By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jul 23, 2008 at 5:21 AM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Bill Stace will expand his entertainment empire to the South Side. Stace will host shows at the Modjeska Theatre on Mitchell Street after he gets a liquor license from the Common Council. The Licenses Committee gave its approval last week.

Stace has operated the Miramar Theatre on Oakland Avenue since 1998, holding various eclectic forms of entertainment ranging from bands to plays. He says that while he's breaking even at the Miramar, he needs a larger venue to make some money.

The Modjeska, which seats 1,300, has been shuttered for the most part recently although its board of directors is looking for ways to keep the doors open. Stace said his shows would receive approval from the board. Some Miramar shows in the past have drawn ire from stalwart Christians and conservative talk radio hosts.

"Basically, I'm just going to run it as a larger version of the Miramar," he told the committee, offering about three or four shows a month.

Stace made a point to say he would put on shows that wouldn’t compete with other venues.

Stace said he's already preparing a show "about being Polish" on Milwaukee's South Side, featuring The Happy Schnapps Combo.

Ald. Jim Witkowiak, who represents the district called the Modjeska "the Riverside of the South Side" and gave his enthusiastic support.

Water Works: New Berlin is thirsting for more Milwaukee water. Under a plan to be considered by a Milwaukee Common Council committee the Waukesha County city would pay a bonus of $1.5 million to Milwaukee in addition to its annual payments of $996,000. In exchange, Milwaukee would increase its flow to New Berlin from 4.8 million gallons to 6.3 million gallons per day.

The agreement also calls for Milwaukee to foot the bill for infrastructure improvements to get the water out west.

This is the second deal for water between Milwaukee and New Berlin, the last one particularly rankled aldermen because New Berlin would use the water for further sprawl and to compete with Milwaukee for jobs. Milwaukee aldermen reluctantly agreed to a deal after New Berlin threatened to go to Oak Creek or Racine for the wet stuff.

Aldermen also pointed out the fact that New Berlin is woefully underserved in the affordable housing category and the new deal includes a provision that the two cities will chat once a year to try and do something about that. It is a key concession to get Ald. Michael Murphy -- a once-adamant opponent of water sales -- on board.

Beer Wars: The continuing contention between East Side homeowners and UW-Milwaukee students flared up again in the form of a liquor license hearing for a corner grocery store.

Owners of the Parkside Liquor and Grocery, 2700 N. Murray Ave., want to expand their alcohol offerings to include wine and a little bit of liquor, but members of three neighborhood associations showed up to object. The main opposition argument is that it would lead to more binge drinking and house parties by students.

Neighbors who actually live next to the store said owner Hana Assad keeps the place clean and the area outside free of trash. They said they would like to see alcohol sold there for convenience. It's not the first time neighborhood associations, such as the Murray Hill Association and the Riverside Park Association have tried to rally against beer and booze being sold at the store.

The Licenses Committee approved the license for Assad after she agreed to not sell liquor, but only beer and wine.

Political Schtick: Every pol needs a schtick when campaigning, especially long-shot candidates like Kevin Barrett, who is running for Congress in western Wisconsin as a Libertarian.

Barrett's been sending out predictions for the future including one that says Brett Favre will return to the Packers, throw 20 touchdowns and lead the green and gold to the Super Bowl.

"A Brett Favre comeback will be good for the war-ravaged Wisconsin economy," says Barrett.

Barrett made headlines for being run off the UW-Madison campus as a lecturer for suggesting that the U.S. government had a role in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He hosts a radio show for the Genesis Broadcasting Network. He holds a Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature with an Arabic / Islamic Studies focus and a Folklore minor. Other off-the-wall soothesaying from Barrett:

  • The Milwaukee Brewers will make it to the World Series and possibly win it, further boosting Wisconsin's economy.
  • Obama will win the presidential election by more than 10%.
  • Man will someday colonize the moon, and life will be found somewhere else in the universe.
  • Someday, nuclear waste will be shot into space.
  • In 2020, Wisconsin farmers will lead the nation in producing hemp for fiber, food and fuel, and more than half the milk sold in Wisconsin will be raw milk, which scientists will have determined to be healthier.
  • A new official investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks will begin in 2010.
  • Based on comparisons with the Soviet and Roman Empires, the United States central government will collapse in the year 2125 (approximately), because of economic problems brought on by high taxes, budget deficits and militarism.

Looking for a Handout: This is what gives politicians a bad name. Milwaukee County Supervisor Marcia Coggs-Jones is calling for her and her colleagues to get an extra $300 a month for travel expenses in addition to their $50,679 annual pay. Coggs-Jones justifies the request by saying that board members' pay has been frozen for a few years and high gas costs are hurting supervisors ability to get around.

She also notes that Milwaukee aldermen make $73,222 a year in pay, which many think is too much. Aldermen also receive $337 a month for a transportation allowance.

The issue here is not that board members should have another $300 a month -- they shouldn't -- it's that the proposal comes from Coggs-Jones, not considered one of the more active county supervisors.

Coggs-Jones should take the bus to her Courthouse office, anyway, helping to promote mass transit and recruit more riders for the county's beleaguered transit system.

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.