Michael Horne
The Roundup

Lavender, Black and Green

By - Jun 21st, 2004 12:00 pm

The Green Party’s national convention will be in Milwaukee this week, with voting by delegates to be held on Saturday. The big question: will the outfit endorse Ralph Nader? This vexing question will put Milwaukee, however briefly, once again in the national spotlight.

The party has endorsed the formation of several subgroups including the Black Greens, and the Lavender Greens. The first group consists of African-American members of the party, and the second with its Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and “Intergendered” (a new one for me) members.

As of May there were 297,964 registered greens from 22 states, along with an undetermined number from states like Wisconsin where voter registration does not specify political party. Candidates for the party include four for U.S. Senate, 38 for the House of Representativees, one for Governor, one for Lieutenant Governor and 94 for State Legislatures.

According to the party, at least 204 Greens hold office in 27 states, including Wisconsin.

Nader, who received the party’s nomination in 2000, has 50 delegates thus far, behind David Cobb, with 194 and Peter Camejo with 112. Over 200 delegates support none of the above or are uncommitted.

Nader wrote the party in March to say “I am running as an Independent and am not seeking nor accepting the Green Party nomination. If you do not choose a presidential candidate in Milwaukee, I would welcome your endorsement.” You can figure out for yourself whatever that means.

Whomever the candidate, the party promises to run television ads in the presidential race, another first.

One of the featured speakers at a post-convention rally will be Frank P. Zeidler, a former presidential candidate himself (Socialist Party) and reason enough to attend the event.

A Man in a Hurray: Marc “Leadfoot” Marotta

Department of Administration head Marc Marotta has a date in the Jefferson County intake court on June 29th at 9 a.m. in conjunction with his citation on May 24th for speeding on the freeway. The 41-year old attorney and former basketball star was busted for exceeding the speed limit by 20 – 24 miles per hour, an offense that carries a $255.40 bond. Officer Michael Meyers of the Jefferson County Sheriff Department collared the Mequon resident after clocking him going 21 miles over the limit.

Earlier this year, on February 25th (the day after Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager was busted for drunk driving) Peter Moe of the State Patrol cited Marotta for speeding on the freeway, also in Jefferson County. It was a more easy-going Marotta that time, since he was caught speeding 16 – 19 miles per hour above the speed limit.

On April 22nd, that charge was amended to Speeding on Freeway 1 – 10 miles above the limit. Marotta pled no contest to that charge and was fined $181.

The vigilant officer Moe also noted that Marotta, a senior government official, had expired plates (PUR108), so we assume it is his personal vehicle in which he was hot-rodding, but that charge was dismissed. His attorney was Michael F. Hart.

Not to be outdone, the City of Mequon police department was informed that Marotta illegally passed a school bus in his hometown. Still driving PUR108, Marotta was cited on January 28, 2003 by officer Kenneth Prah. Mequon City Attorney Darcy McManus scored a “guilty/no contest” plea from Marotta, and he was fined $287.

All that money probably could have sent some kid to basketball camp for the summer.

Taxpayer Handout Proposed; Comptroller Has His Doubts

A proposal is before the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee that would ask the taxpayers to create Tax Incremental District 55 for Holt Plaza, a shopping center proposed for 20 acres between South 3rd Street and South Chase Avenue, just north of West Holt Avenue.

The city’s $2.1 million contribution would aid the developer, Mifflin Care Center, Inc., in securing a new mortgage for the property.

However, Comptroller W. Martin “Wally” Morics, C.P.A., is none to crazy about the plan, since most of the city’s money would go to satisfy a mortgage prepayment penalty on the property.

According to his analysis, “the current mortgage agreement includes a penalty of over $1.6 million to prepay the $5.6 million current mortgage balance. The proposed City contribution of up to $2.1 million is needed mainly to fund this large prepayment penalty.”

In April, the developer provided the City with a bank loan commitment that showed a 5.5% interest rate, substantially below the 6.5% originally scheduled in the developer’s estimates.

With that good news in hand, the Department of City Development and the Comptroller “mutually concluded that no City of Milwaukee financial assistance was needed to allow this project to proceed. On April 26th, a meeting was held with the developer to inform him of this conclusion.”

The developer, undaunted, submitted a revised budget that called for an increase in the project design and construction costs that raised the price from $9 million to over $11 million, or about the amount of the original planned subsidy.

DCD then hired a construction consultant to examine the new budget, but as of June 2nd, the comptroller had not received this information. As Morics put it in a June 3rd letter to the ZND committee “Until such time that we can receive, review and follow-up in the above information items, I am not in a position to determine the reasonableness of the proposed City subsidy, and thus cannot make any recommendations regarding this project.”

Stay tuned, and keep your checkbooks handy.

Microsoft Buys the Beer, and the Finance Officers Party

The Government Finance Officers Association drew 5,500 members to Milwaukee from June 13 to June 16 to enjoy the splendors of Fest Town. The theme of the 98th convention was “Financing the Future of Government,” and included speeches on such topics as “Understanding Auction Rate Securities,” “Analytics for Government Finance,” and “Selecting a 457 Plan Provider.”

The “GAAFR REVIEW” was among the handouts each conventioneer received. The newsletter on “Governmental Accounting, Auditing and Financial Reporting,” included such arresting headlines as “GASB Statement No. 43 Issued on OPEB Plans,” which included helpful hints on “Minimizing the Potentail for Redundancy.” I couldn’t put it down, so I threw it out instead, and ordered my copy of “ERP and Financial Management Systems: The Backbone of Digital Government,” and “An Elected Official’s Guide to Financial System Procurement.”

Meanwhile, attendees thronged the exhibition area where vendors tried to sell them all sorts of stuff, while handing out an endless supply of pens, markers, post-it notes, bottle openers, notepads, and so much candy you’d think the average Government Finance Officer was three years old.

CCH Tax and Accounting, for instance, has a product that will allow me to “Access FASB, AICPA, SEC, EITF, PCOAB, ISAB and GASB literature and insightful guidance.”

If I’m in the mood for “Rapidly deployable enterprise content management solutions,” then I’m fairly certain that Hyland Software, Inc. can fulfill my needs.

All of this nerdiness was fortunately counterbalanced by a party Tuesday where delegates headed to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a Milwaukee-style party featuring such tasteables as Sprecher Beer and piles of food. The party promised performances by the “Ko Tai” dancers. Isn’t that the “Ko Thi” dancers? “Actually, it is Kossume, and we will be performing at Summerfest,” I was informed.

The un-Milwaukee thing about the party, besides the presence of so many out-of-towners, was that the hooch was paid for by Microsoft. The revelers festivated throughout the evening before packing their bags for home.

New Home for Pier Wisconsin

The May 27th groundbreaking for the Pier Wisconsin project exceeded expectations, according to Jeff Phillips of the maritime museum. Writing in “Droplets,” the organization’s weekly update, he notes “while only a few hundred were originally expected, a record crowd of over 850 attended.”

Thursday will mark another change for Mike Cudahy‘s pet project, when the organization’s offices in the former ferry terminal will be demolished. The group has set up shop at the Discovery World offices for now. When the job is done, Pier Wisconsin’s offices will move to its new building, taking Discovery World along with it. Paul Krajniak, the Discovery World chief, says he doesn’t know what will happen to his old facility, but it seems likely the Milwaukee Public Museum, cramped for office space, might move in. The Denis Sullivan staff and crew remain at the lakefront, housed for the time being in a white construction shed.

Tolls Take Their Toll on Meeting

Kevin Soucie and Tim Sheehy, along with a number of sponsors, including the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and the Wisconsin Underground Contractors’ Association, and the Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council (love those apostrophes) hosted the 2004 Wisconsin Transportation Finance Summit Tuesday, June 22nd.

At issue was whether Wisconsin should abandon its long-held policy of free highways. Soucie has long endorsed toll roads as a means to approach the need to rebuild Wisconsin’s highways, and Sheehy seems to feel the same. The Governor has other ideas, however, and so does the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, which offered a proposal for “Reconstructing the Marquette Interchange Without Long-Term Debt While Protecting Revenues for Future Projects.”

The day-long summit drew a number of dignitaries, including Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, who said he had a wonderful time last week on his trip with the governor on Amtrak’s Empire Builder. “It’s a train,” he said. “What’s not to like?” Busalacchi said he will be in Washington next week at the invitation of David Gunn, Amtrak’s president, who rode along with him on the Empire Builder. He will attend a press conference, so we’ll get back to you on that one.

One defector from the conference was Ald. Robert Bauman, who split from the event at the Hyatt early – even before lunch.

“All they talked about was automobile traffic and roads,” he said, standing at the Byron Kilbourn Passenger Rail Station downtown. (I bet you didn’t know the station had a name.) So I thought I’d come down here and look at some real transportation.” The “real” transportation the downtown alderman was talking about was the steam locomotive Milwaukee Road 261, which chugged past him as we spoke. The train, which had come in from Minneapolis, carried conventioneers to the Milwaukee Road fan club, meeting here, and was on its way to Chicago, Illinois, a city some 90 miles south of here, and also located on Lake Michigan.

As the train sped down the tracks the Minnesota River car passed Bauman. “I used to personally own that car,” he said, making it probably the most impressive vehicle owned by a public official in this city. A frown crossed Bauman’s face as the “Wisconsin Valley” car passed. “That car is a phony Milwaukee Road car. Somebody just painted it Milwaukee Road colors. Look at the trucks. Those aren’t Milwaukee Road trucks!” I figured out that “trucks” to a train are like “wheels” to an automobile. [Please see accompanying story on the train, with a special video clip elsewhere.]

The Kohler-Pickard Nuptials

The Turner Hall Ballroom, which has been open for events pending renovation for the past couple of years, saw its last party for now Saturday, June 18 when several hundred friends and family celebrated the wedding of Julilly Kohler-Hausmann and Victor Willoughby Pickard III.

The bride’s mother, Julilly Kohler, had spearheaded efforts to raise money to repair the grand room, damaged in a fire 70 years ago, and ignored until just recently. The city has told the Turners that it will not issue occupancy certificates for the room until substantial progress is made in reconstructing it.

None of this mattered to the revelers who quaffed Mojitos and beer and were served a dinner buffet ranging from Tandoori chicken to Potato Pancakes.

The festivities began Friday with a wedding rehearsal at Villa Terrace, followed by a picnic at Mitchell Park, where chef Mark Weber of Watermark restaurant, a Kohler tenant at the Passeggio on Brady Street, grilled seafood kebabs for 100. Although the weather was pleasant for Milwaukee (low ’60’s and light rain) visitors from Florida, Nevada and other states were conspicuous by their presence. They were the ones huddled over the grill, shivering. Snacks included Hummus and Baba Ganough from Au Bon Appetit, and sausages were Johnsonville Brats, a tribute to the Kohler family’s Sheboygan County roots. Beverages included Sangria, which Julilly senior whipped up the night before in her Marshall Street home and Sprecher Beer. A rented van shuttled guests between the park and downtown hotels. (There was not a limousine in sight.)

All of the food was toted around town in a rented refrigerator truck, which solved innumerable logistical problems quite economically.

Saturday brought forth the wedding at Villa Terrace after which guests were brought to the Iroquois Boat dock at Clybourn Street for a tour of the river. Along the western edge of Jones Island, giant fan blades, some 120 feet in length lay on the docks, destined for a wind power plant somewhere out west. They had been manufactured in Europe and brought here by ship.

The poor naive souls from elsewhere asked “from what does the river derive its brown coloration?” and this led to an animated discussion of fecal chloroform bacteria, sewage overflows and such other topics common here.

After the boat ride the reception at Turner Hall, noted above, was held. The entertainment was by DJ Paul Finger. After midnight, when the party ended, DJ Finger, the mother of the bride and the author of this article adjourned to Art Altenburg’s Concertina Bar where they closed the joint at 2:30.

Somewhere along that time the refrigerator truck was loaded up with leftovers (excluding the beer, which the groom hauled over to his hotel room from the picnic the previous day), and its contents were disgorged the following morning at a Good Bye Gathering at the Kohler residence. That party, scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., instead ran until 9 p.m. at which time the exhausted remnants of the party adjourned to the nearby Three Holy Women Festival.

The bride is a fellow in doctoral studies in history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, while the groom, a native of Pittsburgh is a doctoral fellow in media studies at the same institution. He is the producer of Media Matters, a radio program that discusses media matters. The program is not yet available in the Milwaukee market.

The celebrants were Marie Kohler (the bride’s aunt) and her husband Brian Mani (the bride’s uncle.)

Although Reverend Kohler and Reverend Mani are best known to Milwaukeeans as stage performers, they were able to pick up a divinity degree on the internet for only $15, which gives me an idea. The couple will honeymoon in Europe, and then head back to work.

The 261 Rolls In

The attached video clip was produced by our indispensable Joe Klein who took it during the visit to Milwaukee of the steam locomotive Milwaukee Road 261. The rather confused-looking individual walking across the path of the camera in the sequence is the author, Michael Horne, making a rare cameo appearance.

The 261 is a 4-8-4 Northern Class S-3 engine, constructed for the Milwaukee Road in 1944 by the American Locomotive Co. It was one of 10 constructed for the Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad that year and is the only one operational today. It was retired in 1954 and donated to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay in 1958. In the early 1990’s reconditioning was begun on the machine, and it began pulling trains again in 1993. The final car was the domed observation car the Cedar Rapids, last seen in this city last year when it was parked in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum during the exhibition honoring the work of its designer, Brooks Stevens.

The locomotive has its own website – www.261.com. The train will continue its journeys through the upper Midwest at least until July 3rd, when it is scheduled to travel from St Paul to La Crescent and return, a 294-mile trip via the Canadian Pacific rails. The train will have a capacity of 466 passengers, served in three classes. The Milwaukee – Chicago run had a capacity of 186 passengers.

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