By Doug Hissom Special to Published Aug 24, 2007 at 5:19 AM

In a new protest twist, Bay View residents are demonstrating against proposed bus budget cuts by doing something they should have done all along -- riding the bus.

The Milwaukee County Transit System has done its annual budget trial balloon by suggesting vast route cuts and some fare increases, but this time MCTS hit the nerve of Bill Sell, a regular on Route 15 out of Bay View and a noted advocate of alternative means of transit. Sell has organized locals to ride the bus every Monday at 7 a.m. as a “protest” to the cuts.

Usually MCTS tries to cut back on routes where the noise is quiet. Sell is not known to be quiet and has gotten County Supe Marina Demetrijevic and Ald. Tony Zielinski to hitch a ride. He and his coalition have put together their own proposal to keep our buses healthy. Details to be forthcoming. Meanwhile, they’re getting on the bus again at 7 a.m. Aug. 27.

County Administrators Acting Like They’re on Drugs: Speaking of budget trial balloons, it seems like Milwaukee County administrators are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks as they slash and burn their budgets in order to meet County Exec Scott Walker’s fetish for tax freezes. And their efforts are getting to the point of suspending reality.

This time it comes from the Behavioral Health Division, that little known department that no one hears about until they need it. This is the last vestige for people affected by mental health and drug and alcohol abuse to go for help. And as proposed, they’ll likely have to look somewhere else. Division chief Jim Hill proposes a $750,000 cut in aid to community-based organizations that are increasingly bearing more of the burden for this troubled group of folks.

One major cut is in the aid to IMPACT, which is one of the best places alcoholics and drug abusers can go to find services. And there’s a reason you have to line up an hour before they open in order to get served-- that many people need the help. It’s aid is being slashed 90 percent, putting yet another outlet out of business. Whether or not these groups are doing a good job with the county aid is not being asked in this column, they are the only ones doing it anymore it seems.

County government has virtually abandoned all pretense of trying to help, using the Mental Health Complex as a holding cell for people to sober up before sending them back to their pills or bottles.

Talk About Your Early Endorsements: The Capital Times newspaper really likes Milwaukee State Sen. Lena Taylor -- for Milwaukee County executive that is. The Madison daily posits that Taylor, serving her first term in the Senate after less than a term in the Assembly, might run against County Exec Scott Walker. And they love the idea.” Taylor would be an ideal county executive.

She is deeply rooted in Milwaukee, yet she has the experience to work with state government and has close relationships with key federal officials. She would instantly emerge as a statewide leader on urban and county government issues. And her election would free Scott Walker up to do what he really wants: bid for more prominent elected or appointed positions,” the paper gushes in a quite lengthy endorsement.

Walker’s up for re-election in April 2008.

Spewing on SPEA: Here’s one law that shouldn’t be too difficult to get behind -- the Strangulation Prevention Enforcement Act, with a heady acronym known as SPEA. It should be easy to pass this bill since we’ve heard few advocates backing strangulation lately. Showing an amazing acumen of bi-partisanship that would certainly go a long ways to get a state budget passed, state Sens. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), Dan Kapanke (R-LaCrosse) and our own Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) along with state Reps. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) and Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake) have cast down their partisan spears and joined in a united effort to end this scourge of strangulation. It’s being termed a “homicide prevention” bill.

“The legislation achieves this by closing a loophole that has allowed batterers to avoid any serious penalty for committing dangerous acts of strangulation and suffocation because current laws focus on the injury suffered to the victim as opposed to the danger posed by the batterer’s conduct,” reads a statement announcing the initiative. And we thought prosecutors are supposed to be prosecuting batterers and throwing them in prison. Apparently, stranglers have been charged with misdemeanors for way too long. This bill makes strangling a felony.

And there are a whole bunch of nice people supporting this bill including: The Association of State Prosecutors (ASP), the Wisconsin Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (WI-IAFN), the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WCADV), the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association (WDAA), the Wisconsin Sheriff's and Deputy Sheriffs Association (WSDSA), and the Wisconsin Victim/Witness Professionals (WVWP).

No Smoke, But Still Fire: A guy can’t even try to ban smoking and get some credit for it anymore. Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker and County Board Chair Lee Holloway are playing one-upsmanship over Walker’s headline-grabbing effort to extend the county’s smoking ban a whopping 30 feet. Walker says he will use his executive order ability to extend the county’s smoking ban to include 30 feet near building entrances.

Holloway said in a statement it was “disappointing” that Walker didn’t mention that the County Board already passed a smoking ban in 1993. “This new proposal is a fine-tuning of the policy previously approved by the County Board,” Holloway said, adding a gentle reminder that the County Board will have to ultimately approve the change anyway.

Lack of Progress: The City of Milwaukee’s Web site has quietly dropped the rosy progress report on Midwest Fiber’s work toward making Milwaukee the country’s first large all-wireless city. (That was in a previous progress report.) The report was a featured highlight on the city’s home page, but now even archived mentions of the progress have been erased. After two years of unfulfilled expectations, the effort is dead in the water.

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.