board," says Dan Cody, president of The Park People of Milwaukee Count, and John Lunz, president of Preserve Our Parks, terming the plan a "high-handed land grab."
They contend that the WMC wants more parking revenue since it apparently doesn't get any from the county's O'Donnell Park. It would then compete with the little used structure for parking revenue. It's estimated the WMC gets $300,000 a year from its own parking lot.
"People are prepared to litigate this matter with the county if the WMC chooses to move forward with paving lakefront park land to expand a parking lot," the two write. "The last thing we should be doing is paving over any lakefront park land to provide more parking for a private group whose tenants include for-profit businesses!"
The county board Thursday rejected the proposal to fast-track the lakefront takeover on a 9-10 vote. The vote on whether or not to suspend board rules to consider the matter without the usual public hearings or meetings. It does not mean the plan is off the table, however.
In need of the 7 Ps: Turns out there was a really good reason for Ald. Bob Bauman to call for a task force analyzing the Police Department's plan for a new administration building to replace its State Street HQ--drawings did not include space for Municipal Court or city attorney's offices.
The disclosure was made at the first meeting of Bauman's task fore and the gathering ended shortly thereafter with charges that building planners come clean on what else they forgot. The $46.7 million building is part of a five-year effort for department upgrades.
Bauman wants the department to consider a completely new site and use it as a catalyst for economic development and the site of the old building could be used for development as well. Chief Ed Flynn's vision was to remodel the existing building.
Task force members also were concerned that the department was low-balling the cost. The last major department effort to build a new building-the District 3 station on Lisbon-was some $30 million over budget. Despite the cost overruns the new place was fraught with technological flaws that still have to be overcome.
Furlough fight: The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office doesn't want to see its prosecutors be forced to take 12 days off this year like other county employees. It proposes that staffers take 6 days off and see how much money that saves. The department is charged with cutting costs by $118,200. Under its counter to the County Board, prosecutor would take off two more days if the six-day furlough plan failed to trim enough expenses.
School board scrap: An intense Milwaukee School Board race could be shaping up for next spring. Current member Terry Falk, who represents the Southeast Side, including Bay View, says he will challenge Bruce Thompson for the citywide seat. Thompson was once board president and oversaw the MPS evolution into choice, charter, and other programs to reduce the size of MPS and allo more private dabbling into public education.
Thompson has been backed by pro-voucher operatives from around the country, which regularly have given him the maximum contribution possible. Thompson, a Milwaukee School of Engineering professor, has been referred to as a tool of George Mitchell, the local leader of the pro-voucher crowd. He was voted out of office once but has since fought his way back on the board. Falk, a former MPS teacher, will have the full backing of the teacher's union, which generally sits on the opposite of the aisle from the Thompson philosophy.
Organizers in Bay View are scurrying to find a candidate to replace Falk. Some expect Joe Dannecker, a Thompson ally who sat on the board for a few terms before losing to Falk, to be wooed into the race.
Bob the Crusader: Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan continues his status as the city's leading crime fighter next to Police Chief Ed Flynn.
The south Side alderman announced that he is enlisting more private sector support for his Operation Impact crime fighting program. It includes more block watches, surveillance cameras and a greater police presence.
Called Partners in Public Safety, Donovan was helped putting the group together by North Side business owner Omer Hamden. He circulated a petition that got more than 500 signatures asking city fathers to make public safety the top priority.
"Any efforts to improve other aspects of the community (economic development, education and housing, for example) will ultimately be in vain as businesses and residents continue to flee the city," states the group's mission statement.
"We fully intend on keeping our part of the bargain. We will raise $200,000 from the private sector to provide for a greater police presence throughout Milwaukee and expand Operation Impact citywide," said Donovan with high optimism. "This group of businesses and individuals will work over the coming years to advance one simple cause that being the making of Milwaukee as America's safest big city."
Donovan has long made graffiti vandalism his bailiwick and recently called for more police patrol to combat the crime. He says three new graffiti vandals are operating in his district and he wants them stopped.
"I know we need additional officers - I've been calling for them until I'm blue in the face -- but we can't let this spree go on any longer," he said.
His colleague, Ald. Jim Witkowiak, wants a new state law that would throw the back at so-called "inter-state" graffiti. The arrest of two Chicago-area students says that's enough evidence to say the issue is running rampant, even though it's somewhat unfathomable to think that Milwaukee is a haven for out-of-state graffiti criminals.
Battle of the courthouse TV stars: Milwaukee County Board meetings will continue to grace the cable airwaves under a new deal with the City of Milwaukee.
Those interested in Courthouse machinations can view meetings of the full board within seven days, under a deal with the city's cable channel 25. Committee meetings, however, will be still be blacked out. County workers will man the cameras for the broadcast.
Board meetings occasionally do hit the airwaves now, but committees operate without the spotlight of TV.
The five-year agreement means the board still has a ways to go to make it truly accessible. Committee meeting agendas have been posted on the county's web site, but still have no way for Web browsers to get detailed information on all the proposals up for consideration for the most part.
No money is to change hands and the city projects no additional expense on its part.
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.