By Doug Hissom Special to Published Dec 10, 2008 at 8:18 AM

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The Milwaukee County Parks Department needed its own economic bailout to the tune of $315.

The Parks Department had to suspend its effort to rid Jacobus Park of invasive species the likes of buckthorn and honeysuckle since it ran out of money for herbicides. There was no remaining money in the budget for the herbicide Garlon 4 and the effort came to a "screeching halt," according to Jim Price of the Parks People.

"There is no remaining budget to buy more Garlon, and with more cuts in next year's budget, no prospect of getting more within the foreseeable future," he said.

The Charles Jacobus Neighborhood Association chipped in the money this week to finish the job, but Price warns, "one neighborhood group can in no way address a system-wide problem."

Public Ousted from Public Building: There may be some clause in the lease to allow the Zilli family to close the Coast restaurant in the O'Donnell Park Pavilion so it can make more money offering only private events, but nonetheless it seems a betrayal of the public trust.

The pavilion was built with tax dollars and specifically offered a restaurant that was open to the public and had one of the more spectacular views of the lake of any restaurant in town. The bar was a particularly good place to go for the view and the drinks.

Zilli Hospitality, which has operated the Coast restaurant on the pavilion since 2003, announced last week that it was only going to open the space to private parties, meaning the rest of us are essentially denied access to a building we paid for.

Cleaning Up Ethics Code: Many city officials have flaunted The City of Milwaukee ethics code and its requirement that they file financial disclosure statements.

"People just seemed to ignore the deadline," said Dwight Ellis, chair of the city's ethics board.

Withholding pay is the only hammer the board has to get people to comply with the code but the city attorney's office opined in June that withholding pay wasn't enforceable.

The board asked the Common Council for permission to rewrite the rules and now the city officials face fines, imprisonment and fees for late filing.

Cigarette Tax Up in Smoke: One Milwaukee alderman's attempt to ask the state Legislature to allow the city to charge taxes on smokes was merely a pipe dream. Ald. Terry Witkowski did the math and saw he didn't have enough votes at the Council's Judiciary Committee hearing on his idea and asked that his plan be tabled.

Witkowski's was a simple resolution that would have directed the city's lobbyists to add a cigarette tax request to the city's legislative agenda.

Witkowski had some help from the Legislative Reference Bureau's Richard Withers, who told the committee that raising taxes, while giving Milwaukee some $4 million in extra revenue, would also reduce house fires, garbage costs for picking up butts because it would deter smoking.

"Every taxpayer in the city is paying for those smoking-related fires," argued Witkowski.

That didn't fly with committee members.

"It doesn't deal with the outgrowth of young people that choose to smoke in the first place ... It does nothing to address the marketing," offered Ald. Joe Davis, who said the city should ban smoking in public places altogether.

Ald. Jim Bohl said the idea would just "spin its wheels" in Madison anyway and the city should focus on just a few legislative priorities so lawmakers get the message about what Milwaukee wants.

Working With a Vengeance: Here's an interesting labor strategy: occupy your workplace. Last week, workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago occupied their factory, which was set to close on Friday. The workers are fighting for pay for lost vacation days and for the 75 days' notice they are guaranteed under Illinois law.

Wisconsin has a 90-day plant closing notice law.

The workers plan to occupy the plant until they hear the results of the next round of negotiations. Prayer vigils were scheduled over the weekend and community members were picketing outside.

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.