By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jan 11, 2008 at 5:28 AM

Just as drivers see the light at the end of the tunnel known as the Marquette Interchange reconstruction, state Department of Transportation officials want area residents to start thinking about an expanded Zoo Interchange.

The DOT has gone concrete crazy in the view of some Milwaukee residents, planning on wiping out homes and businesses with aplomb for freeway-widening schemes near Miller Park and the South Side on I-94. Preliminary looks at Zoo Interchange ideas suggest that might not be the case, although nothing is certain.

Reports of early plans show that the DOT will entertain the idea that the interchange needs expansion, but that option would be left to the future and only safety concerns would be addressed in the rebuild. There is, however, a study in the grips of DOT's hands that suggests 22 properties would need to be taken in order to handle future traffic loads.

The Zoo Interchange opened in 1963 and is currently the busiest interchange in the state. The corridor extends from 76th Street on the east, 116th Street on the west, Center Street on the north and just south of Greenfield Avenue on the south.

The meetings will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Zoofari Conference Center, 9715 W. Bluemound Rd. and from 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the State Fair Park Tommy Thompson Youth Center at State Fair Park. The DOT has of late used a virtual practice towards interacting with the public, hiring court reporters and tape recorders to listen to public input instead of meeting with them face-to-face. No word on how this one will go.

Spot Light on Red Light: Big brother could be waiting at stoplights if a plan by a local legislator is adopted. Under the plan, cameras could be installed by municipalities at light-controlled intersections that would take the picture of a vehicle's license plate if the driver runs through a red light. The owner of the vehicle would then be sent a ticket for running a red light, which carries a $40 fine for the first offense. The bill notes that it is not a valid defense for an owner to claim they were not driving the vehicle at the time.

It would waive the six-point penalty, however, which could actually give people more of an incentive to not stop at red lights.

Milwaukee Democratic Rep. Josh Zepnick is one of the sponsors. He notes that 200 cities in 24 states have intersection monitoring cameras.

"These traffic control photographic systems would allow more police officers to be on the streets keeping our homes and communities safe rather than sitting at an intersection waiting for a motorist to run a red light," states Zepnick, although there isn't usually a plethora of police in these parts waiting to nail red-light runners.

Crusading Continues for Reynolds: Ever wonder what former state Sen. Tom Reynolds has been up to since being ousted from his seat in 2006? It seems the West Allis Republican is getting tired of pumping out religious brochures from his garage printing press and wants to get back into the political fray. That crazy Christian has formed the political action committee, Clean Sweep Wisconsin, "to take state government back from the career politicians, lobbyists and special interest groups."

Sounds like many PACs running around the dome, but Reynolds has a few twists. Clean Sweep Wisconsin would require its candidates to sign an ideological statement, including a provision that they resign if they vote against a Clean Sweep edict. Not exactly a sales point in attracting candidates, although it did work for Newt Gingrich and the "Contract for America" (except the resignation part).

Some of Reynolds' and Clean Sweep's ideology for candidates includes:

  • Give parents tax credits to send their kids to any private or public school. Reynolds' kids are home-schooled.
  • Halting all increases of taxes or fees and a "moratorium on new laws interfering with the lives of Wisconsin citizens and Wisconsin businesses," a rather broad-based agenda indeed.
  • "No more free welfare for illegal aliens."

Reynolds' first move for the PAC, of which he is also treasurer, is a plea to supporters to send money "within the next few weeks."

3rd District Pitches: Endorsements are already rolling in on local political races, including one prominent member of the state Legislature staking his ground early.

State Rep. Jon Richards lent his name to the aldermanic campaign of Patrick Flaherty. The East Side Democrat should carry some weight for Flaherty's 3rd District bid (which happens to be for the East Side/Riverwest area), since he is the Assembly's assistant minority leader and a veteran of helping out campaigns throughout the state.

"Patrick is a proven leader with a longstanding commitment to progressive ideals," said Rep. Richards.

Meanwhile, candidate Sam McGovern-Rowen, who is also an aide to the incumbent Ald. Mike D'Amato, countered with an endorsement from Dennis Conta, currently a lobbyist and a former state lawmaker. County Supervisor Gerry Brodrick has already lent his name to the McGovern-Rowen campaign.

"The city has always depended on the 3rd District to elect leaders who can provide bold citywide leadership while attending to the diverse needs of the East Side and Riverwest, and Sam is that kind of leader," reads Conta's statement.

Conta made Milwaukee history briefly as the only candidate to beat former Mayor Henry Maier in a primary.

The 3rd District field got crowded quickly after longtime D'Amato decided to move onto to other opportunities. The ballot could also feature John Connelly, Sura Furaj, Daniel Fouliard, Nicholas Kovac, Matt Nelson, David Schroeder, Andrew Twist and Ryan Champagne.

Flynn Gets Heat, First Day on the Job: Speaking of Milwaukee's 3rd Aldermanic District race, one candidate, Matt Nelson, weighed in on new Police Chief Ed Flynn's vision on police brutality. Of course, Nelson's opposed to it. His group, the Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition, however, has been on the front lines to create a civilian review board when police brutality complaints come to the fore. I'm pretty sure Flynn's against it, too.

MPAC submitted the following questions for the new chief to respond to:

  • What is your level of knowledge of individual or organized groups of police officers who engage in police brutality or other forms of misconduct or criminal behavior? What steps will you take to address and swiftly remedy cases past and present of police brutality, misconduct and corruption?
  • Are you willing to go on record and state that you are opposed to officers getting paid after they are fired? Are you willing to support a change in the state law that allows this to occur?
  • What are the current impediments of internal affairs, the police and fire commission, and the inquest process that consistently result in the failure to hold officers accountable for their conduct?
  • What support and cooperation do you need from the mayor, the police union, the public, and the DA's office to hold officers engaging in criminal behavior accountable for their actions?"

Nelson and the group wanted the chief to submit answers in writing. Since he just got on the job this week Monday, the group is still waiting.

Eco-friendly Van Hollen? State Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen isn't a complete foe of the environment and is still upholding the AG's office as an environmental prosecutor. His office achieved a fine of $317,925 against the iron foundry known as Waukesha Manufacturing for violating pollution laws since 1999.

The foundry violated water and air pollution standards. According to the complaint, Waukesha Manufacturing failed to update its Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan, submit storm water compliance reports and maintain Best Management Practices required for storm water pollution prevention. It also failed to perform air pollution control testing, monitoring and record keeping required to ensure compliance with air emission limits. 

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.