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Another day, another email from County Supervisor Eyon Biddle, Sr. The first-term Milwaukee board member has opinions on everything from concealed carry to empowering local teens to the best way to celebrate Labor Day. No one on the county board offers more instruction or more plentiful press releases. You have to admire Biddle’s energy and […]

Another day, another email from County Supervisor Eyon Biddle, Sr. The first-term Milwaukee board member has opinions on everything from concealed carry to empowering local teens to the best way to celebrate Labor Day. No one on the county board offers more instruction or more plentiful press releases.

You have to admire Biddle’s energy and passion for the job. But I suspect county veterans find this newcomer’s eagerness to share his every view a bit comical at times. Worse, he tends to ridicule or personally attack those who disagree with him.

Thus, when Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele dared to veto most of the funding for a new “ready to work initiative” providing county funds for job training and co-sponsored by Biddle, he declared that Abele “appears to be extremely out of touch with his constituents. I’m not sure what world he’s living in.”

You might call this the interplanetary insult. It’s a particular specialty of Biddle’s, one also directed at the many legislators who voted for the creation of a county comptroller. Said the Supervisor: “They think they can help some more by creating another partisan, political position in Milwaukee County government. Really? What planet are they on?”

After the county board overrode Abele’s veto of the ready-to-work funding, Biddle’s press release managed to be both mean and slightly coy: “Even though I found the veto to be especially disgusting, I look forward to working with our dear County Executive on this important initiative.”

Biddle marched with protestors who, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, briefly occupied the North Avenue bridge. In some cities these protestors have encountered police with night sticks, suffering physical injuries. But in Milwaukee, when protestors declared their willingness to be arrested, Chief Ed Flynn refused to do so. Declaring victory, the protestors eventually moved on.

You might have thought Biddle would appreciate this restraint and the fact that in Milwaukee, no one got hurt. Flynn kept a cool head and declared he wouldn’t help protestors fulfill their “martyrdom fantasies. … I decided the quickest way to clear the bridge was remove the element of drama the protestors craved. That was us. So we left.”

As for Mayor Tom Barrett, he offered this milquetoast comment: “I don’t support people disrupting the streets and people’s lives who are really struggling… in their own right,” presumably meaning the struggles of central city residents who lived near the bridge.

But this meant war for Biddle, whose press release condemned “CHIEF FLYNN, MAYOR BARRETT AND PSEUDO-INTELLECTUAL COLUMNISTS…DISCONNECTED FROM THE PULSE OF EVERYDAY PEOPLE.”

Flynn and Barrett, Biddle told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “seem to be very concerned with the minor inconvenience of traffic jams, instead of the lack of jobs and economic base for the people of color in our community.”

That’s a cheap shot. If there is evidence the two officials don’t care about minority unemployment, Biddle offered none. And if Flynn was more concerned about traffic jams, he would have had his officers clear the bridge.

As for those pseudo-intellectual columnists Biddle attacked, he offered no names. But just in case, I’m going to try to make this column as down-to-earth as possible.

TV News in Free Fall

A story in last week’s Journal Sentinel offered the usual sort of update on the TV news rating. Yes, WISN’s 10 p.m. news took first, but that first place share means less than it ever did because the overall audience for TV news is in a free fall.

As recently as 1998, the total audience for Milwaukee’s 10 p.m. news shows was 320,000; by 2006 that had dropped to 267,000 and this year to 250,000. No station has suffered a greater decline than Channel 4 (WTMJ), which plummeted from 137,000 viewers in 1998 to 72,900 this year.

One station has actually seen an increase: Channel 58, the perennial fourth-place station, has seen its audience grow from 27,000 in 1998 to 46,800 today. (But it still managed to finish about 1,800 viewers behind Fox 6.)

Curiously, the gap in audience share between the stations has narrowed greatly: In 1998, Channel 4 had five times more viewers than Channel 58. Now the difference is down to about 26,000 viewers. Viewers are apparently seeing less difference between the stations and less reason overall to watch any of them.

Nationally, the Pew Research Center has found, the audience for the nightly news has plunged from about 52 million viewers in 1980 to 23 million in 2010.

Given all the alternatives online, it’s difficult to imagine what would stop that decline from continuing. The very idea of a nightly news shows that packages all the news together that you need seems archaic; most Americans are making their own decisions as to what’s newsworthy by scanning headlines online. And very little of that original news has ever been provided by local TV newscasters.

The Buzz

Opensecrets.org shows that the net worth of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, is nearly $1.3 million. That might sound like a lot, but it actually ranks her about average, as the 298th richest among the 535 members of the House and Senate. About half of the 535 members are millionaires.

-The controversy over putting a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge merely offers another reason why the bridge should be scrapped and I-794 brought down to street level. It would save hundreds of millions of dollars, a state study has found, in return for increasing commuter time by a few minutes. And a bike lane would be easy to include in the new roadway.

-As to whether it’s such a big deal to put a bike lane on the high-rise Hoan, former Mayor John Norquist emailed me to note that the state’s Department of Transportation “has, in the past, approved a bike/walk lane on an Interstate bridge. With all the fussing from Sheriff Clarke, Wis DOT and drive radio crowd, you would think that arranging for biking and walking on an Interstate Bridge is an insurmountable engineering challenge.” To prove his point, Norquist attached a photo of him and another cyclist biking the I-94 bridge over the St. Croix River.

-And was the Journal Sentinel’s coverage of a partisan attack on state Sen. Lena Taylor overdone? Pressroom Buzz considers

-And the Sports Nut asks, could the Brewers trade top reliever John Axford

Eyon Biddle, Sr. photo from the County Supervisor’s Facebook page

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