Michael Horne
The Roundup

In-House Election Commission Good Idea?

By - Nov 22nd, 2004 12:00 pm

Pat Curley, the Mayor’s chief of staff, called to respond to my question about the makeup of the city’s Election Review Task Force. The Task Force, “formed and charged with the task of reviewing City Election Commission practices and procedures,” seems to consist exclusively of City employees.

Al Campos isn’t a City employee,” Curley corrects.

True, but he is the Chair of the Election Commission – the very outfit he is supposed to review, along with Lisa Artison – the Executive Director of the Election Commission.

For balance, the “outsiders” on the group include Sharon Robinson, Director of the Department of Administration, who will head the Task Force, and City Budget Director Mark Nicolini, along with Randy Gschwind, the Director of the City’s Information Technology Management Division, who should probably be working on a Broadband Infrastructure Task Force for this community.

Curley said you have to understand the function of the Task Force is “to get folks involved who run the systems” on which the electoral process depends, and that’s why this particular array of talent was assembled.

“It is more of an internal workgroup,” he said.

City Hall is loaded with such groups, but their formation seldom merits a mayoral press release.

Still, one gets the feeling the Task Force should have included members of the community, and front-line participants like poll-watchers – along with party hacks from the opposition party — and there was some expectation Barrett would name such individuals to the committee. Apparently, not yet.

This does not even answer the question of why Artison was appointed to Task Force – it is not often considered to be politically wise to have an appointee investigate him- or herself.

Curley said he wants “input from the community.” Poll watchers and members of the general public will be given the opportunity to testify before the group he says.

OIC – Has the Government Dropped the Ball?

Last week, www.milwaukeeworld.com broke some interesting stories about the Opportunities Industrialization Center – Greater Milwaukee, and the relative lack of scrutiny the agency has encountered, its recent, well-publicized, yet incomplete audit notwithstanding.

We found it odd that a number of entities with ties to OIC and to Senator Gary George made payments of over $1,000 each per year to George’s law firm.

These entities included Mark Sostarich, guilty of sending kickbacks to George when Sostarich’s firm was counsel for OIC.

We noted that Petrie and Stocking – the law firm that employed Sostarich — was listed as sending money to George, as was Coleman & Williams, the accounting firm that checked OIC’s books.

We were also concerned, and remain concerned, about payments to George made by Todd Robert Murphy, a public relations man in Milwaukee.

Were these payments appropriate?

Nobody wants to say.

Tyrone Dumas, of OIC, refuses to say when Todd Robert Murphy was removed as OIC’s spokesperson – if indeed, he has been, and would only tell us that Murphy’s firm was used in 2004 for a promotion.

It probably is safe to say that it was Dumas himself who fired Murphy and hired Martin Schreiber and Associates, which refuses to confirm the dates of its affiliation with OIC-GM or the amount of money it is paid, or to tell us much about the Murphy connection.

We are much interested in the years 1999-2001 when Murphy sent thousands of dollars to George. Murphy also has no comment, and Dumas wants us to consider the case closed.

We have heard from agents of the State Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s office. The silence of the principals in this matter – including Mark Sostarich, Dave Begel, Todd Robert Murphy, Tyrone Dumas, Schreiber and Associates – is also of interest.

The only person who has talked is Bill Coleman, the accountant, who claims his payments to George were strictly in the line of business.

We even agree with Mark Belling on this issue: a Grand Jury is in order to completely investigate the tremendous theft of taxpayer funds at this agency. It is not enough to simply promise to do good in the future.

Until then, we will attempt to force OIC-GM to answer our requests through open records requests and, perhaps, with the assistance of some attorney friends.

We can’t afford to leave this issue alone.

MCGEE, JR.: Support OIC

Alderman Mike McGee, Jr., who likes to take things to the streets, invites you to join him on Wednesday to show your support of OIC-GM, the embattled social service agency that has seen many of its close associates implicated in schemes and misdeeds.

McGee’s father received hundreds of thousands of dollars from OIC-GM to sponsor his radio show.

McGee won’t be able to revive his father’s sponsorship (maybe Usinger’s Sausage would like to advertise) but he will be free to make his point at the event, the press release for which is included below.

If you’re not doing anything Wednesday morning, this could be a chance to get your face on the news, along with McGee’s.

The Press Release:

November 22, 2004 Ald. Mike McGee, Jr.
(414) 286-2221

Ald. McGee to Co-host Wednesday News Event to Show Support For Agency

Milwaukee Common Council member Mike McGee, Jr. said the many overwhelmingly positive contributions the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee makes to the city are being unfairly tarnished, and he’s had enough.

Ald. McGee, along with Rep. Annette Polly Williams, will join other elected officials and community members for a news conference and rally in support of OIC-GM at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 at the OIC Leon H. Sullivan Center, 2947 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Media coverage is invited.

Ald. McGee, whose 6th Aldermanic District is home to a sizable contingent of OIC clients, said the event is a “call to arms” for people who know the vital, community-building work the agency is involved in. “OIC has served our community successfully for more than 30 years, and it is also one of the largest single employers of people of color in the state with more than 400 employees,” said Ald. McGee.

“We’re talking about a social service agency that has grown into a visionary, multi-faceted, multi-million dollar community and economic development engine for the City of Milwaukee, and I believe it is worthy of our support at this crucial hour,” Ald. McGee said.

Dawson to Plan Commission: Panel Still One Member Short

Milwaukeeworld.com told you first several months ago that Michal Dawson, a longtime figure in the Norquist administration, and, in her retirement, a tireless campaigner for Tom Barrett, had opened a Milwaukee Office of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a Madison-based group with an interest in urban planning issues.

Dawson is one of the city’s most influential women in the land-use realm, joining neighborhood- and anti-freeway expansion activist Gretchen Schuldt and developer Julilly Kohler in that Pantheon. We’ll add Carolyn Wake Bray and Julie Penman to that list, and throw in Grace La for good measure.

Now we can be the first to tell you that Dawson will have an opportunity to put her principles into play on the Milwaukee Plan Commission, to which she was appointed by Mayor Barrett. Her appointment, to replace Dr. Bob Greenstreet, was confirmed by the Common Council on October 11th, according to John Hyslop of the City of Milwaukee, although I don’t remember reading anything about it at the time.

The Plan Commission still has one vacancy, that of Julilly Kohler herself, the former vice-chair of the Commission, who resigned her seat in September. Barrett has since asked her to serve on a committee on sustainable architecture and “green” building.

According to its website, www.mkedcd.org, “The City Plan Commission (CPC) is the City’s official planning body established under State statute and is responsible for master planning activities. The CPC advises the Common Council on a variety of land development issues including zoning map changes, revisions in the zoning ordinance, subdivision approvals, tax increment districts, business improvement districts, street and alley vacations, and public land disposition and acquisition.

“The CPC is composed of seven members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. The current members are: Larri Sue Jacquart, R. Gray Mitchem, (Acting Chair), J. Allen Stokes, Douglas Drake, Patricia Torres and Michal Dawson.”

Although the Department of City Development website had the correct information about the membership of the Plan Commission, as recently as last week the City’s www.milwaukee.gov website had incorrect information about the composition of the board. This has been corrected, and steps are being taken to ensure the uniformity and accuracy of City websites, according to Andrea Rowe of the Department of City Development.

Monster Business Here

Monster.com, the job-finding website has over 400 employees in the Milwaukee area, operating out of facilities at 7800 W. Brown Deer Road. One of its Milwaukee divisions, TMP Marketing, is a large yellow-pages advertising firm. … Washington Mutual, one of the nation’s largest mortgage holders is another national company with a significant Milwaukee presence. WAMU employs 1,000 people here, mostly in customer service and back office stuff. … The new issue of MKE will be out a day early this week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I am happy to say the editors there accepted a story I wrote about four Milwaukee museums and their treasures. … The UWM Post included a number of stories about the Riverwest neighborhood in its November 10th issue. To put it kindly, if it had not been for the Riverwest Currenst newspaper and Tom Tolan’s Riverwest history book, there would have been little to the stories, which did not show particular distinction in the field of original research. …KENNEDY UPDATE … What was James Kennedy, on trial here for forgery and selling fake artworks, doing at an Omaha art fair in late summer, after his arrest in Milwaukee? He was selling art, of course – but was it original? … Certificates of authenticity, signed by Picasso’s daughter were found with Kennedy’s spurious artworks, which were labeled “crude, laughable forgeries.” The certificates are suspect as well – identical certificates were found on “Picassos” offered for sale in Singapore. … Milwaukee Yoga Magazine has published its second issue. …Eamon Guerin, who worked on the Barrett for Mayor campaign now has a job at the Department of City Development working on block grants, according to his father, Atty. Mike Guerin. The old man was fresh from a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing where “I got my head handed to me on a platter,” as advocate for a car wash establishment and building demolition at 5th and Becher. CHANGES – Just for the record, Club 1225 N. Water Street, a large place that once was an Oxygen Bar, and a Sports Bar and a Pick-Up Bar and a mess at closing time, is out of business. We are thanked for our patronage. … Pure, the Wisconsin Avenue club that was once a McDonald’s, is closed. The place also had closing-time challenges, according to those shot nearby.

A (Mrs.) Fun Celebration

Mrs. Fun with Rhythm Club brought together the city’s finest four-woman quartet on November 18th when Connie Grauer, Kim Zick, Juli Wood and Robin Pluer performed at the Holiday Lighting celebration at Pere Marquette Park.

Although the sight of Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker appearing together wearing matching Santa caps was worth the price of admission (nothing), it was the musical tour de force of the women that brought the entertainment level of the party to overflowing, particularly on a brilliant rendition of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” The ceremony was in other respects over the top, as one would expect from anything that shows the lovely, silken hand of Beth Nicols, our modern Downtown Czarina.

Most notable: perfectly choreographed fireworks with some new effects. The pageantry was certainly worth a little gunpowder in your eyes. Or was that just tears of joy? No, it was gunpowder and cinders, no doubt. Todd Broadie was there, close to the VIP section, but on its outside. He is close to putting together a deal to take over control of WYMS radio. I wondered if we could talk about it. “Not anytime soon,” Broadie said, moving on. “I have to raise $3 million bucks.” Don’t let me stop you.

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