Why Police Chief Flynn is so Effective

    Milwaukee Chief of Police Ed Flynn. Chief Ed Flynn is arguably the best Milwaukee police chief in modern memory. He is a rarity, combining the street smarts of a beat cop (which is how he got his start) with the social science knowledge you might expect of a university intellectual.  William Bratton, the police chief famed for slashing crime in New York, calls Flynn a “leading light in American policing.” Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Executive Director Michael Tobin, who worked for years as a police officer and then as an assistant city attorney, says Flynn has been…

Empire Building by Health Care Giants

Year after year, Southeastern Wisconsin is plagued with medical care costs that rise faster than in other Midwestern cities. Empire building by ever bigger medical care chains might help explain the problem. And Aurora Health Care always seems to be at the center of the issue. A few years back, when Aurora proposed to build a new hospital in the Village of Summit in Waukesha County, some business leaders in the area opposed this, arguing the area was already well-served by the Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital just five miles away, operated by the smaller ProHealth Care chain. One of the notable…

Walker Hikes State Spending!

Here’s a news item I would have expected to be splashed across the state’s front pages: Gov. Scott Walker’s budget doesn’t lower spending, it increases it. And by quite a bit. The analysis comes to us from the sober-minded Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, whose wonky staff is perhaps as knowledgeable on state finances as any you could find. WisTax found the general fund budget for the 2011-2013 budget will increase spending by a whopping 7.6 percent.  That’s real spending, not a catch-up with inflation. That 7.6 percent hike is more than seven times higher than the 1 percent increase in inflation…

ALEC Exaggeration?

In early June, a bill was introduced by Republican legislators to bring bail bondsman back to Wisconsin – something the state had legally eliminated back in 1979. It seemed like a solution in search of a problem. There had been no complaints that the system in place for 32 years had any particular flaws. No district attorneys seemed to be clamoring for the change. In fact, Milwaukee’s current District Attorney John Chisholm said the change would have a negative effect on public safety, and former DA E. Michael McCann said a bail bondsman system typically brings corruption with it. The…

Kill the City Treasurer

Milwaukee comptrollers and treasurers last forever. Wally Morics, the current comptroller, is just the sixth to serve in the last century. Wayne Whittow, the city treasurer, has served since 1976, and upon finishing his current term in 2012, will tie the 36-year record for longevity set by his predecessor, Joseph Krueger.  Now that Morics has announced he will retire in 2012, several candidates are considering running for the office. One of them, Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas, has suggested the office of comptroller and treasurer be combined into one office to save money. Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Barrett and Ald. Michael…

Redistricting Turned Upside Down

Dan Thompson has been executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities for 22 years and has observed the process of redistricting several times. It has always worked the same way: First the municipalities redistrict, then the counties, then the state. “The traditional method of starting with the smaller, local districts is the perfectly sensible way to proceed and always has been,” he says. “I assume it’s been that way forever.” Not this year. The Republican-controlled legislature has turned the process topsy-turvy, drawing lines of state legislative and federal congressional districts before local officials in Wisconsin have finished their process.…

The Tragedy of Charlie McNeer

    Charles McNeer. How the mighty have fallen. The news that Charles McNeer, 85, was accused of trying to murder his wife was stunning for anyone who remembers McNeer from his days as a top corporate and civic leader in the 1980s. Few private sector leaders had as much impact on Milwaukee. McNeer was not a stranger to tragedy. As a November 1987 profile in Milwaukee Magazine written by Mary Van de Kamp Nohl revealed, McNeer had a hardscrabble childhood, growing up in a small coal-mining town in West Virginia. His father’s store went out of business during the…

Walker’s Key Adviser?

It has been a remarkable thing to observe the rehabilitation of Greg Gracz. Accused of sexually harassing a female firefighter and exposing himself to her in 1990, and with past convictions for drunken driving, Gracz has managed to shake off this seedy background and rise in power. He has become a key adviser to Gov. Scott Walker, no doubt helping him fashion the new law restricting collective bargaining. The union man and longtime public worker helped fashion the law rolling back the benefits and organizing rights of public workers. “I’m an alcoholic,” he told a state legislation committee in 1999.…

Marquette’s Sex Assault Scandal Gets Worse

    The Journal Sentinel gets scooped by the Chicago Tribune. A recent story by Chicago Tribune tells us much more about the sexual assault scandal at Marquette University. And the news isn’t good. Last fall a student reported being sexually assaulted by four student athletes at Marquette University. Then, in February, another student alleged a sexual assault by one student athlete. In both cases, Marquette didn’t report the incident to the Milwaukee Police. All this has been covered by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including the fact that Marquette officials admitted their policies were lax (they left it up to students…

Republicans Attack Credit Unions

  Representative Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). Poor Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). The four-term lawmaker was asked to be the water boy for a legislative change he barely understands. LeMahieu is listed as sole sponsor of a budget provision that would allow credit unions in Wisconsin to convert to stockholder-owned banks. It is a horrible piece of legislation for reasons I will spell out, and LaMahieu struggled to offer any justification. I’ve rarely interviewed a lawmaker with weaker responses to my questions. For starters, the provision is opposed by The Wisconsin Credit Union League and was actually proposed by their competitors, the…