TCD’s week in review (12/22/11)
New restrictions at the state capitol failed to silence 1,000 Solidarity Singers who convened on Monday in the largest crowd since the early days of anti-Walker protests. Songs from the singers’ “Holiday Songbook” included twists on Christmas favorites like “Make Him Go” in place of “Let it Snow” and “Cast Your Vote” to the tune of “Silver Bells.”
Dozens of which will be retired when the Milwaukee County Transit System receives its first order of 55 clean diesel buses. They are part of a 136-vehicle planned acquisition over the next several years funded mostly by federal grants, with Milwaukee County picking up 15 percent of the $42.1 million total cost. The aging fleet has for years included what MCTS mechanics call “Frankenbuses,” cobbled together from pieces and parts of non-working vehicles. Hats off to the MCTS maintenance team for their tireless work to keep the fleet running and safe, and congratulations to everyone on the new additions.
Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele held a press conference Wednesday to announce their bids for re-election. Of course, that didn’t stop reporters from asking Milwaukee’s most prominent politicians about the recall effort. Barrett said he is yet to sign a petition, but will “in all likelihood,” and Abele said “I don’t know, it’s not something I have a burning passion and opinion” about. Strong words… [cough]. Mental note: Remember this when Barrett announces he will reluctantly agree to run against Walker in the spring.
Walker’s war chest
Gov. Walker has raised more than $5.1 million to fight the recall, with $2.4 million coming from outside the state. To put that in perspective, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and recall group United Wisconsin have raised a combined total of roughly $1.4 million. Hefty outside contributions to Walker include $250,000 from Bob Perry of Houston, who was responsible for the famous “Swift Boat” ads that ran during the 2004 presidential election.
Random acts of symbolic inclusion
As a three-foot-high sandwich-board proclaiming the arrival of the winter solstice has made its way into the Milwaukee County Courthouse’s holiday display, alongside a Christmas tree and a menorah. The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation produced the sign, which states “At this season of winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Maybe next year we can add a Festivus Pole to the mix (“I find tinsel distracting“), or really open it up by having a pastafarian contribution from the church of the flying spaghetti monster.
The thin blue line
As Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief Darryl Winston was suspended pending an investigation of why he was parked in an alley with a 23-year old felon on house arrest and resisted getting out of his car when officers knocked on the window. Winston first claimed that the younger man was his nephew, but later changed his story. According to neighbors, Winston had known his passenger for about a year, but the young man’s former roommate claims that he had been told Winston worked for We Energies. The Assistant Police Chief’s position oversees the police training academy and the department’s professional performance division, which conducts internal investigations and ensures that department rules are followed.
The unemployed in Wisconsin
As Wisconsin led the nation in job losses for the second consecutive month. The state lost 14,600 jobs in November, 11,700 of them in the private sector. (Minnesota was second with 13,700, and Colorado third with 4,500) It’s the fifth straight month in which the state has reported negative job growth, and the announcement comes on the heels of Gov. Scott Walker’s well-publicized special session on jobs.
Appropriate party banter
As Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wrote a formal apology to first lady Michelle Obama after comments he made at a recent Christmas event in Hartford surfaced on Wednesday. The Waukesha congressman was overheard at Reagan National Airport recounting the event, in which he said “[Michelle Obama] lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.” This is a picture of Jim Sensenbrenner. I don’t have a joke here.
Milwaukee’s middle class
After a widely-circulated article in the Atlantic.com revealed a startling decline in Milwaukee’s middle class since 1970, due, not surprisingly, to heavy losses in manufacturing jobs in the city. According to columnist David Rhode, Milwaukee’s poorest sectors have a higher infant mortality rate than the Gaza Strip.
City cycling enthusiasts
After the Wisconsin Department of Transportation killed plans for a bike path on Milwaukee’s most unfortunate bridge. Stalled from opening for 5-years and coined the “Bridge to Nowhere,” the crumbling Hoan bridge struggled for four decades under turf wars, structural deficiencies and a bad reputation as a generally dangerous place to drive. Earlier this year, hundreds of Summerfest runners suffered heat stroke for lack of water while crossing the Hoan’s two-mile spanse. In October, a man was killed by another driver while checking his engine, the same day “Bike the Hoan” supporters had planned a solidarity ride. According to DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb, creating a bike path “would impair our ability to provide safe, efficient travel.” Supporters vow to continue to seek a compromise.