Saturday, August 28, 2010



Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And The Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

Ron Johnson's senate campaign website includes his endorsement from Freedom Works PAC, the right-wing Tea Party organization headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

According to the endorsement:

Johnson is both a Certified Public Accountant, and the creator of hundreds of manufacturing jobs. Given the current record-breaking levels of both the unemployment rate and the federal deficit, these are two skill sets desperately needed in the Senate.

Johnson's own biography is more circumspect, noting merely that he had worked as an accountant in the past while he was creating hundreds of manufacturing jobs.

An examination of the records of the State of Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing shows that while there are loads of Johnsons serving as Certified Public Accountant, Ron Johnson is not one of them.

However, who's to complain if an outside group like Freedom Works engages in a little credential enhancement on behalf of a candidate like Johnson, whose resume is rather thin?


An article in Politico this month entitled "Tea Party's Growing Money Problem" notes how Freedom Works receives considerable funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee ... but for "policy research and development."

"Likewise, the president of the Lynde and Henry [sic] Bradley Foundation, which grant reports show has contributed $195,000 to Americans for Prosperity and $270,000 to FreedomWorks between the time of their split and the end of last year, said his group’s focus will remain on policy research and development, rather than grass-roots mobilization.

“We are not directly funding their tea party activities,” foundation President Mike Grebe told POLITICO. “We’re funding public education programs run by Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, both of which are very active in the tea party movement, but our monitoring of that would be indirectly, as opposed to having direct contacts with tea party people.”

So, the Bradley folks will fund the ideology, but not soil their hands with "direct contacts with tea party people."

This tends to strengthen the argument of those who believe the Tea Party movement is a phony populist organization whose members are unwittingly advancing the agenda of the power elite they claim to disdain.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



* * *
What $1,000 Will Buy You

Super Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And The Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

The R(epublican) G(overnors) A(ssociation) Wisconsin 2010 PAC has a new advertisement in its "Worst Ever" series, in which the title character is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for governor.
This advertisement is set in a tavern, where a young bartender tells us his customers are of two minds about what makes Barrett the "worst ever."
"More taxes!" shouts one group of unhappy whites.
"Less jobs!" shouts the other, grammatically challenged group.
As the bartender goes on to chronicle Barrett's failings, and as a Beer Hall Putsch gets organized in the background, the camera remains tightly focused on him -- and the Miller Lite tap handle just inches away.
No other beer tap handles are clearly visible in the spot, so you've got to wonder if the set was as carefully staged as the script.
Well, what do you know?
According to form GAB2, the July 2010 continuing report for the RGA Wisconsin 2010 PAC, the most recent figures available, the RGA's sole contributor for the cycle was Michael "Mike" Jones of Delafield, identified as "Vice President Corporate Affairs Miller Coors."
Jones gave the PAC $1,000, and it appears he got his firm a nice return on his investment -- so far.
I think MillerCoors should do everything possible to disassociate itself from this inflammatory advertisement, and suggest the Government Accountability Board invite the RGA folks to explain their involvement with this sponsorship.
I can't wait to hear about what a coincidence this is.

[Unfortunately, I haven't found the ad on the internet yet. Somebody please post it and notify me. --Ed.]


Commissioner's Effigy Unveiled
A Milwaukee Fly-In for Billionaires
A Couple Laughs from Uecker

Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And The Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

Hundreds of invited guests gathered inside a large tent in front of the ticket booths at Miller Park yesterday, Tuesday, August 24th, 2010, for the unveiling of a 7-foot bronze statue of 9th Commissioner of Baseball, Allan H. "Bud" Selig.
The enclosed white tent was only partially open to the gaze of the general public, several hundred of whom were drawn to the event whether for reasons of history or just to pass the time. For some, being within a couple dozen feet of Hank Aaron was reason enough. Aaron was joined by Robin Yount, making for a total of three living statues within pigeon-dropping distance of their own bronze effigies.
Apparently the invited guests had been treated to a luncheon prior to the 1:30 p.m. event, and they filed from the stadium into the tent's confines to the accompaniment of recorded music while the actual Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra sat mute on the stage.
The orchestra was arrayed in a semicircle around a shrouded figure that may as well have been an armless crucifix in a Catholic church at lent.


The general public, barricaded from the invited guests, watched as the dignitaries entered the mysterious confines of the tent. One cadre seemed intent upon calling their presence outside the gates to their "friends" inside the gates, who were appropriately mortified.
One woman, dressed in a black suit in the blazing sun, eagerly (and loudly) shouted out to Wendy Selig Prieb.
"Wendy! Wendy! We-e-e-ndy!"After an initial feint, Ms. Prieb approached the woman by a few steps and gave a curious little gesture imitating a cell phone chat. "We'll talk! We'll talk!," Ms. Selig-Prieb said. They won't talk.

[Mr. Greenberg, your limousine is waiting. Right here!]

Local dignitaries, including Common Council President Willie Hines, Jr., Ald. Michael Murphy and Frank Gimbel made their way through the queue along with such folks as Johnny Logan (he could have taken the bus from West Allis), Frank Robinson, Joe Torre, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Dick Ebersol and Rachel (Mrs. Jackie) Robinson.

Mixed in were numerous glossy looking men accompanied by their impeccably expensive wives. These were not retired players, but active owners of Major League teams. Their rented limousines were huddled together in a corner of the parking lot, in a sea of exclusive black.
No limousine was parked closer than that with "Greenberg"printed in block letters on a sign in the car's window. That must be Marty Greenberg, a Jim Doyle appointee to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District board, arriving bright and early for a busy day including a 3 p.m. meeting of the board. Some board! No agenda has been posted, and it may be months until we find out what weighty matters were discussed there.


Once the guests were corralled into their seats, the program got underway, emceed by Bob Uecker.
Owner Mark L. Attanasio kicked things off by saying, "simply put, there would be no major league baseball here in Milwaukee without Allan H. "Bud" Selig."
He then gave a brief bio of the Commissioner and former Brewers owner emphasizing his down-home qualities that so endear him to Milwaukeeans and are so many light years away from those of the typical team owner, judging from the ones on display. (I could not imagine a single one of them waiting in line at Sendik's Bayside. They'd have their chauffeurs dash in for their bananas and oranges.) Still, Bud's tenacity and his academic achievements were also noted. (He went to the elite Washington High School and the University of Wisconsin, attaining two baccalaureate degrees.)
Uecker said, "I have two bachelor degrees. Two. Divorced twice."
Uecker added, to emphasize still more Bud's character, "I never had a contract with Bud. That is unique in professional baseball. I never got paid either."
Childhood friend Sen. Herbert H. Kohl gave an anecdote about how Bud got a much taller substitute to pitch in a championship game with young Herb's team. Apparently the switcheroo still stung, since Herb said, "Imagine. This is the man who is responsible for the integrity of professional baseball."


Regrettably, the event was getting rather tedious, and I wasn't about to jump a barricade to see a tented sculpture that would be exposed to the elements for the rest of time, so I skipped the unveiling to explore the Hank Aaron Bicycle Trail (which is just a fancy name for Canal Street).
Yet here it is, a day later, and there is still no good photograph of Bud Selig's statue, the oeuvre of Yellow Springs Ohio sculptor Brian Maughan. Maughan's biography notes that he was inspired to enter his career after seeing Michelangelo's David, so his subjects tend to be well-hung. (Just ask Robin Yount's girlfriends!)
Sports sculpture occupies an aesthetic realm somewhere between waterfowl decoys and miniature golf course gnomes, and the great museums of the world accordingly have shunned his prolific output. However, Maughan's works are in the collection of President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, take that for what it's worth.
Miller Park now has three of his sculptures, and they capably express their subjects.
As Maughan notes in his "Artist's Philosophy":

For me the process of figurative art is to imbue the abstract elements (the stuff we’re really working with: lines, shape, volumes, textures…) with emotional qualities—strength, joy, tenderness, bravado, etc.—that express the character of the subject matter.

Strength, joy, tenderness, bravado. Such are the lines, shapes, volumes and textures of Bud Selig, cast in bronze for the ages.
Here's a video of the unveiling. .

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The State's Application for High Speed Rail
Would Benefit Private Freight Hauler

* * *
Railroad Repair Shop Planned for Madison (!)
* * *
Busalacchi's Letter of Dismissal of Oconomowoc Seen in New Light

Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And The Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

[Secretary Frank Busalacchi's abrupt and curt dismissal of Oconomowoc as a train station reveals the anguish of a suitor spurned, as the Hound Dog noted while sniffing through the state's application for high speed rail funds.--Ed.]

The final sentence of Transportation Secretary Frank J. Busalacchi's letter to Oconomowoc Mayor James Daley "discontinuing further discussions on a proposed station in Oconomowoc" is a classic:
As the overall project moves forward, we will continue to work with the City and residents on rail crossing issues and a rail corridor management plan to ensure the train passes swiftly and safely through the City of Oconomowoc."

Ouch! You can feel the pain of Busalacchi, the spurned suitor. "If you don't want me, I'll leave you in the dirt. Or perhaps in the gravel deposits with which Mother Nature has so abundantly pitted your county."

If you take a look at the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation Rail Grant Application filed late in 2009, you will find that Busalacchi was practically wistful while ruminating about the attractiveness of Oconomowoc as a rail station:

"Oconomowoc is a community that thrives on its natural beauty, rich history and lake access.
"Public service buildings such as the Oconomowoc Public Library and City Hall are all within walking distance to the proposed train station.
"In addition to connecting the community, the station will provide a link to other modes of transportation such as direct connection to the local transit system, Waukesha Metro."

Positively lyric, and only slightly disingenuous -- that part about access to Oconomowoc Lake is a corker, since homeowners there have been quite successful in limiting lake access to themselves.

In a similar vein, and in retrospect, we can see how Busalacchi's application must have frightened the residents of Oconomowoc and their tremulous new mayor. Why, the DOT envisions "connecting the community."
Among the insular Oconomowocowians, there is no need for a connection, particularly --
"a direct connection to the local transit system, Waukesha Metro" -- which itself has direct connections to the Milwaukee County Transit System.

Whatever made Busalacchi think the citizens of Oconomowoc would stand for that!


A reading of the application reveals a few nuggets of information:

  • A train maintenance / repair / shop facility is planned for Madison.
Comment: Madison! The city that can't find the screwdriver, and wouldn't know which end to use. The train shops should be located in Milwaukee.

  • Plenty of the money for the rail corridor will go to a private corporation. The Canadian Pacific Railroad will perform the Milwaukee - Watertown improvements using its crews and contractors under DOT supervision. (The Watertown to Madison improvements will be done via DOT contracts.)
  • The rail improvements throughout the corridor will also benefit freight trains by providing faster service and lower cost per mile.
Comment: Profit-making companies like CP could become more profitable. [Second quarter earnings $162 million, up 96%]. More freight will be carried on Wisconsin rails; the state will benefit from increased revenues both direct and indirect from its natural position as a freight corridor.

  • The rail improvements will make for more skilled employees at Canadian Pacific, according to the application:
"Canadian Pacific Railway uses projects such as this to provide valuable understudy experience for new and existing employees. Employees and others who gain experience from this project will be valuable for deployment of future high speed rail vision."

Comment: Future high speed rail vision should probably include the complete separation of high speed passenger rail lines from the much slower freight traffic, such as we find in many developed nations. There is concern over the incompatibility of freight and passenger traffic in many transportation circles, as seen in this item from the site.

But, for now, CP will get some much-needed improvements to its corridor while we await the era of true high speed rail. This is a complicated, nuanced subject. For further enlightenment on the matter, make sure to turn off your AM radio.

Friday, August 20, 2010


County Says Board Will Hear Recommendations in September

By Michael Horne

According to RFP 6562, Milwaukee County staff should make a decision today among the 11 bids submitted for the sale of the county's City Campus, 2711 W. Wells St., and the related lease of space for the county's Department of Aging, now located at 235 W. Galena St.
Bids were due July 30th 2010.

The proposal has several moving parts.
  • The county asked for bids for the lease of space suitable for the aging department, whose lease expires next year. That lease would also include those county departments now on Wells St. That would free up the county to sell the 265,000 s.f. City Campus, built as a hospital.
  • Or, what the heck, the county would consider simply moving the Department of Aging into the City Campus, thereby filling it to capacity.
Gerald Baker of the county's Real Estate Department, said staff would forward its recommendation to the County Board for its consideration in September, with a final decision expected to be rendered in October, with a lease to commence in January 2011.

Thursday, August 19, 2010



By Michael Horne

Milwaukee County Supervisor Chris Larson has raised $13,793 from 179 donors on the ActBlue website, while incumbent 7th District Senator Jeff Plale has only raised $830 from 6 donors on the same site, which describes itself as "the online clearinghouse for Democratic action."

Larson's 179 donors is more than recorded by any other Wisconsin Senate candidate, and his $13,793 is the second-greatest amount raised by any of those candidates.

Website fundraising has been around for a couple of elections, but Larson's ascendancy shows a divide between old and new politics. Starting the race with a great disparity in fundraising, Larson has shown a knack for embracing new technologies that seem to have eluded his opponent.

Larson offers several online fundraising options on his website, which itself is further energized with links to his Facebook and other social networking sites. Plale's site also includes ActBlue and Facebook buttons, but, while Larson's site is brimming with stories, Plale's "Newsroom" page is "under construction" with less than a month to go until the primary. That's a red flag for the internet generation.

Plale's July 2010 continuing campaign finance report [GAB2] showed him with $33,187 cash on hand, while Larson had a balance of $19,302. That would have spelled disaster not too many election cycles ago. At the very least the disparity would have forced the candidate to spend even more time shaking the money tree than he would spend knocking on doors, where he belongs.

Larson can afford to knock on doors this campaign, since it is clear that a few well-written and well-timed e-mail messages and Facebook posts can raise considerable funds, such as would have been unimaginable just a few election cycles ago.

It can not be determined at this time with the information available how much (if any) of Larson's online contributions were included in the July report, or how much either candidate has raised since then from more conventional means, but it is clear that a substantial money gap can be bridged by an active campaigner with an energetic presence both on the streets -- and in cyberspace.

Plale has a greater number of powerhouse union endorsements in this race, while Larson has been successful in corralling a few himself. The district is as bizarre as ever, stretching from South Milwaukee - Cudahy to the Upper East Side, hey.

Will the south side unionists vote in the Republican Primary, caught in the siren song of the Neumann-Walker campaign for governor -- and thus precluding a vote for anybody on the Democratic ticket, including the presumably favored Plale? Those south siders have been getting a little cantankerous lately, and they might feel like a little teabagging this September.

Will Larson be able to convince a great number of young and new voters to support his candidacy, especially in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee portions of his district, and actually show up to vote? He'd be the first in history.

Larson's youth and social media adroitness will give him an advantage with that segment, it appears, at least vis a vis Plale, and if anybody bothers to vote.

Like all elections, it all depends on who turns out and whom they vote for.

There seems to be a chance that Politics-As-Usual will have to face the new realities of Social Media and its opportunities for public engagement -- and fundraising.

It is clear that Larson has the edge in the social media arena, and this election will be closely followed.

The Subject is Enforcement of Cigarette Litter Laws
But Conflict with State Law Seen

Special to the Readers of Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And the Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

Attention bartenders and tavern owners in the City of Milwaukee. Expect a visit from the police. I was present at a Brady Street tavern when three MPD officers walked by on foot patrol Tuesday evening.
While two officers remained outside, the third entered the tavern and asked the bartender to speak with him.

Rather sheepishly, the officer said he was instructed to make the rounds of taverns to inform operators that the police will begin enforcing cigarette litter complaints, and that both operator and customers could be subject to fines for cigarette trash outside licensed establishments.
At the end of the educational session, the officer asked for the bartender's name so he could document the visit to his supervisor.

(Experienced tavern operators recognize that these mandatory visits give the cops a chance to have a look-see to make sure everything is in order in their establishments.)

I took the opportunity to ask the officer a couple of questions on a topic that perplexed me since I first read 2009 Wisconsin Act 12.

It's this bit:

(b) A person in charge may not provide matches, ashtrays, or other equipment for smoking at the location where smoking is prohibited.

This provision of the law has not only made it apparently illegal for taverns to hand out matches, but it would seem to prevent taverns from providing the ashtrays that would help discourage customers from flinging their butts into the street.

The officer said the police department interprets that law to mean that matches and ashtrays may not be provided inside the establishment. [See the Legislative Brief issued in 2009 and the Wisconsin Legislative Council's July 2010 memorandum. --Ed.]

So, tavern owners, go ahead and leave ashtrays and matches outside your establishments if you so choose, but be prepared for inconsistent enforcement. You might want to ask the officers about this when they come to visit you.

I also asked the officer about probable cause: How could they cite a tavern owner or person in charge without proof that the offending smoker outside the tavern was indeed a customer, and not a passerby.

The officer said he would cite the person outside and not the tavern owner in such a case.

My takeaway: Be prepared for police to begin ticketing anybody they chose to who tosses cigarette butts other than in an approved receptacle.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Special to the Readers of
Plenty of Horne

By Michael Horne

And the Plenty of Horne Hound Dog Team

On June 15th, 2010, the City of Milwaukee Common Council abolished the East Village Conservation Overlay District it enacted in 2006. [File 091603] It appears the Bondar Brothers, owners of the fabled Wolski's Tavern [Est. 1908], longtime opponents of the district, are poised to take advantage of the lack of special zoning restrictions to tear down two buildings for the purpose of creating an outdoor patio and additional parking -- and perhaps to assemble a sizable parcel for future development.

The Wolski's parking lot at 1826 N.Pulaski St was once occupied by dwelling units torn down in the late '90s. It was perhaps Milwaukee's first Green demolition, as practically every board in the building was recycled.

Now, the buildings on either side of the lot -- one next door to the tavern -- may be demolished. A four unit building at 1822 N. Pulaski St. owned by the Bondars, and immediately south of the parking lot is being vacated by its long term residents according to my personal observation and discussion with neighbors.

A duplex at 1832 N. Pulaski St. not owned by the Bondars, immediately south of the tavern (1836 N. Pulaski St.) could be pulled down to give Wolski's a possibly needed Beer Garden / smoking area.

It doesn't take much to pull down a building in Milwaukee, but a parking lot would require an appearance before the city Board of Zoning Appeals, which says no application has been received thus far. There is likewise no record of application for permits for demolition for any of the properties.

However, the tavern and its contiguous properties could eventually provide a sizable building site at some point in the future. The Bondar Tower has long been a dream. The Zoning Overlay District specifically prohibited accumulation of properties for the purpose of creating large developments there. It was hoped the overlay would help preserve the character of the neighborhood, consisting mostly of frame dwellings on narrow, crowded lots dating to the late 19th century.

In the meantime, vacant land would provide considerably less tax revenue to the local taxing authorities. Tax collections on the two properties mentioned above totaled about $13,000 for 2009. Minus the improvements, tax collections would drop to about $5,000 for the vacant land.