By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jun 27, 2007 at 5:14 AM

It would be virtually impossible for registered sex offenders to live in the City of Milwaukee under a plan by two aldermen to restrict where the offenders can live. Alds. Jim Bohl and Tony Zielinski propose to ban offenders from living or loitering within 2,000 feet of places “where children can expect to be found.”

Besides schools, day care centers, and playgrounds -- places where children are sure to be found -- children can also be expected to be found at museums, libraries, grocery stores and shopping malls creating quite the swath of prohibited living and loitering space.

The aldermen say that the ordinance would cover places that the city designates as locations where children can be found. They suggest such locations as  playgrounds, recreational trails, swimming pools and day care centers.

By calling them “child safety zones,” the two are hopping on a bandwagon that continues to gain steam among communities who have suddenly found sex offender phobia. Menomonee Falls, Franklin and Glendale have recently passed similar ordinances.

“We are watching the surrounding communities fall like dominoes as they restrict sex offenders from relocating to their communities, and we too need our own restrictions to protect our families and our children, too,” Zielinski said.

Bohl insists that the ordinance would withstand legal muster and the city attorney’s office has helped in the drafting.

Keep in mind that some folks who have to register as sex offenders are not predators in the evil sense, but include 17-year-old men who have been convicted of having sex with their 15-year-old girlfriends and vice versa. It’s a rare occurrence for sure, but nonetheless would be covered under the ordinance.

Since 2,000 feet is nearly a half-mile, most anywhere in the city is within a half-mile of any of the proposed child-friendly locations.

The two aldermen are showing some compassion in proposing that current offenders can stay in their dwellings and they also suggest an appeal process can be held in court.

Offenders who violate the ordinance can be fined $1,000 to $2,500. The council’s Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider the matter today.

The loitering penalties should raise a few questions among aldermen since the supposed “anti-gang” loitering ordinance -- which has yet to be signed by Mayor Tom Barrett -- caused them to ponder why the city’s current rules aren’t enough to stop loitering by anybody.

The Milwaukee proposal continues the recent trend of using sex offenders as a hot way to score political points. Offenders were an issue in many fall legislative campaigns and as a result are the subject of legislation requiring them to have green license plates, state restrictions on where they live, and other draconian measures.

Tax Lapse Investigated: Last week I raised the all-important question as to how a private school receiving tax support can still live on the taxpayers’ dole while not paying taxes itself. At Clara Mohammed School, 317 W. Wright St., they were zapped with a federal tax lien for not paying $103,122 in income withholding tax.

The school receives more than $6,000 from the state for each low-income student it enrolls. State law requires voucher schools to be current in all tax payments, including federal and state withholdings. When informed of the school’s tax troubles, Department of Public Instruction spokesperson John Johnson says DPI is “reviewing and monitoring this situation.” He added that it was a lengthy process to get any school off the dole for such behavior.

Don’t Feed the Pets: Aldermen are ready to tackle the tough issue of feeding animals in the outdoors this week. Among other animal regulations -- including new measures preventing residents of non-owner-occupied duplexes and single family homes from holding animal fancier permits -- the proposal would make it illegal for people to place food, water “or material that can be used as food or water by any animal” on public or private property. “Food and water may be placed on one’s own property provided the food is safeguarded from stray domestic or wild animals,” the proposal adds.

Good PR Not Good Enough: It usually helps to have your own public relations firm to boost your plight, but in the case of Gerard Randall, outgoing president of the Private Industry Council, it hasn’t so far. Randall faces ouster from his post at the top of the heap of Milwaukee County’s workforce development and training program as the City of Milwaukee takes charge of the oversight beginning July 1.

He faces an early departure, however, after the PIC board -- made up of Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker appointers -- voted to have a committee look into sending Randall packing early so the transfer of PIC and the $14 million budget it comes with could be smoother. Randall, with the help of, a Web site funded by the PR firm of Zigman Joseph Stephenson, whose chief is political dabbler Craig Peterson, has been portraying this as an attack on his head because he was hired by Republicans and he himself spouts the GOP party line as a panelist on two local pundit shows.

Mayor Tom Barrett, being a Democrat, is targeting Randall for being a Republican, so the conspiracy goes. He’s also been plying his plight on WMCS radio and in a recent column in the Journal Sentinel by Eugene Kane, who are buying the Randall party line.

What they fail to mention is that Randall and his executive team -- who are paid in the six-figures -- fiddled while spending PIC’s 12-month budget for training within nine months. An audit as to how the agency could have run out of funds to help pay for transit so people could get to training and/or jobs themselves is also underway.

Zigman Joseph Stephenson also happened to be slapped with a $15,003 tax lien last month for not paying federal income tax withholding, according to postings in the Business Journal weekly.   

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.