By Doug Hissom Special to Published Dec 24, 2008 at 8:28 AM

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Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan apparently doesn't have room for democracy, at least when it comes to the Milwaukee School Board.

Donovan wants an appointed School Board as opposed to letting the public choose their representatives. He calls it a priority on his Christmas wish list.

"To me (improvements and gains made under appointed boards) shows that the problems lie with bloated bureaucracy and poor governance that keep real improvements from happening in the classroom," Donovan says.

"Sadly, this mayor (Tom Barrett) and this administration can't seem to make up its mind on what to do, and so we continue to drift."

Perhaps the timing is right for major changes at MPS, Donovan says, seemingly unaware that no one is actually calling for a wholesale sacking of the School Board and the MPS administration.

"The clock is ticking," he says.

Rebuilding Bronzeville: Milwaukee's Common Council approved spending $250,000 to get the Black Holocaust Museum off the foreclosure market and pay its loan to North Shore Bank. The museum closed in August after it couldn't make its mortgage payments.

The building at 2233 N 4th St. is considered a key part of the mayor's vision for a resurgent "Bronzeville" -- an attempt to recreate the days when the African-American community here had a thriving nightlife and cultural draw to the neighborhood around North Avenue.

So far, it has been somewhat of a bust, with several bars that have opened becoming troubled spots and essentially very little ongoing development on a large scale. Grant's Soul Food Restaurant -- cited by the city as a key to developing the area -- is shuttered and remains pretty much an eyesore.

It's Easy Being Green: Gov. Jim Doyle is getting some praise from environmentalists for his green jobs plan, which is hailed it "the most significant and most environmentally friendly public works project in the state's history."

Doyle proposed spending $3 billion in federal funds for infrastructure and transportation improvements, including:

  • $136 million to restore passenger rail service between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago.
  • $112 million for local transit systems throughout the state that are in dire need of assistance.

"These transportation investments give residents of Wisconsin choices in transportation modes. When gas prices rise, Wisconsin residents will be able to travel efficiently without handing over their life savings to oil companies," said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin environmental group.

According to the American Public Transit Association, every $100 million invested in public transit creates and supports roughly 4,000 jobs and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion invested in the transportation infrastructure supports approximately 47,500 jobs.

The governor also proposed a second round of investments including:

  • $198 million for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) rail proposal in southeast Wisconsin.
  • $255 million for the Dane County Transport 2020 project.
  • More than $1 billion for intercity passenger rail, connecting Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison and Minneapolis.

Wrecking the Party: State Republicans aren't exactly pleased with some of Doyle's requests to the Feds for extra aid -- especially money earmarked for education.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin blasted Doyle for asking for almost $500 million for school projects that voters rejected in referenda around the state.

Mark Jefferson, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said it's hypocritical for Doyle to say that taxes must increase or vital services will be cut when he proposes spending nearly half a billion dollars on projects the taxpayers don't even want.

"First taxpayer watchdog groups point out that he's been cooking the books to make the deficit bigger, and then he goes on a spending spree," Jefferson said.

More Workers Needed: There's one more group weighing in on Gov. Doyle's request for pork from the Feds -- the State Engineering Association. The SEA says it's "counterproductive" for Doyle to ask for more money for transportation projects while at the same time cutting state staff.

"Cuts to this public work force represent two negatives: Besides reduced public oversight and thus public safety, increased outsourcing to private contractors necessitated by public staff cuts almost certainly costs more," SEA President Mark Klipstein urges in a recent letter.

Klipstein notes that a 2004 cost analysis by the DOT concluded that outsourcing engineering work resulted in an 18 percent project cost increase.

He cites the collapse of Boston's "Big Dig" and the Minneapolis freeway bridge as the justification for more public workers (especially engineers).

No Ball Here: It won't be built, so they won't come. Amateur baseball will not be a reality in Waukesha next year after the team organizer said he couldn't come up with $2 million to rebuild Frame Park's baseball diamond.

Team owner Chad Bauer said banks wouldn't lend him the dough. The city is now off the hook on its promise to spend $210,000 to install new lights at the stadium.

Busted: At least he already knows his way around the building. Milwaukee House of Corrections guard Dominique T. Robinson, Jr. was charged with one count of cocaine dealing following a state Department of Justice investigation.

The state alleges that Robinson had more than 40 grams of coke when he was arrested. He faces a fine of not more than $100,000 or 40 years behind bars.

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.