Me Myself and I

Few are more well-versed in state politics than Margaret Farrow, the former lieutenant governor and longtime legislator. But she was stumped recently when a fellow Republican asked her a simple question about Scott Walker: “So who is the inner circle that guides the governor?” Farrow had no answer. “I haven’t a clue,” Farrow says. “That’s the mystery. That’s the $64 million question.” Almost overnight, Walker has become nationally famous – and an inspiration to other Republicans – for his dramatic political agenda: killing high-speed rail, slashing state spending, cutting employee benefits and drastically curtailing the ability of public sector unions…

We Are All Chicago

This article first appeared in the May 2011 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. * By Marc Eisen In search of a better life, my parents decamped from Chicago in 1953 to 16 acres in rural Kenosha County near what is now I-94. I lived a happily hayseed childhood replete with a drafty old farmhouse, a barn, and a menagerie of farm animals and dogs. My dad, who had been a two-fisted Maxwell Street saloon keeper, was not a gentleman farmer. He wound up working in a warehouse in Skokie, Ill., and commuted at breakneck speed for 25-plus years. (Thanks to a…

Back to the Future

In July of 2007, Michael Cudahy took Mayor Tom Barrett, County Executive Scott Walker and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy on his private jet to Portland, Ore., to behold the future of mass transit.Portland is the dream city for rail-lovers, with a $3 billion system that includes 52.4 miles of light rail, 14.7 miles of heavy rail, a mile-long aerial tram and an 8-mile trolley loop. Barrett loved it.“I believe we can replicate the great success [of] Portland here in Milwaukee,” the mayor declared.In fact, Barrett is starting with a streetcar that runs just two miles, from…

Stealth Brew

Saturdays in autumn mean Badger football, even if you’re an ex-Wisconsinite some 900 miles east. Each week, a flock of New York City residents rise early, don their UW apparel and head to the Mad River Bar & Grille, a Manhattan sports bar at 82nd Street and Third Avenue. Standard in big cities, such bars declare allegiances and morph into hometown hangouts for games. At Mad River, the Badgers are king.The Upper East Side establishment sports a somewhat less-than-authentic Wisconsin motif (taxidermy, dark wood, skis and a Bucky Badger magnet stuck to the side of an old-fashioned cash register) but…

Confessionsof a FIB

I remember the first time I said I was from Chicago. It felt natural, the “a” prolonged at a slightly higher pitch, the street cred neatly smacking my lips. The declaration tasted sweet yet sour, natural yet forbidden, like the last Jolly Rancher in a public candy bowl.It was a lie.I’m a Chicago suburbanite, born in Arlington Heights and raised in Long Grove, suburbs 30 miles northwest of the Windy City. I’m the kind of suburbanite who went to summer camp in Minocqua and had friends with second homes on the lake. The kind who appreciated Wisconsin for a summer…

A Cross to Bear

His name is Mike Hammer. In a black T-shirt, with a shaved head and a drooping moustache, he looks like he’d be more comfortable serving up tequila in a Walker’s Point biker bar than serving communion.But despite his heavy-metal name, Michael is no hammer. He’s a soft-spoken, teddy bear of a guy who signs off his voice mail with the salutation: “Blessings. And toodles.”This is a tough time to be a Catholic priest. U.S. bishops have reported allegations of abuse by 5,600 clergy nationwide – more than 5 percent of the 109,694 active in this country since 1950. Of 102…

The Death of Green

Five or six wayward ducks paddle in a foot of murky rainwater at the deep end of what was once Hoyt Pool. Tall weeds push through cracks in the cement. Painted on the deck is a “No Diving” warning, faded and pointless. Once the state’s largest outdoor pool, Hoyt has been empty since 2003, when a leaky bottom and shrinking parks budget forced Milwaukee County to pull the plug. It felt like a death for many in the neighborhood.Belatedly, a handful of residents formed Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool, hoping to somehow reopen it. But they seemed to be…

Can’t Do

A decade from now, one can imagine a beaming septuagenarian named Jim Doyle sitting on a dais in Milwaukee as the former governor is honored for ushering in a bold new era of train travel.He will be lauded for laying the tracks of a 21st-century Wisconsin economy. The KRM commuter rail he helped launch would have by then joined I-94 as one of the main streets connecting Milwaukee with the booming Chicagoland economy, drawing thousands of new jobs to Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha. And he will be celebrated for securing the breakthrough $810 million federal grant for his high-speed rail…

Afterglow

Photos by John DecemberLooking southwest toward the Holton Street bridge from the intersection of Glover Avenue and Booth Street (top); and the parking garage at Plankinton Avenue and Clybourn Street (bottom).

No Fighting Allowed

On April 6, voters could change the shape of their local governments. They will elect mayors in Waukesha, Brookfield, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, Mequon, Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, Delafield and Hartford. Voters also will choose eight Circuit Court judges in Milwaukee County and every supervisor on the Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha county boards, some 86 candidates in all. But as with all spring elections, turnout will be embarrassingly low and media coverage negligible. In April 2008, a dismal 27 percent of registered voters in Milwaukee cast ballots for mayor and Common Council, county executive and county board. By comparison, there was an 80…