Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The difference between "can" and "should"

A car doesn't have that little registration sticker on its license plate. A quick radio check, though, shows that the vehicle is properly registered.

It's possible that the sticker was stolen. That is a problem, especially as car registration fees keep climbing and fewer people can or will pay the amount due.

It's possible that the sticker just fell off.

If you were a parking checker, what would you do? In this case, the parking checker had the car towed.

Maybe it was a bad day and the parking checker was tired and crabby. Maybe the parking checker just has too much power and could not resist using it.

Towing seems like an overly harsh penalty because a little sticker isn't on a license plate. Maybe it's time for the city to revisit this one and differentiate between unregistered cars and cars that are registered but aren't wearing their sticker.

Mark Benson, the drunk driver

Mark Benson is probably going to prison for a long time for driving drunk, getting in a car accident and killing Jennifer Bukosky, her unborn child, and her daughter.

Benson, once a doctor, is at near the bottom of a very long road down. He will likely hit the deepest part of down about five years into his prison sentence when there's still a long way to go til he's released.

Benson, back in the day when he had his physician's license, was my mother's orthopedic surgeon. He was top-of-the-game, she said. She adored him and his talented hands brought her tremendous relief from the pains of serious, crippling arthritis.

Then came the pills and addiction and Benson gave up his license and my mother went on to other orthopedic surgeons.

The irony of all this is that, according what my mother said at the time, Benson got hooked on pain killers after he took them for injuries he received in a car accident.

And no, I don't know if he was driving drunk at the time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Go, Brewers! But that trash...

The Brewers are incredibly exciting this year, even the roller coaster the bullpen has become. Doesn't that heart-freezing mixture of excited optimism and dread whenever a pitching change is made make life more interesting? It's also great that attendance is booming.

But I beg to differ with this morning's JS story that the Brewers are successfully dealing with crowd-related problems, including litter. Especially litter. The picture above was taken more than a full day after the Brewers left town for a road trip. It shows the bank of the Menomonee River directly behind the Sausage Haus.

Fan litter galore.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Journal Communications news worse than it seems

The JS today reported that mother ship Journal Communications net income dropped 91% in the first quarter compared to first quarter returns a year ago.

It's even worse than the paper makes it out to be.

While the JS was quick to note that last year's first quarter income was boosted by the sale of Norlight Communications, it failed to report -- whoopsie! -- that this year's first quarter income had the very substantial benefit of a boost from the Feb. 1 primary election.

You remember: Obama, Clinton, endless ads, huge advertising buys in Wisconsin's major media market, all that.

Company president Steve Smith says corporate earnings should benefit from political advertising in the second quarter, but forgot to the impact on earnings of primary election advertising. Hey, if this is how Journal Communications does when the hottest campaign in memory is going on, what will happen next year, when there are no major campaigns?

Retirees and active employees who were counting on returns from heavy investments in Journal Communications stock must be absolutely furious. Smith's glib half-explanations aren't helping.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

County Board drama continues

It took 45 ballots yesterday for the County Board to re-elect Lee Holloway as chairman.

Newly-elected Supervisor Theo Lipscomb finally voted for Holloway, after refusing to vote for anyone because, he said, he did not feel it was appropriate for a newcomer to weigh in on the issue.

Not a real auspicious start for the new County Board.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The un-great debate

Absolutely and very happily did not watch the Obama - Clinton debate Wednesday night because this campaign largely has been one of trivia and silly gotcha moments. It was worse than feared -- the JS reported Thursday morning that one of the burning issues discussed was -- really, really, honest-to-gosh-can-you-believe-it -- flag lapel pins.

A moment of despair: a debate between potential leaders of the free world is about lapel pins? Oh, my. We are in trouble indeed.

Then, blessed relief. Tom Shales wrote a reassuring, blistering review in the Washington Post.

When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

Sanity still prevails in some quarters.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's confirmed! I-94 plan a rip-off!

Widening North-South I-94 will not improve traffic speeds in Racine and Kenosha counties beyond improvements that would occur with a far less expensive no-expansion-beyond-design-enhancement reconstruction plan, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

That's right. WisDOT has been insisting for years that it is necessary to spend $200 million. plus millions of interest, to widen I-94 from the Illinois-Wisconsin state line to about Holt Ave. in Milwaukee or there would be a 35-mile traffic jam. Now, though, in its final environmental impact statement for the unfunded $1.9 billion-plus-hundreds-of-millions-in-interest-costs reconstruction and expansion project, WisDOT throws in a paragraph saying that expansion won't make a diddly bit of difference in travel time for most of the route. (And let's not forget WisDOT's cost estimates are ludicrously low and assume a 3% annual inflation rate dating from 2006 -- inflation needed for road construction materials was 11.3% from February 2007 to February 2008.)

Here are WisDOT's own words on the travel time subject:

Travel times under the two Build Alternatives would vary considerably in Milwaukee County and less so in Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Counties. The Safety and Design Improvements with Added Capacity Alternative would decrease travel times on SB I-94 during the evening rush hour by over 10 minutes between Howard Avenue and College Avenue in 2035, compared to the Safety and Design Improvements Alternative. Travel times would not vary by as much south of College Avenue. In Racine and Kenosha Counties, there would be little difference in travel times between the two alternatives.

OK, so we're supposed to cough up at least $200 million for an expansion plan that might save 10 minutes for some drivers, traveling in one direction, during rush hour, 27 years from now (by the way, if WisDOT says how northbound drivers would fare in Milwaukee County, I haven't found it yet).

That $200 million could fund a lot of transit and do some good. Or it could fund an unneeded, unwanted freeway expansion plan that will do nothing but destroy wetlands, increase air pollution and rip off taxpayers.

What a choice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Where are those Scott Jensen comparisons?

From this a.m.'s JS story on the swearing-ins at City Hall:

None of the speeches displayed the bravado of former Ald. Michael McGee, who declared four years ago, "You'll never hear about me taking any money under the table."

Why was that line there?

Will we be reading quotes from convicted (and awaiting a new trial) former State Rep. Scott Jensen every two years when new legislators are sworn in?

Perhaps, when the JS hires new reporters, management will issue quotes from current or past reporters who have had trouble with the law.Nah, that would be not only be a waste of time and energy, but the old quotes would be totally irrelevant.

Just like using McGee's words of un-wisdom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Walker wins the neighborhood (!?)

Scott Walker won in Story Hill.

It was close -- he outpolled Lena Taylor by just three votes.

Story Hill is a pretty Democratic place. Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler won big here, as did County Supervisor Lynne DeBruin, who beat a conservative helped by Walker.

Yet Walker won in Story Hill.

It says just tons about Lena Taylor's campaign.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Free Michael McGee

Former Ald. Michael McGee may very well be a crook and a thief. He may even have conspired to have someone beat up.

It is still time to let him out of jail to await trial.

He has been in jail since last May, unconvicted of any crime. Federal defendants who do things far, far more violent than McGee is alleged to have done are allowed bail or are sent home on electronic monitoring.

Is there something we don't know about McGee's case that makes him a true threat to the community? Then the feds ought to tell us.

Right now, though, holding McGee without bail seems like government vindictiveness at its worst.

McGee may well be a crook.

Don't make him a martyr.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Election '08: Lessons learned

There are lots of bad people in Wisconsin. Newly-elected Supreme Court Justice Mike Gableman credited his victory to the "good people" of Wisconsin. Some 391, 549 people voted for Louis Butler. Hmmmm.

Don't take those signatures for granted. Incumbent County Supervisor James White, having failed to get enough valid signature on his nomination papers, was ousted by a write-in candidate, Theo Lipscomb, by 10 percentage points.

Never assume. County Supervisor Lynne DeBruin, who trounced her two opponents in the February primary, pulled out a squeaker in the general election, winning by a 51% - 49% margin over her conservative challenger, Dan Wycklendt. Her margin of victory was a mere 170 votes, according to JS vote totals.

There was a dramatic drop in turnout between the primary and general elections in both Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. (DeBruin won in both communities in February, but lost in Tosa yesterday.)

Theory 1: A lot of DeBruin supporters grew complacent by the size over her February primary victory and stayed home yesterday.

Theory 2: The February primary drew a disproportionate share of Democrats because of the Hillary Clinton / Barack Obama primary, and those Democrats voted for either DeBruin or progressive candidate Dan Cody. With no strong big-time Democratic attraction yesterday, the 15th supervisory district reverted to its true divided self boosting the vote percentage Wycklendt was able to pull in.

Murphy's the man. Incumbent Ald. Michael Murphy whipped his opponent, Richard Geldon, 5,649 to 1,236. Go, Michael, go.

Run hard from the start. Scott Walker won again, but he was vulnerable, as demonstrated by the 41% of the vote State Sen. Lena Taylor managed to garner after running a race that didn't seem to really gear up until the very end, when it was too late.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Paulson's paltry plan

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson proposes to deal with the financial mess in the country mostly by consolidating agencies.

This may seem like a harmless, if ineffective, feint to fool the country into thinking the federal government is actually doing something, but it could be worse than that.

Remember Homeland Security? After 9/11, President Bush consolidated law enforcement agencies into that one bloated, inefficient, buffoonish and sometimes corrupt organization.

Although it would be a very good thing not to repeat that experience, it appears we may be headed to Homeland Security, the Sequel.

Stating the obvious: endorsements

Here they are: the official Milwaukee Rising political endorsements, in alphabetical order, of those officials for whom some Milwaukee west siders can vote:

Supreme Court - Louis Butler
15th Supervisory District - Lynne DeBruin
10th Aldermanic District - Michael Murphy

Betcha stayed up all night waiting for that, eh?