Oh, this thing is on.

Brush off the dust and look back in time: I had a blog.

Yeah, remember blogs? This is on, and I can still use it. Excellent.

I wrote this in December 2019, but to adhere to a state law that mandates elected officials cannot use public resources to contact more than 50 people at a time, I’ve scheduled the post for April 8, 2020, the day after the election. Better safe than sorry. But some of the stuff below will sound a little odd, as I wrote it months before it will be published. It’s like an uninteresting time capsule, set to open all by itself.

Much has changed since I last wrote on this back in 2016. Just three four years since I’ve touched it? So much has changed since then. Among the highlights:

  • I have run for and won election to my office four, hopefully soon five times. (
  • Since April 2016, I serve as chairman of Milwaukee County Board Parks, Energy & Environment Committee.
  • The Milwaukee County Board was made into a “part time” governing body by state decree. (A binding referendum enacted it, conveniently set to occur during the lowest turnout primary election of the whole four-year cycle, ensuring the question, “shall we cut politicians’ pay?” passed by gross margins.) C’est la vie. I’m still committed to doing this.
  • I served on the Mitchell Park Domes Task Force, which has issued its recommendation to the Milwaukee County Government for the future of the Mitchell Park Domes. The recommendation is now in the hands of the County Board to consider, which, frankly, is unlikely to happen prior to the election.
  • And we the people of Milwaukee County will be electing a new Milwaukee County Executive and five new members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.
  • I’ll become the third most senior member of the County Board. That’s more just a curious bit of trivia than having any actual significance.

As we are now in the 2020 spring election season, I am once again running for office. There are some funny things about that. For one, state law forbids elected officials from using public resources to contact more than 50 people at a time. Thankfully, it looks like this blog only counts as one such contact, and I think the readership will remain below 50 for the next few months.

Fortunately, I enjoy campaigning. The face-to-face interaction at voter’s doors is the best part. Sometimes, I talk with someone I don’t agree with, and we go through this fun dance in which we step between each other’s thoughts, occasionally on each other’s toes. Will they respect me enough to sign my nomination paper? How can I, and they, get there without compromising my vision?

Sometimes it’s much easier. People know me now after almost nine years of my being in office. It’s not uncommon for me to show up somewhere and be recognized. Several years ago I crossed the line between having to introduce myself much of the time to having people saying “Hi, I know you from somewhere.” We share a moment of unassuming familiarity, even if we’ve hardly met in person before.

I’ll tell you about the biggest controversy du jour*, the warming room at the Wilson Senior Center, in my next post. After the one about my amazing wife’s legal ethics blog. Till then!

* That’s about all my French. I know slightly more German and Russian, and much more Spanish. Still, a five-year-old child who speaks German, Russian, or Spanish probably knows more of those languages than I do.

DotW {x + 13}; Election Season Special

One reason the timing of this pandemic is so poorly timed (and really, did it even consider asking us?) is that it’s cropped up during a major election season here in America. In particular, it has thrown an already-wild Spring Election into a further state of wildness. Absentee ballots are the hot thing now. I’ve already voted absentee, and some people I spoke with tonight while making calls for my good friend Milwaukee Alderman Scott Spiker have received their ballots as well. (Scott and I are both up for reelection, and on the second side of the ballot, for those keeping track at home.)

Things got a little more interesting in election land with announcements from several county clerks in Wisconsin counties about registering to vote “indefinitely confined,” which would actually make it much easier for people who have difficulty uploading a photograph of their ID. Think older voters. Perhaps some disabled voters.

This comes as people are requesting absentee ballots in what are probably record numbers; that’s my surmise, based on the number of news stories I’ve seen about it.

One interesting quirk of the law: I cannot sign my wife’s ballot as a witness, as I am on her ballot. Nor may I witness anyone else in my district, as I am on their ballot. Anyone in county districts 1-13 or 15-18, we’re good. But not in the Fighting Fourteenth.

I’m getting a lot of requests from a lot of campaigns to send texts and make calls. I really enjoy making calls to voters. I love campaigning and retail politicking. I can do it well enough on the street, or in these times of physical separation, by telephone and text message. It’s not the same. My “weaponized smile” needs to be felt through the ether, rather than seen in person. And I tell you, that’s a lot harder to convey by text message.

From where we sit tonight, the April 7 election will still be on, although there are suggestions, even requests, perhaps lawsuits, asking about what happens if we push back the vote tabulation. Does that extend the terms of currently elected and future elected officials? Does my current term, which will unhorse on April 20, get pushed back to early June? Is that even possible, legally? While such answers are way above my pay grade, I’m keen on finding out. Moreover, I want a smooth transition to our next governments, be they local, city and county, state, or federal. That’s how America has thrived since its inception. I think we will make it through this coronavirus emergency. And I think our republic is strong enough that it too will come through. Let’s vote our consciousness, eject the mango Mussolini, wash our hands, and get through this.

{x + 11} DotW; virtual meetings, keys misplaced, exponential messes

Hola amigos, I know it’s been a while since rapped at ya, but man things have just been whack over here since this shitdog Corona virus started kicking ass. One of my coworkers at the old gas station as telling me about it, and I was like, yeah! I mean, if it’s a Corona virus, you’d think that’s good, right? But no, it’s not got nothin’ to do with beer. What the hell is up with that?

Jim Anchower, a legendary columnist for the late, great satirical newspaper, The Onion. Which still exists online. But anyway.
Jim Anchower, legendary columnist for the late, great satirical newspaper The Onion.
Which still exists online. But anyway.

If only we could make light of this, Onion-style.

Which they did. Here, and here, and oh yes, here.

• • •

I thought I might write a bit about the stuff in the headline. But really, why do that? The virtual Meeting of the Whole of the Milwaukee County Board went very well. Few technical glitches. Folks adjusted to the new method of convening, and I think it will serve us well at the virtual meeting of the County Board on March 26, 2020.

Oh, and reported cases of COVID-19 are rising at the predictable and frightening exponential rate. The data from Milwaukee County shows that happening here, and it will be worse in two weeks. That’s really frightening. The good news is I know the County Government is proactively responding to this public health crisis in a way that may surprise longtime county observers.

We’ll make it through.

Day {x + 9} of The Weird is the new normal

It looks like the next meeting of the county government’s Board of Supervisors will proceed via an online meeting. I need to get that set up for myself by next Thursday morning. At this rate, that feels like it’s two weeks away, rather than just five days. Because time dilution got really bad right before the COVID-19 started throwing everything into disarray. Now, time seems diffused.

Case in point: my son suggested we make a nice dinner tonight and have a home ceremony in lieu of the awards gala that was scheduled to happen tonight, where I would be honored as Elected Official of the Year by the Milwaukee County Democratic Party. Instead, my wife suggested we get a fancy take-out dinner. But, a lot of the nice restaurants in Milwaukee are closed tonight. So we’re back to making dinner. It’ll be homemade pasta with ragout. (I had to look it up; it sound good.) And I will probably improvise a brief speech to make up for the mildly longer one I would have given tonight.

Best part: we will still dress up, including my son wearing the snazzy tuxedo we got him for the gala dinner.

Otherwise, life goes on in the new normal of The Weird.

The Weird Starts to Gets Worse

The little deadly virus is spreading, fast, exactly as predicted by U.S. Government experts who were summarily ignored by the Trump Administration. Well done, guys. Very. Well. Done. Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Anyway. With that gobsmackingly dense bit of business out of the way, let us discuss a far more sanguine matter: the movies we’ve been watching here at the Haazhaus. Far be it from me to let a global pandemic slip past without delving into movies! This is important.

More accurately, our younger child, age 9, is guiding what we’ve watched. While I may wish to devote my evening to watching. Going in reverse order:

Friday: Monsters University (Pixar)
Thursday: Inside Out (Pixar)
Wednesday: Zootopia (not Pixar)
Tuesday: Up (you guessed it — Pixar)
Monday: Not sure if we watched anything, but I’ll check.

So we’ve seen all animated movies. My kid likes animation, what can I say. At least they’re reasonably good to excellent movies. I did not stick around for all of Zootopia. Kiddo did not forget that, either. Not that he holds it against me, but he likes having the routine of our nightly movie. So do his mom and I.

The sheer ohshit-ness of the coronavirus pandemic is starting to hit home, as in the United States. Three people have died so far in Wisconsin, with just one death here in Milwaukee County. We do have the most COVID-19 cases here in the county, but we also have the most people. So that follows. I just wonder how the individual contracted it, and what the vectors of the other two people were. Are they ill? They must be. This virus doesn’t play hopscotch and pick an unlucky victim. Viruses don’t do that. They take everything they can get so long as they can spread.

I have seen two cases of people spreading a rumor that martial law is coming to town, and The Government (whoever that is) is about to declare a national two-week lockdown. I checked with a very reliable higher-up in the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, who said that there were no such preparations underway. Later that day, a fact-checking article came out that said the same thing: nope.

State-by-state shutdowns are continuing to go into effect, with Texas being the most recent. Bars, gyms, and massage parlors were closed by order of Gov. Abbott, who is also changing the state’s upcoming primary election day from May 26 to June 14. That’s a whole can of worms: what are the legal impacts of doing so? I bet they’re different in Texas than they are here in Wisconsin, but we need to find that out.

Last note from home: we’ve had a shift in the dishes used most frequently here, from large bowls to a huge amount of silverware being what we wash the most. It’s as if we’re eating at home a lot more now…

Dat meetin was a doozy

Day {x+2} of The Weird

It’s quite something to be part of a government that’s actively responding to the #novelcoronavirus. At the same time, I remember how I described the running for the County Board back in 2010: “It’s what you want it to be.” (Note the clever Sugar reference; 88.9 RadioMilwaukee even picked it up.) That is in part by virtue of my place and position in the county, the Parks specialist, and partially due to the County Board being pushed to the side by aggressive state legislation. While my personal involvement in dealing with the covid-19 outbreak beyond my family and the occasional #helpful Facebook post is dwarfed by the tremendous efforts county professional staff are putting into it, today I helped authorize a cool six figures of funding for an emergency covid-19 response, which includes emergency services and expanding telework* beyond what has existed before this crisis.

That probably will be our last in-person committee meeting for the foreseeable future. True, the committee cycle ended today; but this public health threat makes it very difficult to conduct legislative meetings in public, and with public access. Finance Committee usually draws at least ten to twenty people, not counting the seven member committee, five staff, and various department heads who attend, testify, and otherwise participate. We occasionally have attendees overflow into an adjacent room, as so many people showed up. Or they just pack in like sardines. Either way, that’s not happening now! While the state law does allow local government bodies to meet during the public health crisis, it’s with tight attendance caps. And we were all six feet apart.

A good reason to get some sleep

The reason to get some sleep: the Milwaukee County Board Finance and Audit Committee meets tomorrow at 11AM.

Most of our committee meetings were cancelled this month due to the public health threat of COVID-19. Originally, Finance was to meet immediately after the Health and Human Needs Committee… but it was cancelled. Similarly, I cancelled Parks, Energy and Environment Committee‘s meeting; here’s the notice we were doing so.

The difference being Finance Committee considers and acts on a lot of really important county spending decisions. We need the local government to keep running, especially now. So then, and with that, good night. And good luck.

Day {x} of The Weird

Okay… this thing is on. Yeah. Hi. I wish I had some clever musical reference, a quote that every good Gen Xer would get and nod to in understanding. Ain’t got that, so here we go.

We are now in day {x} of #TheWeird, this bizarre period when time is being dilated even more than in months past. What’s time dilation? I accredit Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo with assembling that exact phrase. t’s like what I just said to a friend: “I’d heard planes were empty?… but that was days ago. That could’ve been two weeks ago.” Perhaps it’s like a scene from the end of Disney’s late 1970s sci-fi/horror flick The Black Hole, when the crew of the ill-fated Palomino are falling into the black hole, and time and space are getting warped beyond recognition. Only there are no angelic spirits floating past us as we hurtle toward whatever fate awaits us.

Which reminds me, did you see the hypothesis that black holes are not giant spheres of nothingness, all packed into a tiny little dot, but possibly are totally flat, microscopic points in space? I tried to find the article I’m trying to refer to, but failing that, here are 18 Interesting Facts About Black Holes | 2020 Edition.

Which is not to say that I think we’re being pulled by an immense gravitational force toward a searing, blinding death. No. The radiation from a black hole would kill you long before you got to that point.

Backing away from the black hole non-analogy

Although an observer of someone near a black hole would definitely experience time dilation, let’s look at how this past week — past few days — has been.

It is probably easy to determine when people will say or think The Weird began. I can pin it to Sunday, March 15 at 4:22 PM, when I got this text from Milwaukee Public Schools:

Milwaukee High Sch: All MPS schools are closed March 16 – April 13. 

FREE meals and enrichment materials will be handed out at 20 locations. Learn more at rmd.me/odli2H8gtjw

This was foreseeable, as the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts had already shut down. They were a bellwether, districts that large, with that much chronic poverty, that much need to provide food, if not shelter, for how many thousands of their students? To say nothing of homeless students — homeless children is an atrocity I think we need to eliminate. With the wave of my magic wand and everything, right? Anyway.

We are fortunate to be well-equipped to handle this situation at my house. I say that with a bit of trepidation, as if it’s bad for me to admit it? Either way, we are doing all right so far in day {x} of The Weird. Today, I went for a walk in the woods with my son, and found that a grand old tree which had at least eight concentric stalks has fallen, probably do to the emerald ash borer. That was a sad sight; it was a favorite for me and my older child, Alex. The natural cycle at play, albeit affected by the EAB. Kind of like how our whole society, every part of it, is being warped in real-time by this damn new coronavirus. It’s weird. It’s scary. It seems preventable, yet intractable.

Thankfully, I have full confidence in our impeccable leader’s ability to quickly and concretely make sure it’s not a problem. That’s as simple as saying it’s under control, right?

If only.

Support my Pi Day Fundraiser at Hawthorne Coffee Roasters!

Please join me on the fourteenth day of March 14 — Pi Day! — for a fun fundraiser at Hawthorne Coffee Roasters, 4177 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee. In addition to supporting my campaign for re-election, we will be celebrating π, that wonderful number at the heart of every circle.

Plus, there will be pie, delicious homemade pies from many of our friends and supporters. Iron Grate BBQ and Hawthorne Coffee Roasters will have their delicious food and coffee available purchase.

If you contribute to my campaign at or above the Euclid level of $157.08 (roughly fifty times π), my wife Stacie will make you a custom pie with any ingredients that are available here in Wisconsin.

Please contribute through this link, and I will see you on March 14!

Goal Thermometer