By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jun 15, 2007 at 5:14 AM

Location, location, location: it’s an overused cliché, but still appropriate in all too many instances. In this case the location is the difference of less than 100 feet -- the difference between the corner of Lincoln and Howell and the corner of Lincoln and Kinnickinnic Avenues.

At the corner of Lincoln and Howell is the Guanajuato Restaurant, a small Mexican joint in a space that birthed the now booming places known as Riviera Maya and Taquiera Azteca -- two Bay View Mexican stalwarts. Guanajuato wanted a liquor license -- as its predecessors had -- to enhance the dining experience.

But led by Ald. Tony Zielinski, property owners -- including one landlord who owned the better part of KK across the street -- claimed there were prostitutes, drug dealers and garbage mongers circulating around the Guanajuato and that would worsen if liquor were sold there. No matter that testimony was given at the license hearing that prostitutes have long-frequented the corner.

Now comes noted tavern and restaurant operators known as the Diablos Rojos Restaurant Group, which runs such fashionable locales as Trocadero and Café Hollander. Mike Eitel, founder of the Nomad is part of the group.

At their corner of KK and Lincoln directly across the street, not only did their new tavern/restaurant known as Merryweather’s Super Bar & Eatery get a liquor license for the former location of a dentist’s office, but they received the added publicity of the alderman sending out a press release over the Bay View chat group known as Bay View Matters giving the place -- and the alderman -- some positive publicity.

Eric Wagner, Eitel’s partner in the venture adds in the release, "Alderman Tony Zielinski's input and support were contributing factors as we made the decision to invest in Bay View.”

Parking will certainly be an issue for the place if plans for a condo tower to be built on a 50-space parking lot across Lincoln go through, since the KK/Lincoln triangle is the site of at least five dining establishments. And with an outdoor patio planned, neighbors could be enjoying the sounds of revelry more than they care for.

Another Bay View establishment, Hector’s on Delaware, dropped its plans for not only an internal restaurant expansion, but outdoor sidewalk dining after Zielinski said noise and parking would be an issue at the Delaware/Oklahoma triangle and he didn’t want the expansion or sidewalk dining.

MPS Ripped from the Right Again: The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute continues its assault on the Milwaukee Public Schools with a report stating that because young African-American males are two years behind in reading and math at the eighth grade level, taxpayers should be outraged at the system.

The report terms MPS “irresponsible.” WPRI has been one of the most vocal proponents of the Milwaukee voucher system, in which students from low-income families receive tax money to go to private and religious schools. Mayor Tom Barrett has recently challenged the funding system, saying it actually costs Milwaukee taxpayers more per student to send them to private schools than it does to fund MPS.

The WPRI receives funding from the Bradley Foundation, which claimed some infamy of its own when it paid for the publishing of a book that argued African-Americans were inherently less intelligent that whites.

Timing is Everything: The same week the east coast of Wisconsin was dealing with bad air warnings, the state sent its request to the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen federal air quality standards for eight counties. Gov. Doyle told the Department of Natural Resources to insist the air here has gotten cleaner. It’s a business move since stiffer air pollution regulations are required in the area. The eight counties are: Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee.

Council, Barrett Battle: The ongoing battle between Common Council and the Barrett administration over accurate budget information brewed over again this week on the topic of surveillance cameras.

Aldermen on the Finance Committee thought they were considering TV cameras for high crime areas that carried a tab to the city of $30,000 -- the amount required by Homeland Security as a matching grant for cameras at the Bradley Center and Summerfest. But the administration came to the meeting asking for $400,000 of the $525,000 cost (the feds were picking up the rest) to come from a contingency fund normally used in emergencies. The committee balked at that.

Ald. Bob Bauman later questioned what happened to $400,000 that he said he was told by Police Chief Nan Hegarty was in reserve for the cameras.

“She also said that the pole-mounted cameras would be up by June 1, 2007 at 15 locations, and that one of the first locations was to be the intersection of N. 27th and Wells,” Bauman said. “She never once mentioned the words contingency fund and obviously, those statements run counter to what happened today at committee.”

Ald. Bob Donovan -- a strong backer of cameras since he has them in his district along National Avenue -- minced fewer words.

“The financing plan brought forth for the cameras was a mess. The administration had well over a year to come up with a reasonable plan for paying for the cameras but just didn’t make it happen,” Donovan said.

Aldermen had previously gone toe-to-toe with the administration over the accurate cost of an additional police recruit class.

Taxi Freedom on Hold: Freedom of taxi is still not an option at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport, says the State Supreme Court. It overturned lower court rulings that said the county’s restriction on who can pick up passengers is unconstitutional. Milwaukee County regulates who can pick up passengers through a permit system. It has since 1980. It does not restrict who can drop off passengers.

The idea is that cabs were causing back-ups at the airports, creating traffic jams and hazards. A taxi firm from Fond du Lac argued that wasn’t fair. A majority of the court said that although they disagreed with the permit process, the county rule works at the airport and that it didn’t exceed any state statutes. Justice David Prosser dissented saying the court should not opine at all on local ordinances it disagrees with. Louis Butler dissented without comment.

Tax Climate Warmer: The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, which typically takes a dour view of our fair state’s tax rates, issued a release today showing that the Badger State tax situation has actually improved compared to the rest of the union. Strictly talking taxes, the state dropped to eighth overall, compared to sixth last year.

In all tax categories, the state dropped.  And when considering fees and other charges, which is a true test of government’s revenue strategy, Wisconsin ranks 20th, down from 14th. Wisconsin has lower fees and sales taxes than most states. In fact, we’re 31st in lowest sale taxes, down from 30th last year.

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.