Waving the flag for free speech
A Crivitz supper club owner will get help from a bevy of lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin as he sues the village for denying his right to fly the U.S. flag upside down.
Vito J. Congine, Jr., an Iraq War veteran, was flying the flag upside down protesting the village's decision to deny him a liquor license after he spent money on renovations thinking he would get the license.
Police setting up for the Fourth of July parade seized the flag after saying it had received numerous complaints and had the approval of the Marinette County district attorney.
"Nothing could be more natural for free Americans than to protest when they believe that officials have treated them unfairly," said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. "The U.S. flag is a symbol that belongs to all Americans, who frequently use it during demonstrations, marches and other forms of protected free speech. It is the government's responsibility to protect such expression, not to enforce a heckler's veto when people get upset about free speech."
Smoke Free in Dane: Dane County will be smoke-free starting Saturday. All workplaces, bars and restaurants must ban smoking, including in 34 towns and unincorporated areas. As with most liberal-backed ideas, Dane remains the only county in the state with such a law.
"I look forward to the day when everyone in our great state will be able to enjoy a breath of fresh air," said County Exec Kathleen Falk.
Riding that Train: Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman is wading into the fray over the fact that the state signed a no-bid deal with a Spanish company to build two high-speed trains saying he just wants to ride the rails.
He says the governor deserves three cheers from state residents because they're going to get some fast trains to ride between Chicago and Milwaukee and later between Milwaukee and Madison if all goes well. The trains are supposed to travel at 110 mph, but that won't happen for some time.
Perhaps not pleasing urban sprawl critics, Bauman predicts a "mega-region" would be developed with the train.
"In essence, these improvements will shorten the distance between Milwaukee, Madison and the vast Chicago metropolitan area, and all three regions will become more economically integrated allowing each region to piggyback on the advantages and strengths of the others," said Bauman. "These regions will form a mega-region offering a tremendous mix of commercial, educational, cultural and entertainment activities."
He said it will become significantly more convenient to live in Milwaukee and work or conduct business in Chicago or Madison. In particular, it will become easier and more affordable to live in Milwaukee and commute to downtown Chicago than it is to live in many Chicago suburbs and commute to downtown Chicago.
"I predict the housing market in Downtown Milwaukee and nearby neighborhoods will experience a surge of demand," the alderman said.
Even better for sports fans, he says.
"It will become easier and quicker to watch the Packers play the Bears at Soldier Field than at Lambeau Field," he predicts boldly. "Soldier Field will have many more green and gold clad fans making the trip south, and we may have to rename the stadium 'Lambeau South.'"
Gov. Doyle has been roundly criticized from the right for the no-bid deal, but defends it saying that Talgo, the Spanish firm, has agreed to build the trains in Wisconsin, creating some 80 jobs. Milwaukee officials are drooling at the prospect that trains could be built at Super Steel, which already makes trains for a Japanese firm.
Dam Shame: After years of foot-dragging and blame-shifting Milwaukee County was ordered by the state Department of Natural Resources to fix the Estabrook Park dam or tear it down. It has until Oct. 1, 2010 to hire someone to come up with a plan and until Jan. 28, 2011 to make decision.
The dam is weak and collapsing under the strain of holding back walls of trees and debris. Residents behind the dam, who enjoy a widened Milwaukee River as part of their back yards, are rallying behind a private effort that would purportedly remove the debris and keep their impound intact. But there needs to be environmental studies as to how many PCBs and other toxins are stored behind the dam.
County officials claim repairs could cost $12 million and backers of dam deconstruction say that plan would cost only about $2 million. Dam buster backers say tearing down the dam is not only cheaper, but would also finally open up the upper reaches of the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee County to become a free-flowing stream again. That would help water quality and fish quality and quantity.
The DNR inspected the dam twice in the last 15 years and found substantial deficiencies both times.
Trailer Talk: A special city committee is grappling with what to do about problem mobile home parks.
Last year the Common Council almost yanked the license for a troubled mobile home park on the South Side, but instead put together a committee to look at how it can change the rules so that the entire park isn't shut down, just the problem tenants.
It has to do with how the city has define a "nuisance property." Currently the city can declare a nuisance property after repeated calls for service by police. But that only applies to houses and rental units. Somehow, city law writers forgot to include mobile home tenants.
The park under fire last year was the Collegiate Mobile Home Park, 6160 S. 6th St. In three years police were called to the park more than 600 times and inspector cited 330 code violations. A committee had recommended yanking the license but the park owner agreed to hire new management and security in order to stave off closing and put 250 residents on the street.
Now, a city committee led by Ald. Terry Witkowski, who has most of the city's mobile home parks in his district, is putting together rules to allow police to declare an individual mobile home as a nuisance property and also make it easier for park operators to evict problem tenants. The committee was told by city officials that the nuisance property designation isn't used that much to begin with. The rule writers are referring to mobile home parks as a "manufactured home community."
No Insurance, No Problem: The Cash for Clunkers program forgot one important segment of the populace, Wisconsinites who don't have car insurance. The Badger State is one of two states that don't require car insurance and the program requires those trading in their clunkers to have at least one year of insurance.
Sen. Russ Feingold was quick to take credit for having the federal Department of Transportation exempt Wisconsin from the rule. The program was so popular it was out of money in one week. Congress threw $2 billion at it last week to keep it going.
"It wasn't fair to exclude people in Wisconsin who are following the current law," the senator said in a statement.
Wisconsin drivers will be required to have insurance starting in June 2010.
I fear no man, for I am loyal to the path of righteousness.
speakthetruth. Can't wait to see what happens when what you think is good for everyone and what everyone thinks is good for you don't agree.
speakthetruth, you are just so special. Give yourself a hug for me.
Three cheers for a smoke free Dane County. We have less than 11 months until all of Wisconsin is devoid of smoke in all public places. I, for one, am counting the days.
"It will become easier and quicker to watch the Packers play the Bears at Soldier Field than at Lambeau Field," he predicts boldly. "Soldier Field will have many more green and gold clad fans making the trip south, and we may have to rename the stadium 'Lambeau South.'" Well, I'm sold. I mean, anytime you can spend 47 million dollars to get a few more Packer fans down to "Lambeau Field South", you gotta do it.
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