Zielinski Downed, but Says Not Out

July 2, 2018

By Katherine Keller

District 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski, who represents Bay View, was booted from his role as chair of the city of Milwaukee’s Licenses Committee June 21.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton removed Zielinski in response to a number of unidentified business owners who complained that he pressured them to contribute money to his mayoral campaign.

“These are anonymous allegations,” Zielinski told the Compass. “There is no basis in fact. I followed proper procedures. This is an attempt to knock me out of the race because they know I am a serious threat.”

Zielinki frames his removal from the committee and chair role as a political ploy “by people associated with the status quo power structure (in Milwaukee) that I have been battling against.”

“If anybody thinks that this will stop or even slow me down, [they do] not know me,” he added.

Zielinski, who has held the District 14 seat since 2004, launched his campaign for Milwaukee mayor in November 2017.

Mayor Barrett recently announced that he would run again. This, his third term, ends in 2020.

Zielinski said he’s confident he will prevail because of the issues he has championed as alderman and that have been neglected by Mayor Barrett. 

“Once the campaign is up and running, [my opponents] know most people agree with me that the steep police cuts should not have taken place,” he said. “Most people agree with me that we have higher priorities than the streetcar. Some of those higher priorities include protective services, fixing our potholes, replacing our antiquated street lights so they are not constantly going out, and addressing the hazardous lead issues.”

Zielinski originally supported the streetcar project in downtown Milwaukee, voting for the project, but reversed his position, becoming a vehement opponent.

Confident that he’s well known on the city’s south side, Zielinski said he is campaigning on the north side, promising that he will address long-neglected issues that blight the city’s impoverished neighborhoods.

“Turning around the central city is another issue. If you are African American and you live in Milwaukee, you have it worse here than just about any other part of the country,” he said. “That is unacceptable and if we want to turn this city around we have to address central city issues.”


Offensive Graffiti in Bay View Park and Emigh Playground

July 2, 2018

By Evan Casey

Two separate cases of offensive and derogatory graffiti displayed on public property were found by disgruntled citizens in Bay View last month. This led some to call for a quicker response for graffiti removal across Milwaukee. 

Earlier in June, District 14 County Supervisor Jason Haas learned about a case of offensive graffiti through the Bay View Town Hall Facebook group. The graffiti, painted
on the Oak Leaf trail in Bay View Park, read, “You can kill a baby not the memory. Whore.”

Haas notified the parks director on June 9, but the graffiti was not covered (with blacktop) until the morning of June 11. Haas believes part of the delay was because the parks department has a “razor-thin staff.”

An offensive message was painted on the Oak Leaf Trail in Bay View Park. —Jason Haas

“There’s been vandalism in the parks from the days that they were first created, so it’s an ongoing problem,” said Haas, who does not believe this was a hate crime, or related to any other incidents. “I want [the vandalizer] to get help…lots and lots of people saw their message.”

A week later, more graffiti showed up, this time on a Milwaukee Public Schools building in Emigh Playfield, 494 E. Morgan Ave. This incident was also posted on the Bay View Town Hall page. Alderman Tony Zielinski was alerted via the group. He said that his office called the incident in.

This time however, the graffiti was cleaned off entirely by the morning of June 18, fewer than 24 hours after it was reported. It was removed before a children’s summer recreation event began the morning of June 18, according to a Milwaukee Recreation employee.

Graffiti of any kind is illegal in Milwaukee. A city ordinance that deals with graffiti states, “No person may write, paint, or draw any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a government entity or any agency or by any person, firm or corporation unless the express permission of the owner or operator of the property has been obtained.” The penalty for graffiti is $500 to $2,000, where damages total less than $500. 

Milwaukee does have a graffiti hotline that deals specifically with the removal of vandalism on public and private properties. The Anti-Graffiti Program is part of the Department of Neighborhood Services’ outreach. City employees remove most of the graffiti on city property and work closely with the Milwaukee Police Department. Their website, which can be found on the City of Milwaukee website, goo.gl/8CCxwz, also gives tips for graffiti removal.

Christina Klose, the DNS Communications Coordinator, said there have been 436 graffiti complaints in 2018 to date. Klose said the program works with businesses and residents to help abate graffiti. 

“The property owner is responsible to remove graffiti on their own private property,” said Klose. “If graffiti is not abated, the city can then send a contractor to clean it up and charge the property owner back for the expense.”

Erin Dentice reported offensive graffiti that she found at Emigh Playground. Photograph altered to obscure vulgarity. —Erin Dentice

Bay View resident Erin Dentice posted a shared photo of the graffiti at Emigh Playfield on Facebook. Dentice was happy that it was removed quickly. She said she did not remember seeing any graffiti there before. 

“My first response was somewhat surprised,” said Dentice. “We’ve used that park a lot over the years and I don’t recall it ever being an
issue before.”

Haas, who is also the chair of the Committee on Parks, Energy and Environment, said he would try to find out why there was a delay in the removal
process of the Oak Leaf Trail graffiti. 

“I hope that the person who made it would seek counseling,” he said. “While I think anyone who commits vandalism should be held accountable, I think it’s important that they get help to deal with their anger, which I presume fueled their decision to paint this message on the Oak Leaf Trail.”

In response to concerns that the message on the trail was still legible beneath the coat of blacktop, Eduardo Santiago, Interim Chief of Operations for Milwaukee County Parks, told Haas that a black top sealer would be applied that he said should effectively obliterate the graffiti.

Emigh playground is bounded by Morgan, Wilbur, Quincy, and Whitnall avenues. Bay View Park, 3120 S. Lake Drive stretches along the east side of the road from Oklahoma Avenue to the Federal Bureau of Investigations property, 3600 S. Lake Dr.

The Milwaukee Police Department was contacted for this story but did not respond before press time. The anti-graffiti hotline number is (414) 286-8715. 


Lake Express Ferry 2018 Season Launched April 27

May 2, 2018

The Lake Express Ferry was being prepped for the 2018 season on April 22, readying it for its 14th season, which runs April 27 to October 24. The high-speed diesel catamaran crosses Lake Michigan four times daily between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Mich., with seating for 240 passengers and with a 46-vehicle cardeck. The 80-mile crossing takes two and a half hours. Prior to the Lake Express maiden voyage in 2004, there had been no regular ferry service between Milwaukee and Muskegon since 1970, when the Milwaukee Clipper ceased service. —Photo Katherine Keller


Humboldt Park Lagoon Restoration Project

May 2, 2018

Charles Liedtke captured this Great Egret at 8:45am on April 21. This is one of a pair that he saw on several occasions in April, when they were foraging in the Humboldt Park Lagoon. —Photo Charles Liedtke

Cattails and other invasives will be removed from two sections of the Humboldt Park Lagoon this spring, thanks to a $4,010 grant from the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust (Sweet Water). Humboldt Park Friends (HPF), a nonprofit volunteer group, is one of 14 groups that received a Sweet Water grant this year.

Members of HPF have been working with the Milwaukee County Parks Department and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to restore the four-acre lagoon in the center of the 73-acre park located in the heart of Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. HPF cleared cattails and other invasive plants from two sections of the shoreline in the autumn of 2016 and 2017, as part of a pilot project to improve the lagoon. Later this spring, volunteers will establish native plants in some areas of the cleared shoreline in an effort to control erosion and maintain the new unimpeded lagoon sightlines.

“About 15 years ago, cattails were introduced to control access to the lagoon by geese. The combination of insufficient cattail maintenance and the arrival of invasive species changed the lagoon from what it had been for more than 100 years,” said Timothy Richter, co-chair of the HPF Lagoon Committee. “During the past 10 years, cattails went from a few access points, to overtaking roughly 90 percent of the lagoon shoreline. In some areas, these plants extend 40 feet outward from the shoreline.”

The result was declining water quality and unfavorable conditions for fish survival. Excessive nutrients in the stagnant water and a layer of scum on the surface marred the water quality.

In 2016, HPF launched a pilot project to remove cattails and invasive species by cutting the cattails below the water level, depriving them of oxygen. The pilot project opened 30 feet of shoreline and it worked so well that HPF was permitted to expand the test area to clear an additional 50 feet of shoreline in autumn 2017.

“We received immediate, positive feedback from park visitors on the new vista created by the removal,” said Jane LeCapitaine, co-chair of the HPF Lagoon Committee. “It also sparked additional community interest in getting involved in the lagoon’s restoration. We’re looking for ways to share our resources and knowledge with other friends of the parks groups in Milwaukee County.”

The Milwaukee County Parks Department directed HPF to develop a plan to control erosion and run-off by planting native vegetation in the reclaimed sections of shoreline this year. The native plants will prevent excessive nutrients, like grass clippings, goose and other animal feces, dirt, and other materials that collect on the paved pathway from migrating to the lagoon. Results from the cattail removal and shoreline planting will be used in development of a long-term lagoon restoration plan and maintenance practices.

HPF received the first half of the $4,010 grant from Sweet Water during the annual Clean Rivers, Clean Lakes conference at Alverno College on April 26. The will receive the remainder after the shoreline planting is completed this summer. HPF plans to purchase native plants, additional equipment, and tools for reclaiming and restoring shoreline with the second half of the grant money.

Milwaukee County District 14 Supervisor Jason Haas, who represents the area, participated in both the cattail and invasive species removal last year. He said what HPF is doing is an excellent example of how volunteer groups can work together with county
employees to improve the parks system.

“The issues faced by Humboldt Park are not unique. Milwaukee County’s Parks System has more than 60 parks with ponds and lagoons with challenges including water quality, shoreline deterioration, and overgrowth from aggressive plants like cattails,” Haas said. “Other park friends groups are interested in restoration of their park lagoons. This pilot at Humboldt Park can serve as a demonstration project that can be replicated by other volunteer groups at other parks.”

Planting of native vegetation will take place between late April and June. Later this summer, Milwaukee Riverkeeper staff will sample the lagoon’s water quality, as part of its long-range restoration efforts. Additional cattail and invasive vegetation removal and shoreline restoration is planned for early October. To learn more or get involved, consult humboldtparkmilwaukee.org.


Traffic Calming Measures Installed On South Howell Avenue

May 2, 2018

 By Katherine Keller

In response to concerns for pedestrian safety in the stretch of South Howell between East Oklahoma and East Montana avenues, two pair of curb extensions were installed in April, each pair on opposite sides of Howell. 

District 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski pushed for the extensions after a traffic engineer from Milwaukee Department of Public Works advised that vertical treatments such as humps or tables would not be recommended due to the volume of traffic on Howell Ave., as well their impact upon fire trucks and bus traffic. Howell Avenue is one of the city’s main arterials and is a preferred route for emergency vehicles.

DPW spokesperson Sandra Rusch Walton said that its data indicated that curb extensions would provide more safe crossing gaps, even more than a traffic signal, by narrowing the width of the street.

The curb extensions were placed at key crossings to reduce the crossing distance and improve pedestrian visibility.

Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts, seen in the background, was one of three schools that called for traffic calming measures on South Howell Avenue. The curb extension in this photo was installed at Dewey Place on the east side of Howell. —Photo Katherine Keller


One set is installed at Dewey Place and the other at Montana Avenue.

“Ultimately, we agreed with Alderman Zielinski and the residents to install curb extensions at Montana and Dewey for the school and access to Humboldt Park,” said Rusch Walton. “We are not installing anything in the roadway.”

The project also included the installation of newer sewer facilities due to drainage changes created by the extensions. 

The extensions were installed along the curb in the parking lanes. 

South Howell Avenue, looking north, at the intersection of East Montana Avenue. —Photo Katherine Keller

Background

Last year, Bay View residents who live on or near Howell, along with school officials from Milwaukee Parkside School of the Arts, Saint Lucas Lutheran School, and Downtown Montessori Academy mounted a campaign to draw attention to speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, and the dearth of stop signs between Oklahoma and Lincoln avenues. The campaign included yard signs and a petition drive that culminated in a public meeting held December 1 at Parkside.

Presenters included Jake Newborn of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Joseph Blakeman of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works, and Dist. 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski. Milwaukee Police Department Sergeant Eileen Donovan-Agnew and Community Liaison Officers Carlos Felix and Joshua Dummann also attended.

Newborn pointed out that there are no traffic controls on Howell between Oklahoma and Lincoln, which he asserted contributes to the careless driving and speeding that make Howell Avenue hazardous to pedestrians. The stretch of Howell serves students who attend Parkside, 2969 S. Howell Ave.; Saint Lucas, 648 E. Dover St.; and Downtown Montessori, 2507 S. Graham St., and includes a crossing for the Oak Leaf Trail.

In summer, the popular Chill on the Hill concert series in the Humboldt Park bandshell generates high traffic volume that is hazardous to pedestrians, others said. Many attendees walk to the concert with their children and must cross Howell.

Newborn and others at the meeting asked for stop signs or traffic lights, pointing out that the curve on Howell between Dover Street and Russell Avenue posed sightline hazards, putting pedestrians at risk. Ald. Zielinski said that DPW wouldn’t add stop signs or traffic lights on Howell between Oklahoma and Lincoln because the street is a major arterial.

Last year, Bay View residents who live on or near South Howell Avenue, along with school officials from Milwaukee Parkside School of the Arts, Saint Lucas Lutheran School, and Downtown Montessori Academy mounted a campaign to draw attention to speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, and the dearth of stop signs between Oklahoma and Lincoln avenues. In response to their appeal, curb extensions were installed in April. —Photo Katherine Keller

DPW traffic engineer Joe Blakeman said that he had no record of pedestrians being hit in front of Parkside.

He said that parents and kids generally are doing a good job interacting with Howell traffic. He noted that some of the problems with speeding and careless or reckless driving are attributable to the lack of driver education classes in the Milwaukee Public School curriculum.

Several audience members asked for curb extensions in lieu of stop signs or traffic lights. Curb extensions make a section of a street narrower and motivate drivers to reduce their speed. There is a pair of curb extensions on Potter Avenue behind Dover Street School.

Speed bumps were ruled out because they would be detrimental to emergency vehicles and bus traffic, slowing their rate of progress.

Another suggestion was for flashing beacons but it was ruled out by Blakeman, who said they cause rear-end collisions. The in-road pentagonal signs, that remind drivers that state law requires they must slow down or stop for pedestrians, were deemed ineffective by Newborn and audience members.

After considering remarks made by presenters and audience members, Zielinski said he would try to find funding for curb extensions for the intersection of Howell Avenue and Montana Street and for another pair near Downtown Montessori.

After the December 1 meeting, Zielinski told the Compass he’d like to see the Howell Avenue curb extensions installed in 2018, and in 2019 another set on Homer to stem traffic that backs up at Downtown Montessori when parents pick-up and drop-off children.

The total cost of the project was approximately $100,000.


Grade 5 Fernwood Geography Wiz Goes To State Bee

May 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

Steve Szymanski, Fernwood Geography Club coach, Mrs. Carla Langhus (Lower Elementary teacher and Geo Bee Moderator), Quinn Weisser, Mr. John Sanchez, Principal at Fernwood Montessori, Jen Schmidt, Fernwood Geography Bee coach. —Courtesy Fernwood Montessori School

Which country does not border the Gulf of Guinea? Ethiopia, Benin, or Cameroon?
Answer: Ethiopia.

While some adults might have difficulty answering that question without consulting a map, students like Fernwood Montessori School’s Quinn Weisser would not. He aced lots of challenging geography questions at the 2018 National Geographic Bee’s Wisconsin State Bee, held April 6 in Madison, Wis.

Most of the 100 students who competed were in middle school grades, but Weisser was one of only two fifth-graders who competed. Fernwood was one of four other schools from Milwaukee that sent a student to the competition. 

Weisser studied geography facts and prepared for the bee through Fernwood’s geography club, led by parent volunteers Jen Schmidt and Steve Szymanski, who each have two children who attend Fernwood. The club was formed this school year.

From October through April, the club met after school in Fernwood’s library, which has a smart board and access to Google Earth, where students got to view sights such as the top 10 largest waterfalls in the world. They also played geography board games and performed other geography-related activities.

Schmidt initially started the club for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Initially, she didn’t realize that the National Geographic-designed program materials were for seventh and eighth grade students. When she did, she did not expect to send any of the younger students in the club to the bee. But the students started to have fun and they learned a lot, so that motivated Schmidt to hold a school bee.

“Quinn has a true gift for geography,” Schmidt said. “He has such a bright future. I [was] so proud to see him take on this opportunity.” 

On January 29, Fernwood held its geography bee, moderated by lower elementary teacher Carla Langhus. Weisser won Fernwood’s geography bee.

School winners were eligible to take an online qualifying exam to determine if they could participate in the Wisconsin State Bee. Weisser passed. 

Weisser, along with his mother, Korinthia Klein, and Schmidt, attended the state bee, held at the American Family Insurance building in Madison. The state bee has been held since 1989.

Once at the state bee, competing students, parents, and coaches were given an overview about what to expect.

The bee began with preliminary rounds, where kids were grouped into five separate rooms, with 20 in each room. Each student was read eight questions in the preliminary round. Students who answered all eight correctly, advanced to a tiebreaker round, and tiebreaker winners moved on to the finals. Klein said Weisser finished in the middle of the pack of his preliminary group.

“There were strict rules about no technology because all states and territories were holding bees on the same day, and they had to make sure questions weren’t getting out,” Klein said. “No children or parents were allowed out of the rooms until the children were done. There were lots of rules to keep it consistent. No parents were allowed to mouth answers. We all had to sit on our hands and be absolutely quiet.”

Hansen Jin, an eighth grade student from EG Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, Wis., was the state winner. Winners of each state bee advanced to the national bee in Washington D.C. that will be held May 20-23.

Weisser enjoyed his experience at the bee. “I like that the question-asker guy was really nice. I was nervous because there were a lot of people sort of competing for the same thing. I liked getting asked questions I knew the answers to. The ones I got wrong were things I didn’t know, rather than things I knew and couldn’t remember. I would like to do it again,” he said.

“He made educated guesses,” Klein said. “One of the questions he got wrong was, what is the second largest city in Switzerland? It didn’t occur to us to study second largest cities.” (Do you know the largest?)

Weisser now knows that answer is Geneva. Klein said that in the car on the ride home, he wanted her to ask him more geography questions, and he realized that he needs to study cities, and features of countries, and regions that will provide clues to answers.

“Another one he got wrong was about leafcutter ants in a Central American country on the Nicoya peninsula,” Klein said. “He answered Panama, because his uncle was an entomologist in Central America, so we knew there were leafcutter ants in Panama, but what threw us off was the name of the peninsula. We weren’t familiar with that. The answer was Costa Rica, so he made an educated guess.”

A love of geography

Klein said that her son’s love of geography started as a toddler when Quinn received a United States puzzle map. “What appealed to him was how the shapes were significant and fit together in a meaningful way, whereas regular puzzles just fit together to form a picture,” she said. “He was only 18 months when he mastered the Asia puzzle.”

Toddler Quinn Weisser fell in love with geography when he received his first puzzle map. —Courtesy Korinthia Klein

Klein recalled that when Weisser’s older sisters, Mona and Aden, were at school, she brought Quinn to her violin store. He sat on the floor with a map puzzle of Europe. 

During a visit to the Milwaukee Public Museum, Quinn, who was about two at the time, noticed a display of an African country named Zaire. Klein said he questioned why it wasn’t labeled the Democratic Republic of Congo, the nation’s name since 1997.

When he discovered that puzzle-maker GeoPuzzle didn’t produce one of Australia, Weisser made one himself. He has celebrated birthdays with cakes decorated to resemble globes. His father, Ian Weisser, has a degree in geography.

“I like maps, and learning new facts and trivia,” Quinn said. He would also like to travel.

Although Weisser is only 11 years old, his mom said Quinn has expressed interest in a geography-related career, such as a cartographer. 

Held since 1989, the National Geographic Bee is a competition for public schools, private schools, and homeschools in the United States and its territories, as well as the Department of Defense Dependents Schools. 

The National Geographic Bee Championship will take place in Washington, D.C. May 20–23. National Geographic will stream the final round of the on its website May 24.

(The largest city in Switzerland is Zurich.)


Erin Dentice Southside SOUP Winner

March 1, 2018

By Katherine Keller


Erin Dentice was voted winner of the Feb. 11 Southside SOUP prize that she will use to support her aquaponics lab and garden projects at Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts.

“Dentice explained how they are growing the food and [talked] about the cooking classes with a real chef, who is teaching kids and their parents about nutrition and cooking. She plans to use the $850 she won for more plastic for hoop houses, seeds, and compost,” said Mary Ellen Herman, one of the event organizers.

Herman said there were three more presenters who vied for the $850 prize. Christa Marlowe would have used the prize to host an event at Puddler’s Hall for people in Bay View to meet the women running for office in Wisconsin this fall. Ryan Laessig would have used the prize to add murals to the utility boxes that are placed along Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church would have used the prize to purchase food and supplies for its warming room for people who are homeless.

The next Southside SOUP will be held at Old Town Serbian Restaurant, May 6, from 4-7pm.

SOUP originated in Detroit, Mich., and has been adopted by communities across the country. In Wisconsin, there are SOUP events in Milwaukee, La Crosse, Wausau, Sheboygan, and Green Bay.

Any individual or group with an idea for a project that would directly impact the District 14 Aldermanic neighborhoods is encouraged to apply.

The events are open to the public and are family friendly. Admission is $10. Children under age 10 are encouraged to attend and receive free admission. Registration, project application, and other info: southsidesoup.org.

Southside SOUP is sponsored by the Bay View Neighborhood Association.


Campaign to Dissolve KK Avenue BID Update

March 1, 2018

By Katherine Keller

As the Compass reported last month, Bay View property owners Ada Duffey and David Brazeau are leading an effort to dissolve the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44.

To dissolve the BID, Duffey and Brazeau must collect the signatures of owners in the BID whose property values equal more than 50 percent of the total value of the properties in the KK Avenue BID. The current total assessment for the 194 properties equals $73,210,000. Duffey needs signatures by owners whose building assessments equal $37,337,100. By the end of January, she said she had collected “$9,049,600 worth of signatures and (had) verbal/written commitments for an additional $7,630,900,” a total of $16,680,500.”

In the four weeks since, Brazeau and Duffey have continued to gather petition signatures. “We’re right around 32% of the total bid assessment, so 64% of what we need,” Duffey said, “We’re getting one to two signatures every day. Many people are very supportive of signing the petition. I do think we will get sufficient signatures. It is just a matter of contacting people, informing them, and getting their signatures.”

“Yes, we will get enough signatures. We are getting signed petition forms back almost every day,” David Brazeau said. “Once they hear about the BID’s proposal of raising the assessment rate by 500 percent, it is a no brainer. Everyone that I have met is thanking us for doing this, as they see absolutely no value in the BID. As of today, we have 70 commercial property owners that have signed the petition to eliminate the BID, with a total value of $25.6 million.”

A Business Improvement District (BID) is an economic development tool used to help maximize business growth along a major business strip. BIDs are areas where property owners in designated geographic areas agree to percentage-based additional annual property assessment. Those assessments form a BID’s annual budget and funds are spent on projects that enhance the local business environment. Those may include improvements to the streetscape, marketing efforts, business recruitment activity, and security programs.

A change in the assessment scheme for Milwaukee-based BIDs reduces the amount of taxes that BIDs can collect. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the new Wisconsin budget stipulates that only the commercial, not residential portions of mixed-use buildings can be taxed.

KK BID president Lee Barczak said that KK BID’s budget is already one of the smallest in Milwaukee and is one of the reasons he wants to consider raising the assessment in Bay View. He said the BID’s annual budget would be reduced by 20 percent as a result of the reduced assessments, and noted that there has never been a cost-of-living increase in the assessments since the BID started in 2009.


St. Francis Students Create Gift Of Independence

March 1, 2018

By Sheila Julson

St. Francis High School students Georgia Hancock, Alex Reid, and Jake Bednarski pose with the robot they built to give toddler Vivian Johnson more independence. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Toddler tethered to medical equipment assisted by their robot

Students in the St. Francis Robotics  (SFROBOTICS) program are using their skills and ingenuity to make life a little easier for a Menomonee Falls toddler Vivian Johnson, who was born with Chiari malformation. The condition, according to the Kids Health website, “causes the cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls coordination and muscle movement — to push into the space normally occupied by the spinal cord.”

SFRBOTICS is part one of the St. Francis School District STEM program. It was formed as a robotics club in 2008 under the guidance of science teacher Peter Graven. He quickly realized that student robotics could encompass more than robot competitions, although they do that, too. He formed ONEIGHTY, a program where students use technology to assist people and improve an aspect or aspects of their lives.

Graven said the students’ ONEIGHTY work is what likely got the attention of TMJ4 reporter Courtny Gerrish, who in November 2015 covered the plight of then 14-month old Baby Vivian Johnson and the struggle of her parents, Sarah and Clay Johnson, to persuade BadgerCare to cover a special bed designed for children with special needs.

Vivian Johnson lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin with her parents Sarah and Clay Johnson, and her siblings Samuel and Lilly. —Courtesy Sarah Johnson

As Vivian grew, she defied her doctor’s glum prognosis that she would never walk or be very active.

Vivian’s life is dependent on her being continually tethered to her ventilator, oxygen tank, and other large, cumbersome medical devices. When she began to walk, Vivian’s parents needed to follow her with those life-sustaining devices. Graven said Vivian and her parents needed something that would enable her to be more independent so she could play where she wanted and when she wanted without her parents following her with the equipment. Enter robotics.

“We started communicating with Vivian’s family and began work on the project the beginning of last school year,” Graven said. Their goal was to create a robot that would carry the equipment, moving from place to place with Vivian.

Graven, and SFROBOTICS members, Alex Reid, a senior at St. Francis High School, and Georgia Hancock, a junior, explained the design and challenges behind “Vivian’s Bot” or “Fulplae” because it allows full access to play. Their solution would be a tiered shelf-robot that held her medical devices and followed her as she moved around. Graven said that the robot must be able to avoid obstacles in the house. At the same time, it must recognize that Vivian is not an obstacle nor are the tethers between her and the robot.

Reid said that they visited Vivian’s family’s home to examine the layout and to determine the robot’s dimensions and potential designs. Reid and Hancock, along with SFROBOTICS members Colton Feirer (Grade 11), Jacob Bednarski (Grade 12) and Angelina Fowler (Grade 10), actively worked on Fulplae. Eleventh graders Josh Wendlick and Ryan Putnam also contributed to the project.

The students designed and built the robot and wrote its software.

“You can search on MIT’s web page and find designs very similar, so we’ve basically asked high school kids to do graduate work,” Graven said. “It definitely upped their game.”

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) mentors donated their time and expertise to help customize the robot’s axle and frame.

Several local and nationwide companies and organizations stepped up and donated time or supplies to help SFROBOTICS students create Fulplae. Price Engineering, in Hartland, Wis., donated the purple metal used for the frame.

“The 80/20 metal is a material we never worked with before the Vivian project, but we wanted to use it because it’s durable,” Hancock said. “We just sent [Price] the file and let them know what we needed for the frame, and they sent us all the parts. We had to assemble it.”

Wauwatosa-based Interstate Batteries donated batteries to help power Fulplae, and Cross the Road Electronics, of Michigan, provided motorized controllers. Some plastic parts were donated by UW-Milwaukee, while other plastic parts were designed and printed by the SFROBOTICS team.

Once Fulplae was up and running, SFROBOTICS did test runs at the lab, which has tiled floors. But when they took the robot to Vivian’s home to test, the students were stymied by an unanticipated obstacle — carpeting.

“The machine doesn’t drive well on the carpet,” Reid explained. “It drove around here just fine on tiled floors but turning on carpet was a problem.” They also had to do some further tweaking to incorporate the tubing and cables that tether Vivian to her medical equipment.

‘We were doing test runs without the cabling, but when Vivian’s mother attached her to the device, we saw (these) further challenges,” Reid said. “It’s a learning process. If you’re not willing to make a mistake, you better not start any project.”

Hancock said those challenges motivated the students to improve the design. They initially used motors designed for 18 by 18 inch robots but realized that the robot required a more powerful motor. Fulplae is controlled by a radio, similar to a radio-controlled car, that her parents will operate.

Fulplae includes light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors. Many of its components were new to SFROBOTICS members. “It’s a path we’ve never been down before and a challenge,” Hancock said. “But if you’ve ever met this little girl, you cannot tell her not to walk. Her personality is amazing.”

Reid agrees that the project, while challenging, has been inspirational. “It’s impressive that she’s gotten this far. She’s defying doctors’ expectations,” he said. “I want her to be able to walk. It’s personal investment now and I’m rooting for her.”

Reid and Hancock are both St. Francis residents. Hancock developed an interest in robotics and mechanics as a sixth grader when she first saw robotics in action. She joined SFROBOTICS in eighth grade and never looked back. She plans to pursue a career in engineering.

Reid has already been accepted at MSOE, but even after receiving his high school diploma, he intends to continue working with SFROBOTICS as a mentor. Since he was a child, he enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. He and his dad, Dan Reid, once disassembled and reassembled a robot. His mother, Lisa Stika, also encouraged his robotics pursuits.

“Our robotics club has made it to state FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge, a statewide robotics tournament) every year since I’ve been involved, so it’s been awesome to be able to compete in that,” Hancock said. “I enjoy being a part of the team, and Mr. Graven has been great.”

Reid enjoys the problem solving behind robotics, as well as the networking with other competitors and representatives from companies that support robotics. “We meet cool people at competitions, like the people at Interstate Batteries who were invited to judge our junior FLL (FIRST LEGO League) competition,” he said. “We didn’t expect them to have an interest in robotics after they donated batteries, but they came to other competitions and helped us out.”

St. Francis High School students Jake Bednarski, Georgia Hancock, and Alex Reid absorb the information their robotics coach Peter Graven dispenses. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Graven works with LimbForge and E-Nable, nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing 3-D printed, wearable prosthetic devices for people with malformed hands or missing digits.

His SFROBOTICS students use open-source designs with their 3-D printers to make plastic hands with hinged fingers that can grasp and pick up items. The plastic hands are custom-sized, cast from plaster molds made of a client’s hand. The prosthetics can be designed and printed in different colors or with a superhero character or sports logos.

SFROBOTICS also built underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to compete in the Wisconsin Regional MATEROV competition as well as in SEAPERCH competitions. The students are working with the members of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum on a number of projects and plan to make ROV dives to explore local Wisconsin shipwrecks.

The Johnson family will not need to pay for Fulplae because the SFROBOTICS students created it for her as their gift.

Reid and Hancock invite people to visit the club and see what SFROBOTICS is doing. He said they’re willing to help other schools launch their own robotics programs. They meet in lab space at Deer Creek Intermediate School in St. Francis. The robotics program encompasses Grades 4 through 12.

More info: facebook.com/SFROBOTICS
To follow Vivian’s progress: facebook.com/victorybabyviv/


February 26 Crime Meeting Summary

March 1, 2018

By Katherine Keller

Newly appointed Milwaukee Police Department Interim Chief Alfonso Morales introduced himself, outlined his plans for the department, and then took questions at the Feb. 26, meeting at Bay View High School.

He emphasized his goal to redefine MPD’s role in the community by reestablishing closer ties between residents and the police. Referencing the days when beat cops knew the people in the area they patrolled, he said he wants to bring back trust with the public. He said he has already moved 60 non-operational duty officers back to the districts where they will patrol the streets in squad cars. He intends to up that to 100 officers by the end of summer.

“I want to bring community prosecutors to the district (District 6), community groups, and you too,” Morales said, in an effort to improve policing and community trust.

“We’re going to own up to our mistakes and communicate with you,” Morales pledged. He also noted that he would “be honest with (crime) data.”

He’s given MPD District 6 Captain Jeffrey Point six motorcycle officers. Point said he would use these officers for traffic control and making accident reports, freeing up squad car-based officers for other duties. The motorcycle police are on duty seven days per week from 7am to 11pm.

Bay View resident Janine Sijan said her houseguest’s car was broken into on S. Shore Drive, but that nothing was taken from the car. Sijan said two of her employees’ cars were broken into at the Hide House (Dover and Greeley streets), where Sijan’s business is located.

Captain Point noted that Bay View is still one of the safest Milwaukee neighborhoods. He said there has been an increase in stolen cars and vehicle break-ins in 2018, but robberies and burglaries are down.

Ana Veloz said she lives near the Hide House and has noticed an increase in crime in that neighborhood. She said she’s recently experienced five different crimes including from five stolen bikes, home burglary, and her car being vandalized in the past year. Five bikes were stolen from her yard on different occasions, she said, and thieves walked out of her home with a 50-inch flat screen TV.

Questioned about the double stabbing that took place Feb. 22 in the 3400 block of S. Kinnickinnic Avenue, Captain Point said that because the crime was still under investigation and charges had not been filed, he was not able to disclose details. He did say that the perpetrators knew one another and that they do not live in the Bay View community.

Two men, ages 20 and 22 were stabbed in the Feb. 22 incident. A 17- and an 18-year-old man were arrested shortly after the incident occurred. Point said he expected charges would be filed soon.

Point emphasized that the car vandalism and thefts in Bay View are also being committed by nonresidents.

Another audience member asked how prepared MPD is for an active school shooting. Morales said the department prepares for these events and expressed relief that Milwaukee has so far been spared. MPD responds to tips about potential danger reported by citizens who find threatening posts on social media. “We take social media [investigation-requests] very seriously and investigate,” he said.

Interim Chief Morales and Captain Point both served in the homicide division of MPD prior to their current positions.


2016-2017 Bay View Schools Report Cards

March 1, 2018

2016-17 Department of Public Instruction Bay View Schools Report Cards
Click to enlarge.

Atlas Preparatory Academy 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Bay View High School 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Burdick Elementary 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Clement Avenue School 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Downtown Montessori Academy 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Fernwood Montessori School 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Howard Avenue Montessori 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Humboldt Park School 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Milwaukee Parkside School of the Arts

Saint Lucas Lutheran School 2016-17 DPI Report Card

Trowbridge Elementary School 2016-17 DPI Report Card


St. Ann Center’s Chili & Jewelry Sale Nov. 18

November 2, 2017

The St. Ann Center’s Chili & Jewelry Sale will be held Saturday, Nov. 18 from 9am to 1pm. Local restaurants will donate their signature chili for the event at the Stein Campus, 2801 E. Morgan Ave.

On offer will be chili ranging from chicken to veggie, extra-spicy to mild, and classic to super creative. There’ll also be a table of offerings by home cooks with favorites made by friends of St. Ann Center.

The event’s centerpiece will be a collection of hundreds of pieces of vintage, retro, and heirloom jewelry, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings, and watches. Costume jewelry is regularly donated to St. Ann’s by local churches, schools, and individuals.

Jewelry fans will also find one-of-a-kind creations designed and handcrafted by Sister Edna Lonergan, the founder and president of the St. Ann Center. Sr. Edna began designing jewelry years ago as a pastime and a way to supplement funding for the children, elderly, and adults with disabilities served by the nonprofit center. A market featuring 20 vendors will offer local produce, natural soaps and lotions, handcrafted pieces, home décor offerings, and unique gifts.

All proceeds from the jewelry and chili sale support the care of children and adults of all ages and abilities at St. Ann Center. For a full list of the chili that will be offered, donating restaurants, and participating vendors, consult the event listing stanncenter.org or Facebook. Chili and jewelry donations, as well as vendors are still being accepted. More info: 414-977-5009.


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