By Doug Hissom Special to Published Aug 28, 2009 at 11:14 AM

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

Proponents and opponents of changing the way the Milwaukee Public Schools are run were lining up in droves this week as some public events were held to draw attention to a plan by Gov. Jim Doyle and Mayor Tom Barrett to allow the mayor to oversee the schools.

School Board members lined up behind the status quo, aldermen were divided and pols from the inner city backed MPS.

The mayor issued the most terse statement regarding one of the events held this week.

"To show up at an organized press event and summarily dismiss MPS governance reform without acknowledging our children's educational needs or the facts about MPS educational outcomes is either a sad sign of self interest or a deliberate attempt to run from the facts," he said.

"Milwaukee leads the nation in the racial achievement gap. We are at the bottom. We are behind Mississippi, Alabama and Detroit. Our high school dropout rate is unacceptably high. The school district is facing huge financial challenges and is in need of classroom resources. Our children, our parents and our teachers deserve better than the status quo."

Barrett was taking a shot at an event held by the Milwaukee Public School Defense League and another press conference earlier in the week questioning the plan.

Barrett's idea received surprising backing from usual foe Ald. Bob Donovan.

"I'm disappointed that special interests and those inclined to pander to them are now chiming in on the possible switch to mayoral control of MPS," he said. "Mayor Barrett and I have differed on many issues over the years, this is certainly not one of them. I stand 110 percent behind the switch to mayoral control. ... Special interests are looking to protect their corner of the MPS cookie jar."

Donovan's leader on the Common Council, Ald. Willie Hines took the middle ground.

"Perhaps at the end of the day, a strict form of mayoral governance will not get us where we need to be. However, it should not prevent us from having a healthy, intelligent discussion that results in sound, substantive improvement. It is painfully apparent that we cannot continue to support the status quo."

Congresswoman Gwen Moore got in the scrap as well, choosing to take on the voucher program, as well.

"MPS is working with a flawed state funding formula that sends our public dollars to private schools outside of the city. Many of our students live in serious poverty, yet according to the Education Trust, Wisconsin spends $1,118 less per student in districts like ours than it does in the rest of the state. How are our kids supposed to concentrate on algebra when their stomachs are rumbling?" she said.

"I fully believe that the governor and the mayor have the best intentions for MPS; however, I have yet to hear a credible explanation of how these difficult challenges get fixed by simply changing the way that our school board is chosen."

More Prohibition News: The Journal Sentinel is patting itself on the back while laying off most of its writing staff. It claims that its over-the-top coverage of drunk driving is the driving force behind anti-drinking proposals floating around the Legislature.

Some of them are pretty creative. Here's one: Requiring that bartenders have no alcohol in them at all while bartending.

State Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) thinks that bartenders should maintain absolute sobriety-that's 0.0 BAC -- when serving patrons since if they're too drunk they may not know when to cut someone off. So much for business owners' rights to set their own workplace rules.

He points to the tragic case in Franklin where a man was served several beers and shots when already drunk and then went out, drove, and killed a couple going to a Christmas Day party. But there really was little evidence that the bartender was drunk at the time.

The penalty for being caught three times would be revocation of the bartender's -- and the owner's -- license.

Zepnick's bill, AB 67, would also end the practice that a family member of the owner can be behind the bar when the owner is present. It would mandate that anyone behind the bar have a bartender's license.

He Wants to be Called Lieutenant: Milwaukee Ald. Tony Zielinski wouldn't mind playing second fiddle to the governor. He announced last week that will run for lieutenant governor next year in the fall 2010 election.

Zielinski has flirted with higher offices in the past, letting his name be floated for state Assembly, county executive and just recently, state attorney general.

Zielinski was first elected in 1988 as a Milwaukee County Supervisor, and has served since 2004 as an Alderman representing the southeast district of Milwaukee, including Bay View.

"The lieutenant governor has a bully pulpit to champion this state's law and order issues, promote a healthy economy and level the playing field for American workers, " said Zielinski in a statement. "That's my plan to move this state forward. I will aggressively champion Wisconsin."

Zielinski's campaign got off to an inconspicuous start, however, as his public relations firm, Zigman Joseph Stephenson, made his campaign announcement on a Friday, considered the worst day to get press coverage since no one pays attention to the news on the weekends.

Paying for Results: Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker wasted no time getting a poll going after Gov. Jim Doyle announced he was quitting after next year. And it found that he was the front-runner. Walker reports that he's leading his GOP opponent Mark Neumann 57 percent to 21 percent and all his potential Democratic opponents.

His results:

  • He leads Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, who has said she is in the race for sure, 48 percent to 40 percent.
  • He tops Congressman Ron Kind, who's still mulling the run, 49 percent to 39 percent.
  • He squeaks by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 44 percent to 43 percent, despite what he calls "Barrett's recent good-earned media." Barrett hasn't even commented on whether or not he's even mulling a run.

In what the pollsters call the "Milwaukee media market," Walker claims a 51 percent to 42 percent lead over Barrett. The market, however, includes the most intensive Republican turf in the state in Waukesha and Ozaukee counties. In the case of Ozaukee County, it's the most Republican voting county in the country.

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.