Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


There are very few television shows that I watch religiously. In recent years, the Simpsons has been the only constant. However, as of a few months ago, the BBC's Vets in Practice has had me tuning in every weeknight to my local PBS affiliate. It's hooked me more than any other program since I started watching the West Wing.

Vets in Practice is now in syndication after several successful seasons. Check it out on PBS if you like good television, and are sick of the networks catering to the lowest common denominator with their childish reality shows.

The Marquette Golden Eagles face off against the Kentucky Wildcats at 3:40 p.m. CST. The game will determine who gets to go on to the Final Four.

Now that my Panthers have been eliminated, I've thrown my hopes into Marquette's hat.

In other weekend happenings, local court jester Pat McCurdy plays one of his signature shows tonight at Shank Hall. The festivities begin at 10 p.m., and "Pat virgins" are encouraged to attend.


"Everybody knows Osama bin Laden was the man who conceived the 9-11 attack, but by harping on this, (the Bush administration) has gradually convinced 51 percent of the American people that Saddam was behind it."

The former US Senator, and presidential candidate George McGovern spoke at the Great Decisions conference in Milwaukee and said the war with Iraq is just the first of many planned conflicts the administration has in mind.

Even if you disagree with him based on his liberal politics, he makes some valid points. The fact that so many people believe that it was Hussein ordering those planes to crash into their targets on September 11 shows the success of the administration's propaganda machine, and how uneducated many in the States truly are when it comes to the Middle East.

Don't throw out that computer! Computers are the nation's fastest growing category of solid waste, and much of it is toxic.

Solution: the state of Wisconsin has a computer recycling program through the Department of Corrections.


The Campaign for a Strong Regional Future will soon unveil a proposal to move Milwaukee forward in the area of regional cooperation. There is little doubt that the metropolitan area has suffered by not having a coherent vision for transportation and infrastructure among other issues. Last year, there was some momentum for all the municipalities in Milwaukee County to merge into one local government. Indianapolis and Nashville have successfully pulled this off.

The increasing cuts in state aid to local governments will likely push this issue forward. It is becoming more obvious how foolish and wasteful it is to maintain several local governments all existing within a few miles of one another. These governments all have police and fire departments in addition to all the other services they provide. Consolidation could save money, and finally force the city and suburbs to cooperate in long range planning.

Local airline Midwest Airlines, like other carriers around the world, has fallen on serious hard times. In Midwest's case, it's had to renegotiate its debt payments in order to stay in business.

Many people expected that airlines would suffer some tough setbacks after September 11, 2001. However, what reason do we have to believe that the airlines will rebound and reap profits in the future?

In the States, roads, buses, and trains are all subsidized by taxpayers. Airline travel remains the only mode of transportation that is expected to maintain a profit. If things don't change soon and some of these major airlines fail, government run airlines may be on the horizon.


The spring elections are next Tuesday. Although they have been buried by the coverage of the conflict in Iraq, the race for the at-large seat on the Milwaukee School Board is getting interesting. John Gardner is defending his seat against challenger Tom Balistreri.

Gardner has consistently had the support of Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, a prominent supporter of school choice. Meanwhile, Balistreri has obtained endorsements from notable local figures like former US Congressman Tom Barrett, and State Senator Gwen Moore.

For voters, the decision over who to vote for should be simple. Gardner supports school choice, and Balistreri does not.


I'll be on vacation this week in our nation's capital so Brewtown won't be updated for a few days.

Why go to DC as the nation prepares to go to war? I had considered postponing the trip, but thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, it'll be safer in the district than ever before.

Thanks to Tom for the photo link.

Regional planners are recommending against freeway expansion on I-94 between the zoo interchange and downtown as well as I-43 from Glendale to the airport interchange.

This represents a major victory for opponents of freeway expansion in the city of Milwaukee. It also indicates that Milwaukee has reasserted itself as the primary voice in planning infrastructure, as opposed to fifty years ago when the feds, the state of Wisconsin, and the area's affluent suburbs completely ignored the sentiments of city residents and destroyed urban culture in the name of "urban renewal."


The Park East freeway demolition is nearing completion. Now begins the reconstruction of a neighborhood lost during the freeway boom of the mid 20th-century. Columnist Whitney Gould asks some questions in today's Journal Sentinel about the city's efforts to dictate design in this corridor of downtown.


The Milwaukee Times is urging planners to seek a second opinion on the reconstruction of the Marquette interchange. The editorial is the latest voice to be heard in an increasingly heated debate.


The man who has kept us listening to Brewers game on the radio, through good times and bad, is being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Mr. Baseball" Bob Uecker has called the games in Milwaukee for 33 years. He will be presented the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. The presentation will take place as part of hall of fame weekend from July 26-28.

Port Washington's WGLB-FM (100.1 FM) has officially been sold to the Catholic broadcasting network Starboard Media.

Retro radio FM 100 has played a mix of seventies rock over the years prior to other stations catching on to the format.

Milwaukee Alderman Jeff Pawlinski was charged today on three counts of mail fraud.

The Common Council continues to tarnish whatever image it has had in recent years. People wonder why Mayor Norquist has been able to make as much progress as he has in this city without the council getting in his way. It's because the council has been an ineffective institution. The few leaders on the council have been overshadowed by inexperienced idealists on one hand and corrupt politicians on the other.


Ah sweet victory. UWM owned Butler tonight in the final game of the Horizon League Tournament by a score of 69-52 in a game featured on ESPN.

Now, it's on to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Go Panthers!


What the hell do you do with an old cellphone? Some estimates say that by 2005, there will be 500 million cell phones collecting dust. Not only is this an environmental risk with the toxic chemicals sitting in landfills, it's an enormous waste of resources.

I know that I've been averaging a new cell phone every year. So far, the old ones have just been sitting in the closet waiting for a use. I figured there must be a use for these electronic leashes so I contacted my old friend Google.

The Wireless Foundation has established the Donate a Phone program. You can ship your phone and charger directly to them or you can visit a local drop-off location. The phones are distributed to victims of domestic violence by participating organizations and police departments. The donation is even tax deductible.


Don't own a car? Still waiting patiently for the cream city to join the 21st century and upgrade its mass transit system?

No problem. The Milwaukee Without a Car website is for you.

Holy hoops, Batman!

Downtown Milwaukee will be heaven for local basketball fans this weekend. Tonight, the Horizon League tournament gets underway at the US Cellular "it'll always be the Mecca" Arena . Tomorrow, you could spend all day down on 4th Street and still not be able to take in all the ball that's being played. First, at 12:30pm, The Marquette Golden Eagles attempt to take out Cincinnati at the Bradley Center with a game being aired on ABC. At 5:00, the Horizon League tourney resumes at the arena with Butler playing the first game and the UWM Panthers playing at 7pm.

If you prefer the pros, the Bucks will be playing the Golden State Warriors across the street at the Bradley Center.

Due to the amount of sporting events downtown tomorrow, parking is certainly going to be scarce and traffic will be a hassle. I'd recommend taking a taxi or mass transit if you're planning on attending any of the above games.

If basketball isn't your cup of tea, there's always the MISL all star game on Sunday at the Bradley Center.


Suburban condos are failing. These particular units would have fantastic lake views, but that hasn't helped them sell.

I never understood why people would want to live in a suburban condo anyway. Are they just trying to pretend they live in a dense, urban environment?


The big box on the northwest side is officially being put to sleep. Northridge Mall has been on life support for some time, and Boston Store is the last store remaining, until Saturday.

The failure of Northridge comes at a time in which Mayfair is thriving, and Bayshore is embarking on a major expansion. Meanwhile, Southridge and Brookfield Square are still successful, but certainly seem to be falling behind their competition. What happened to Northridge, and what does all this jockeying for position amongst malls mean?

To start with the first question, conventional wisdom says that the perception of Northridge being unsafe contributed to its decline. Sure the socio-economic makeup of the northwest side has changed, and the spending power may not be as great as it is in Brookfield. However, Ozaukee County, one of the richest counties in the country, is just north of the mall. Also, Brown Deer Road, which intersects with Northridge, continues to be a relatively successful commercial corridor of the city. This is about more than money and perception of crime.

This brings me to the second question about the competition for that mall dollar. Let's call it the K-Mart problem. Most people don't want to shop in a place that is aesthetically displeasing. Consumers who do patronize these types of establishments regard the price of the product as their #1 priority when they choose where to shop. This is why you have seen the huge expansion of Mayfair, and soon Bayshore. Those running the malls realize that people can get clothes, music, and books at many other stores in town (not to mention online). Therefore, the mall has to build on its original intention as an imitation of the town main street of yesteryear.

I would assert there was a growing distaste of the sterile, boring, and uninteresting malls around town. The boom in commercial and residential real estate in downtown Milwaukee is an indication that tastes have changed, and people are rediscovering that sense of place in their experience as a pedestrian. While I'm not a big fan of malls myself, because of the fact that they are poor imitations of a shopping district on a real street, the competition between the area's malls is following that same principle.

Mayfair sensed this change and overhauled the entire environment within its walls. The result was Mayfair was flooded with applications from prospective tenants, and stole the title of the area's most successful mall from the increasingly vacant Southridge Mall.

Meanwhile, R.I.P. Northridge. The mall war just claimed you as its most vulnerable victim.


Absentee ballots are at the center of a controversy in a local election for the Milwaukee County Board. A major red flag went up when a lot of absentee ballots were sent to the city Election Commission by a non-profit group known as the African-American Coalition for Empowerment (ACE).

County Supervisor Lee Holloway is facing challenger Yolanda Staples-Lassiter, an economic development assistant with the U.S. Small Business Administration in Milwaukee.

A lot is at stake in this race as Holloway recently took over as Chairman of the County Board after Karen Ordinans lost in a recall election last summer.

It's an interesting time in Wisconsin government. The state budget has has caused numerous disputes. The UW System is attempting to deal with the proposed cuts in its state funding, and Governor Doyle continues to fight with the state legislature over his new proposal regarding Indian gaming compacts

The issue of freeway expansion in Milwaukee County continues to grow in importance. The publication Riverwest Currents has weighed in on the issue, joining the state's largest newspaper in applauding Milwaukee County's vote against SEWRPC's plan. Even Wauwatosa officials are torn over this issue, resulting in a deadlock on whether to endorse expansion plans.


Dude, you're supposed to throw those notices out!

It's great that former presidents even have to deal with the responsibilites of being a good public citizen. What a country.


Frontline: The War Behind Closed Doors is now available for viewing on The program details the conflict within the Bush administration(s) about how to deal with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. On one side you have the pragmatists like Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell who generally believe in containment. On the opposing side, you have neo-conservatives from the Henry Kissinger school of foreign policy like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz who promote preemption.

It's an intriguing look at how these two points of view have shaped policy not only on Iraq, but on how America exerts its influence around the world.

Telephones, fax machines, cell-phones, instant messaging, e-mail, text messaging.. not to mention the mail. It seems as if everyone these days has fifty ways to get ahold of them. Long gone are the times when someone could just utter "call me" at the end of a business meeting or a date. Now it's almost an insult if you don't grovel before the person and commit to emailing, faxing, sending a hard copy in the mail, and doing a follow-up call on the phone.

When did it become normal civil discourse to engage in harassing your fellow human beings? Cell phones are usually singled out as the worst offender, and probably rightly so. After all, despite the availability of hands free devices, people are still too lazy to use them and persist in distracting themselves from driving. It's not even that part that bothers me the most. It's the guy with the phone hanging off his belt and when it rings, it blares at an outrageous volume. The reason for the call? The person on the other end telling him they'll be there in five minutes. Why is it necessary to call and tell him this? Why not just be there in five minutes?

The bottom line is in seeking to be more in touch with each other, we've given up a freedom in a sense. We've spoiled ourselves to the point where we want to pick up a phone and if the other person doesn't answer, they have to have some excuse or note from home.

It's not changing any time soon. I own a cell phone, and the high speed internet access at home which has enabled me to ditch the land line. Email allows me to communicate with friends overseas in an instant which is great. Sometimes though, it really is better to turn the phone off and enjoy the freedom to be left alone.