Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn faced aldermen in a formal setting for the first time this week, a mere five weeks after stepping into his new role.
Flynn seemed to impress Public Safety Committee members in positing his vision for policing our fair city. Flynn, with four gold stars on each shoulder, told the committee that residents might have to get used to a new style of MPD service. He said that obsession with response time and calls for service have come at the expense of crime prevention efforts.
"The department has taken its eyes off the ball," he said. "Perhaps we don't need the force and majesty of the state in your living room when something goes wrong."
He questioned whether two armed cops need to show up at every call and promises to put a plan together that he hopes would be a "national model." He said if residents are "willing to wait three hours for the cable guy" they might be willing to wait a little longer for the MPD to get to their door. He noted 81 percent of calls are not for crimes.
He said the goal is to drive the bad guys out of public spaces and disrupt hot spots. "Stabilizing a neighborhood and making people feel safe is important."
"I found police don't get criticized for stopping the same knuckleheads," he said.
When asked if he was inclined to allow off-duty cops to be hired by taverns as security, he said he would like to keep that "as a tool in my back pocket," but isn't going to use it for now. What's more important in stemming tavern violence is "altering that mental calculation" when someone decides they can go to their car and get a gun.
"We've got too many people who think they need to carry a gun," he said.
Grieving Over Graffiti: Graffiti has gotten to some South Side aldermen and they want it taken care of ... now. A proposal to give the Milwaukee Christian Center another $100,000 for its graffiti removal efforts cleared the Public Works Committee, but not without a testy exchange between those who have the money and those in charge of it.
The plan is to take the $100,000 from the Community Development Block Grant fund now, instead of waiting until May, the customary time when community organizations receiving block grants can get more funds to do their work.
The Christian Center received $39,000 last year for its work and that ran out in November, said Steve Mahan, director of the city's block grant funds. He urged aldermen to wait until May as a matter of fiscal responsibility, prompting Ald. Bob Donovan, who wants the money, to comment, "We have to bite the bullet and take the steps now ... My residents are not interested in listening to all the gobbledygook about fiscal responsibility."
The panel approved the transfer, but it faces an uncertain future in front of the Common Council at its next meeting.
The Trouble With Identity Theft: Two high-profile incidents of possible identity theft went down this week. At Milwaukee Public Schools, a computer containing names, addresses and Social Security numbers for about 3,000 teachers was stolen from its insurance carrier. The solution offered for MPS teachers worried about identity theft? They were told to be vigilant in checking their bank accounts and other personal credit information for the next two years. No word on lawsuits yet.
In Milwaukee County, information regarding sensitive medical information about people treated at county medical facilities was inadvertently released to a government watchdog group. It appeared on the group's Web site for at least a week. That goof got the American Civil Liberties Union involved. The ACLU has asked for an explanation regarding the foul up.
Ahmuty suggests that the release may also be in violation of federal public health insurance regulations.
Which Side are You On? Campaign watchdogs at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign checked out the contributors to the state Supreme Court race between incumbent Louis Butler and Burnett County Judge Mike Gableman and found -- to no one's surprise -- that it's turning into a partisan race!
It's really no shock to find out that when the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce speaks, most state GOP faithful wag their tails in obedience. And WMC is spending a lot on behalf of Gableman. Democrats, on the other hand, are loyally circling their wagons around Butler. Last year's race between Annette Ziegler and Linda Crawford also sliced along similar partisan lines. So much for non-partisan judicial races in this state.
WDC found all but six of the 72 contributors who have given Butler $1,000 or more through Feb. 4 made all or most of their contributions from 2001 through June 30, 2007 to Democratic candidates for the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Twenty-six of the 29 contributors who gave Gableman $1,000 or more through Feb. 4 made all or most of their contributions from 2001 through June 30, 2007 to Republican candidates for legislative and partisan statewide races.
Among prominent Dems ponying up money for Butler is former governor and current lobbyist Martin Schreiber, who chipped in $2,500 for the effort. Gableman has the surprising support of long-time GOP backers from the Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, who seem to have a fascination with Wisconsin politics despite living in Wyoming.
Jim, Lynn and Christy Walton each gave Gableman $2,000. The Waltons also back Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker and regularly dabble in Milwaukee School Board elections, supporting pro-voucher school candidates.
Speaking of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, its HQ in Madison was flanked by protesters earlier this week who were drawing attention to WMC's campaign practices in the Supreme Court race. The group, led by former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, criticized WMC for spending millions of dollars in the court race, but not disclosing where it got the money from. WMC also threw its weight around in the attorney general's race on behalf of J.B. VanHollen.
Update: The owners of Kilbourn Tower apparently won't get off just paying their tab with the city, but will have to include some interest, too. A Common Council committee voted to reject a proposed settlement with Kilbourn Tower that included the $950,000 the tower's owners agreed to pay for a "pocket park" on the corner of Kilbourn and Prospect, but asked that the city give up interest on the bill worth more than $300,000.
The developers refused to pay for the controversial piece of land after the city allowed the University Club Tower to be built next door, claiming the city reneged on the agreement. This, even though Kilbourn Tower and its high-end condos was still built and presumably is profitable.
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.