I have been talking to voters through-out the campaign in fits and spurts. I decided a few months ago that I was going to block myself off on my calendar for this week for one last campaign walk. I thought when I did it that this week the final message of my campaign would be summarizing why people should vote for me and not my opponent. Instead I find myself telling voters what they should even vote at all. One woman asked me if I was running unopposed, to which I said yes. Then she asked if any of the other races when she votes next week are opposed and I said no, the municipal judge, circuit judges, and school board candidates are all unopposed. Then she asked me why she should even vote at all....I didn't have a good answer.
As I talk to people I like to have something to hand them. This week I am handing out postcards I had printed to send out in case I had an announced candidate back in January. I didn't want them to go to waste, plus they have a nice spot to write a note in case they are not home. I approached one house yesterday and rang the doorbell. An older lady answered and I handed her one of my postcards, introduced myself, and reminded her to vote next Tuesday. She handed the postcard back and thanked me but informed me she would be voting for Mike (Walsh). I explained to her that I wasn't running against Mike (Walsh), that there are 2 seats per district and that he is in the middle of a 4-year term and that I was running for the other seat. So she asked who I was running against, I told her I was unopposed. She thanked me and told me she would be voting for Mike. It occurred to me at that moment as it has before that we need to do a better job of explaining to people how the system works.
On another block I rang the doorbell of some people I knew. When they answered the door the first thing they said was-- You're unopposed, why are you out campaigning? I had an easy answer to that one, I owe it to the voters. At the very least voters in the 5th district deserve to meet their representative and put a face to the name. At the very least the candidate needs to talk to voters to find out what is on their mind.
Look for me again today and through the rest of the week, let me know what is on your mind. Oh and by the way...I'm not running against Mike.
I spent this evening at the Wauwatosa Women’s Club where the Wauwatosa Republican’s hosted an aldermanic candidate forum. I was not asked to participate because I am running unopposed. I wanted to go and listen to what the candidates from the districts where the races are contested had to say and where they stood on the issues, after all I will be working with some of these people in just a few weeks.
The candidates were asked 8 different questions in a round-robin fashion. The questions started out about economic development and moved on to questions like what city services could be cut and which should be beefed up. With only a few exceptions the candidates pretty much agreed across the board. A few answers did surprise me though, one candidate seemed very interested in examining the fire department to see where and what could be cut there. The answer was balanced out by noting that we are 16 years behind where we should be with our city infrastructure improvements. I have never heard that number before but what disturbs me most is if that is true the problem will only get more expensive and further behind if we don’t start catching up now. You can only ignore a problem so long before it becomes too big to ignore.
One question that everyone universally agreed on was that churches and non-profits should not be taxed. I would agree with that, however there needs to be checks and balances to ensure that a non-profit really is what it says it is and not a front for a for-profit organization.
I think that all the candidates, like me are fiscally conservative in that they won’t waste money and will try and get as much bang for the buck as possible. They will look for ways to save where possible and increase revenue when possible. They all seemed to agree as do I that since stimulus money is out there anyway you might as well use it. What many people fail to realize it that if you refuse stimulus money it doesn’t go back in the kitty, it gets spent somewhere else. Just don’t get started on something you will have to foot the bill for later.
One thing that really struck me was that for the most part they all seemed to be good candidates and it is good to know that no matter who wins the city will be in good hands.
Last Tuesday before the regular Common Council meeting there was a special Budget and Finance meeting to discuss the sewer-basement-rain water problem that plagues parts of Tosa every spring. To be completely honest I don't know anything about sewers, rain-water, etc. I am trying to learn because this is going to be a hot topic. It is also a very expensive topic. One of the issues related to this, the disconnection of a home from the sewer system at the time of sale is especially important to me because I am a realtor and there has been some buzz about the this in some of the real-estate chat groups I belong to.
I had a thought though. What if EVERYBODY in Wauwatosa had to install a rain barrel on their house. A rain barrel holds 55 gallons of water. Lets say that there are 35,000 houses in Tosa. that would be up to 1,925,000 gallons of rain water that would be displaced during a rainstorm. That is if everyone only had one. Many homes could benefit from having one in the front and one in the back yard, even another on the garage. Think how green the lawns would be around here come August!
I think the rain barrels cost like $50 ea. That has to be far less than a garbage cart or recycling cart that everybody got, so feasibly the city could buy them up front (though we really pay for them) or the sewer/water bill could absorb it.
Last night I was up at City Hall as I usually am on Tuesday nights for my weekly prep course in Wauwatosa City Government. An issue was brought before the Council for a vote that I have been following for the last month. First before I start, I want to be clear-- I have no idea how I would have voted last night if I were on the council. That being said, and it is true, let me explain what I saw.
The issue before the Council was whether to allow Stone Pointe Condominiums, which are planning a 3 building complex off of State Street near Walgreens and the foundry, to change one of the buildings to a WHEDA subsidized seniors only apartment building. I have no problem with this. As a realtor I can tell you there is NO market right now for condos so it would be nearly impossible to get financing. I can also tell you the market for senior apartments is wide open, probably for the next 20-30 years as the baby boomers all get ready for the next phase of life. The WHEDA credits that Stone Pointe is eligible for require a capped income for the residents that would live there and unfortunately somebody, somewhere in the last month has labeled this project low income housing. Seniors, in general don't have much income BECAUSE MOST OF THEM DO NOT WORK. They collect a pension, or social security, and a few might have a part-time job. The average senior has an income is $29,248 , the median income is actually much less than that at $18,208 . Either way you look at it a pretty low income. Seniors tend to be frugal, they have to be, and they tend to live fairly simply but they do deserve to live somewhere nice, like Stone Pointe would be.
An issue that came forth last night that caught the attention of the council was that after construction, because of the fixed income restrictions, the valuation used for assessment would be much lower than the original Stone Pointe condo building would have been. In all, this building would probably add about $20,000 to the city's tax rolls.
A motion was made to send the issue back to committee. I hope that the true reason it is going back is to discuss the tax implications and not the stigma on the misnomer that this project will be low-income housing apartments. If this project ever gets off the ground the people that live there will be by virtue of residence Wauwatosans. I would hope that all Wauwatosans are all open-minded enough to live with friendly neighbors no matter what they look like, how old they are, or how much money they make. The people who live there will spend their money in the Village, take their walks in Hart Park and call Wauwatosa home. We all choose to live here, why wouldn't they?
Waukesha currently gets most of their water from wells because they are just outside the Lake Michigan watershed, the natural boundary that has been established for whether or not a community can use Lake Michigan water. The problem with the well water is it often times test positive for radium, a radioactive chemical that breaks down and becomes radon gas…fun stuff.
While I would prefer our good neighbors to the west to have safe drinking water there are many questions I would like answered. I would like to know more about environmental impact and also what their overflow emergency plans are. More and more communities are interested in using the Great Lakes as their water source. We need to ensure that whatever we do it is the safest option for everyone.
On my old blog a month ago I wrote about my opinions regarding high-speed rail in Wisconsin. My opinions aren’t about the $810mil and saving money, we are past that. My opinion was that since the line was going in any way I would like to see a stop in Wauwatosa. Wauwatosa is the center of Metro-Milwaukee, home to the research park, the medical complex and so on. It is a very logical place for a stop to be. I have had several great conversations with leaders and legislators over the past several weeks. Everyone agreed that Wauwatosa should be on the table when it comes to deciding where the stops are.
Last night the Budget & Finance committee appropriated up to $50,000 from CDBG funds for a study of the Village of Wauwatosa Business Improvement District to come up with a long term plan. We have yet to complete an RFP but we should have a document shortly to put out for bid. I was a part of the North Avenue process over the last year or so and I have enjoyed being part of this process as well. Kathy Ehley, executive director of the BID and Nancy Welch, Wauwatosa's Director of Community Development have been at the helm of this project, one that had its origins as a traffic study as to what we should do with the hodge-podge of streets we have in the village. Some call it "eclectic" I call it un-navigable. It gets even better, go to Google maps and try and match up the street names and places with reality. Now pretend you have never been to the village and you are looking for a particular shop. Between maps and way finding you might give up never to return. While this is going to go well beyond a traffic study, it will be hard for whatever firm gets picked to ignore this fact and I am confident it will be a part of the final plan.
The critics and skeptics argue that the status quo in the village is a-ok. Really?Drews has been empty for years now. The prime anchor spot in the village has no tenant, a sure sign things are going well. Others argue that with new restaurants doing gangbuster business why do we need a plan, to which I would say put a restaurant with a huge patio and great beer selection anywhere in the world, save Utah and they would probably do pretty well.
It looks like I will be stepping down from the BID Board in a few weeks after the election is over. The BID has 4 alderman of its own to watch over it and help it a long. I am confident that with the current leadership in place they have a very bright future ahead. I will watch closely, help when I can and continue to shop, dine, and explore often.
UWM wants more time to buy County Grounds site in Tosa
By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel March 8, 2010 7:15 a.m.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee says it needs more time to buy a Milwaukee County Grounds parcel in Wauwatosa, where the university and its partners plan to develop a science research facility, technology-based business park and other buildings.
UWM was to buy the 89-acre parcel in April after waiving all contingencies by March 31. The land, east of U.S. Highway 45 and north of W. Watertown Plank Road, is being sold for $13.55 million.
But the university had to redesign its layout of the development site after the County Board changed the boundaries of a wildlife habitat zone on the parcel, said David Gilbert, president of the UWM Foundation. That delayed UWM from seeking zoning approval for the proposed development, he said, with the Wauwatosa Plan Commission taking up the issue at tonight's 7 p.m. meeting.
So, the university is asking the County Board to postpone the deadline on waiving contingencies until July 31. The board's Committee on Economic and Community Development is to review the request at today's meeting, which begins at 9 a.m.
The request is being formally made by UWM Innovation Park LLC, an affiliate of the university's real estate foundation.
University officials say they still plan to develop the site despite the loss of funding they had expected to receive for the project from retired business executive Michael Cudahy.
This summer, on July 24th East Tosa will be hosting a regional Chili cook-off on North Avenue. There will be bands, beer, and of course chili. It is a big deal, especially for the participants who will come from all over to try and earn points in order to get to Nationals. Last week at the North Avenue Neighborhood Alliance Board Meeting we sat down and started brain storming what we would call our event, simple eh? Not so much.
Naming an event is everything. Think about these: Summerfest, Tosa Fest, South Shore Water Frolics, River Splash. Each unique moniker not only encapsulates the event, it also evokes a feeling or even a memory. No wonder advertising and marketing people make so much money. You sometimes only get one shot to get it right.
Our hope is that the event becomes a regional draw and an annual event. We want it to be big deal so that people not familiar with the area are introduced and surprised and want to come back later for more. For many this might be their first impression of North Avenue and we might only get one shot to get it right.
I hope to see all of you at We-Don’t-Know-What-To-Call-it-Fest on July 24th.
There is an old joke among my core group of lifelong friends. It is called "The Curse of Bob" and it goes back to the days when I would begin a process with a half-cocked plan and doom it for complete failure by uttering the words "There is no reason this shouldn't work". Those days are long since passed. I am now a master planner to the point of excess. When I decide to do something I plan out every nuance, every detail, and every scenario I can think of. Then when I am done with that I pick it apart and then go look for a second opinion. Lastly and probably most important I always learn from my mistakes.
That being said I know a good plan when I see one. Last night at the Committee of the Whole meeting UWM presented their plan for Innovation Park which they intend to build on the Milwaukee County Grounds. I have seen many plans in my days and I can tell you the plan presented last night is top-notch, they have thought of everything. But you know the best laid plans don't always go…as planned. I would like to think that humans and butterflies will flourish together in harmony at Innovation Park but only time will tell.
After the meeting I walked next door and used the most powerful thing in my wallet, my library card. I checked out book titled The Last Monarch Butterfly: Conserving the Monarch Butterfly in a Brave New World by Phil Schappert.It is quick read, 112 pages and I am about half way through.
It seems to me that if I am going to listen to what UWM has planned then I owe it to the butterflies to see what their plans are.
Here I can tell you what I think and you can tell me why I'm wrong :) I hope this space can be used to create real dialog and real debate about real issues.
Let's keep the blog about the blog and stick to the news and issues at hand. If you have a non-blog question for me, send me an email, I also reserve the right to delete anonymous posts, lets keep it real--- we are neighbors and should not be strangers.