By Doug Hissom Special to Published Nov 21, 2007 at 5:11 AM
If you live in the City of Milwaukee, you're likely to be a fat, binge-drinking, smoker who is generally unhealthy. But if you dwell in the sunny suburbs of Waukesha, Ozaukee and even Milwaukee counties, your health insurance agent is more likely to be your friend. So finds a recent survey of state health patterns.

We're not the healthiest bunch here in the big city, according to a recent attempt at ranking the state's counties by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The report looks at numerous healthy and unhealthy practices in order to figure out the state's total picture of health. It includes 72 counties and tosses in the City of Milwaukee, as well, in order to gauge the county's suburbs on their own without gritty city residents to skew the results toward the negative.

As for the overall pictures of health, the City of Milwaukee came in second last at No. 71, with 19.1 percent considered in fair to poor condition. Milwaukee County ranked No. 59 with 15.9 percent of the population rated with fair to poor health. In the metro area, the healthy folks can be found in Ozaukee County, where it holds second-place status in the state with 7.9 percent in fair and poor health and Waukesha in fourth place at 8.5 percent.

Menominee County, which is a tribal reservation, came in at the bottom with 21.3 percent with less-than-desired health. Iowa County -- featuring such landmarks as Lone Rock -- topped the health charts with just a 6.4 percent unhealthy populace.

In some of the individual category results on a scale with No. 1 being the best and No. 72 the least healthiest:

  • When it comes to binge drinking, Calumet County near Appleton leads the state with 33.3 percent saying they like to cocktail regularly. Milwaukee County came in at No. 31 (23.8 percent regular boozers), while the City of Milwaukee came in at No. 35, with 24 percent declaring they sauce a lot. It's likely the difference of one old fashioned a day. Waukesha County was a veritable landscape of tea-totalers at No. 9, with 17.5 percent bingers and Ozaukee County was No. 18 with 20.7 percent tipping the toast more than three or four times a week. The state's driest county is Rusk -- best known for having more lakes than people -- with 8.7 percent indulging in the demon rum on more than a semi-regular basis.
  • In terms of obesity, the City of Milwaukee weighs in at the top with 51 percent of us earning obese status. Milwaukee County ranks No. 19 with 22.2 percent tipping the scales in obese-land. Waukesha County, land of Olympic gymnasts, came in No. 4 at 17.5 percent, and Ozaukee carried just a hair less weight at No. 3, with 17.2 percent admitting to having expanded waistlines. The least amount of fat content can be found in Lafayette County -- that desolate place in the southwest -- where just 15.3 percent of the residents have been found to be overweight.
  • And when it comes to smoking, the easiest place for a smoking ban would be Buffalo County, where 14.1 percent of the residents puff the tobacco stuff. Perhaps due to the fact it's filling up with bedroom communities of the Twin Cities. Monroe County has the most smokers at 35.5 percent, while the City of Milwaukee has the fourth most at 28.4 percent. Among Milwaukee County denizens 25.6 percent are smokers, while the air in Waukesha County is relatively clean with 16.8 percent lighting up, ranking No. 6. Ozaukee is nearly smog-free at No. 5, with16.5 percent about to pay $1 more in taxes per pack of smokes.

Time Well Spent? When it comes to budget day for the Milwaukee Common Council several personalities emerge. We have the laissez-faire types who show little passion for the process and wait for others to put forth amendments to vote on; those who look out for the parochial issues of constituents; the active participants who know the decimal points in and out and understand the balances needed to put together a tight budget while maintaining city services -- and then there's Ald. Jim Bohl.

If the budget were a deli, Bohl's ham is cut see-through thin. In his two terms, Bohl has become the poster boy for the nickels-as manhole-covers contingent, offering amendments that target mere thousands of dollars compared to the billion-dollar big-picture the city budget carries.

And his Sahara Desert views of budgeting continued in this year's deliberations as he offered more than 40 amendments that would have cut some part of the budget in order to add a few more cops on the street. He wanted to eliminate all aldermanic travel (a mere $25,000, which is effectively a ban that has been in place for years), cut funding for all Business Improvement Districts except the Riverwalk (saving $169,000) and not pay for cops in the schools because, as he says, it's "absolutely absurd" that the Milwaukee Public Schools can hire 10 new administrators but not pay for cops -- never mind that the School Board was elected to decide those issues, not aldermen.

Bohl gets derision and some accolades for his efforts, though at times it seemed like aldermen wanted to end the meeting rather than spend time with the Northwest Side alderman's paperwork, which took up nearly half of all budget amendments. At one point, when considering a Bohl amendment that would have cut a fiscal analyst position, Ald. Mike D'Amato opined, "Am I that only one who sees the irony of someone who offers 47 budget amendments and says we don't need a budget analyst?"

Finance Committee Chair Ald. Michael Murphy gave some backhanded praise to Bohl when he said Bohl "could be a sixth member" of the Finance Committee. "I appreciate his tenacity."

Music to Liberal Ears: Those yearning for progressive talk radio in Milwaukee need wait no more. On Nov. 28 Chicago's WCPT-AM 850 shifts its signal to 820 giving it an unfettered signal to Milwaukee. The dial change also boosts the station's watts from 2,500 to 5,000 during the day. The station signs off at night, according to its license deal with the FCC. When the station was at 850 it got stepped on by Milwaukee's WNOV at 860.

The move brings Randi Rhodes, the best of "Air America," -- the network that is the bane of the conservative squawkers here -- to the Milwaukee market for the first time. The station also features Stephanie Miller, a liberal talker from L.A.; Ed Schultz, a Fargo-based host described as one "who generally challenges the traditional ‘image' of a progressive," according to the station; and Emmy-award winning Bill Press, who also is author of "How the Republicans Stole Christmas," among others.

According to the station's mission statement, "WCPT believes that a blue city and a blue state deserve a progressive talk radio station that is entertaining, informative, irreverent and chock full of smart, funny shows with a progressive perspective. We are one of the last independently owned radio stations in the country. Because we are not part of a conglomerate, our hosts have the freedom to speak their minds ... and speak they do."

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You: Billy Lee Morford gets a media road show wherever he goes. Never mind that the sexual offender legally has a right to live where he wants -- and that the neighborhood will be notified when he moves in. Milwaukee Ald. Tony Zielinski planned to turn Morford's arrival on the South Side into his own media event. Zielinski called for a community meeting this week to discuss Morford's moving into his district.

Morford made the Milwaukee media spotlight when a judge ordered his release from a Department of Corrections facility because he was no longer a threat to re-offend due to poor health. His move to the North Side was greeted with cameras, protests and parades of interested passers-by. He's now living on South 9th Place.

Zielinski is using Morford's South Side relocation as a way to gain support for a proposal he's backing that would ban sex offenders from living virtually anywhere in the city. It regulates that offenders' dwellings be certain distances from schools, parks, churches and other regular hang-outs for young people -- pretty much the entire city. The plan was quickly buried in committee by aldermen offended by its draconian overtones.

"I'm outraged that Morford is able to live near our schools," he said in a statement. "Such a notorious offender cannot be moved into our neighborhood without public explanation."

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.