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No Age’s Nasty Spill

August 9, 2009
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Friday night was the Milwaukee stop for the No Age/Deerhunter/Dan Deacon Round Robin tour.  The momentum-sucking gaps as the bands alternated songs was a little disappointing to me since a straight bill of all three bands could have charged more, sold out a smaller venue AND given fans of each band exactly what they wanted rather than dishing it out in 5-10 minute intervals.  Nevertheless, it was a fun time and a creative way to structure the show.

Sadly, the most interesting moment of the night precipitated the abrupt ending of the show (see the 3:00 mark in the video below) — during a dance contest, No Age’s Randy Randall slipped on some Pabst on the floor and dislocated his shoulder. Somehow, he still managed to play Lollapalooza today.

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What Is Not But Could Be If

August 2, 2009
Plankington-RR-1-2-04-al

The downtown Milwaukee USPS headquarters along the Menomonee River

Michael Rosen’s piece in Saturday’s Journal Sentinel should be required reading for everyone concerned with the development of UWM’s freshwater research institute on public land along the lakeshore.

I think there are clear positives to locating the institute at the former Pieces of Eight location, but as tempting as it might be to simply forge ahead without considering alternative sites we must begin to make sober assessments of all potential options. The lakefront site appears to be a wonderful choice on aesthetics alone, but what about the land along the Menomonee River currently occupied by the Post Office? What about the Fifth Ward land along Water Street in the inner harbor? Either of these options would provide the opportunity for dramatic redevelopment in the area.  The USPS land would appear particularly attractive since the confluence of MMSD, the intermodal transit station and a future freshwater research institute could arguably stand to become the hub of green technology in Milwaukee. And if the USPS land does not become available due to the consolidation of USPS offices, what about the land across the river?

Locating the freshwater research institute on lakefront space would prevent the development from having any continuing catalyst in the area.  Since all adjacent land is public space, the building would not spur new development in any significant way. On the other hand, building the institute in either of the two options above would allow for the neighboring land to be redeveloped. That would expand the tax base and provide the city with much-needed additional revenue, not to mention allow companies specializing in green technology to cluster around the institute.

Rather than point to the option we want and ignore other possibilities, we need to consider all potential options and make our decision based on what would provide the most return on our public investment, not the most return for private cheerleaders.  In today’s rocky economic climate, that means the efficient leveraging of our public dollar should take precedence over the superficial. Our margin of error is extremely thin these days, so let’s at least study all options available to us before we commit significant taxpayer money to this exciting project.

Guess the Coffee Bar/Sandwich Shop in Bay View…

July 30, 2009
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coffee trio

…that’s for rent/sale.

New Conservation Overlay District

July 28, 2009

Rather than do this, Tony Zielinski should create a conservation overlay district under the Amtrak tracks that cross over Kinnickinnic Avenue so we can restore that area to it’s historic pre daily rockslide era.

Seriously, though.  Fix it.

Brewtown Gumshoe

July 28, 2009
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On Illusory Tenant’s suggestion, I started reading Ryan’s blog and said to myself, “Holy shit! Why haven’t I been reading this already?!” Please go check it out.

Low Income Options Aren’t New

July 27, 2009
One portion of the Hide House slated to be demolished (photo by Dave Reid)

One portion of the Hide House slated to be demolished (photo by Dave Reid)

One of the weird complaints about the proposed Hide House Lofts has been the suggestion that its offering of low-income housing will make the neighborhood less desireable. Maybe most of the neighbors aren’t aware of it, but they live in a Targeted Investment Neighborhood — a program that offers forgiveable home rehabilitation loans to landlords in exchange for renting their rehabed properties out to… low income families. Another TIN program provides low-interest and forgiveable loans to existing elderly… low income homeowners.

Furthermore, as much as the developers have failed to adequately inform the neighborhood about it’s plans, the housing market isn’t coming back anytime soon to save the existing neighborhood homeowners who see the Hide House Lofts as an anchor on their homes’ inflated assessed values.  If anything, the utilization of WHEDA low-income housing tax credits might prove to be one of the only games in town.  Since private developers are increasingly hesitant to take on risk, their preferred option has become leveraging public-private partnerships (example: UWM).  Unlike many of the vacant condo towers catering to higher-income professionals who can find better deals renting, there’s a significant demand for low-income housing which, in turn, should help drive more development in the neighborhood’s main commercial strip on Howell Avenue and, at a minimum, keep the neighborhood’s home values from falling significantly further.

There’s a lot about this project to be satisfied with.  At this point, it’s in the best interests of the neighborhood to work with the developer to ensure the project is as mutually agreeable as possible.

Scott Walker’s Campaign Finance Report

July 26, 2009
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Here’s the full 488 page report. Give it sometime to load on Scribd. Check out the item for Journal Broadcast Group on page 460 below…

View this document on Scribd

I’m not sure how common this type of expense refund is — it may well prove to be a normal transaction during a campaign.  If anyone knows, please share in the comments.

UPDATE: Capper adds some very helpful citizen reporting on the subject.