Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa supports striking Palermo’s Pizza workers

June 21, 2012

Today, Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) issued the following statement about

the workers who are striking at Palermo’s Pizza for the right to organize a union.

“Recently, I attended an event to benefit the striking workers of Palermo’s Pizza. I am in full

support of the workers and believe that they have a right to vote to organize a union. It is my

hope that they will be free to cast this vote without fear of reprisals or any anti-union tactics. I

believe that the management of Palermo’s should meet with the workers and allow them this

vote. It is their federal and constitutional right to assemble and to vote to form a union. I stand

fully behind that effort.”


Coggs Human Services Center closed due to 5-alarm fire nearby

June 20, 2012

The Milwaukee County Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, located at 1220 W. Vliet St, will be closed to all employees and the public for the remainder of Wednesday, June 20, 2012 because of smoke from a large fire at a nearby building.

Milwaukee County Risk Management crews have toured the building and are working on clearing out any remaining smoke.

The building should be open tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, 2012, but employees should double check by calling the Milwaukee County Emergency Response Hotline, 414-278-3900, after 10pm tonight.

Since the County has closed this facility, all county employees working at this building will be paid for their regularly scheduled hours today.

If any employees believe they are experiencing health related issues as a result of this incident, please seek medical attention with the medical provider of your choice and report this to your manager.

Approximately 500 Milwaukee County employees work at the Coggs Center.

EPA grants final approval to sale of E15 blends

June 19, 2012

Source: Clean Wisconsin

By completing its approval of established misfueling mitigation plans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has essentially cleared the way for final approval for companies intending to sell E15 to consumers.

 “This decision is a victory for consumers, who have a right to choose the best fuel for their needs,” says Joshua Morby, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance (WBIA). “Approving the use of E15 will reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil and increase our use of domestically produced, renewable fuel alternatives.”

 This decision addressed the final, significant regulatory hurdle preventing consumers with passenger vehicles model 2001 and newer from selecting E15 as a fuel option. The EPA has been working with a variety of ethanol groups to meet all the conditions necessary to appropriately and legally offer E15 to consumers at the pump.

 During the past few years, multiple studies have been done to examine the effects of E15 on engines. Among those studies is one conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy that concluded there were no significant changes in vehicle drivability when E15 was used instead of traditional gasoline.

 “We applaud the EPA’s action and look forward to the future as retailers finish the necessary steps needed to start offering E15 to Wisconsin consumers,” says Morby.

 Wisconsin consumers already enjoy the benefits of E10, which can be used in all vehicles, and E85, which is for use in flexible fuel vehicles. Adding E15 as an additional choice gives consumers another option at the pump. According to a study by Iowa State University, this choice is important: Ethanol blends are estimated to reduce the cost of vehicular gasoline by about a dollar a gallon.

 The Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance is a diverse group of businesses, environmental groups, and statewide and local organizations that have come together to build both public and legislative awareness of the Bio Industry in Wisconsin.

For more information about the Alliance, or to find out how to join, please visit our website here.

Free rainwater harvesting discussion June 26 by GrowNYCs Lenny Librizzi

June 19, 2012

Learn about Rainwater Harvesting

Water Harvesters Co-op hosting talk with GrowNYC

Water is one of the essential elements of growing food. Ensuring a dependable source of water is vital to every garden’s success. Milwaukee’s Water Harvesters Co-op, formerly the Transition Milwaukee Water Working Group, is hosting a program to discuss successful rainwater harvesting solutions. The guest will be GrowNYC’s Assistant Director, Lenny Librizzi.

GrowNYC has created successful and affordable rainwater harvesting systems in New York City. It has worked with Greenthumb, NYC’s city gardening program, to successfully install over 80 rainwater harvesting systems at community gardens across the city. Rainwater collection also mitigates stormwater runoff, which can cause flooding and pollution — also problems here in Milwaukee. ??To attend the free discussion, RSVP to Chris Terbrueggen at or register on the Transition Milwaukee website. More Details on the Transition website.

Tuesday, June 26

Water Harvesters Co-op Discussion

Wauwatosa Public Library

76th Street and North Avenue


District 14 license applications: License Committee meeting June 18

June 11, 2012

Licenses Committee

ALD. T. ANTHONY ZIELINSKI, CHAIR Ald. Milele A. Coggs, Vice Chair Ald. Nik Kovac, Ald. Joseph A. Dudzik, Ald. Jose Perez

June 18, 2012 Room 301-B, Third Floor, City Hall


08:30 AM –

14 BRIGGS, Taylor G, Agent for “Bencriscutto Amusements LLC”, Amusement Machine Distributors Application for “Bencriscutto Amusements” at 3006 S KINNICKINNIC Av.

14 DES ARMO COURY, Candace J., Secondhand Dealer’s License Application for “White Elephant Resale Shoppe” at 800

City holding in-person summer meetings for input to make Milwaukee greener, sustainable

June 11, 2012

Building a Smarter City Through Sustainability

A Strategic Vision and Outline for Action

June 2012

 Your Chance to Participate Has Arrived. The Green Team wants to hear from you! During the summer and fall of 2012, there will be in-person meetings and online opportunities to provide your input. How to get involved:


 When will the Planning Process Start and End? The Sustainability Planning process has begun, and the Green Team is now ready for the public’s input. The first round of public input will last through October 1, 2012. Tentatively, the Office of Environmental Sustainability anticipates completing a draft Sustainability Plan by spring 2013. The time frame may change depending on how detailed the plan is, and how many meetings are held throughout the City.



What is Sustainability? Sustainability is generally defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The long-term sustainable development of a city can be thought of as the implementation of intersecting policies that address key social, economic and environmental conditions in the community (also known as the “three pillars of sustainable development”).
What is a Sustainability Plan? A Sustainability Plan identifies a strategic vision and works to achieve it through a comprehensive set of goals and strategies focused on improving environmental quality, economic strength, and social equity within a community. The Plan works like a road map guiding the City towards a more sustainable future, through the implementation of strategies identified through a comprehensive, inclusive stakeholder process.


Milwaukee’s Sustainability Plan: The purpose of the City of Milwaukee Sustainability Plan (“the Plan”) is to provide a community and City endorsed strategic vision for Milwaukee’s sustainable economic development for the next 5-10 years. The Plan will document the vision, goals, targets and specific actions that the City of Milwaukee and its community partners will undertake in order to ensure that both current residents and future generations can attain and enjoy a higher quality of life.

The Plan will incorporate “triple bottom-line” accounting so that Milwaukee’s residents, businesses and environment benefit from implementation (i.e., people, planet and profits). The planning effort will utilize the 2005 Green Team Report as a foundation for Plan development as well as utilize the Natural Step for Communities[1] and ICLEI STAR Communities Index[2] as methodologies. In addition, the Brico Fund is developing a Milwaukee Sustainability Fund that ensures immediate transition from planning to action in the community.


Milwaukee’s Sustainability Plan Vision Statement: Milwaukee’s Sustainability Plan will create an alignment of economic and environmental interests that improve Milwaukee’s quality of life, benefiting residents, businesses and our natural environment through embracing smart, achievable sustainability principles. As a result, Milwaukee will be the Fresh Coast Capitol of North America.



Why Now? There is a strong desire for action in the community, specifically as it relates to identifying a strategic vision and action plan for improving the overall sustainability of Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett catalyzed this movement in the community with formation of the original Green Team in 2004, the publication of the Green Team Report in 2005 and the subsequent creation of the City’s Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) in 2006. In 2011, the Mayor reported back to the original Green Team on Milwaukee’s sustainability achievements since 2005 noting a strong foundation for sustainable economic development in the City had been laid. In fact, one of the recommendations in the 2005 Green Team Report is to “develop a green plan for the City.” [3]

The Mayor announced at his 2012 State of the City address (February 13, 2012) that he wants to work with the community to build a smarter city through sustainability and has directed the OES Director to begin a sustainability planning exercise immediately. Milwaukee was among nationally leading municipalities when it published the Green Team Report and created OES but has since fallen behind as today’s leading “green” municipalities have a community endorsed Sustainability Plan (and/or Climate Action Plan).


Why Not a Climate Action Plan? Climate Action Plans can generally be defined as plans that lay out a strategy, including specific policy recommendations that a municipality will use to address climate change and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (EPA definition). The City of Milwaukee wants to cover more territory than is generally covered in Climate Action Plans including a focus on the economic development aspects of sustainability. As a result, the more comprehensive Sustainability Planning process is being utilized.


What Cities Have Sustainability Plans? North America’s leading cities in the field of sustainable economic development have either a Sustainability Plan or a Climate Action Plan (and in some cases both). New York City (PlanNYC), Austin (STAR Community Index Pilot City), Minneapolis (Living Well Sustainability Indicators), Philadelphia (Greenworks), Baltimore (Baltimore Sustainability Plan) and Vancouver (Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future) all have Sustainability Plans and/or sustainability indicators.



[1] The Natural Step model of sustainability was developed in Sweden in 1983 by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robért. It has since been adjusted for use at the community level in the book The Natural Step for Communities: How Communities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices (James and Lahti). The Natural Step model is a systematic approach to sustainability. The model doesn’t approach sustainability in terms of single projects, but as an entire system and all of the actions and decisions that made within that system. It also uses the A-B-C-D planning process. That process is as follows: Awareness and Visioning; Baseline Mapping; Creative Solutions; and Decide on Priorities. More information about the Natural Step Model can be found at

[2] ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association dedicated to climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, as well as sustainability. It offers services for its members, which include creating a framework and technical assistance for the creation of items such as climate protection plans, greenhouse gas inventories, and sustainability plans. Currently ICLEI USA has a network of over 600 cities, towns and counties working towards more sustainable practices within their local governments and communities. The City of Milwaukee is a member. The ICLEI STAR Community Index aids communities with their efforts to become more sustainable. The index includes 81 sustainability goals and 10 guiding principles. This index is designed to set up predefined goals and set a national standard. Benchmarking progress is made much easier when communities use the same definitions and framework. The STAR Community Index can be utilized during the goal setting module of the ICLEI program. More information about ICLEI can be found at

[3] 2005 Green Team Report, Objective 4: Implement “Cross Cutting” Strategies that Address Multiple Green Objectives, Recommendation #1, page 23 (See Appendix D for more information).



Better-than-expected health savings from 2010 contracts expected to lessen cuts in proposed MPS budget

June 7, 2012

Source: MPS 

Board set to vote on budget Thursday night

Better-than-expected health care savings from contracts agreed to in 2010 are expected to translate into fewer position cuts in the proposed 2012-13 Milwaukee Public Schools budget.

Approximately $10 million in savings identified from the 2011-12 school year are expected to result in budget adjustments that include the opportunity to restore as many as 75 teaching position cuts in schools across the district in 2012-13. If schools choose to restore educational assistants instead, the total number of restored positions would be higher.

Expected savings for the upcoming 2012-13 year could result in even fewer cuts because schools would spend less on employee benefits and could direct the savings toward the areas where they see need.

The Milwaukee Board of School Directors is expected to vote on the proposed budget Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at MPS Central Services, 5225 W. Vliet Street, Milwaukee 53208. Public comment and testimony were taken at three prior meetings and will not be taken at Thursday night’s meeting.

Terms of employee contracts that generated the savings were laid out in October 2010 and approved by the Board in December 2010. Savings are due to strong financial stewardship, a change to a health plan administrator with better provider pricing, the negotiation of better prices for prescription drugs and other factors.

Detailed information about the proposed budget is available here.

Milwaukee County’s new facilities contract: “the good news and the bad news”

June 7, 2012

Source:  County Supervisor Patricia Jursik, 8th District

“Milwaukee County has entered into a contract with C. B. Richard Ellis to provide policy makers with a strategic road map for facility planning.  This roadmap will allow the County to consolidate holdings, reduce operating costs, address sustainability goals and reduce the geographic scope of its real estate holdings.

“In 1990, our workforce was about 9,400 strong.  By 2012, County employment was reduced to about 4,800.  While we have dramatically decreased our workforce, we continue to operate in largely the same space.  Our Strategic Planning process initiated the Facilities Resolution to address this concern.

“Last year, the County Board overwhelmingly approved a resolution recommended by the Long Range Strategic Plan Steering Committee to downsize the County’s facilities.  A Request for Proposals (RFP) was completed by last autumn.  The Board budgeted dollars to fund a comprehensive review of facility holdings to assist in the decision making process.

“The intent of the Budget Amendment was to initiate the planning process in time for planning the 2013 budget planning.  Since the facility study will take six months to complete, it was vital to initiate the work at the outset of the year and give priority to this project.

“The good news is the contract with CB Richard Ellis was finally completed yesterday, June 6, 2012, according to the County Executive’s staff.  Because of the late date, however, the bad news is that the facilities planning will not be available in time for budget planning and will now take another year to complete.  My office will continue to monitor the progress of this important strategic plan for Milwaukee County’s facilities.”

Vote today—Polls open 7am-8pm: Find your polling station

June 5, 2012

Where do I vote?

ELECTION 2012 Governor and Lt. Governor Recall Election, Tuesday, June 5

Find your polling place (where you vote). Use your address to find the place you vote: here.

NOTE: You do not need identification to vote today.

No Photo IDS will be REQUIRED to vote.

If you are not registered to vote, you may register to vote TODAY, at the polling place.

You do need identification to REGISTER to vote.
Find out how to register to vote today here. 

Letter: Cindy Flechner profile

June 1, 2012

Amen! As the former school social worker at Humboldt Park K-8 Charter School from 2002-2008, I can add to your profile about Cindy Flechner that she is also the best “school social work assistant” any social worker could ever ask for. Every morning as she scanned students’ card codes for breakfast, Cindy not only greeted each student warmly, but she also “scanned” their physical and social-emotional well being. Whenever she sensed the slightest thing amiss, she gave me a heads-up.

Cindy’s insightful perspectives on the neighborhood, the school, and its families and staff members, helped me build connections—and kept me from many a blunder.

Cindy’s cheerful smile and her genuine expressions of care for me as a professional, and as a person, made my time at Humboldt Park a memory I’ll treasure forever!

Sarah Kubetz

New chocolatiers on KK

June 1, 2012

By Jill Rotherbueler Maher

Some of the sweet confections are air-brushed to enhance the little gems with color. —photo Jennifer Kresse

A new store offering a broad selection of artisan chocolates has been doing a steady business since opening in May.

ChocoBella occupies the former Franklin’s Fine Chocolate at 2474 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The products are made onsite from recipes crafted by owners Cindy Karrels and Luis Mendez.

The owners met and remain in contact with Franklin Di Vilio who created the original shop and its chocolates. He told them he had met other prospective operators but preferred that they take over the shop because of their professionalism and the personal connection they established with him. Mendez says he sometimes thinks of Di Vilio when developing a new piece and hopes he’d appreciate the creation.

Karrels has formal food industry training at the French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College in Chicago and has been employed in the food industry for about four years. The business partners met working at Nonna Bartolotta’s restaurant, and their lighthearted comments about owning a joint business “some day” have turned into reality.

“I love art and being creative, and I can incorporate that here,” Karrels said. “People like buying [our candy] and giving it away as gifts.”

Mendez is executive chef at Nonna Bartolotta’s and Pizzeria Piccola, both located in Mitchell International Airport. He got his start in the business at age 15, helping his father make candy and working in his retail candy store in Puerto Rico.

Luis Mendez and Cindy Karrels —photo Jennifer Kresse

Karrels and Mendez find their triple chocolate pretzels are especially appealing to kids and have already noticed that Bay View adults are often chatty and are fond of unique offerings like dainty limon (lemon) dreams and conos de vino (cone-shaped red wine-flavored pieces). Some offerings with Puerto Rican influences include the guava with cheese piece, mandarin orange piece, and coconut truffle. The chocolatiers have dedicated considerable shelf space to their globe-shaped truffles, currently offering 11 varieties for $1.65 per piece.

Per-piece prices range from $1.15 for caramel drops to $1.75 for pieces like banana peanut butter chocolates.

Mendez says their per-piece pricing is intended to be less intimidating than a heftier per-pound price.

They buy some ingredients from local suppliers including The Spice House. The chocolate they use is from Belgium.

ChocoBella will offer gelato in summer and caramel apples in autumn to try to keep customers interested, and the owners intend to keep regular hours year-round. Gift cards are available in any denomination. Customers can walk up or use on-street parking. Karrels and Mendez are considering obtaining a loading zone area for customers.

2474 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Mon Closed; Tu thru Sat 10am-7pm
(414) 747-9007 + Facebook

Come dream with us, St. Francis of Assisi sisters redeem the land

June 1, 2012

By Katherine Keller

Franciscan sisters redeem the land

There is a quiet revolution going on in Bay View’s backyard where changes are being visited upon the land and waters and herbs and grasses and fruit trees.

The genesis of this transformation springs from the dreams and imagination of two Catholic sisters who are shepherding the restoration project on the grounds of the convent at 3221 S. Lake Drive.

Sisters Helene Mertes (retired but “full-time volunteer, totally involved”) and Mary Lou Schramer (Director of Clare Hall, a residence hall for retired sisters located on the seminary grounds) are the indefatigable visionaries and leaders who have developed the ambitious plan and who are in the early stages of its implementation.

The restoration plan reflects the values and history of the community. Mertes and Schramer are members of the St. Francis of Assisi. Their community possesses a teaching tradition and adheres to the philosophy that the web of life is sacred, that all living things must be respected, Schramer said.

The plan is the result of an environmental study that members of the convent commissioned in 2009. A Land-Use Committee was formed in response. The committee’s project list reflects “the sisters’ ideas and their dreams to make the land sustainable for future generations and to provide a legacy of land-use by example and teaching.”

The future site of the urban forest. —photo Gretchen Theisen

The Promethean land-use plan includes thirteen “dreams” among which is the restoration of the Deer Creek valley that runs along the west and north boundaries of the convent’s property. Establishing an urban forest on the former St. Mary’s Academy athletic field and creating a labyrinth next to a “reflection area” are two of the plan’s major projects and are designed to convert existing grass lawns to a wild, bio-diverse landscape, teeming with native flora and fauna.

Mature and newly planted fruit trees in the orchard on the north side of the property. —photo Gretchen Theisen

Mertes and Schramer have already accomplished some of the projects on their dream list. They’ve upgraded their orchard, removing old, overgrown cherry trees and planting new 19 new fruit trees. Cherry, plum, pear, peach and apple trees are growing in their orchard, 38 trees in all.

They established two large vegetable gardens in 2009 that are complemented with newly established beehives and compost that is made from yard and food waste. The bees will pollinate the garden and orchard and the compost will fertilize the seedlings and gardens. Eventually the sisters plan to create a perennial herb and fruit garden, and to expand the vegetable production. They want to build hoop house (20 x 48 feet) to grow seedlings, including native plants.

Last year they harvested 910 pounds of potatoes, 2,500 pounds of tomatoes, 450 pounds of green beans, and many servings of salad greens.

Retired sisters, Canticle and Juniper Court residents (who live in housing on the convent property), and neighbors pitch in to help Mertes and Schramer with the gardens.

A cluster of baby grapes. —photo Gretchen Theisen

One of the residents tills the garden and is learning to tend the bees and hives. Others volunteer to help weed, harvest, and clean its bounty. Last summer volunteers showed up at the garden at 6:30 in the morning to pick green beans, Mertes said. Others cleaned and prepped them in the kitchen at Clare Hall, and by noon the fresh-picked beans were part of the luncheon meal.

“We do things in spurts. When the potatoes need to be hoed, I’ll call about five, six people and they come out and we’ll just weed or hill the potatoes,” Schramer said. “We can get four people, we can get six people, we can get eight people who will spend an hour, hour-and-a-half. That’s about all that people can handle.”

Volunteers also help remove invasives, tend the arbor and grapes, and will help plant native plants and wildflowers, among other myriad tasks. Mertes and Schramer have also received advice from people at the Department of Natural Resources, Milwaukee County Parks, beekeeper Charlie Koenen, and a master gardener.

Sister Mary Lou Schramer and Sister Helene Mertes. —photo Gretchen Theisen

The sisters are overseeing reparations to the convent’s 100-year-old grape arbor which has been reinvigorated with new vines.

Water use plays a large part in their land-use plans. Mertes and Schramer said they’re just beginning to study water management in order to find methods to use gray water, collect and use rain water, and to minimize waste and run-off. Rain gardens figure in their plans, along with cisterns and fantasies of porous pavement. Earth-friendly pavement is a fantasy, they said, because it is crushingly cost prohibitive.

The education component of their plan is broad and deep. The sisters plan to construct an ecological learning center using sustainable materials powered by clean energy sources. It will have a classroom, project room, library, and gift shop. The education center will illustrate good stewardship by example. “It will also include a full kitchen and be a place where young people and adults learn to grow, prepare, and preserve nutritious food while developing their respect for the land and an appreciation of sustainable living,” said Schramer, who holds a nursing degree.

Collaboration with existing teaching centers is a goal, including working with the Urban Ecology Center. But the sisters want their work on the grounds to include their direct neighbors. They dream that their neighbors will be inspired to transform their lawns from grass to native plants, incorporating systems that capture and use rainwater. They see their work as a teaching tool so that neighbors’ lawns also become bio-diverse habitats “to help support all of God’s creatures.”

Garlic mustard —photo Gretchen Theisen

Japanese knotweed —photo Gretchen Theisen

A monumental project of the sisters’ land-use plan is the destruction and removal of three invasive plants: garlic mustard, reed canary grass, and Japanese knotweed. They’ve cleared about 2.5 acres of the knotweed (a member of the buckwheat family) but it is pernicious and persistent. A single plant and its clones grow to several acres in size, and according to the Wisconsin DNR, “spreads primarily by extensive networks of underground rhizomes, which can reach 6 feet deep, 60 feet long, and become strong enough to damage pavement and penetrate building foundations.”

Sister Helene, who received a horticulture degree from the University of Wisconsin, said it was probably first introduced in the area as an ornamental plant. She said they’ve found that it extends from the driveway that leads to the seminary just south of the convent property, to the Deer Creek Valley on the convent grounds. Worse, it had “jumped the creek” and was heading for the forest on the rise west of the convent. Annual rye will be planted in the cleared area to stabilize the soil, followed by the reintroduction of native plants and grasses, including aquatic species.

Central to the restoration plan is repopulating the land with native plant species. Creating a forest and rejuvenating the wetlands will support other life forms, Schramer said.

They are also looking toward a warming planet and a warmer Milwaukee. “We’re studying invasives that are further south, that could begin creeping up, and how to keep them under control,” Mertes said.

The sisters take a broad view of their work on the convent’s grounds. “It would be a legacy to leave behind. As we become an aging community, we can still teach. We can prepare the land for the future,” Mertes said. “We can teach [people] to respect the land.”

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