By Doug Hissom Special to Published Apr 06, 2007 at 5:05 AM

With the resounding victory by conservative Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler, expect an even more emboldened campaign effort next year from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s big business mouthpiece and lobby group. WMC pumped in millions on behalf of the Ziegler camp, producing inflammatory position papers and, of course, a plethora of TV and radio air time.

The latest lobs from WMC were an extension of the group’s effort to support Mark Green against Jim Doyle for governor in November. But WMC is clearly getting better in the realm of being a political player and independent expenditure group. And they have no qualms about getting in the dirt and slinging mud for their anointed ones.

We should expect an even larger hyperbolic push from WMC next year as Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler faces voters for the first time. Butler, a former Milwaukee judge, was appointed by Doyle in 2004 and for the most part, represents everything that WMC finds evil. A key vote by Butler -- to the disdain of WMC -- was to overturn caps on medical malpractice suits. That issue was used to galvanize the conservative faithful against Linda Clifford in her race against Ziegler.

And expect WMC to get into the gutter, as it has in its past two political efforts. Don’t be surprised that they’ll go after Butler with racist innuendo, being the only African American on the court. Likely it will be through continuous use of his picture in ads throughout the hinterlands, since unfortunately in the fields of Wisconsin, that stuff still plays against a candidate. Butler was soundly defeated in 2000 when he ran against then-incumbent conservative justice Diane Sykes, who bested him nearly 2-1 in vote totals.

One candidate that WMC would drool over would be Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Brennan, who has repeatedly opined that the state Supreme Court is too activist in its approach. That jives with his membership with and the belief system of the Federalist Society, which includes the likes of the notorious Robert Bork, Orrin Hatch and Ed Meese. The Federalists say their doctrine is one of original Constitutional intent yet try to insert conservative values into the law.

Brennan has aired some trial balloons in the past regarding his interest in the high court, but his Federalist credentials could land him on the federal bench instead. Sykes' appointment to a federal court of appeals was considered well greased because of her membership in the Federalist Society.

The scenario for Brennan looks like this: Rudy Randa, currently a judge for the federal court that governs eastern Wisconsin, is reportedly looking to assume senior status, which gives him the lovely set-up of getting a full salary while hearing virtually no cases until death does he part. Randa is also a Federalist and with Brennan a leading Federalist in these parts, he could easily be the top candidate for the Bush administration to pick as a successor to Randa after he gets bumped into paid vacation land.

Courthouse wags say Brennan also wants the job. After all, it is a lifetime appointment and he wouldn’t have to run a campaign ever again. Brennan just won another six-year term as a county judge after running unopposed.

If the Randa pseudo-retirement doesn’t pan out, expect Brennan’s name to be one of those tossed around the most for the high court. But with millions at its disposal and a take-no-prisoners approach to in-the-face campaigning, any candidate WMC fields will make Butler’s re-election a serious uphill jaunt. 

Euro Yanked from Downtown: It was a classic case of Downtown condo dwellers-vs.-tavern and in this instance the tavern lost. Mason Street was the showdown between residents of the Grain Exchange condo building, 741 N. Milwaukee St., and the owners of the Euro Café Bar, 324 E. Mason St., which put up shop across the street to the north of the building about two years ago. And the old adage that says you can’t move next to the airport and complain about the noise doesn’t seem to work anymore. It’s an adage that should also apply to new Downtown residents preferring to live in a cavernous concrete environment that echoes every noise imaginable.

Five tenants of the Grain Exchange told the city’s Licenses Committee that they were at their wits end due to loud music and patrons coming from the Euro Bar. No matter that the Milwaukee Street club scene of Eve, Three, Kenadee’s, Tangerine, Carnivore, Metro Hotel, and Saketumi is right around the corner, these folks knew for certain that the masses of loud people on Mason Street were directly the result of the Euro. They wanted the bar closed. And they had the backing of Ald. Bob Bauman, who claimed no other Downtown bar has as many complaints.

Residents told the committee that they were bothered a couple times a month on the weekends by noise on the street. They also said they could hear the music inside their units, which could be more of a statement about the quality of the insulation and sound-proofing of the windows in the building.

“I expect to be able to be in my home without hearing music from the club across the street,” said Jodell Swenson, a Grain Exchange tenant. “I expect to not have crowd noise, crowds standing outside for 15, 20, 30 minutes after bar time yelling, screaming and shouting at each other.”

Bar owner Spiro McKopolos and building owner Patty Keating Conn said they had taken steps to reduce the noise by closing the windows all night, putting a foyer onto the front door of the bar and removed outdoor seating.

And in a rare occurrence for a tavern license hearing, two police officers testified on behalf of the bar that they couldn’t hear loud music coming from the Euro nor was there any proof that rowdy people were only coming from the Euro Bar. One officer referred to the bar’s clientele as the “hoity toidy crowd” and that it was not a problem.

Nonetheless, the Licenses Committee recommended suspending the bar’s license for 15 days and the full Council considers the recommendation April 17. The bar has been closed since Feb. 21 after its license ran out due to a dispute between the Common Council and the bar owners.

Name Game: The city’s summer youth internship program created a bit of a turf war this week as aldermen quizzed the program’s coordinator as to why Mayor Tom Barrett was getting all the credit. After all, the alderman approved the budget and helped create the idea as well. Nonetheless, flyers promoting the effort -- which places 1,000 city youth in city jobs ranging from planting flowers to office gopher --- were entitled “Mayor Tom Barrett’s Summer Youth Internship Program.”

That drew the ire of Ald. Joe Davis, a leading advocate for youth programs on the Common Council. “We understood that this was a partnership,” he said, saying the mayor has turned the program into a “political position.”

Program coordinator Scott Gunderson, (who previously worked as Barrett’s mayoral campaign spokesperson) said they will look into a change.

Land Ho! A major development struggle is about to start brewing in lower Bay View. The Army Reserve unit that fixes bridges and railroads has announced it will let its lease of city land next to the Lake Parkway expire on May 9. The several-acre plot is bordered by Logan Street on the west, Bay Street on the east, Conway on the south and Lincoln on the north. The few buildings on the site must be torn down within six months of May 9. Most of the site was parking for reservists and equipment. The unit was relocated to Havenswoods on the city’s North Side.

Some ideas for the land have been floated in local meetings, where there were strong hints that mid-rise apartments or condos would be preferable for the site. Neighbors are already concerned that buildings of five stories or more -- considered mid-rise -- would be out of scale for the single-family homes that line the property’s border. Of course, it would take at least five stories for tenants to look at the lake from there since the Lake Parkway currently blocks ground-level views.

The base is also across the street from a proposed rail station for the Kenosha Racine Milwaukee commuter line, which would further enhance its value. Since the Port of Milwaukee owns the land, the city will make the decision as to who gets what. Expect clashes between developers, green space advocates and those supporting low-key projects  to be coming in the future. The area’s alderman, Tony Zielinski, has promised “ample opportunity” for community input, although stops short of guaranteeing that the neighbors must agree to what goes there.

Police Overkill? It appears that school safety at Milwaukee Public high schools has become an inter-agency law enforcement effort these days. Spotted on the lawn of Pulaski High School on the corner of 27th and Oklahoma was a Sheriff’s Department SUV parked conspicuously in front of the school, giving students a good eyeful of the white- and red-striped truck. While that would bring cheers from adults who live in fear of MPS high schools, there was one glaring oddity to the show of force–the Sixth District Milwaukee Police station is next door to the high school and has its squads stationed about the school as well.

Speaking of crime or the potential thereof, the media made much of the crackdown on the legend-in-the-making monikored “Bay View Bandit,” which then became the “Bay View Bandits,” since there were more than one. While the case whiled away for months as street cops and detectives tried to find the perps, the gang squad was called in and in approximately days arrests were made. A week later it was public that members of a gang were behind the spree. And former Chief Art Jones said he had no use for the gang squad when he eliminated it.

Dollars and Sense over Development Dilemma:
The City of Milwaukee’s recent spate of subsidizing downtown development is currently under review by the powers that be since Mayor Tom Barrett seemingly opened the floodgates of public dollars for private construction. Several prominent developments are getting city money to fuel the construction, including the new Manpower headquarters, the Pabst brewery, condos along the Milwaukee River and some Park East development.

But now that many more developers are coming the city for a hand-out the cash flow has slowed as the Common Council tries to come up with a rationale plan on how and when to invest tax dollars to spur development. The council is expected to come up with a plan by May 1. Barrett’s predecessor, John Norquist, was loathe to provide city funding for private projects, firmly planting his foot and city policy  in the free market.

One Downtown player tried to coax the mayor into a holding pattern for a proposed hotel on Wisconsin Avenue. The city lot between 4th and 5th streets is being unloaded for $1 to the latest suitor in the hopes that a high-rise hotel is built on the site. Some environmental reclamation is needed, the city says in justifying the deal. It’s a previous deal that was offered to the local Hunzinger Construction, which let the lot lay fallow after changing its mind on the deal.

But now that the $1 price tag is offered again, Greg Marcus, whose Marcus Corporation sits across the street in the form of the Hilton Hotel, urged the mayor to rethink any subsidy. At least they’re consistent. The Marcuses have stepped in every time a hotel was getting a whiff of city assistance.

Marcus argues that the city should be spending its subsidy dollars in creating more convention space, restaurants, theaters and stuff that brings people Downtown. The hotel industry will take care of itself and will build more rooms when the demand calls for it, he predicts.

“That development will simply siphon off demand from the existing (privately financed) hotel rooms” (read: the Marcus Corp.-owned Hilton, Pfister and Intercontinental), Marcus wrote the mayor.

Pounding on Public Safety: Sounding more and more like he’s floating mayoral campaign themes, Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan continues to pound the sand about public safety in our fair city. Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign recently commissioned a poll that weighed his odds against Donovan in a hypothetical 2008 run-off. And Donovan seems to be turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Whether Mayor Tom Barrett chooses to admit it or not, Milwaukee is facing a public safety crisis,” he says. The two-term alderman has taken Barrett on over the safety of the streets and in true South Side dialect to boot. “The number of shootings is going through the roof,” comments the alderman in his second tome last week on safety in the streets. “Let’s face it. Most violent crime is committed by the same people who loiter, drive defective cars, engage in disorderly conduct and accumulate warrants.”

Donovan got some headline splash a few weeks back for proposing that the National Guard come into the city in the summer to keep some order. That balloon didn’t fly far, but it didn’t stop Donovan from hooking up with Sheriff David Clarke and a retired Milwaukee police captain to use his bully pulpit and try again.

The revised Donovan anti-crime plan:

  • Get back to “quality of life” policing, where officers cite everyone for relatively minor offenses.
  • Make sure that the people who deserve to, go to jail.
  • Saturation patrols in known crime areas.
  • Strictly enforce truancy and curfew laws.
  • Reorganize the Police Department to find the manpower to cover the increased workload.
  • Have the State Patrol takeover freeway patrols from the Sheriff’s Department.
  • Bring on the National Guard for the summer.
  • Start a fourth police class this year.
  • Arrest people for cruising.
  • Require probation and parole officers to do more home checks for drugs and weapons and immediately jail violators.
  • Have inmates from the House of Correction pick up garbage in city neighborhoods. 
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.