By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jul 06, 2007 at 5:23 AM

It’s one of those moments that gives a common person a small, but measurable amount of satisfaction -- watching the well-off argue about their limited, albeit pricey potential. At stake was the proposed Rivianna condo/hotel development on the south side of the Milwaukee River along Water Street.

But to some of the now-entrenched condo owners that moved along the river in the recent years, the river and the skies are theirs and no one can share in that bliss. Rivianna, as proposed, is huge -- three 16-story towers sharing a three-story base structure -- clearly dwarfing nearby buildings like the Marine Terminal, Water Street Lofts and Hansen Storage.

And the neighbors who testified in front of the Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning and Neighborhood Development Committee this week protested the height and scale of the project, since on the north side of the river in the Third Ward the condos are pretty much four stories high.

Many from the Marine Terminal condo complex on the north side of the river came to express dismay that their sunlight would be blocked, causing committee chairman Ald. Mike D’Amato to ponder, “Does height affect property value?”

One statement from the construction union leader in these parts, Lyle Balistreri, queried, “I didn’t know there was a price tag on sunlight.”

It didn’t help that the opponents to the project chose a spokesperson who characterized them as “pioneers” reclaiming the river, leaving others to wonder what exactly they were reclaiming from the river by moving to $300,000-plus condos in the Third Ward.

That absurdity was countered by Patrick Nedobeck, who noted that he has run his business in the Walker’s Point area on 2nd Street for decades and was a pioneer before places like the Marine Terminal were even imagined. He recalled his days as a bar manager on Water Street during the early 1990s.

“People moved from the suburbs to be part of the Downtown scene and then complained about the noise.”

Richard Chudnow characterized the sunlight argument best when he said, “sunlight seems to be a petty need.”

But there was at least one resident who appeared grounded in his reality, “When I go down the river in my yacht there’s no difference between the Third Ward and the Fifth Ward.”

Hot Air on Gang Ordinance: After Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed the so-called “anti-gang” loitering ordinance -- a law he said last year he would veto -- he is receiving criticism from the rights circles. The ordinance essentially gives police the right to harass people hanging out who may look like they could be in a gang (really).

The American Civil Liberties Union called Barrett’s signing as an affront to “the face of reasonable community concern about racial profiling and sound legal opinion.”

Common Council President Willie Hines, still sounding like a potential mayoral candidate himself, asked, “What has changed since last year, when Mayor Barrett found this same ordinance so repugnant? There is really only one logical explanation for his philosophical flip-flop: Political pressure. Our mayor has been roundly criticized for being a day late (or three days late) and a dollar short (or $500,000 short) on too many crime-fighting fronts.

“Politically speaking, he has put himself in a position where he has almost no choice but to sign any anti-crime ordinance that captures headlines, regardless of whether or not it captures criminals. When it comes to crime prevention, our citizens deserve real legislation, not political pandering.”

Weighing War: Waging comment on the war in Iraq could be offered to state residents in 2008. State Rep. Dave Travis (D-Waunakee) wants voters to weigh in on whether or not the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq. That basic language would be on a referendum before voters in the February elections. Travis noted that a similar referendum in Milwaukee last year found 72 percent wanted to get out of the war.  

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.