Empowering Local Youth: Adding a Student Advisory Trustee to the Library Board

The voice of our youth matters, and needs to be heard. 

That is why I’m proud to announce that we are adding a student advisory trustee to the South Milwaukee Library Board. 

From the position description, approved by the city council last week …

The City of South Milwaukee seeks to add a student advisory trustee to the South Milwaukee Library Board. The intention of this position to gain direct input from a student in South Milwaukee on how the public library can better serve the student population. In addition, the student advisory trustee will gain valuable experience as a volunteer on a governing board and education in library services. After completion of the application, qualified candidates will be interviewed, chosen and appointed by the Mayor of the City of South Milwaukee.

Learn more about the Library Board and apply here

And click here for more information on all of the volunteer board and commission opportunities we have, and to apply. Please consider stepping up, and spread the word on this new position!

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Reminder: Deadline for Holiday Lights Awards Submissions is Wednesday

I am seeing lots of beautiful displays out this year … make sure they are nominated for our second-annual Light Up South Milwaukee Holiday Lights Awards! More details here.

Judging is this weekend, and look for a list of winners early next week, so you can see for yourself.  Entries can be submitted via:

  • Pinned post on the City’s Facebook page.
  • Via our Google Form
  • Using our SM Works app. Look for the Light Up South Milwaukee category. 
Here is one of the 2017 winners: 806 Lake Drive.

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Lame-Duck Lawmaking is Government at its Worst

Today, the state legislature will begin taking up a series of lame-duck session bills that represent everything wrong with government, an affront to democracy and a repudiation of the will of voters in November.

I am disgusted by it, and you should be too, no matter your party affiliation and no matter who you voted for last month.

Elections have consequences, and voters spoke that they wanted divided government and what that means – compromise and true checks and balances. But rather than listen, here we stand, with lawmakers willing to cast those results aside in favor of changing the rules at the 11th hour of an executive leadership change, simply because they can.

This power grab should offend everyone.

From a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summary of the bills …

Among the proposals are ones to limit the governor’s powers, weaken the attorney general and restrict early voting to two weeks before an election. Currently, some communities provide as many as six weeks of early voting …

The measures would strip many powers from Kaul and eliminate a powerful office within the Department of Justice that was created in 2015 under Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel and handles high-profile cases on appeal. 

Lawmakers are also considering separating the 2020 presidential primary election from an April spring election to reduce voter turnout in an effort to boost the election chances of a conservative Supreme Court justice. In another proposal, lawmakers will consider using new revenue from online sales taxes to slightly reduce the individual income tax rate. 

The election date change is particularly galling, a brazen attempt to use the legislative process to influence the outcome of an election.

Don’t take my word for it; ask the leader of the Senate.

Raw party politics aside, this change would have real, costly consequences in communities across the state, including South Milwaukee, and we have rightfully joined hundreds of others in speaking out against it.

Clerks across the state are sending letters similar to this to lawmakers, working through the League of Wisconsin Municipalities …  

Even if the state were to cover the substantial costs municipalities would incur by moving the election, there are significant logistical difficulties with conducting a stand-alone presidential primary in March, which will prove hard to overcome. Each election involves many weeks of intense preparation followed by weeks of post-election wrap up work. I and my staff are charged with hiring and training election inspectors, administering absentee balloting, including the increasingly popular in-person absentee voting, registering voters, securing polling locations, holding a public test, publishing notices, entering election reporting along with participation data for each elector voting and performing all of the other tasks necessary to conduct a well-run election. We barely have sufficient time to accomplish the myriad election tasks necessary between the February primary and the spring election in April. Adding another election in March risks stretching the ability of local governments to administer a smooth, secure, and error free election process.

But this is just the start. Other items in this lame duck session are worse, because they seek to roll back or limit powers previously granted to the governor and attorney general simply because they are being replaced by Democrats. This one may be illegal. 

Still, that hasn’t stopped Republicans, who are trying to desperately rewrite the playbook before the clock strikes zero, before they lose their grip on full power and before — gasp! – they actually have to start working in a bipartisan way to get things done.

Incoming Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes put it best in a tweet when word of this abomination first leaked. “Just making up the rules as they go,” he wrote. “I remember a time when it was just the goal posts, but now they want to move the whole field.”

We should not let them, both parties. Yes, both parties. Democrats pull these stunts, too, including pushing lame duck legislation of their own in 2009. And it’s happened (and is happening) in other states.

That doesn’t make it right. 

We need to end lame-duck sessions and move up the start date of newly elected officials to make sure nothing like this happens again. Until we do, do not accept the “Democrats would do the same thing, so that makes it OK!” argument, an all-too-popular one these days. I don’t buy it when my kids use it — “Well, she did it too!” — and we should not buy it now as lawmakers prepare to take the kind of action they are proposing.

Instead, let’s stand together for good government, and against the opposite.

We are better than this.

To our legislators, and outgoing governor: We are watching. Do the right thing.

Make sure your voice is heard! Email Rep. Rodriguez at Rep.Rodriguez@legis.wisconsin.gov and Sen. Larson at Sen.Larson@legis.wisconsin.gov. Get contact information for all lawmakers here. 

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Light it up! Scenes From a Fun Start to the the South Milwaukee Holiday Season

What a parade! What a market!

I couldn’t be more excited about the South Milwaukee Christmas events the last two Saturdays. From Old Fashioned Christmas to our city tree lighting to our first-ever South Milwaukee Lions Lighted Christmas Parade to the South Milwaukee Christmas Market, it has been a terrific start to the holiday season in South Milwaukee.

This week, it’s Christmas show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, the Festival of Trees, a reindeer visit and more. 

Here is the full schedule. 

I’d like to thank everyone involved the past two weekends, and that list is long.

I start with our city workers, led by our Street and Police Departments and Clerk’s Office. The Nov. 24 events could not happen without their support and hard work.

And thank you to all of the volunteers as well! 

  • Old Fashioned Christmas: Thanks first to the committee: Adeline Becker, Byron Borck, Joyce Bulley, Bernice Czarnezki, Rose Flores, Beverly Garves, Dolores Page, Sharon Paprocki, Debbie Polzin, Jim Shelenske, Karen Skowronski (and daughter Jenna), Sandy Skrobiszewski and Janet Talaska. Also, volunteers from South Shore Masonic Lodge #3, the South Milwaukee Middle School Volunteens and students from the WI-951 Greenfield High School Air Force JROTC Program also stepped up to help, among others. 
  • South Milwaukee Lions parade support: Thank you to Jim Shelenske; Al Bassett; George Becker; Dick Blaha; Luis Castillo and his son Frankie; Jackie Ove and husband Rick; Tim Talaska; Chelsea Weirich;  Patti Redlin, husband Larry and two grandkids; Debbie Polzin and two grandkids; and Leo Cameron. 
  • And to the South Milwaukee Downtown Market Committee and South Milwaukee High School, congratulations on another wonderful indoor market. What a festive annual event. 

And congratulations to our parade float winners, as judged by our super secret judges we have placed along the route … their photos are in this post. 

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Bringing Grant Park to the South Milwaukee Library

Check out this really cool story from NOW about a local artist painting a 7 Bridges-inspired mural at the South Milwaukee Library, as part of its ongoing upgrades. From the article about Sarah Henry … 

Henry said she grew up going to Seven Bridges, shot a few college films there, and she couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else.

Drawing since she was a child, Henry created her first comic books at age 7 – which she still has. In high school, Henry began to take her art more seriously by deciding to go into comics and animation as a career.

“What I enjoy, personally, is the mindset you drift into once you are immersed in your creative flow, and the feeling of looking at something and knowing ‘I made that with my hands,’” she said. “People’s reactions are probably my favorite part, though. Knowing you had a positive impact in someone’s life is something I don’t take for granted.”

Congratulations, Sarah! Here is a picture of her from Gallery Night, where her art was on display at Serendipitous Designs.

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Win-Win: South Milwaukee to Partner with St. Francis on Public Health

Now, more than ever, communities need to work together to effectively deliver their services. In an era of increasingly constrained budgets, partnering is an imperative. We must collaborate. 

That is why I’m proud to announce the South Milwaukee Common Council has passed an intergovernmental agreement to allow us to provide public health services to the City of St. Francis.

The St. Francis Common Council approved the agreement on Tuesday. 

The three-year deal, effective Feb. 1, is positive for both sides and builds on our already strong relationship with our neighbors, including our work on the Environmental Health Consortium. 

  • For us, we gain a full-time equivalent employee to help us deliver our wide array of public health services and programming, including education, immunization, clinic services and code enforcement. It also adds capacity for emergencies. The deal also brings additional revenue opportunities to us, as we will now collect grant dollars and fees that would have flowed to St. Francis.  
  • For St. Francis, it expands the amount of services and programming available to their residents, and alleviates concerns raised with the retirement early next year of their public health administrator and nurse. (Indeed, concerns over filling open positions in this increasingly tight labor market may drive more of these kinds  of discussions in coming months and years.)

The deal also makes sense financially. The partnership is essentially budget neutral for both parties, as St. Francis will pay South Milwaukee between $6,700 and $7,387 per month, or about $84,000 per year. 

I want to thank South Milwaukee Health Administrator Jacqueline Ove and City Administrator Tami Mayzik for driving this on our end, and St. Francis city leaders for being so open to this common-sense consolidation. These deals are not easy, and it took many hours to get this to the finish line. 

My pledge: We will not stop here when it comes to working with our neighbors. This is only the start. 

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Tax Cut: City Council Unanimously Passes 2019 South Milwaukee Budget

The city portion of your upcoming tax bill will likely be smaller after the South Milwaukee Common Council passed our 2019 budget last week. 

Per my previous post on this, the overall tax levy will increase 3.5% to $just under $11 million, while the tax rate will decrease 2.8%, from $9.65 per $1,000 of assessed value, to $9.38. That means the city taxes on a property assessed at $150,000 will decrease from $1,447.50 to $1,407 when you see your tax bills in the mail in coming weeks.

Check out the 2019 city budget here.

As I’ve said, I’m proud we can deliver a city tax reduction for most property owners, and lower our debt. Still, the budget does not change the economic realities we continue to face — marked by restrictive state levy limits and other mandates that make it more and more difficult to fund our first-class city services. We will continue to fight that fight. We have to. 

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