On the Fundraiser Trail
David Riemer held a fundraiser and art auction to advance his bid for County Executive. Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design was the place, and over a hundred people showed up to look at the art (a Guido Brink retrospective) and to meet with the candidate March 8th. Wine was served, and the food was perhaps the finest of the larger-scale campaign events this year. The snacks included hummus and all sorts of veggie-cheesy items nicely prepared and tastefully presented. Everybody had to shut up for a brief speech by the candidate.
Riemer is getting better at these, and unlike certain other candidates for president or even for mayor, he is able to adjust the message to his audience with a reasonable degree of spontaneity.
Bob Weiss held a fundraiser for Acting Mayor Pratt March 10th, at his restaurant, Shakers, 422 S. Second St. He sent me a note: “Clueless staffers, no signage, no promo materials, NO candidate, when promised 6-8 p.m. for His fundraiser.” Weiss said the event coordinator “sat by self in back corner, left after an hour. Some big hitter clients of mine left in disgust since Marvin not there. … Overall, hardly our greatest political experience.” Weiss is planning a solstice party this week (good timing), with plenty of food and booze. Forget the politics!
Unopposed and Raising Money: Musings on the Common Council Presidency
It is tough to draw a crowd in an election year when you have no opponent, and it’s nice for a candidate to not have to sweat his election. “I only hold one fundraiser a year and this is it,” said Ald. Michael Murphy at Derry Hegarty’s Pub, an event that perhaps saw about 75 people. The event was Thursday, March 11th, close enough to St. Patrick’s Day, which is appropriate since Murphy claims to be of Irish heritage.
Since the money wasn’t absolutely necessary, and since the candidate seemed destined to win, the fundraiser easily lurched into its secondary and tertiary functions (booze and schmooze).
The attendees included Pat Walsh and his wife Roz Rouse, Aldermen Bob Donovan, Willie Hines and Mike D’Amato, City Attorney Grant Langley, his former assistant David Halbrooks, Attorney Michael Whitcomb and Attorney John Finerty. Unopposed Comptroller Wally Morics was also there. He had taken some heat from mayoral candidate Tom Barrett who claimed that if he were mayor the comptroller would be conducting performance audits instead of mere financial audits.
“That’s bullshit,” Morics said of Barrett’s contention. I do performance audits all of the time.”
(I know this to be true, because I read the stinking things. “Cash Management Policies in the Treasurer’s Office” remains a personal favorite.) I asked Morics if he would audit the City Clerk’s picnic account for me, but he said he couldn’t because it isn’t an official city fund. Drat!
Back to the event. This was a speech-free fundraiser, and Murphy spent the whole time standing at the entry greeting his visitors. His black suit made him look professional. Seeing him standing before a window with Holy Cross Cemetery at his back made him look funereal.
Since his election is virtually certain, what other goals does Murphy have in mind? Would he like to be President?
“Yes, I would,” Murphy said. In fact, Murphy plans to run for President – of the Common Council, that is.
Who else is running? “I believe Alderman James Bohl, Ald. D’Amato, and Ald. Hines.”
Sure enough, D’Amato says he plans to run for the same position, which is sort of the Capo di Capo among the Common Council, with the authority to appoint people to committees and other powers, like magically becoming Acting Mayor when the mayor dies, quits, (or who knows nowadays) maybe even gets indicted. D’Amato said something diplomatic about trusting his colleagues to make an informed choice, etc., but there is quite a range of dynamics coming up in the race.
For instance, if Tom Barrett wins the Mayor’s race, then the Common Council might think it would be a good idea to have a black leader. Under an earlier scenario this would have been Ald. Fred Gordon. It was certainly a scenario that would have pleased Gordon, except that he might not win reelection, and that could cramp things. (All it will take for Ald. Willie Wade to win would be to get his family to show up to vote.)
Another scenario would have Marvin Pratt as Mayor, leaving a Common Council that might want to have a white guy as President. (It’s all about balance.) In this case, D’Amato and Murphy would stand a good chance. The Bohl thing I can’t quite figure out at all.
Then, let’s face it, there could be a chance that Pratt will win the mayoral race and get indicted for the current campaign finance problems he faces. If he goes, then the Common Council President becomes Acting Mayor, just like Pratt is now. This is not a choice for the aldermen to make lightly! Who, among the aldermen, would you like to see as mayor?
Another project of the Common Council right after election day is the choice of the City Clerk. That job has belonged to Ron Leonhardt, and both Murphy and D’Amato say they think he will keep it.
The Murphy party’s guests were treated to St.Patrick’s Day-appropriate beverages including Harp, Guinness and green beer (no thanks!). Under the theory that “It’s not Irish until it’s overcooked,” the meal included corned beef, rye bread, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. The ingredients were well-acquainted since they had spent so much time together. The best line of the evening came from Judge Halbrooks, who, like nearly everybody had to park some blocks away. “I’m not going to feel so sorry for east siders when they complain about their parking problems. They’re not the only ones!”
Restaurant Show Review
The Host Midwest Expo, the annual convention of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, came to town March 8-10th, and parked itself at the Midwest Airlines Center. It is a regular opportunity for restaurant people from all over the state to come to the Big City for a couple days of fun and free samples. This will be the last year for the show as we know it – next year it will be called the “Wisconsin Restaurant Expo,” which seems like a better name. There were few food trend innovations last year, with the possible exception of flavored cheeses, which are becoming nearly ubiquitous. We can thank “Pepper Jack” cheese for this phenomenon. Turano bread company had its booth across from that of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, which was offering 7-year aged cheddar and other delicacies from the Dairy State. Turano’s bread served its samples with Country Crock Margarine. “Well,” sniffed the Milk Marketing Board dude, “After all they are from Illinois.” Touche! Miller Brewing Company was there offering samples of Lite, Leinenkugel’s Honey Bock, and (thank God) Pilsner Urquell. Elsewhere, Joseph Huber Brewing Co. offered some particularly delicious Pale Ale among all the rest of its stable of products. Capital Brewery was also well represented by its knowledgeable staff. Our friends from Anheuser-Busch served their product along with a printout telling of the economic impact of AB in Wisconsin, rather a bold way to introduce yourself in enemy territory. (Wisconsin is like the only place on earth where Anheuser Busch is not the leading beer seller. It drives them nuts.) Chef Patrick Schultz ran a demonstration booth for Plitt Seafood company, featuring his CulinArte soup bases – entirely natural, made from bones, not MSG. The product is from Green Bay, where meatpacking is still an industry.
There is more to the food show than eating and drinking, or at least that is what the program guide tells me. For instance, H. Carl Mueller gave a two-hour address on “Effective Crisis Management.” The cost was only $49, a lot cheaper than his usual rates.
More Interesting News
Did Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager do herself any favors whatever by not immediately entering treatment after her drunk driving arrest? If she had done so, perhaps the press would have laid off her. Instead she flew to a planned vacation in Ireland – there’s a country with no drinking – while her political situation deteriorated. If Peg Lautenschlager resigns, the governor makes the appointment of an “Acting Attorney General” and can either allow that person to fill out the term or he can call a special election at his choice. It is nearly unthinkable that she would run unopposed, even in a primary. Attorneys General usually have prosecutorial experience, which would make the job enticing for somebody like Karine Moreno Taxman, for example. Wouldn’t it be fun to see her run against somebody like Paul Bucher? … Milwaukee Magazine, in its April issue, has a Pressroom Confidential feature by Peter Robertson about the plagiarism of J. J. Blonien, who was almost hired by the Russ Darrow campaign as press spokesperson. Wait till you read how they explained that one! Blonien lost his column at the Waukesha Freeman for plagiarism-related issues. He also put out a goofy right-wing newspaper for years. … I used the word “goofy” to describe former judge Robert Crawford, and he responded to me in an e-mail that he was not “goofy.” He says we should get together for coffee some time, to talk about his judicial philosophy. Since I do not engage in ad hominem attacks, I should have used the word “goofy” perhaps to comment on certain of his sentencing policies, and not on the judge as a person. Crawford’s website tells us that he bicycles in all weather (he’s got three bikes – one for carrying groceries, 100 lbs. at a time!) Crawford is a competitive lifter and can powerlift incredible weights. He was the only guy in the Courthouse who could bench press Janine Geske. … Now You See Them … Vince Bobot chatted with Phil DeMarinis at the Pacific Rim restaurant bar Sunday night. How readily these former candidates fade back into the scene! … Typos galore abound in the new Summerfest brochure. The publication confuses “its” with “it’s,” misspells “Guinness,” (always two “n’s”), and fails to include things like a telephone number for Summerfest, for crying out loud. These things would never have happened under the leadership of Bo Black, I’ll tell you that! According to the brochure, Summerfest has changed its pass-out policy. Previously, you could get your hand stamped for re-entry from 3 p.m. on. Under the new rules, hand stamps will be available for those who leave Summerfest from opening until 7 p.m. But nobody will be admitted for stamped re-entry after 7 p.m. This is a big change. Also, starting this year the Summerfest pin will be nothing more than a $2 trinket. It will no longer convey magical discounts upon the wearer.
Letter From Haiti
Tim Zahner, a Marquette University graduate from California and his Wisconsin-born wife Christy Zahner made a commitment in their marriage a couple of years ago that they would spend some time doing good deeds among the poor. Their mission took them to Haiti, from which they recently returned. During his stay in Haiti, Tim filed numerous updates on his experiences in that troubled land. We share the final one with you here. Zahner, you may remember, worked as an intern for former milwaukeeworld editor Bruce Murphy back when Murphy was working for weekly newspapers.
The following is a tale of hope and despair. Judge for yourself in what measure each is an ingredient.
March 12, 2004
The update I never got around to writing was going to be called “Haitian Roshamon”. Roshamon after the film where the story of a man_s death by bandits is told by multiple viewpoints, each with a slight variation and the viewer never knows which one is the truth.
This was the scenario we encountered often in Haiti- trying to winnow out the truth. In the clinic, a woman came in with a sick child, claiming that the mother had died and that she was the child’s aunt. Later, the “aunt’s “children came to visit, and let slip that they were the sick baby’s siblings, and the aunt was in reality the baby’s mother.
A man came down from the mountains on the back of a donkey, helped by friends, without the lower part of his left leg. The first story is that he cut off the leg himself with a machete, after the leg turned black on him. The man, who is alert, claims that the leg fell off one day, and that it had been sick. A neighbor confirms the first story; the man himself clings to his.
A young boy is left at the clinic and is not recovering. On the way to the hospital we stop at the town where he is from and ask for the boy_s father, who had originally brought him to the clinic. The neighbors stand around, gasping and pointing, exclaiming that the boy still lives, even though they had been told that the boy was long dead.
After our year in Haiti, working for the sisters and with the Haitians, we found that truth was elusive. Were we doing the right thing by being there? Was the work of any of the development workers effective? Were we approaching the poverty, the suffering, the hunger, and the seeming hopelessness in the best way?
And now, with the political situation in Haiti in shambles, the truth remains elusive: was the former, democratically elected president a good leader intent on raising up the country and helping the poor who have been so long ignored and abused in Haiti; or was he a Machiavellian man who become just as corrupt as Haiti_s other rulers, who used political violence and vote rigging to carry his personal mandates? Did he leave on his own accord, or was he muscled out by a stronger neighbor? Which is the truth?
I don’t know if we found that answer in Haiti. I know that we left with more questions than we came with, and I know that we left with a great deal more sorrow and pain than we had when we stepped of the plane in January, 2003. I also know that I left with great happiness, too. I know I had an experience that I could get nowhere else, and that was unique to my own time there.
I learned about trying to be present in the moment. Often, when working out in the field, under the hot sun, my hands blistered from the massive hoes Haitians use to turn over the earth, I would angrily ponder what I was doing there and where I should have been instead.
Do you remember Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town? Do you recall when the main character, Emily, passed away and joined the dead out on the quiet hillside that overlooked the sleepy town of Grover’s Corners? She asked if she could go back to the land of the living, even if for just one day, to re-live her life. The other dead townsfolk warn her not to, that things aren_t the same once you are able to look back at your daily life from a distance. But, she decides to go anyway, choosing her twelfth birthday as the day she will go back. And when she goes back, to see herself and her parents go about their daily lives, oblivious to the future that she now knows, she is filled with sorrow. She realizes that we can never see our lives as we live them. And she cries, “Good-by, Good-by world. Good-by Grover’s Corners Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
Promptly she asks the stage manager, an omniscient character in the play, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”
And that is how I felt often in Haiti- did I ever realize life while I was living it there?
There were glimpses:
I remember working in the hot sun of late May, again in the convent_s five-acre garden. I was alone, re-digging some trenches that had filled in because of the rain. Around noon I took a break in the shade of a small flamboyan tree, and sipped some water from a gallon jug. I looked up from the water and saw thousands of small, yellow butterflies coming over the wall on the wind, passing from the east to the west, across the property and out over the hills. It was literally a river of tiny butterflies, passing around and above me, flitting across the rocky, hot dirt and over the wall on the other side of the property. And I thought- this is what I will remember of Haiti. My hands are aching from the pick-axe, my back is sore, my underwear is riding up, my pants are dirty, I’m sweaty and hot and tired, and I’m sitting mid-river amongst thousands of marvelous little Haitian butterflies.
And this is what I remember: sitting under the almond tree that shaded the front door of the nutrition center, waiting for Christy and Sr. Uyen to come out so we could get home because it had been a long, long day. And sitting next to me was a mother, holding her two-year-old son, Lukeson. She had just brought Lukeson to the clinic, and he was in the advanced stages of kwashiokor. His eyes were barely open, his breathing was shallow, and his mother was sitting, stoically wiping away the flies on his face with a bandana. Lukeson_s legs and arms were so swollen from malnutrition that his light brown skin had split open and was weeping fluids, mimicking a bad burn. Christy came and sat next to me, and she said what was on everyone’s mind: “I don’t think he is going to live.” And we sat there in silence, and I could see myself sitting there, next to my young wife and a young Haitian mother, holding her dying boy, and I thought that I wanted to be anywhere but right there, right at that moment. That maybe, this time, I didn_t want to realize life as I lived it, every, every minute. And I felt awful.
Coming back to the United States has not been easy. I have been angry, and despairing, and sad. I have laughed at our folly and taken offense at innocent questions people have asked. I have been defensive, and short-tempered. I have had a serious crisis of faith; and I find myself asking- give me faith Lord, just not right now.
But even if I don’t want to realize life, and it_s inherent suffering and injustice and a whole host of maladies and problems, I know that I have to if I am also going to realize life as happiness and joy and inspiration. It was easy to feel good about yourself in Haiti- almost everyone thinks you’re greater than you actually are. They compliment you on coming to their country to help, even though we were living in a huge house and never once felt hunger in our bellies. It was easy to feel good about ourselves because we weren_t readily aware of social mores, and thus felt free to talk to everyone&Mac220;the poor, the rich, the drunks, the prostitutes, the illiterate, the Catholic clergy and the voodoun priests. It was easy. It will be harder to live a similar life in the United States, to not fall into the habits we all have- to judge people based on class, religion, job, skin color, orientation, nationality. Will I be able to talk to the beggar on a street corner and not feel self-conscious among my peers? Will I go out of my way to learn about others, to listen, to seek justice?
I hope I will.
Final Clinic Update
As you may recall, we were bringing Samantha and her mother, Elmita, to Green Bay with us so Samantha could have surgery to fix a cleft lip and cleft palate. On Feb 7th, they returned to Haiti, bags stuffed full with donated items and Samantha with a brand new smile. The people of Green Bay were exceedingly generous to Samantha and Elmita. Winter clothes were brought over for their use while here, and they received summer clothes for Elmita’s husband and other daughter. Samantha was the belle of the ball wherever she went- cooing and trailing drool, her smile capturing hearts.
We were worried when things got unstable in Haiti and we had not heard from them. But, just this week, we received word that they were doing well and are happy to be back with their family.
Although Elmita was unable to say it in English we know that she is overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the community, the hospital, the doctors, and the church. She would tear up when asked if she had anything to say to everyone, which is more than one could say in any language. She was proud of Samantha and her new smile, and said no one would recognize her when they arrived. While Samantha was here she learned to walk on her own, and used her reconstructed mouth to speak. She was able to say “Mama” for the first time while here. (Evidently she learned how to say “kaka” too, which is a swear word in Kreyol. I have no idea how she learned that, although her mother cast a wary eye at me for some reason.)
Sr. Marie Claire reports that she is ok, although there were some scary times in the town and on the road. The clinic has five children in it, most likely not because of a lack of need, but because people are reluctant to venture out. She is joined by an older French couple who have volunteered in Haiti before. We wish them success in their work.
And the people of Haiti? How are they faring? Haitians are remarkably resilient, stronger in body and spirit than you or I. They endure. But they are still people, and they will suffer. If you want to help them, you can pray for them, or visit later to show solidarity. If you want to assist financially, I have included below the names of some organizations that we saw there, and which do good work.
As for us–we are heading out to California on Sunday. We will be settling down in Oakland, which is right across the bay from San Francisco. We will try to find work and reflect more on our experience. If you are passing by, please know that you are always welcome.
Lastly, thank you to everyone for reading these and commenting on them. By having an audience we have been forced to think more on what we are doing. You have been an invaluable journal.
Thanks for all your support and prayers,
Tim and Christy Zahner
Green Bay, WI
Below are some organizations in Haiti that we encountered and which do good work:
FMOL: Haiti Mission, Inc.
This is the mission where we worked. Run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Haiti Mission includes the nutrition center for malnourished children, an outpatient clinic, a reforestation program, school-sponsorship, a market-woman program and much, much more. The best way to contact them right now is through the United States office in Baton Rouge. Contact: Sr. Magdalen O_Donavan, FMOL, 4200 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA, 70809
Fonkoze, (which is Kreyol pun of sorts meaning “The Shoulder to Shoulder Foundation”) is a micro-credit bank for the poor. They offer small loans, business assistance, and the chance for Haitians to open a bank account with very little money and risk. More information is available at www.fonkoze.org
Hospice St. Joseph
The folks of HSJ helped us on numerous occasions, and it seems that they never take a rest. In addition to running a great guest house, the have a health clinic for the poor, a school sponsorship program, assist market women, and much, much more. A very worthy organization, and very well run. When you go to visit Haiti, an overnight stop at HSJ is always a treat, and their affordable rates include breakfast and dinner. They can be found at www.hospicesaintjoseph.org
Norwich Mission House
Fr. Gerry and Amber are the Americans who round out a very fantastic team at NMH. With a great view and a wonderful garden, NMH is another fantastic place to spend the night on a visit. We did often, and they were always welcoming and helpful.
NMH is part of Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, CT. Programs sponsored through Haitian Ministries include health care, school sponsorship, fair-trade artisan crafts, orphanages and parish twinning between churches in the US and Haiti. And if you want a bit of Haiti without flying through Miami Airport, they also run a Haitian craft store in Connecticut. Their web site is http://www.haitianministries.org.
Kay Sen Pol
St. Paul_s House is in Les Cayes, about an hour from Aquin. Here the Diocese of Worcester, MA runs a guesthouse and supports a home for the elderly. They also run a school-sponsorship program, among others. They have a great view from their roof of the near-derelict port of Les Cayes. Contact them through the diocese of Worcester, MA.
See all of our updates at www.squarefour.com/haiti