Rally in Sacramento in support of Wisconsin unions

February 27, 2011

Good slideshow:  http://sacramentofordemocracy.org/node/35473


300-Foot tower for Bay View

February 27, 2011

Tower The 300-foot communications tower proposed for 427 S. Stewart St.
~photo courtesy Global Tower Partners

Global Tower Partners has proposed a 300-foot freestanding lattice tower for Bay View. It plans to lease antenna space to the U.S. Coast Guard for a modernized national distress communications system and likely also to other telecoms that could provide the area with enhanced cell phone coverage.

Global Tower Partners would lease space at the far north end of Industrial Properties, LLC’s property, which includes the old Louis-Allis plant at 427 E. Stewart St. and extends to the Union Pacific railroad line near the Kinnickinnic River turning basin.

The Coast Guard currently maintains an antenna atop the Bay View Terrace condo tower, but wants to replace its existing infrastructure with the Rescue 21 system, which enables multichannel monitoring and direction-finding of distressed mariners. Rescue 21 is considered incompatible with the Bay View Terrace site.

Because the proposed tower exceeds 85 feet, it requires a special-use permit from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The earliest BOZA could consider the proposal is March 24.

14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski hosted a meeting Feb. 23 where neighbors were critical of why this site was best and if a communications tower fit with the city’s comprehensive plan for the area, but split 6-4 in favor. Zielinski said he would weigh the options before making a recommendation.


Sweet Water Organics partners with Empire Fish

February 27, 2011

Sweet Water Organics, the urban fish and vegetable farm at 2121 S. Robinson Ave. in Bay View, and Empire Fish, Milwaukee’s largest distributor of fresh seafood, announced a partnership to bring fresh perch fillets to the local market Feb. 21.

Their partnership will immediately impact the availability of perch fillets, reviving access to a lost local fare.

Sweet Water will provide their perch to Empire on a weekly basis to be processed and released into the market. Sweet Water perch fillets will soon be found in local restaurants, groceries, and Empire Fish’s retail store. Restaurants interested in incorporating Sweet Water perch onto their menus are La Merenda, Coquette Cafe, Sanford, and Cafe Metro in the Hotel Metro. Both businesses see a growing market for this particular fish and anticipate a strong alliance.

“Partnering with a company like Empire makes sense for us because we both recognize the importance of sustainable aquaculture,” said Todd Leech, sales manager for Sweet Water Organics. “They are committed to providing their customers with great fresh products and we are confident in their ability to represent Sweet Water’s fish to a larger audience.”

Empire echoed the sentiment. “We firmly support [Sweet Water’s] efforts to bring sustainable aquaculture to our area and we welcome the opportunity to partner with [Sweet Water] long into the future,” said Dan Ryan, general manager and fresh seafood buyer. “We’ve [been] educating people about the need to support sustainable seafood for many years now and are glad to have another partner in the fight.”

More info: empirefish.com or sweetwater.ehclients.com.


School board forum

February 27, 2011

forum4
~photo Josh Benishek

A public forum was held Feb. 8 at the Bay View Library for the candidates for District 8 school board.

About 20 attended to listen to Meagan Holman, Candy Jo Lesniewski, and Ed Heinzelman discuss issues ranging from Bay View High School to Superintendent Thornton, from parental involvement to how the district should be structured.

The Compass sponsored the forum with the District 8 Parents, a volunteer group of parents from District 8 schools. Compass editor Michael Timm was moderator.

John and Heather Ryan of the Bay View Neighborhood Association recorded and uploaded the forum footage to YouTube and it is accessible via bayviewcompass.com.

Holman captured 50 percent of the primary vote on Feb. 15 with 3,523 votes; Lesniewski edged out Heinzelman by just 24 votes, 1,759 to 1,735. Holman and Lesniewski square off in the April 5 election for the seat being vacated by Terry Falk, who is running for the citywide school board position.


Tippecanoe Community Garden

February 27, 2011

A new community garden is planned for Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, 125 W. Saveland Ave. There will be about 25 plots at $35 a plot, according to garden organizer Katie Knox.

The Tippecanoe Community Garden project is a partnership between the church and the Victory Garden Initiative.

A flat roof over the church community room will be used for rainwater collection, including a system of rain barrels or a reservoir. “The roof is fairly large and the downspouts are located luckily right by where the garden plots will be. There is back-up water if needed from the church although we are not anticipating having to use it,” according to Knox. Her group is also working with Transition Milwaukee’s Water Group on the rainwater collection system.

Knox said MSOE students from a service learning class will help design aspects of the garden. She said organizers are also in the process of developing other community partnerships.

The garden will be open to the community and plots are still available.

A garden build-day is tentatively planned for April 16. Interested parties met at the church Feb. 19.


Next turbine meeting March 14

February 27, 2011

Turbines, take two.

Fourteenth District Alderman Tony Zielinski will host a second and final public meeting on a proposed wind turbine for Bay View’s lakefront, either by the Port of Milwaukee administration building or out on the confined disposal facility near the Lake Express ferry terminal.

The meeting is Monday, March 14 at 6pm in the Bay View High School auditorium, 2751 S. Lenox St.

“This is not all or nothing,” Zielinski told the Compass. “The issue is the aesthetics.”

He said almost everyone in Bay View supports renewable energy but some people object to the wind turbine out on the CDF obstructing lakefront aesthetics. Thus, while Zielinski said all four options are still on the table—a smaller or larger turbine at either the Port of Milwaukee or CDF site—Zielinski said he’s considering as a compromise placing the larger turbine at the inland site next to the port administration building. At this site close to I-794, the turbine would not be as visible along the lakefront from Bay View as it would out on the CDF.

Zielinski also said Matt Howard and the city’s Office of Environmental Sustainability will present additional options of how the federal money could be spent, if not on a wind turbine. “It’s not like this is the only thing we could spend [the federal] money on,” Zielinski said.


Heating contractor into old Cudahy Kohl’s

February 27, 2011

Affordable Heating & Air Conditioning now owns the vacant former Kohl’s Food Store at 4630 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Cudahy. The HVAC contractor, currently headquartered across the street at 4601 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., plans to rehab the approximately 20,000-square-foot space and move its offices there. It also plans to sell its current location.

The larger location may accompany an expansion in business. “It’s going to make it easier for us. We’ve outgrown this location,” said Mike Rasmussen, Affordable service manager.

Rasmussen said a contractor is working on the Kohl’s building, which has been gutted and had the cold storage removed. Rasmussen anticipates a lot of demo work and a new roof.

The former Kohl’s property owners offered it to Affordable Heating, Rasmussen said, because with the economic downturn few were interested.

The vacant site made headlines in 2009 when plans emerged to convert it into a second Rosebud Theatre location. Those plans fell through when construction and environmental cleanup costs made financing too difficult, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The Kohl’s building was built in 1960, expanded in 1972, and the whole property was most recently assessed at $364,800, according to Cudahy city property data. KK1 Partners LLC, 930 E. Lyon St. in Milwaukee, was the most recently listed owner.

According to its website, Affordable formed in 1986 and moved to its current location in 1987. It is NATE-certified and a Bryant Factory Authorized Dealer.


Ghost Ships Conference

February 27, 2011

Jitka
~photo Mel Clark

Capt. Jitka Hanakova of Bay View, leader of the team who discovered the L.R. Doty, one of the largest wooden steamers that vanished in Lake Michigan more than 100 years ago, will be the keynote speaker at the Ghost Ships Festival on Friday, March 25 at 8pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Wyndham Milwaukee Airport & Convention Center. Tickets are $20 in advance (through March 24) and $25 when purchased after March 25.


Local group doles out $6,000

February 27, 2011

The Bay View Community Fund, the organization that now throws the annual Bay View Bash street festival, awarded three $2,000 grants to three Milwaukee not-for-profit organizations Feb. 17. The recipients of 2010 Bash proceeds were the South Shore Park Watch, Milwaukee Community Compost Network, and TRUE Skool, Inc.

Funds will assist with the park watch’s effort to develop a long-term comprehensive plan to reverse damage and prevent further erosion to the South Shore Park bluff.

Funds will be used for the compost network’s program expansion to provide gardens, a community compost, and to continue the process for composting food and paper waste at the Bay View Bash in 2011.

Funds will be used to further TRUE Skool’s mission to use cultural arts to educate and empower youth from different backgrounds to become positive leaders for social change. TRUE Skool will be a featured nonprofit at Bay View Bash 2011 and will demonstrate its unique leadership and artistic skills.

To be considered for the 2011 Bay View Bash grant opportunity, not-for-profit applicants can submit a proposal outlining their proposed contributions to a neighborhood in the city of Milwaukee that offers service to a needy population, or a facility or enhancement or beautification of a public space by Aug. 31, 2011. Grant recipients are asked to donate volunteer time at the Bay View Bash.

The Bay View Community Fund will sponsor the eighth annual Bay View Bash Sept. 17, 2011. For more information, please visit bayviewbash.org.


Criminal activity snapshots from Bay View—1920s and ’30s

February 27, 2011

By Anna Passante

Back in the olden days scrapbooks were small, cardboard-covered albums purchased at the five and dime. Nowadays, with the popularity of “scrapbooking,” these albums, with their brightly colored paper and trims, resemble works of art rather than mere scrapbooks.

Irving Jackson2

Irving W. Jackson, ~ photo courtesy Milwaukee Police Department

Irving W. Jackson, Bay View resident and an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department, kept one of those five-and-dime scrapbooks, and it was found recently in the personal effects of a deceased relative. “Snap-Shots” is engraved across the front cover, and it contains a number of undated newspaper clippings pasted on its black paper pages. Some are society page announcements and death notices, but a number of the newspaper clippings are about Bay View’s criminal activity in the 1920s and ’30s.

Irving W. Jackson was born in 1903 and grew up on S. Wentworth Avenue. As an adult Jackson continued to live in Bay View and began his career as a police officer with the Milwaukee Police Department May 1, 1928. He worked out of the Bay View neighborhood police station then located at 2156 S. Allis St. From 1931 to 1937 Jackson was a radio dispatcher, and in the 1940s he was promoted to patrol sergeant. The brick two-story police station was built in 1904 and served the Bay View neighborhood until 1953, when a new station opened at 245 W. Lincoln Ave. The old Allis Street station was razed in 1959, and is now the location of a tot lot.

One of the news clippings in the album describes an event that took place at the Avalon Theatre at 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. on Dec. 4, 1929. Jackson and fellow officer John Kukla were off-duty and in plain clothes when they stopped at the theater to see the comedy film Don’t Be Nervous. On that night, two pistol-packing “bandits” held up theater cashier Marjorie Glendenning. She kept her cool, however, and phoned for help. A boy summoned the theater manager, Louis Sewnig, who happened to be talking to the Jackson and Kukla while they watched the film. The three men quickly went to the aid of Glendenning. “By the time the trio reached the lobby,” reported the news clipping, “the bandits had fled—but Miss Glendenning had the $300.” In an interview Glendenning said she already knew that if “bandits tried to hold me up, they wouldn’t get away with it…though when I turned to the telephone, I confess the thought uppermost was that I might get a crack on the head with the butt of that pistol…”

Jackson took center stage in one of the 1930s clippings, which reported that he was the target of a “wash line bandit.” Jackson’s wife hung his uniform out for airing on the backyard wash line of their Bay View home when someone stole it. When told of this theft, Jackson dispatched a message over the radio to fellow officers: “Attention all police cars. Pick up man walking down streets with policeman’s uniform, which carries the odor of mothballs. Hold him for me. The blankety-blank stole it from me.” Fortunately, Jackson didn’t have any immediate use for the uniform, since he wore civilian clothes as a radio dispatcher. The clipping doesn’t identify the thief, and it is not known if the uniform was ever recovered.

Wentworth house 2812 S. Wentworth Ave. ~photo Anna Passante

The headline of another 1930s clipping reads “Marks of Hatchet in Wrecked Home; Buyer Is Accused.” It was Steve Briks who took a hatchet and hacked away at the interior of a house he owned at 2812 S. Wentworth Ave. Briks had defaulted on payments on a land contract held by Mrs. Otilia Reese of 2783 S. Superior St., the clipping reported. The circuit court had granted Reese a judgment of foreclosure and Briks had five months to pay up or move out. The court directed Briks to “conserve the property during his occupancy” but Briks didn’t heed this order. Instead, neighbors heard pounding coming from the Briks house and reported it to Reese. She called her attorney, Benjamin W. Heald, and he went to investigate. Heald found that Briks had taken a hatchet to the plaster walls, the bathtub, and some woodwork—$1,000 worth of damage. According to the clipping, Heald had “good reason to believe that Briks was taking his equity out with a hatchet.” Briks was charged with malicious destruction of property, but he denied the charge.

Bay View police station

Jackson worked out of this Bay View police station.
~photo courtesy Milwaukee Public Library Historic Photo Collection

Jackson retired from the Milwaukee Police Department in the 1960s and died in 1981. His son, Irving Jr., was also a Milwaukee police officer and retired as a lieutenant. When Irving Jr. died in 2003, the simple, black “Snap-Shots” scrapbook was found in his personal effects by his nephew, Brian Korn. Korn passed it on to his coworker Robb Passante, who in turn passed it on to his mother, Anna Passante, the writer of this column and the keeper of all things Bay View.


Female mice disabled by parents’ pesticide intake

February 27, 2011

By Lynn Markham

Special Report: Pesticides in Wisconsin food and water, part 1

Mouse maze_Dan

Dan Butz, an associate scientist in Warren Porter’s UW-Madison lab, is about to lift the center hollow cylinder lid and put a mouse inside, and then release the mouse to find its breakfast. ~photo courtesy Warren Porter

A white mouse is placed in the center of a maze. She is hungry because she hasn’t eaten all night. As soon as the gate is raised she takes off in search of her breakfast, scurrying down the channels. She quickly realizes that turning left at every point in the maze gets her food.

A few minutes later, a second mouse is set down in the center of the maze. She looks the same as the first mouse, but when the gate is raised she just sits there and seems afraid to move. Slowly and hesitantly she starts moving and eventually finds a piece of food. She continues slowly down the maze but doesn’t seem to have learned or remember that taking left turns leads to food. You might call her a slow learner.

Why is it hard for the second mouse to learn? Three months earlier when she was growing in her mother’s womb, her mother was exposed to a pesticide called chlorpyrifos at levels comparable to what humans encounter in the environment. These two mice were among three groups of 64 tested in the maze at Dr. Warren Porter’s UW-Madison lab in one of a growing number of experiments considering the links between pesticide exposure and the ability to learn.

Porter and his researchers found that female mice whose mothers were exposed to chlorpyrifos during pregnancy were slow learners. Male mice from the same mothers were unaffected, possibly because they have different levels of liver-detoxifying enzymes.

“I really got into the issue of children’s pesticide exposure after reading an article in 1997 that looked at student disabilities in the Madison Metropolitan School District,” Porter explained in his 2004 article, “Do Pesticides Affect Learning and Behavior?”

“The data showed that the number of children in Madison [who] were emotionally disturbed increased 87 percent, children with learning disabilities increased 70 percent, and children with birth defects increased 83 percent [from 1990 to 1995],” Porter wrote. “This is a serious epidemic and yet no one really knows exactly how or why this is happening… It seems to be a global phenomenon and the question is why and how is this happening and what can we do about it.”

Toxins in Food and Water

If you’ve never heard of chlorpyrifos, you’re not alone. The array of synthetic pesticides is growing, making it hard to keep track of them. Pesticides include chemicals used to kill or repel weeds, insects, fungi, or rodents, respectively known as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides. In 2005, Wisconsin farmers alone reported applying 90 distinct pesticides.

Chlorpyrifos is part of a family of pesticides called organophosphates, which are applied to fields to kill insects by disrupting their nerve impulses. Over 90,000 pounds of organophosphates were applied to apples, potatoes, green beans, tart cherries, soybeans, and field corn in Wisconsin in 2005. Forty foods at grocery stores were found to sometimes contain chlorpyrifos, based on occasional testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Looking beyond chlorpyrifos and considering pesticides more generally, of the 12,000 samples of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains that USDA analyzed in 2008, 70 percent of the samples contained at least one pesticide residue.

Given that pesticides are used extensively in Wisconsin agriculture, it’s sobering but probably not surprising that they’re also found in our state’s groundwater, lakes, and streams.

A 2007 study estimated that one out of every three private drinking water wells in Wisconsin contains detectable levels of agricultural pesticides or pesticide metabolites. Metabolites are breakdown products which may be more or less toxic than the pesticides themselves. Most frequently detected in drinking water were metabolites of pesticides used on field corn, which was planted on 40 percent of the state’s cropland in 2007. From the 398 wells sampled in this study, a pattern emerged: wells in areas with more cropland were more likely to contain pesticides.

94% of the U.S. population has measurable pesticide metabolites in their urine.

90,000+ lbs of organophosphate pesticides were applied to apples, potatoes, green beans, tart cherries, soybeans, and field corn in Wisconsin in 2005.

1 in 3 private Wisconsin wells contain detectable levels of agricultural pesticides or pesticide metabolites.

Health Impacts

A national study of 1,949 people in 1999 and 2000 underscores the scale of human exposure: 94 percent of the U.S. population has measurable organophosphate pesticide metabolites in their urine.

“EPA cannot protect you,” Porter said, adding that he and his colleagues have been attacked by the pesticide industry—to the point where he does not feel comfortable discussing his upcoming research until it’s published.

atrazine birth defects graph
U.S. birth defect rates by month of last menstrual period versus atrazine concentrations. Source: “Agrichemicals in surface water and birth defects in the United States,” by Paul D. Winchester, Jordan Huskins, and Jun Ying published 2009 in Acta Pædiatrica.

But many studies in the last few years already shed light on how pesticide exposure through food and water affects our children’s health. A national study in 2009 found that higher levels of pesticides in lakes and streams in April to July coincided with higher risk of birth defects in children conceived in April to July (see atrazine graph). Two studies published in 2010 found that children with higher levels of organophosphate metabolites were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, which impedes learning.

“Babies and children do not have the defensive enzymes at levels present in sexually mature adults,” Porter explained in his 2004 article. Consequently, children are less able to detoxify the pesticides to which they are exposed.

“We’re dosing our kids with neurotoxins like chlorpyrifos, and then we wonder why they’re having trouble learning and concentrating,” Porter told the Compass. “We wonder why we have to medicate them all the time.”


image011

Above graph generated by Lynn Markham. Souce: Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service, 2005.

Take-Home Message

Fortunately, a recent study of 23 Seattle elementary-school-age students points the way toward solutions.

When parents in the study fed their children an organic diet—organic foods are those grown without synthetic pesticides—for as little as one week, the levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites in their urine dropped more than four-fold to undetectable levels. This study demonstrated that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protection against exposures to organophosphate pesticides commonly used in agricultural production.

So what lessons do Porter’s mice teach?

Porter advises parents or parents-to-be to do the same things he has done with his own children to reduce their risks from pesticides.

“It’s very simple,” he said. “Don’t buy pesticides. Don’t buy non-organic foods. Pack organic lunches, and get a really good water filter.”

kids drawings

A 1998 study compared 4- and 5-year-old Yaqui children living in the foothills and valley near Sonora, Mexico. In the foothills pesticide use was avoided; in the valley, agricultural pesticides have been frequently used since the late 1940s on fruits and vegetables that are largely exported to the United States. No differences were found in children’s growth patterns, but the exposed valley children demonstrated decreases in stamina, gross and fine eye-hand coordination, 30-minute memory, and the ability to draw a person. Valley mothers experienced a higher overall rate of problem pregnancies, which included spontaneous abortion rates, prematurity, and birth defects. Source: “An Anthropological Approach to the Evaluation of Preschool Children Exposed to Pesticides in Mexico” originally published in Environmental Health Perspectives by Elizabeth A. Guillette, Maria Mercedes Meza, Maria Guadalupe Aquilar, Alma Delia Soto, and Idalia Enedina Garcia.

Lynn Markham focuses on how land uses affect water quality as a statewide specialist with the Center for Land Use Education at UW-Stevens Point, uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter. This is the first of a two-part series on pesticides and Wisconsin groundwater. Next month Markham will consider which pesticides are and are not regulated in Wisconsin drinking water, how these pesticides affect farm worker health, and how organic farmers in Wisconsin manage their crops without synthetic pesticides.

% of Food Samples with Chlorpyrifos

Domestic                Imported

Apples – single servings                31%                81%

Sweet bell peppers                            2%                57%

Peaches                                               2%                51%

Almonds                                            39%                0%

Plums                                                   6%                36%

Catfish                                                 1%                31%

Nectarines                                          1%                30%

Cranberries                                      24%                0%

Grapes                                                  2%                23%

Spinach                                               3%                19%

Field corn                                          18%                no data

Soybeans                                           14%                no data

Pears                                                     1%                14%

Tomato paste                                      9%                0%

Broccoli                                                9%                0%

Green onions                                      5%                0%

Spinach, frozen                                  7%                0%

Pears – single serving                        1%                3%

Cucumbers                                           0%                5%

Cantaloupe                                          7%                1%

Oranges                                               4%                3%

Tomatoes                                            0%                3%

Lettuce                                                  3%                0%

Asparagus, canned                            2%                0%

Green beans                                        0%                4%

Winter squash                                    1%                3%

Kale                                                       2%                0%

Asparagus                                           0%                3%

Collard greens                                     4%                0%

These food sampling results reflect varying decisions by farmers and the companies that purchase their crops about whether to apply pesticides, and what types and quantities to apply. For most crops, a larger percentage of imported samples contained chlorpyrifos; the exceptions were cranberries and almonds. Source: USDA.

Learn More:
• Learning effects of chlorpyrifos on mice
Haviland JA, et al. 2009. Long-term sex selective hormonal and behavior alterations in mice exposed to low doses of chlorpyrifos in utero. Reproductive Toxicology
zoology.wisc.edu/faculty/Por/pdfs/mice.pdf

• Wisconsin register of water treatment devices approved to remove specific contaminants http://commerce.wi.gov/php/sb-ppalopp/contam_alpha_list.php

• Wisconsin pesticide use, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2006. nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Miscellaneous/pest_use_06.pdf

• Pesticides found by USDA on food from grocery stores, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program whatsonmyfood.org/pesticide.jsp?pesticide=160

•USDA Pesticide Data Program Progress Report 2008-2010
ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfiledDocName=STELDEV3002094

• Wisconsin Groundwater Quality: Agricultural Chemicals in Wisconsin Groundwater, April 2008. WI Dept of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Not available on the web. National study of Metabolites of Organophosphorus Pesticides in the U.S. Population
Barr, Dana B et al. Concentrations of Dialkyl Phosphate Metabolites of Organophosphorus Pesticides in the U.S. Population. Environmental Health Perspectives 112:186–200 (2004). ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241828/pdf/ehp0112-000186.pdf

•  Acreage of Wisconsin crops, USDA 2007 Agricultural Census of Agriculture – Wisconsin, Tables 8 and 33.
agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_State_Level/Wisconsin/index.asp

•Agrichemicals in surface water and birth defects in the U.S.

Paul D Winchester, Jordan Huskins, and Jun Ying. Agrichemicals in surface water and birth defects in the United States, Acta Pædiatrica 2009 April; 98(4): 664–669.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2667895/

• Organic diets lower children’s dietary exposure to pesticides.
Lu C, et al. 2006. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(2): 260–3. ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.actionarticleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.8418

• Drawings from children exposed and unexposed to agricultural pesticides in Mexico

Guillette, Elizabeth A., et al. 1998. An Anthropological Approach to the Evaluation of Preschool Children Exposed to Pesticides in Mexico. Environmental Health Perspectives, 106 (6): 347-353.
ehponline.org/members/1998/106p347-353guillette/guillette-full.html#res



Race for Milwaukee County Executive candidates interview

February 27, 2011

Chris Abele Jeff Stone
Chris Abele                                                             Jeff Stone

The Compass invited the two candidates for Milwaukee County executive, Chris Abele and Jeff Stone, to respond to four questions in a total of 500 words or less. Both candidates initially missed their deadline, but we extended their opportunity to respond in the interests of our readers.

Abele, of Milwaukee, is founder and CEO of the philanthropic Argosy Foundation. Stone, of Greendale, owns a printing company and is the Republican state representative for the 82nd District.

The election is Tuesday, April 5.

1. Describe how you will govern differently than Scott Walker.

Chris Abele: I’ve talked to people in every one of Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities, and the message from the people is clear: Milwaukee County isn’t working, and we need to fundamentally change the way the county does business. For too long, Milwaukee County has had a go-it-alone approach to key issues like job creation, transit, and parks, and as a result these services have declined over the past several years. I’ll focus on preserving and strengthening these services by working with anyone, and I’ll finally make the county a real partner with the state, municipalities like the city of Milwaukee, nonprofits, and the private sector to create jobs and ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Jeff Stone: I will govern as Jeff Stone, making those decisions that I believe best for Milwaukee County, not by asking what Scott Walker, Tom Barrett, or anyone else would do. My goal is to ensure the efficient and effective provision of services to the residents of Milwaukee County. I do believe, particularly in a bad economy, we must hold the line on property taxes and allow Milwaukee County taxpayers to keep their money in their family budget. I will work cooperatively and respectfully with all involved in each issue that we face, and recognize that respect and cooperation is a two-way street.

2. What should county government’s role be in job creation?

Chris Abele: Milwaukee County has been a lackluster partner on job creation. That’s why I was the first candidate to release a specific plan on job creation. My plan includes holding the line on taxes, leveraging unused county assets to help businesses grow, and streamlining and centralizing economic development and regulations so that county, cities, and the state can speak from the same voice to recruit businesses. I believe we need to change the culture so county, local governments, and the state work together to promote economic development in Milwaukee County. For example, the county-owned land in the Park East freeway corridor has sat vacant for years, while the city-owned parcels have been redeveloped. I will move the county economic development team to the Department of City Development so the teams can work shoulder to shoulder to finally ensure the Park East is fully developed into a vibrant area that creates jobs for workers and families in Milwaukee County.

Jeff Stone: As a small business owner, I understand the economics of meeting a payroll, paying taxes and health care costs of employees. I also understand how important job creation is to our community. It is my belief that government cannot create the jobs necessary to alleviate the unemployment that exists in Milwaukee County. However, government can work with the private sector to foster a strong and entrepreneurial business community. Virtually every municipality in this county has an economic development effort. We must find a way to coordinate and enhance these individual efforts in a way that benefits all. Our effort should focus on the creation of new businesses and thus new jobs. While we should always be open to attracting a company moving from elsewhere, that doesn’t create net new jobs and usually carries a high subsidy cost. An example of a better solution is the UW Engineering School on the County Grounds, which, in synergy with others already there, has the potential to create both new jobs and new companies. Working with the Water Council, marketing Milwaukee as a “water hub” holds similar promise to grow existing Milwaukee businesses and attract and create new ones. We also need to expand our research park to provide growth space for new companies.

3. Explain your perspective on public transit. What modes are desired/not desired? How will you recommend paying for current and any new public transit service?

Chris Abele: Transit is an important economic development tool, and for many people transit is a basic quality-of-life issue. Transit isn’t just a county problem or a city problem, but is a shared challenge that requires shared solutions. Over time our bus system has been allowed to decline and faces serious challenges soon if nothing changes. We must change the rudderless approach that has for too often characterized the county’s strategy to these resources. I’m proud to have earned the endorsement of transit workers in our community, and I know we can emphasize connecting workers to jobs, and prioritize routes during rush hour and shift changes. We must also wisely invest $36.6 million in federal transit funds earmarked specifically for our transit system that have sat unused for years.

Jeff Stone: Within Milwaukee County, public transportation systems should include roads and highways, buses, and paratransit. The focus of the system should be to provide efficient options for people to get to jobs and school and for businesses to conduct commerce. As a legislator I opposed raids on the Transportation Fund that reduced local transportation aids. I also supported dedicating that part of the sales tax derived from auto-related purchases to the Transportation Fund as a way to increase non-property tax support for public transportation. I do not, however, support a new sales tax. Public transportation needs to have a regional focus. The communities within our region need to seriously discuss how we can cooperate and coordinate our efforts to integrate into a cohesive whole.

4. Under what circumstances would you sell off Milwaukee County parkland?

Chris Abele: I oppose selling county parks. Under Sue Black, Milwaukee County has won national acclaim for the park system. The Parks Department has grown earned revenue but had its budget cut. I believe we must build upon our strengths, and like any good business would do, reward departments that grow earned revenue. As county executive, I would direct the Parks Department to offer its services to the 19 cities and to MPS, which also manages parks, which could increase revenue for the county, and reduce costs for other municipalities by improving efficiencies of scale.

Jeff Stone: First, we must distinguish between “parkland” and land held by the Parks Department. These are two different things. Second, we need to establish the vision for what the Milwaukee County Park System should be. This will define what land is necessary to that vision. That which is not required should be disposed of, with proceeds going into a parks trust fund, not the general budget.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the candidates (authors) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bay View Compass.


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