By Doug Hissom Special to Published Mar 13, 2009 at 5:18 AM

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The City of Milwaukee will give a break to vehicle owners who have had their registration stickers ripped off -- sort of. For the past two years city parking checkers issued $50 tickets to unregistered vehicles and those without stickers no matter the circumstance. The city can also tow unregistered vehicles.

Needless to say, many residents were lighting up the phones at City Hall complaining that they shouldn't get tickets because their registration was ripped off -- which is becoming commonplace these days.

The city issued 28,195 tickets for unregistered vehicles last year. In an effort to be less punitive the city now issues tickets for failing to display registration, which run $17 instead of $50.

"The lower fine serves as a warning to alert people to the need to properly display their registration proof," writes Public Works Commissioner Jeff Manthes.

Book ban: The West Bend Community Memorial Library Board has postponed consideration of a complaint filed over gay-themed books in the library's young adult collection. Over 200 people came to the board's meeting.

"I heard a lot of misinformation about gays and lesbians from would-be censors at the meeting," said ACLU of Wisconsin Youth and Programs Director Emilio De Torre. "Libraries are about intellectual freedom. I want to support those who want our libraries to be places that serve all community members young and old."

Some board members want gay-themed books to be removed entirely, while others argued for youth-oriented books to be moved to the adult section.

Election engineering: You know times are tough when penny-pinching gets so intense that elections are canceled. That's a plan by one lawmaker. State Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Eagle River) wants to cancel the February and April elections for the sake of efficiency.

"Here's an opportunity to save property taxpayer dollars without reducing any service that local governments provide," Holperin said.

The spring election is held for all non-partisan elective offices, including state-level positions like Supreme Court justices and superintendent of public instruction, which happen to be up for grabs this April. Other races such as those for county judges, supervisors, mayor and aldermen are all decided in spring.

Holperin says people don't vote much in spring, anyway. The cost of poll workers, printing ballots and keeping the lights on would all be saved, as well. He said holding all the elections in the fall just makes sense. The move would essentially render Wisconsin's presidential preference primary completely meaningless. The change would require a change in the state constitution.

Stimulus prattle: Arguing over stimulus funds continues to be a partisan affair with the state Democratic Party battling Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker in a war of words. Walker said in an interview that he would sue the County Board if it wanted to use stimulus money.

That set Dem Party Chief Joe Wineke off. He says Walker has forbidden staff from applying for aid or new job projects for Milwaukee County as well as preventing staff from working with the new county task force or with the state Office of Recovery and Reinvestment on any efforts to restart the county's stalled economy.

"This is one of the most absurd crusades I have ever seen a politician embark on," he said.

Wineke claims the stimulus would create or save an estimated 12,000 jobs in Milwaukee County.

Playground pugilists: Fighting in the public schools has one state lawmaker exasperated. After a fight at Custer High School led to the arrests of six students and six adults, state Rep. Jason Fields said: "It is utterly ridiculous that adults are fighting with high school students on school grounds."

Field said he'll meet with Police Chief Ed Flynn and District Attorney John Chisholm, "to discuss what penalties exist and what measures can be taken to prevent adults from coming to school to fight kids."

Codes of conduct: The UW System Board of Regents heard from students concerned about efforts to discipline students for their off-campus behavior.

Kyle Duerstein, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student and a student member of the Chapter 17/18 review committee, cited four objections to the Regents:

  • The proposed language is much more vague than the current version. The addition of such terms as "substantial university interest" make the protections for students laid out the current code much weaker and harder for students and administration to interpret.
  • Off-campus discipline creates problems because students would face a double-jeopardy situation. "Any action by a student that might directly impact the safety of other students or the ability of the university to carry out its purpose would already be covered under state or federal code."
  • "The elimination of the right to a hearing except under situations where the disciplinary action could be suspension or expulsion goes against both the revision committee's stated goals of making the process more educational and respecting the rights of the individuals involved," he said.
  • The proposed code removes students' long-standing rights to have representation.

"There is a need to mend relationships between the community and students, but turning Chapter 17 into a tool with which to punish students arbitrarily, without due process, will not make university neighborhoods more peaceful," added United Council of University of Wisconsin Students University Affairs Director, Michael Moscicke.

Campaigning on corpses: Campaigning on the bodies of murder victims is in fashion in Madison these days. Nancy Mistele is running for Dane County exec and is using the murder of Brittany Zimmerman to further her cause. Mistele is running a radio ad that rips her opponent, incumbent Kathleen Falk, for the county's 911 call center's failure to respond to Zimmerman's call for help. The failure was covered up for a month by Falk, Mistele accuses.

Mistele's camp, citing a lawsuit filed by Zimmerman's parents, says a 2004 emergency response consultant instructed Falk to make improvements at the call center, or risk a "catastrophic" failure and that Falk failed to meet these recommendations.

Grant success for clean water: The Milwaukee Riverkeeper group was successful in its quest to get a $10,000 grant to beef up its voluntary water-monitoring program. The public cast votes and the top four groups received the grants from River Network and MillerCoors. The Milwaukee organization received 1,897 votes to finish in second place.

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.