I just don’t get wearable tech. At least not yet.

Call a sign of growing old. Call it a sign of a growing curmudgeonly nature. Call it what you will—I don’t understand this push for so-called wearable technology. What I’m really saying is, I don’t understand the value that this will add. How will it be sufficiently better than what tablets and smartphones can give us, and how will it be better enough to make us want to add it to our repertoire of devices? Especially when these super-powerful and super-portable devices already cost us quite enough time and capital.

The spate of media coverage of the CES show that I saw today on MacRumors.com — having been largely unaware that it was happening at all — got me thinking about this. Obviously the push toward this wearable paradigm is nothing new; the aforementioned Mac rumors site has a whole section on the much-rumored iWatch. But I’ve still got some questions about it.

One reason I’ve always liked Apple products is that they integrate a lot of features and abilities, and then get out of your way, allowing you to get on with your life. Sometimes you do need to be able to more deeply interact, but the vast majority of people do not. That’s the value-add of Apple products. Especially if you’re in the ”Apple ecosystem,” everything works quite nicely together. That means you don’t mind the lock-in to the Apple ecosystem and the constraints of DRM and higher price tags that come with it. As someone who bleeds in six colors, it’s hard to object to that. (He says as he dictates to his iPhone…)

Come to think of it, a smart watch with voice recognition capability that is able to sync with the free* services I do use maybe helpful. But I still have to be convinced. Again, what is the value in adding another expensive toy that may break or be lost?

This goes to show that I am not in the bleeding edge 1% of technological adopters. But as a Mac user since 1987, I’ve hardly been one at all. Let me think back to the wide plethora of games and entertainment titles we had on the Mac in the 1990s… Yeah. Not so much. (Note that at least one person apparently disagrees with that. And admittedly, things did start to get better after Marathon. If you’ve never heard of it, a company called Bungie created Marathon. It was descended from Pathways Into Darkness, and was the progenitor of a little game called Halo.)

So, technologists, what is the value-add? That’s what I would like to know.

* Mostly free, anyhow. What’s truly free? Aye, little, if anything. Google makes kajillions off of advertising. Microsoft made theirs out of licensing and buying (and copying) other people’s ideas. Apple found success in hardware that was inexorably linked to its software. Et cetera and so on. Linux is more mostly free than any other system, but even the hardware it runs on costs something, even if it has free BIOS and bootloaders and runs a truly free GNU/Linux. It’s a bitter cycle.

Announcing my 2014 County Budget Town Hall

So here’s the official announcement of my budget town hall for my constituents to tell me what’s on their minds.

Neighbors Invited to Share Input on Milwaukee County’s 2014 Budget

Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas will hold a town hall meeting on October 30 at the Humboldt Park Pavilion. District 14 residents are encouraged to attend and express their views on the County’s 2014 Budget, including the proposed pool closures and the MCTS bus contract award. 

The meeting will be held on:

Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Humboldt Park Pavilion
3000 South Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207


Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks — Positive first impression

The latest version of Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks is on my iMac and running smoothly. The only real change I’ve noticed is a slight increase in speed of Google Chrome, which is my primary browser, along with the Finder. Other applications seem snappier as well. My long time gripe (unspoken till now) about Macs was that shy of being fresh out of the box, they seem to lack a certain snappiness when switching between applications. Perhaps it’s just using the same machine too long between clean installations of the system software. Perhaps I’ll use the savvy instructions from Ars Technica entitled “How to make your own bootable OS X 10.9 Mavericks USB install drive”.

Bird’s eye view of the recommended 2014 Milwaukee County budget process

The Milwaukee County Board is analyzing and modifying the Milwaukee County Executive’s Proposed 2014 Budget. Milwaukee County’s budget is approximately $1.3 Billion. This may seem like a large amount, and it is. From this sum, Milwaukee County pays for services ranging from Sheriff’s department, to the Courts system to the Gold Medal Award Winning County Parks System.

In recent years, Milwaukee County has faced great challenges in providing services while maintaining low taxes. This is due in part to the ongoing constriction of shared revenue from the state of Wisconsin as well as rising healthcare costs for our employees. Shared revenue is operational funding given to Milwaukee County from the State of Wisconsin. Counties are an extension of State Government, and therefore eligible for this funding.

These constrictions present a quandary. How do we determine which services are most important? Where do we make our cuts? How much can we ask our employees to contribute? The past several county boards have needed to make hard decision on how much should be cut, which have manifested themselves in reductions of service and reducing the benefits we afford our employees by forcing them to contribute ever-increasing amount to their own health insurance and pensions.

While the level of cuts has lessened to more popular services such as the Parks Dept. these budgets have included large cuts to the sheriff’s office and mental health services, as well as dramatic increases to employee cost contributions.

Our budgetary process begins with department heads submitting their requested budgets to both the County Board and the County Executive. The County Executive’s office prepares a recommended budget and submits it to the County Board for consideration. It is important to bear in mind that while each department submits its own budget request, the executive’s office is then free to make changes to it. It is reviewed by the Board’s analysts for a week, and a summary is prepared for Supervisors. After this, the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee begins its budget hearings. In the first phase, the Committee reviews the County’s Operational Budget. In this section Departmental budgets are heard first, with each county department director speaking to the Finance Committee about their department’s needs. After hearing from the Department heads, the Committee reviews the Capital Improvements Budget, which allocates money for improvements to County facilities. Last, after hearing the presentations from departments and reviewing the capital improvements, the committee considers amendments that Supervisors nominate to make changes to the budget.

The number of questions committee members ask of department heads seems directly proportional to the department’s complexity. For simpler departments, the questions may be short and simple. For example, the Finance Committee, which I am the Vice Chair of, didn’t have many for the UW-Extension, whereas the Health & Human Services hearing felt like an all-day affair due to its complexity. Another example of the complexities related to the budget process was in this year’s Parks Department budget: it came out under my questioning that the department had not requested the closures of Noyes and Pulaski indoor swimming pools.

I don’t yet know which route we’ll take in making changes to this year’s budget, but  I look forward to hearing from the residents of my district on what they feel are need to be preserved the most.

Elected officials work does not end in August

Though the boards and congresses* we were elected to may be in recess for the month of August, our work does not stop. Not at all. The needs of the people do not take a break. If anything, this time is invaluable for us to reconnect with our constituencies and our communities. Earlier this week came an experience that I can safely say I never thought I would find myself in, a situation involving an elderly constituent, a community gardener who spoke very few words of English, and a machete.

Suffice to say everything was peacefully resolved.

But man, how often do you hear about elected officials** and machetes***?

While the workload during the week often drops in August, my weekends are anything but sedentary. As it stands, during the summer there are now two farmers markets in and around the county district that I represent, the long-standing South Shore Farmers Market, and the sophomore Garden District Farmers Market.  The former is in the morning, while the latter is in the afternoon, which makes it easy to attend both.  Except tomorrow (ack, today now!), when I’ll be bouncing from event to event. (I’ll tell you later about how I helped create the Garden District Farmers Market, and show you what it’s becoming.)

The one thing that I need to promote here in the final 12 hours before it starts is Fix It Milwaukee.  I asked Milwaukee Makerspace about coming to a Milwaukee County Park to do a “fixing” event, when the good Milwaukee Makerspace people said, “actually, can we do it at our place, where all the tools and equipment is?”

Naturally, I said yes!

So bring your tired, broken stuff—computers, electronics, mechanical devices, small appliances, bicycles, lamps, things that need welding or crimping or what-have-you—to Milwaukee Makerspace at 2555 S. Lenox St. Milwaukee, on Saturday, August 10th, 2013 between 12 noon and 4pm, and they’ll do their best to get them working again.  (And if they can’t fix it, they’ll give you their best advice on what to do next.)

With that, good night, and good luck.


* I sometimes silently chuckle when I hear a colleague refer to the board as “this esteemed body”—but lo, it is!

** When writing notes , my short hand for the phrase “elected officials” is… well, ask me in person some time.

*** Elected officials with machetes—now that would be cool!

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.

The “reform” of Milwaukee County Government: Massive power transfer to county executive

We have received the text and attachments of the Milwaukee County government “reform” bill that is now circulating in the state legislature. Please read through these documents carefully.  The bill would have a binding referendum in April 2014. While most people would be happy to cut elected official’s pay and benefits, there are a lot of things that you would not vote on, but would take effect with bill’s signing.

What I would like to point out to you is the total transfer of power that this bill would perform. The County Board would be strippe of virtually all powers to interact with county departments, be they Transit, Parks, the Airport, Highways, Dept. of Aging, Human Resources, etc. Every request for contact would have to be approved through the county executive’s office. Every single one. So if you wanted a change to Humboldt Park, while right now you would call my office, under this, I’d have to grovel before Abele. If you have a problem with a bus stop, I couldn’t touch it. I’d have to grovel before Abele. You would lose your voice in the county government. It would all be run by the unaccountable executive.This is akin to the president of the United States getting a bill that would remove Congress’s oversight and checking of executive power. The president would have unchecked power to control the government. Think back to grade school, when we learned about the three branches of government, each helping check the other’s grasp on power. This would tip the County government way, way, way to the executive’s favor. Your would lose your way to be heard on these matters that directly affect you.

Collective bargaining is another thing that would be granted exclusively to the executive under this bill. While Act 10 has stripped most public employees of the right to collective bargaining, fire dept. and sheriff’s deputies still have bargaining rights. Currently, it’s done through the nine-member Finance Committee. Under this, it would all be at the behest of the county executive. If Act 10 was overturned, this would still be in effect, so all 4,000-some employees would be under his thumb.
You could lose your voice in county government through this bill. There would be no accountability for the executive, save for at election each four years. This is a transfer of power away from a body of 18 supervisors onto one executive. It’s a threat to the democratic principles that made this state great so long ago, but have since been thrown to the wolves.I ran for office to do something for the people who elected me. This bill would take that power away.

Jason Haas

Milwaukee County Supervisor, District 14
(Proudly representing the Airport, Bay View, Copernicus, Holler, Humboldt, KK River Parkway, Morgan, Saveland, Tippecanoe, and Wilson Park neighborhoods.)

October 23, 2012 County Budget Blast

Here’s what happened at today’s 2013 budget amendment hearing:

For Immediate Release October 23, 2012
Contact:  Velia Alvarez, Public Information Manager
414/278-4230 or velia.alvarez@milwcnty.com


Milwaukee – The Milwaukee County Board’s Finance & Audit Committee is holding a series of budget hearings throughout October on the County Executive’s 2013 Recommended Budget.  On Tuesday, October 23, Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25, 2012, the Committee will consider budgets amendments of specific functional areas of the Recommended Budget.

Today, the Committee approved the following: 

Health and Human Services

 · Amendment approved 5-4 (No: Schmitt, Romo West, Jursik, Alexander) to restore $397,569 on the tax levy to fund staff positions of Behavioral Health Division’s Community Support Program (CSP) Downtown. The amendment eliminates outsourcing of the CSP Downtown services by a community provider.
· Amendment approved 9-0 to realign County employee staffing at front desk and mailrooms at the BHD complex. The amendment seeks to maintain safety within the BHD facility in a cost-effective manner.

Parks, Recreation and Culture

· Amendment approved 9-0 to create one, unpaid position of Crowdfunding Coordinator Intern to be in charge of fundraising via online campaigns, as well as other local campaigns, to develop Parks improvements.
· Amendment approved 7-2 (No: Haas, Romo West) to prevent Milwaukee County land sales from funding the purchase of new public art. The amendment maintains that land sales funds may only be used to repair or refurbish existing public art owned by Milwaukee County.
· Amendment approved 9-0 to direct the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit interest in operating beer garden concessions at various Park locations. Any and all revenues generated from the beer gardens would be placed in the newly created Parks Amenities Matching Fund to fund Parks deferred maintenance.
· Amendment approved 7-2 (No: Schmitt, Romo West) to provide free admission at the Washington Park Pool for 2013. The amendment also calls for swim lessons and other programming for children and adults at Washington Park Pool.

Capital Improvements 

· Amendment approved 9-0 to create a new Capital Improvements Committee, comprised of the Director of the Department of Transportation, the Fiscal and Budget Administrator, the Comptroller, the chair of the Committee on Transportation, Public Works & Transit, the Co-Chairs of the Committee on Finance, Personnel and Audit and two appointments of the County Executive, who shall be mayors or village presidents of municipalities within Milwaukee County. The Chair of the County Board shall appoint the chair of the Capital Improvements Committee. The amendment also states that the Capital Improvements Committee will develop a five-year capital improvements plan.
· Amendment approved 9-0 to replace the terminal escalators at General Mitchell International Airport during four years. Four of the five sets of escalators in the terminal mall are original to the construction of the terminal in 1982 and are in need of replacement.
· Amendment approved 9-0 to direct the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture to work with local disc golf associations within Milwaukee County to explore the feasibility of installing disc golf courses at Holler Park, Copernicus Park and Humboldt Park.

Transportation and Public Works

· Amendment approved 9-0 to create a Facilities Assessment Team that will provide inspection services to all County-owned facilities and will return to the Committee on Transportation, Public Works and Transit in April 2013 with a report on the progress of strategically downsizing County holdings or a thorough report on alternate recommendations from the Assessment Team, based on their studies.

Click here to access the 2013 budget meeting schedule
Click here to watch live video from the meetings (available while meetings are in progress)
Click here to access the Budget Overview presented by County Board Staff 

The County Board of Supervisors, under the leadership of Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, is set to adopt the 2013 Budget on Monday, November 5 at 8:30 a.m. in Room 200 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.
The County Board’s Annual Public Hearing on the 2013 Budget is scheduled for Monday, October 29, 2012 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, located at 929 N. Water Street in Milwaukee. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. 
Free parking, including handicapped accessible stalls, will be available in the Marcus Center structure.


And there you have it.

We also laid over my amendment which would lower cash fares on the bus and give a $100,000 tax levy reduction. But that’ll be back on Thursday.

Who’d a’ thunk it: Hypervelocity stars, and weather on Pluto

A star moving so fast, due to who-knows-what interaction, that it has escaped the galaxy.  Daaaang!


Also, there are apparently very, very fast winds on Pluto, but that little body has so little mass, it would feel like nothing on our faces. (Assuming, of course, that we could withstand the deep-space freeze out there.)  It’s apparently got seasons, long ones to boot, and a changing geography as a result. Go figure! Hopefully we’ll be
around for the probe flyby in three years.

All for now.