By Doug Hissom Special to Published Sep 14, 2007 at 5:19 AM

Milwaukee Police Chief Nan Hegerty continues the tradition of using federal money coming from drug bust seizures to fund pet projects for the department. The money comes from assets seized from drug dealers and is mandated to go for efforts to reduce drug use.

While some may argue that any money in the police department budget can ultimately be used to fight drugs, it has in the past gone for such efforts as the horse patrol, which hasn’t exactly tallied up a ton of drug busts. This year’s request to spend $684,500 makes no pretense about drug reduction efforts and in fact doesn’t even mention the word drugs anywhere, which used to be sort of protocol. The horse patrol, however, is not on the list, perhaps meaning that somehow the chief found money in the regular budget for the equestrian unit.

The bulk of this year’s list is $500,000 for more computers for squad cars. But some may question what $55,000 to pay for ticket-writing printers for motorcycle cops has to do with drug interdiction. Others may wonder how $58,500 for laser speed detectors may keep crack off the street, or how a new polygraph machine may help, since polygraphs aren’t even allowed as court evidence for the most part.

Then there’s the $20,000 for brackets for video cameras for squad cars. MPD had long resisted community calls for cameras to be installed in squad cars so that stops could be taped as a protective measure for citizens. The department got 72 cameras for the squads, but didn’t budget enough money to pay for the brackets to hold them.

Other requests include $42,000 under the general headline of “forensic investigation equipment.”

The Common Council must ultimately gives its blessing to the gift list, and has at times questioned the expenses, but lately has given a quick nod of approval.

A Combative Approach to Crime: Two Milwaukee aldermen squared off over what seems to be the topic du jour these days -- crime and shootings. Ald. Bob Donovan sent out what is getting to be a regular statement regarding his solution to crime, but added the caveat of calling his African-American colleagues on the Common Council on the carpet for not doing more.

“I would be remiss if I did not castigate the elected public officials who represent many of the areas where these shootings have been taking place,” he says. “There is deafening silence, quite frankly, in the African American community -- the very community most affected by the deadly violence -- and I find it mind-boggling that the individuals representing the most affected areas are perhaps the most silent and are also the ones who consistently vote against efforts to step up enforcement.”

That statement quickly drew the ire of Common Council President Willie Hines, who called Donovan “inflammatory, inaccurate and divisive.”

“I cannot begin to fathom why Ald. Donovan would tale the time to write a blatant fabrication that does nothing to advance our collective crime-fighting agenda,” he says.

The spate started after Labor Day weekend violence tallied 13 shootings and two homicides. With an outgoing police chief come November, aldermen seem to be getting into the mode that they want more say in how the department is run. Gone are the days when former Chief Art Jones would defiantly cite state statutes in telling them they don’t have any authority over the chief or the department.

Recently Hines has proposed shake-ups on how the Fire and Police Commission is structured and Ald. Joe Davis this week says that no promotions should be handed out in the department until a new chief is selected, essentially wrecking Christmas for those officers in line for a pay bump. Doubtful that will happen.

Thirsting for Water Agreement: Wisconsin remains the only state that has yet to propose a bill that complies with the historic Great Lakes Water Resources Compact that passed in 2005. Minnesota and Illinois have already passed bills that acknowledge the agreement, which restricts how Great Lakes water can be used. The compact is a particular sore point for the City of Waukesha, which continues to thirst for Lake Michigan water, but the compact says it can’t have it due to geography.

When the compact was passed, state Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) said that he was hoping something could be passed by spring 2006. But a committee set up to draft a bill was going to be disbanded this week after a year’s effort because consensus cannot be found. One lawmaker cited as holding up the process is New Berlin state Sen. Mary Lazich, who is being firm in her opposition to a provision that allows one state to veto any diversions.

Another Golden Parachute at PIC: The old guard at the Private Industry Council continues to be replaced, but not cheaply. The area’s job development agency was taken over by the mayor’s office July 1, under obvious protest from past president Gerard Randall, who was given $60,000-plus to go away. Now, Randall’s right-hand man, Dave Wilson, appears to have gotten a parachute of his own. Reports are that he’s getting three months of his six-figure salary to leave the building. Wilson has been left out of planning meetings since the new regime, under Don Sykes, took over and now he’s been dropped from the staff phone list as well.

Randall, for his part, must not have a no-trash-talk clause in his departure agreement. In an obvious set-up by his TV talk-show “Interchange” host Dan Jones, Randall last week ripped Mayor Tom Barett’s job creation efforts as dismal, ineffective and failing. Randall’s tenure was not considered exactly stellar either.

Patio Paradise: Neighbors of The Red Dot tavern, 2498 N. Bartlett Ave., must be satisfied that the East Side tavern’s patio issues have been resolved. The patio had been a point of contention with some neighbors during previous license hearings as well as loud music, public sex, public urination, pot smoking and general rowdiness emanating from the tavern.

The result in May was that the tavern’s license was suspended for 15 days and it voluntarily withdrew its request to use its patio until renovation’s were made. At least one neighbor at the time said the fear was that the tavern would come back later and get its patio back in use.

Promised renovations included sound-proofing and no-smoking for the outside area. This week at the city’s Licenses Committee no neighbors or even the tavern owners showed up to comment on the matter and the patio has now been granted a permanent status, no doubt pleasing many of its dedicated patrons.

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.