Why Everybody Loves the Potawatomi

It’s been interesting to watch the strategy of the Potawatomi casino. The tribe donates millions annually to more than 100 local nonprofits. As more groups get on the gravy train, there’s less and less opposition to gambling.Unless it’s out of town. As a Journal Sentinel story last week noted, the Potawatomi has created a new group, Wisconsin Gaming for Wisconsin, which is running ads condemning a proposed Kenosha casino. Other members of this group include the Urban League, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Visit Milwaukee, the city’s tourism bureau. All three get donations from the Potawatomi.How much has Visit Milwaukee…

It’s been interesting to watch the strategy of the Potawatomi casino. The tribe donates millions annually to more than 100 local nonprofits. As more groups get on the gravy train, there’s less and less opposition to gambling.

Unless it’s out of town. As a Journal Sentinel story last week noted, the Potawatomi has created a new group, Wisconsin Gaming for Wisconsin, which is running ads condemning a proposed Kenosha casino. Other members of this group include the Urban League, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Visit Milwaukee, the city’s tourism bureau. All three get donations from the Potawatomi.

How much has Visit Milwaukee gotten? Try $325,000 in 2002, $242,000 in 2003, $250,000 in 2004, $242,000 in 2005, $300,000 in 2006. That’s $1.35 million over five years.

Dave Fantle, spokesman for Visit Milwaukee, says a Kenosha casino could reduce tourism to this city. Perhaps, but isn’t it a tad unseemly for the tourism bureau to join a fight between dueling casinos?

Evan Zeppos, spokesperson for the Kenosha project, notes that the 1,186 members of the Potawatomi tribe in Wisconsin have a median, per-person income of $68,743, or more than $137,000 for a family with two parents. The figure was reported by The Lakeland Times. By contrast, the 8,074 members of the Menomonee tribe, which would benefit from the Kenosha casino, have a median family income of $26,090, with one in three families living below the poverty line.

But Ken Walsh, spokesperson for Potawatomi, says the Lakeland Times figures are false. However, he offers no other statistics. Given the huge earnings of the casino, Potawatomi tribe members have to be doing pretty well.

Walsh, however, contends the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut, which would provide the upfront capital and expertise to open the Kenosha casino, stands to gain $305 million. Zeppos denies this but offers no counter statistic. Of course, these casinos generate gazillions, so even if the Mohegans take a cut, you can expect the Menomonee Tribe members to rise out of poverty.

Certainly a Kenosha casino would take some tourists and jobs from Milwaukee – Walsh estimates 2,000 lost jobs. But a study done for the Potawatomi in 2005 concluded that even with a Kenosha casino and one in Northern Illinois (which has yet to be built), the Potawatomi casino should be able to increase its revenue by 63 percent. That means lots more money to hand out to Visit Milwaukee and other nonprofits. And lots more of the social problems caused by gambling.   


The Journal Sentinel’s Anti-Doyle Campaign

Last week on Tuesday, the Journal Sentinel’s top Metro page story was “Trohas gave $50,000 for inaugural.” The fact that Dennis Troha and his wife gave $50,000 to Gov. Jim Doyle’s inauguration would seem newsworthy, given that Troha faces a federal investigation. The only problem is the story is three months old.

A JS story last Dec. 14 quoted a Troha spokesperson saying Troha and his wife would give $50,000. A follow-up Associated Press story on Jan. 4 tallied all the donations to the inaugural, including Troha’s $50,000, and was picked up by newspapers across the state.

Last week’s story merely confirms what we already knew about Troha. How could it merit a top Metro headline? Maybe because the JS is on a campaign here: It’s done 18 stories on the Troha investigation, with several front-page stories carrying headlines describing him as a “Doyle donor” or “Doyle supporter.” Last week’s story was the fourth time a headline made this connection.

The JS, as I’ve previously noted, also gave front-page coverage to the state Department of Transportation’s work with other states regarding fuel tax bills that Troha’s trucking company owed. The Wisconsin State Journal and Associated Press tended to see the situation as the state doing a job required by its legal compact with other states, while the JS story made it look like the Doyle administration was doing its best to help out Troha.

The JS then went further, demanding the calendar of Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi. This prompted a front-page headline that Busalacchi had lost portions of his calendar. Later, when Busalacchi found his calendar, this generated another front-page headline, deemed as the second most important story of the day. To date, not one story has been written showing anything suspicious about Busalacchi’s calendar, but the front-page headlines have broadcast the suspicion that he is one slippery fellow. For losing some of his calendar.

Meanwhile JS reporter Dan Bice did a remarkable story on Troha’s connection to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan, who has received some $58,000 in donations from Troha, hired a congressional aide who is the son of a close Troha business associate. Ryan and that aide then proceeded to get a federal law passed that benefited the aide’s father and Troha.

The deal smells to high heavens. But there has not been one JS headline calling Troha a Ryan donor or Ryan supporter.

Yes, the JS does editorials that could fairly be called liberal-leaning. But the paper’s front pages and its headlines, which are still the most important driver of how the media reports the news in Wisconsin, are selected by Republican-leaning editors retained since the old days of the Milwaukee Sentinel. At times the bias is blatant.


Short Takes

– My story on the federal investigation of UWM, you may recall, got a stinging letter from UWM saying I was all wrong. In letters today, you’ll find a rejoinder from Jerry Ann Hamilton, president of the Milwaukee NAACP. Hamilton decries the federal findings and calls for Gov. Doyle to launch an investigation into UWM’s hiring and promotion practices. She also notes that over the last decade, white enrollment at UWM increased by 4,700 while black enrollment rose by 113. There are 14 white faculty for every African-American faculty member.


– You’ll also find a letter from County Executive Scott Walker conceding that the City of Milwaukee has the legal right to take over the Private Industry Council, the job training group that has long been run by Milwaukee County. But Walker argues that no rationale has been presented for the takeover. I’m inclined to agree.

Since I wrote to this effect, I have gotten lots of anonymous e-mail attacking Gerard Randall, the PIC’s Republican-leaning president. Last week, the energetic Milwaukee Labor Press got into the battle. Dominique Paul Noth, the one-time arts editor for the Milwaukee Journal, edits and does a heck of a lot of writing for the publication. His story raised many questions about Randall, but nearly every quote was off the record. Sort of like the e-mails I got.

The story suggests Randall isn’t collaborative enough, that his executive V-P Dave Wilson really does the heavy lifting, and that the agency has spent anywhere from $13,000 to $31,000 per participant getting a job placement or some other positive outcome. That sounds expensive, but the PIC deals with a difficult-to-reach population that must be “moved out of the muck of poverty,” as Noth dramatically describes it. I’ve yet to see any statistics showing Milwaukee spends more per participant than other cities.

Walker asks what the city will do differently. He also notes that the county will be left with a bill for $600,000. That’s because the county provided a guarantee for the building at 27th and North, which the PIC now occupies. “Who will cover that amount?” he wonders.

I still can’t help thinking Randall’s major sin was criticizing Democrats as a pundit on local talk shows. He made his bed and will now have to lie in it. But that doesn’t mean we’ll get better job training.


And don’t miss critic Ann Christenson’s Dish on Dining.

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