By Doug Hissom Special to Published Feb 23, 2007 at 5:29 AM

With $91 million-plus in federal money still sitting around waiting for Milwaukee officials to figure out a mass transit plan, it's makes sense that plans for new trains and busses continue to crop up.

So out trots Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with his vision for vehicular bliss. Barrett's plan basically buys new busses and has a railed trolley circle the Downtown. Blasted already by County Exec Scott Walker, who seems to have a phobia over any mention of railed transit, the plan, as least as presented by the mayor, looks amazingly like a diagram of the city's major bus routes already. This, however, would spend an addition $52 million for a three-mile train route around Downtown. The bus system would cost $55 million. No mention was made of operating costs.

What's missing is the innovation that was shown with the now-dead Milwaukee Connector, the most recent incarnation of a transit proposal. The Connector connected the major economic centers of Milwaukee with a railed bus, which could also drive around on the streets if need be. The project had projections for job creation along the routes, whereas the mayor's plan appears to just shuffle people along the same routes they go now, but does it in shiny new busses. The Connector died after county and city officials couldn't get on the same bus. Meanwhile, federal money has been waiting for Milwaukee to get it together since the 1990s. The mayor envisions his plan to be ready in four-and-a-half years.

Hoze is in the Bag: The irony couldn't be ignored by drivers on South First Street when a billboard featuring the mug of a smiling Corey Hoze suddenly reappeared at a time when the County Board was considering his fate. Hoze was whooped in his 2004 congressional bid, losing in the Republican primary to Jerry Boyle, despite his being adorned by the GOP establishment in these parts. Part of Hoze's 2004 decimation was likely because his campaign seemed to mostly consist of his billboard on 1st Street, which recently emerged again from behind a Mill Valley Recycling billboard noting the day's prices for aluminum or scrap copper. Hoze, 38, is in line to become Milwaukee County's next head of the Department of Health and Human Services gaining the endorsement of a County Board committee this week. He has worked in the department for the past two years.

Phone Power: One of the most spirited judicial primaries in these parts lately showed that phone messages might have an effect on the outcome. For the Milwaukee Municipal Court race, camps for attorneys Jennifer Havas and Phil Chavez ringed up registered voters by phone, to the extent that some recipients were rather annoyed at the repeated rings of support. Havas received 23 percent of the vote and Chavez, 21 percent, in the five-person race. Chavez was one of the first in the race and ran a campaign that utilized everything from sports schedules, e-mails and a mobile billboard truck tooling around the city election day.

Robert Rondini, who got 20 percent -- 278 votes fewer than Chavez -- showed once again that compiling the most impressive list of endorsements mean nothing in the polling booth. Rondini received the bulk of the backing from county judges, including former District Attorney E. Michael McCann. Also taking the plunge with their endorsements were the likes of state Reps. David Cullen, Pedro Colon, Fred Kessler, Jon Richards and Anthony Staskunas (who doesn't even live in Milwaukee).

Considered nothing more than a traffic court by some detractors, Municipal Court is one of the busiest shops in the city affecting the futures of many more citizens than the more high-profile circuit court. The salary is above $100,000. The two will vye in April to succeed the retiring James Gramling.

Todd Takes a Dive: One surprise in local elections this week saw former Milwaukee School Board mainstay Leon Todd take a distance third place in his North Side school district primary. Todd served on the board from 1975-'81 and 1994-'99. He most recently was on a ballot as the Green Party lieutenant governor's candidate in November and some name recognition. The affable Todd was even profiled recently by MKE magazine and heightened his profile as one of the more entertaining and enlightening candidates for Milwaukee mayor in 2004.

In other school races, former School Board President Bruce Thompson -- defeated in 2001 -- easily won the primary for a citywide seat and Terry Falk edged incumbent and current board president Joe Dannecker. Falk faced off with Dannecker four years ago and narrowly lost. A third candidate in the Bay View area race, Tricia Young, received enough votes to give Falk hope that this may be his turn.

Hope for Third Party Increases: In a nod to level the playing field in the two-party system, the Green Senatorial Campaign Committee (GSCC) was granted national Senate campaign committee status by the Federal Election Commission earlier this month, giving the committee the ability to raise and spend money under rules similar to those for the Democrat and Republican House and Senate national campaign committees. The GSCC assists Green Party candidates running for the U.S. Senate. Such committees have higher limits on campaign contributions that they can accept and give to candidates. Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl had Green Party opposition in his 2006 re-election bid.


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.