By Doug Hissom Special to Published Sep 05, 2008 at 5:15 AM

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Talking about Pothole repair has become all the rage this year. After reading a report in the city's daily that -- surprise! -- it took longer to repair a pothole in the city's poorer neighborhoods than along the rich, flower-laced boulevards of town, Ald. Bob Bauman called Department of Public Works officials to appear before his committee this week to explain.

But perhaps there's a bigger issue at hand, suggests Ald. Ashanti Hamilton.

"This inquiry has caught my full attention and has led me to believe that there's a strong possibility that there may be other similar service discrepancies in other areas of city services involving other city departments."

Hamilton says he may also ask for an audit and review of response times for other city services.

It's not a new topic in Milwaukee, as poorer neighborhoods tend to see more cars towed and a seemingly slow level of trash pick-up.

Topping the Ballot Charts: Probably the most interesting Milwaukee County race on the ballot in Tuesday's primary is one for the post of Milwaukee County clerk. Besides processing all records pertaining to the functions of the county board, the clerk also gets to have premiered face time during board meetings, reading off roll call votes and reporting the results to the county board chair. For that, and overseeing a budget of around $837,000, the position pays about $84,000.

Vying for the post due to the retirement of long-time clerk Mark Ryan are two veteran politicians -- County Board member Jim "Luigi" Schmitt and former state Sen. Joe Czarnezki -- and two county bureaucrats -- Suzette Emmer, deputy administrator for the county Election Commission, and Carla Rice, tax listing supervisor for the county register of deeds.

Schmitt has the most to gain from the election since his service of 10 years on the board will count towards his pension and his pension will be based on the $84,000 salary, substantially more than his board pay of some $52,000. He and Czarnezki are the only two with Web sites and Schmitt recently spent money on a glossy, three-color mailing -- nothing cheap about that.

Back to Work: Some retread ordinance proposals will greet Milwaukee aldermen as they restart their business this week after a month off.

One of them is an effort to force licensed alcohol establishments to have security cameras inside and outside. It's been a favorite topic of Ald. Bob Donovan, who has parts of his district lined with security cameras.

The new angle is to include all retail businesses, perhaps to avoid singling out bars and alcohol peddlers. Donovan's latest plan allows the police chief to order security cameras installed at any retail establishment where three or more crimes have occurred in the past year.

It also requires security cameras that are installed in taverns to provide a clear image of the entire premises as well as the public right-of-way abutting the premises and any off-street parking lot, according to a brief on the ordinance. On-duty store employees of retail establishments, licensed alcohol beverage establishments and convenience stores must provide a copy of recorded digital security camera images to law enforcement officers immediately upon request.

Another new caveat to the plan is that it expires in a year. It was to be heard this week by a Common Council committee.

Another golden oldie is taxi fares, which has become a favorite topic of Ald. Jim Bohl. He wants to once again form a task force that will review cab rates and regulations. No wording on exactly what that entails is offered by council agendas. Bohl  previously chaired a similar task force a few years ago, which resulted in certain rules of decorum for drivers and riders, such as a smoking ban.

Recycling by the Numbers: The Milwaukee City Comptroller's office found the Milwaukee household recycling operation pretty much in good shape, finding that the program costs $6.7 million and the city received $4.5 million in state and other aid for a net cost of $2.2 million.

The comptroller's offices suggested the city could improve its performance by asking the state for a few cents more in recycling aid and even start writing more citations for improper recycling, of which none were written in 2006.

Encouraging more recycling would save the city $115,000 for each extra ton, for example. The city provides blue carts to 162,806 households and the smaller bins to 28,738 households. In 2006, the program collected 25,395 tons of recyclables.

TT Still Speaks: Tommy Thompson is still on a roll, now becoming a senior Republican Party spokesperson. The RNC provided access to the former gov to comment on Barack Obama prior to Obama's speech to the Democratic convention. When asked if Gov. Jim Doyle was being too optimistic that, if turnout increases in the November election, Obama will easily win the Badger State, Thompson responded, "I think Jim Doyle is drinking Kool-aid that's not relevant to this election." Thompson's conference call interview was cut short after four questions due to technical difficulties.

Vacation Prologues: Coming off a month-long vacation several Milwaukee aldermen are sporting renewed tans and other new looks. Ald. Bohl is not only much more bronzed, but has also lost some weight and gained a mustache and goatee. But his demeanor has not mellowed during the sabbatical.

Bohl was in rare form this week, attempting to run the Licenses Committee with a military-jackboot-meets-enlightened-despot style, repeatedly telling his fellow colleagues they could not speak until he was done with his arguments. In one case, over an address dispute about an amusement machine distributor, Bohl lost his temper for a while, and somewhat demeaned his colleagues saying his "eight years experience" ranked over his fellow aldermen on the panel, which includes rookies Alds. Milele Coggs and Nik Kovac, but also attorneys Tony Zielinski and Ashanti Hamilton. Bohl is a former school teacher.

"In a democracy, see, the majority rules and in this case the majority's wrong," he said after seeing he was going to lose his way on the issue.

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.