Never Forget

Thanks to my daughter, Shelby, for the beautiful photos.

While we are not gathering this Memorial Day, that does not diminish the importance of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.

One way to remind yourself of the toll wars have taken in our city: Visit the War Memorial near 10th and Rawson Avenues.

You can’t miss the beautiful display of American flags, and I thank the Rotary Club of Mitchell Field for providing them as part of their Flags for Heroes program. (You’ll also see flags at City Hall from Flag Day through July 4th.)

Volunteers have also been working to beautify the site for the summer, and they’ll be wrapping that up in coming days. I can’t thank Patti Bergeson, John Bazan, Paul Berens, Jim Schulte and everyone else for their work on this important city landmark.

And one more ask this Memorial Day — give this presentation, by Tom Ludka, a read. It tells the story of South Milwaukee’s World War I dead, including Everheart Van Eimeren, one of the namesakes of American Legion Post #27.

These are the husbands, fathers, sons, and everyday heroes we remember today, and every day.

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Grobschmidt Pool Closed for Summer


From the Milwaukee County Parks Facebook page

Today we announced that we have made the really tough decision to keep our deep well pools closed for the season. This was an incredibly difficult choice to make, because we know what our pools mean to the community. The physical distancing recommendations still in place, limits on group gathering sizes, shortage of available lifeguards, and the drastic toll the pandemic has had on the county budget, in addition to Parks’ significantly reduced staffing levels, have all been contributing factors.

We are hopeful that we will be able to open a good number of our wading pools & splash pads this summer as they provide critical relief from the summer heat, and we are looking at options that will offer opportunities that are equitably distributed across the system.

The extended deep-well pool closures include Cool Waters Aquatic Park in Greenfield Park, Schulz Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park, Pelican Cove in Kosciuszko Park, Noyes Indoor Pool, Pulaski Indoor Pool, and outdoor pools at Washington Park, McCarty Park, Jackson Park, Sheridan Park, Holler Park, Hales Corners Park, Wilson Park and Grobschmidt Pool. Hoyt Park Pool, which is operated by the non-profit, Friends of Hoyt Park, is still planning to open this summer.

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Choosing to Grow Local: DB Tax & Wealth Expanding in Downtown South Milwaukee

Some great news, as our downtown momentum continues …

DB Tax & Wealth is investing more than $1 million into an expansion on Milwaukee Avenue — the latest exciting project in our city center.

From their announcement message on Thursday …

We are thrilled to announce that our business is growing!  The two buildings directly to the east of us will adjoin our existing building. The spectacular plans we have in store will boost client experience which is something we always strive for!  We are proud to continue to invest in the city of South Milwaukee and the enhancement of Milwaukee Ave. Please stay tuned for more information!  Follow DB Tax & Wealth on Social Media for project highlights and updates!

Check out our video announcement …

Congratulations to Lisa, Mark and the entire firm, which is embarking on its second major expansion in the last five years. If this one is anything like its first, it will be first-class, and provide a major facelift to the entire block. 

The project also ensures the firm’s future in our city, after 31 years. From its website …

Established in 1989 by its founders Larry & Diane Burger. After many years of dedicated service with the Wisconsin Air National Guard – 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, WI, Larry and Diane retired from the military and ventured into small business entrepreneurship. After its establishment and continued growth, new staff was hired, more office space was added, and the firm began to accomplish what most small businesses envy – that is growth, dedicated clients, quality service, and an excellent reputation in a great community. In 1994, Diane and Larry retired and their daughter Lisa Pugel, began actively managing the South Milwaukee location.

Lisa brought new services to the firm which included comprehensive financial and tax planning, payroll and small business bookkeeping, insurance services, education planning and estate planning. All of these services are still provided today by a dedicated staff with decades of experience.

DB Tax & Wealth is not alone in choosing to invest downtown in recent months. Here are some of the projects underway as we speak …

  • Bucyrus Club. There has been significant progress since the city acquired the building — across the street from DB Tax — in February. Most recently: The South Milwaukee Common Council voted Tuesday to hire Zimmerman Architectural Studios to lead the project design, the first key step in the rebirth of this historic building. It’s a great choice, with a terrific track record and a passion for this project. Much more to come on this.  
  • Moran’s Pub. James is doing major upgrades to the pub, as it prepares to open following the pandemic. Details here — beautiful! 
  • Milwaukee Avenue Streetscaping. Work on phase two is underway, as the project ramps back up into the summer. The focus now is sidewalks. Details here
  • And planning for the 11th Avenue public space — fueled by $500,000 from the Bucyrus Foundation grant announced in February — will begin soon, as we breathe new life into this important parcel in our city center. 

Promising future, indeed! Thanks, DB Tax & Wealth, for being a big part of it.

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Responsibly Reopening South Milwaukee

It’s May 22, 2020. South Milwaukee and 17 other suburban Milwaukee County communities are now reopened, amid the pandemic. 

And my message hasn’t changed from what we shared earlier in the week

I recognize the impact the health orders have had on our residents, business owners and others, and I hope lifting this order will allow for the beginning of a return to normalcy for all of us. I believe we will reopen responsibly, following proper protocols, safety measures and best practices to ensure customer and worker safety and restore confidence. The decision by the Supreme Court did not end the pandemic, nor does the end of this order. This is not over. We need to learn to live with this disease safely, and we will, together.

I want to emphasize that last word. Together.

The last few weeks have been some of the ugliest in my time in elected office, with so much hatred, anger and vitriol aimed at local leaders, public health officials and others who are doing what they they think is right, on behalf of the community, in unprecedented times.

I hope we can move beyond this, as we enter this new phase. We need unity, not division, if we are going to reopen safely. 

That is why I am proud to see so many of our local businesses going above and beyond to take measures to keep everyone safe — measures that will lead to increased customer confidence, and increased business, for those who do it right. Places like Moran’s Pub. Sorce Martial Arts. The Tap Room. Ferch’s Beachside. CM Salons. And many, many more, which you can track on my Shop Local South Milwaukee Facebook page

I spoke to another prominent local business owner less than two weeks ago — it feels like two years ago with how quickly things have changed since then — and he was asking for clarity around a reopening plan in South Milwaukee. 

He well understands the gravity of the public health crisis we find ourselves in, and why governments have taken the measures they have to keep people “Safer at Home.” He understands the need to flatten the curve, and the dangers that reopening the city, county, state and country too quickly could bring.

He knows the actions we have taken so far have made a difference — and without them the pandemic toll would have been (and could still be) catastrophic. He knows how important it is to listen to health experts and act backed by science and data. 

But it’s understandably more complicated than that for him — and countless others like him. Like many, he has seen his business significantly impacted by the pandemic, with lost revenue and layoffs. He worries about his people, and wants to get them back to work. He also recognizes the broader toll this has taken on society, the impact record unemployment and months of isolation and shutdowns could have and are having: bankruptcies, broken families, substance abuse, depression, suicide. 

In our conversation, he wanted a light at the end of the tunnel for him, his family and his employees. He wanted hope. 

He wanted to know there is a plan in place that provides a reasonable, responsible and safe approach to reopening, one that puts public health and science first, while also reflecting the impacts orders have had on businesses like his. Both can be achieved at the same time, and they are in the new guidance.

Even without an order, there is a strategy in place that provides stringent yet attainable milestones and benchmarks for a safe, phased return to some semblance of normalcy.

I ask that we follow that guidance. For the safety of all of us. 

Thankfully, there are also professionals working every day to help: the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department. 

 I’m so proud of this team, and know their work in addressing the pandemic is far from over. You could argue it’s just beginning, as they continue to try and stay ahead of the virus and prevent a second spike in cases. As Health Administrator Jackie Ove said in her letter accompanying the announcement about ending the order … 

The threat of COVID-19 is still very much alive in South Milwaukee and St. Francis, and throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. The South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department will continue to investigate COVID-19 disease in our community, with a focus on aggressive testing, case identification, and contact tracing. We will continue to monitor the data and to communicate with you all as we work closely with business colleagues and community members to adhere to safe practices and to spot and contain any outbreaks.

It is up to each of us to play our part in protecting ourselves, our families, our customers, and our community moving forward. I am confident that we are all up to the challenge.

So am I. Stay safe and healthy, South Milwaukee. 

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Trending Toward a Safer City: South Milwaukee Police Department Files 2019 Annual Report

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The South Milwaukee Police Department presented its annual report on Tuesday, and there is a good news for our city.

Crime is down, service is up and there is some great work going on in the department. I thank our officers and staff for it, and for putting their lives on the line to keep us safe every day.

Check out the report here, and watch Chief Jessup’s presentation here (starting at around the 42:00 mark). There are also a couple charts in this post showing strong and sustained decreases in crime — trends that have thankfully continued into the first quarter of 2020.

That is something all of South Milwaukee can be proud of.

Here is Chief Jessup’s introductory letter ….

To the citizens of South Milwaukee, Mayor Erik Brooks, City Administrator Tami Mayzik, the South Milwaukee Common Council, the South Milwaukee Police & Fire Commission, and members of the South Milwaukee Police Department:

In 2019 I completed my second year as Chief of Police for the South Milwaukee Police Department. Each and every day I am proud to serve this City and this Department, and I am grateful for your support, confidence and enthusiasm as our officers diligently work to keep our community safe. I am pleased to present to you the 2019 South Milwaukee Police Department Annual Report and I believe you will find that it provides an accurate overview of the challenges and accomplishments, as well as the activities undertaken by our staff to enhance public safety in our community.

The past year brought some notable changes to our staff, with the retirements of Officer Dave Kozlowski and Officer Carol Olson. We thank them for their lengthy and impactful service to the City of South Milwaukee, and wish them a long and healthy retirement. In 2019 we were joined by two new police officers, Adam Harnen and Gerrit Verhagen. They are great additions to our force and are looking forward to serving this community for many years. We were also joined by a new dispatcher, Sarah Vosberg, and a new police clerk, Jenna Czerwinski. They are proving to be excellent additions to our

The police profession comes with many challenges. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of our nation spoke of it in this way. He said “the duties which a police officer owes to the state are of a most exacting nature. No one is compelled to choose the profession of a police officer, but having chosen it, everyone is obliged to live up to the standard of its requirements. To join in that high enterprise means the surrender of much individual freedom.” These are important concepts to consider as we continue to advance the department’s mission and vision. Our members are committed to their profession and will work tirelessly on behalf of our citizens while laying the groundwork for future generations.

Nevertheless, our relationship with the citizens we serve is the cornerstone of our profession, and the work we do must be based on a mutual respect. We strive to make our city safer through a community-based policing strategy that is responsive to the needs of individuals and businesses while following a set of principles that fosters mutual respect.

There is one truism in public safety; our work is never done. As we move forward, we will surely encounter new challenges but I am confident in our members and grateful for the support of our community. In partnership, we will overcome those difficulties to make South Milwaukee healthier and stronger. 

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South Milwaukee Fire Department Publishes 2019 Annual Report

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South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter presented the department’s 2019 annual report at Tuesday’s South Milwaukee Common Council meeting.

You can see it here, and you can see the presentation Chief Knitter made to the council on the Facebook Live video of the meeting (25:30 mark).

I offered my continued thanks and gratitude to these heroes, and thank them for their service in keeping us safe. Here is Chief Knitter’s introductory letter …

On behalf of the dedicated members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department, it is with great pleasure that I present our 2019 Annual Report. Contained in this report is a brief snapshot of the efforts put forth by the hard working members of your fire department who continue to provide the exceptional level of service they are known for with the limited resources on hand. Like our community, the fire service continues to change and the South Milwaukee Fire Department is committed to change, as well, to meet the needs of our community.

Of significance in 2019 was the noteworthy reduction in dollar loss associated with structure fires. While estimates of dollar loss by fire personnel attempt to be reflective of actual damages, true dollar loss could only be measured by determining what insurance costs were actually paid out to repair, restore, or replace material items, like structures and belongings. What cannot be measured is the physical, emotional, and psychological impact felt by someone who experiences a fire. While identifying a single cause for this
reduction is nearly impossible, it is my belief that it can attributed to several factors, all of which continue to be our focus: early detection of fires due to increased numbers of smoke detectors, early activation of the 9-1-1 system, quick “turn-out” and response times on the part of fire personnel, and quick and efficient personnel deployment once on scene.

Our overall call volume decreased slightly from 3481 calls for service in 2018 to 3345 calls for service in 2019, with the largest single decrease involving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responses, which account for nearly 84% of our call volume. Our focus on the at–risk populations in our community continues with increased safety presentations in apartment buildings for those age 55-and-over, earlier referral to the South Milwaukee Health Department for more appropriate and patient-focused medical care, and continued training on response to bariatric patients, a patient demographic that continues to rise in numbers. In 2019, we utilized our bariatric response equipment on twenty-eight different responses, focusing on safe and efficient patient handling, as well as personnel safety and injury avoidance.

In closing, the South Milwaukee Fire Department will continue to answer the call 24/7/365 and maintain its high level of service delivery as we respond to the needs of the community as an all-hazard, all-risk department. Our focus will remain on community involvement, risk reduction, fire prevention, public education, and delivering timely, professional, effective, and efficient service. The members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department and I would like to thank Mayor Erik Brooks, the members of the Common
Council and Police and Fire Commission, and our citizens for all their hard work and continued support.

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South Milwaukee Cancels July 4th Celebration

The South Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to cancel the city’s 2020 Independence Day celebration at Grant Park due to the pandemic. 

The South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department recommended the cancellation due to continued concerns over large gatherings spreading the coronavirus.  

I support this decision, and know it was a difficult one. This is an important community celebration, and always a special event. But we have to act in the best interest of public health. We also recognize the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses, who typically provide significant sponsorship funding for this event, and we needed to act now to let our vendors know our plans. Public health guidance around a phased reopening will continue to inform decisions on future city-sponsored events.

Memorial Day and Flag Day have also been cancelled.

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