Larson Wins 2016 Milwaukee County Exec Primary Elec

Outspent 20:1, yet won by 708 votes. 


On to April 5th!


2016 Milwaukee County Parks Traveling Beer Gardens Schedule

Here is the schedule for the Milwaukee County Parks Traveling Beer Gardens!


Here it is in PDF format.

Holler Park is in the 14th district, which I represent. The permanent Humboldt Park Beer Garden and South Shore Park Terrace, and Estabrook Park Beer Garden, will all be reopening, dates TBD.

County Board to hold public hearing on Mitchell Park Domes [updated]

The (mostly?) temporary  closure of the Mitchell Park Domes due to safety concerns is old news by now. This is a direct result of the deferred maintenance that has plagued the Milwaukee County Parks System for far too many years now — and I argue deferred maintenance is a direct cause of the tragedy at O’Donnell Park  in 2010. And the issues at the Domes are not at all new. The problems with deteriorating concrete have been known since 2004, and I voted for action on it back in 2013.

The Mitchell Park Domes

The Mitchell Park Domes, a popular tourist attraction and point of local pride, are the latest attraction to have been closed by deferred maintenance. This, despite the fact that in July 2015, I and my colleagues on the County Board allocated $5 million from an already-realized budget surplus to directly address deferred maintenance in the Parks, County Executive Abele dismissed this in his veto message [PDF] as  “flippant and irresponsible decision making” by the Board.

In September 2015, we also approved $500,000 specifically for Domes maintenance.

Half a year later, the Domes are closed.

In response to this closure, the County Board is holding a public hearing at the Mitchell Park Domes Greenhouse [map] at 6 PM on Wednesday, February 24th. We want to find out what the people of Milwaukee County want to happen with this cherished institution. According to an email from County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, the hearing agenda lists presentations by the County Executive; the Parks Director; and the Friends of the Domes, and comments by the public.

I’ll do a gentleman’s bet with anyone willing on whether or not the exec will or will not appear, as he repeatedly failed to represent his own department at a series of budget hearings last year.

Update: An e-mail from Abele to Chairman Lipscomb begins, “Thank you for the invitation. I will make sure that someone from my administration will be in attendance to answer the Board’s questions.” That’s a “no.” It is his sixth? seventh? eighth? failure to appear before the public on official business.

Either way, see you on February 24, 2016, at the greenhouse.

Food Truck Friday at Morgan Park

One of the most satisfying elements of my job as a county supervisor has been working with my neighbors to create Food Truck Friday at Morgan Park. This wonderful biannual event fills a tiny triangular park with hundreds of people who buy freshly prepared food from over a dozen food trucks along the park perimeter.

Original art by dwelliphant.

Food Truck Friday is the brainchild of two park neighbors, Kirsten and Sheri. They were both integral to starting the group Friends of Morgan Park. Sheri is the proprietor of a store across the street from Morgan Park. She noted that there are few options for food this far south on Kinnickinnic Avenue during the Bay View Neighborhood Association’s biannual Gallery Night events. She and Kirsten put their heads together, and Food Truck Friday began in the late summer of 2014.

We expected maybe a few dozen people to show up to partake from the five food trucks that day, but well over five hundred people came to the park that day!

Morgan Park is a little green triangle of grass and tall trees, less than an acre in size. It’s uncommon for there to be more than two or three people in the park for any length of time. So imagine now five hundred folks clamoring around food trucks, sitting in lawn chairs and enjoying the company of neighbors. Despite its size, the crowd was very good to the park, making sure to find trash cans and clean up after themselves. Once the people and the food trucks had left, you could hardly tell there had been an event there.

The following four Food Truck Fridays have each been bigger and better-attended. We look forward to the next one this June!

Below: The smell of hickory barbecue wafts across Morgan Park during Food Truck Friday on June 6, 2014.

June 6 2014 FTF

Oh, this ~is~ on.

Hello, world. I remember you.

I found this, rediscovered it by a chance web search for “Jasmine Owens murdered milwaukee.” Jasmine Owens was a five-year-old girl who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in 2005. She looked an awful lot like my own five-year-old daughter, which scared the living hell out of me. Hence my post “Detroit, not Rome, is burning.

I will resume posting on here. I’ve got a thing or two to say since I left off in 2014.

Till next.

Walking workers back after the one-day strike

Today, I walked a dozen fast food workers back to their jobs the day after they had participated in the one-day strike for a living wage and the right to organize without retaliation. And certainly, I was not alone. We made dozens of trips in large vans over the course of the day, accompanying workers en masse as they returned to their workplace. These are the people that you might see, but don’t have to think very much about. They work at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, all the fast food places that litter the modern American landscape. As this was happening, TV pundits were speculating on why we have such a slow recovery. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that millions of workers right now in low wage, low benefit jobs, forced to work harder than ever for less pay.

Some of the managers were accepting of the workers returning, other managers were confused, and a very few were hostile. Yes, these workers do have the right to perform this one-day strike. And according to federal labor laws, they have the right to return to work without retaliation.

The reactions of some to this—and have the power to widely express their views—were certainly quite predictable. For instance, just look at the way FOX News got skewered by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Naturally one predictable reaction is fear. What happen if all these people are suddenly making more than just enough to pay the rent and buy groceries? What if these people can actually start to save money for their families and plan their future? And what would
happen to the economy if all these people were suddenly able to participate in it?

That’s what would happen. The economy would improve as those invisible hands started to do some good for the people that do these jobs.

Detroit, not Rome, is burning

Nothing like it when you consider that an arsonist has set eleven abandoned properties ablaze in the past month. Or that there were “6,486 arson fires in 2008 investigated by the Arson Squad,” according to the Detroit News.

This line rings a bell for me:

“[Detroit] fire and city officials [are] worried as Halloween nears, because in the mid-’80s hundreds of homes burned on Devil’s Night, the night before the holiday.”

I remember hearing about that when my family lived in the area in the early 1980s. Must have been 1983, as we left in summer of  ’84. I listened to the story as any wide-eyed third grader would, puzzled as to why people would burn empty houses, and a touch afraid that they would come and burn our house. I think I asked my parents about it, and I imagine that they told me that such a thing wouldn’t happen to our house. Those sorts of things didn’t happen where we lived. Later, I realized that this, and seeing the open fields that were empty lots on the other side of the Detroit city line, were my introduction to the urban-suburban divide.

A few years later, I remember looking out the window from my parents’  station wagon as we passed down I-43, en route perhaps to the airport or a brief stop in downtown Milwaukee. I noticed the rows of neat little houses over the freeway, and wondered who lived there. I noticed the Milwaukee Inner City Arts Council building, and wondering what it was. (Still do!) (Hmm, I appear to be Facebook friends with that group’s Executive Director. Hi, Denise!)

During a brief chat with a friend about Milwaukee’s mayors this weekend, the residency requirement was mentioned as something that has helped save Milwaukee from the near-total destruction that Detroit and so many upper Midwestern rust belt cities have faced since the start of deindustrialization in the 1960s and 70s. That said, there are parts of Milwaukee’s north side that are barren where there were houses that were either burned or razed, and the poverty is very deep. And god knows it’s affecting the city. I saw Mayor Barrett when he spoke at the memorial service for Jasmine Owens, the four-year-old girl who was killed in a drive-by shooting back in 2007. It’s gone on since then. And it will go on for the foreseeable future.

That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about it.

As a an adult, I chose to move to Milwaukee. As in, the City of. When things like Jasmine Owens getting killed happen, it affects me. I don’t have the insulation of the imaginary boundaries of the city line to protect me. That lack of insulation was one reason I moved here from Madison. While that means it can be painful at times, it’s also far richer and more satisfying than any of the other four states, four cities, or three suburbs that I’ve previously lived in.

And I’m not leaving.