Category Archives: South Milwaukee

Early Voting for Public Safety Referendum Opens on Monday


From the city clerk’s office …

Absentee voting in the Clerk’s Office for the Nov. 7 public safety referendum special election will be Oct. 23-Nov. 3.

Hours, availability and more information on voting can be found on our website

If you are unavailable during in-person absentee voting and wish to have a ballot mailed, or to check your polling location for voting on election day, please visit MyVote.

Learn more about the referendum on our city website.

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Going Pink in 2017: City, Schools Raise Money for Justice for a Cure

It was an honor to be a small part of this, and to support Police Chief Ann Wellens as she leads this community effort for the last time before her retirement in January.

From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

The South Milwaukee Police Department would like to thank our community for the awesome support for the Justice for a Cure Day event held yesterday, October 17th. Our community raised $4,063.00 for cancer research and support. The South Milwaukee High School Marketing Class, led by Mr. David Fix (teacher) arranged for the PINK Day t-shirt sales. A special thank you to the South Milwaukee McDonald’s, the South Milwaukee Tri-City National Bank, Rawson School – Mr. Gaynor’s 3rd Grade students, Lakeview School – Principal Cindy Dennis, the South Milwaukee Health Department, the South Milwaukee Fire Department and the South Milwaukee Street Department for their support.

Thanks, Chief Wellens, for driving this! Your passion for helping others is evident. You make the community a better place.

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New Economic Development Director is a Familiar Face — and the Perfect Choice

2017-10-18_6-49-12As I wrote this summer …

South Milwaukee is a crossroads when it comes to economic development.

We have built a strong foundation for growth, are witnessing some real successes and have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape who we are and where we’re headed. At the same time, we are facing some of the biggest economic (re)development challenges we’ve ever faced as a city,

We need help — the right person to help guide us through this critical time.

We now have that person. And we didn’t have to look far.

On Tuesday, the South Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously to appoint Stephanie Hacker as our new economic development director.

In her leadership role at GRAEF, Stephanie was the point person in helping us develop our comprehensive plan. Now she will help bring it to life.

She’s a perfect fit, now more than ever, as we dive into major redevelopment efforts across the city, in need of someone who brings the requisite knowledge, energy, passion and relationships to the role and can hit the ground running.

There is plenty to do.

  • It starts with the potential redevelopment of more than 1 million square feet of industrial, warehouse and office space downtown. This includes much of the Caterpillar campus, where 750,000 square feet of buildings were recently put up for sale or lease, and the Johnson Health Tech property along 12th Avenue, where more than 250,000 square feet is coming available as the company plans a move to a new location in Racine County later this year.
  • Our ongoing work in revitalizing Milwaukee Avenue and the rest of our city center, where the focus remains on working against the downtown plan. This includes a great start to our Downtown Revitalization Grant program, early work in exploring formation of a business improvement district, and advancing our designation as a Connect Communities city.
  • Our (stronger than ever) efforts around small business recruitment and retention. We have delivered solid new business growth across the city in the last several years, and there is more in the pipeline and plenty more to go out and get. We are building new relationships every day, and strengthening our existing ones, and this role will be critical in those efforts.
  • The planned redevelopment of the property at 11th and Madison Avenues into a mixed-used development. The project is still very much alive, and I am expecting Vetter Denk to bring a formal plan forward later this fall.
  • Redevelopment of other key “opportunity” sites across the city as identified in the comprehensive plan, including the former AMF property, areas along Oak Creek north of downtown, and key parcels near South Chicago Avenue. There is also this proposed project on College Avenue. These are often tough sites that require intense focus to bring back to life.

Stephanie will lead these efforts, and more.

She also has a respected and powerful team behind her. Stephanie will remain an employee of GRAEF, working for the city on average 25 hours per week under a retainer agreement. It’s an arrangement that has served us well in other areas, as City Attorney Chris Smith brings the resources of his law firm (Wesolowski, Reidenbach and Sajdak) and Assessor Stewart Hamel brings the resources of his assessment firm (Tyler Technologies Inc.) in delivering these services for us on a day-to-day basis.

While that relationship will be invaluable, Stephanie is well qualified on her own, and well-regarded in the economic development community as leader of GRAEF’s Planning + Urban Design Group. From the GRAEF website …

Stephanie has experience spanning comprehensive and master planning, public participation strategies, municipal code review, neighborhood revitalization, and ongoing planning services for urban, suburban, and rural communities. At the core of Stephanie’s work in economic development, planning, and urban revitalization lies her dedication to building a central vision and establishing systems that kick-start physical change. She cares deeply about using urban design and planning to enhance the nexus of community and neighborhood vitality, public health, and the triple bottom line. Stephanie works with business, nonprofit, and government clients to implement vital enhancements in our physical environment.

Missing from that description is probably Stephanie’s strongest attribute: her passion. It’s something I noticed the first time I met here, and I see it more than ever now.

Stephanie is genuinely excited to step in this role, and move from planning to execution. And we are excited to have her.

Now, let’s get to work.

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Rocketober Weekend: Human Concerns Haunted House Opens, Violent Femmes, Trunk or Treat, Birds & Beers and More!


What a weekend! Check out the full schedule for a complete listing of Rocketober events, and I’ve posted the flyer advertising the South Milwaukee Human Concerns Haunted House, which opens this weekend.

Learn more about all these events on the Rocketober Facebook page.

A note on the haunted house … Anyone who brings two packages of toilet paper or paper towel products this weekend they will receive a free hot dog!

And here is more information on the Birds & Beers event from organizer Rita Wiskowski, the driving force behind our recent Bird City designation

Join us at 3 pm on Saturday, Oct. 21, as Bryan Lenz, Director of Bird City, Mayor Erik Brooks, other city officials, birders, Park Friends representatives, and community people come to Grant Park Picnic Area 5 for a brief presentation of SM’s newly designated Bird City Status. After the presentation we’ll do a little birding, so bring your binoculars and wear comfortable shoes. Following the bird walk, at about 4:30, we’ll be headed to Moran’s Pub (912 Milwaukee Ave, South Milwaukee). Moran’s has a great selection of beers and offers a menu of sandwiches and soups. This portion of the celebration is known as a “Birds & Beers,” a gathering of birders where we discuss all things birds, over food and libations. Come and meet the birders who know that Grant Park is a great place to bird.


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Stronger, Together: Partnering with Our Neighbors on Fire Equipment


I say this a lot: There are 19 different communities in Milwaukee County, too often delivering their services 19 different ways. In these budget times, that’s not sustainable.

We have to come together where possible, be aggressive in seeking partnerships to ensure citizens continue to get the high-quality services they have come to expect, in the cost-effective manner possible.

I’m proud to say we’re taking a step toward that with the fire departments in South Milwaukee, Cudahy and St. Francis. The issue: equipment sharing and joint purchasing.

Earlier this month, the South Milwaukee Common Council unanimously backed an agreement between the three communities supporting joint equipment purchasing. Cudahy and St. Francis voted to approve the deal this week.

So, what does this mean?

In short, it builds on a partnership we already see in South Shore emergency services every day, formalizing it in two key areas, and providing a framework for what is a significant step in the relationship between our three communities.

Cooperative purchasing

As part of the agreement, three departments will agree to regularly explore jointly buying potentially dozens of materials, from big-ticket items like fire engines and ambulances to smaller, more everyday like tools, equipment, fire extinguishers, computer equipment and training materials. From the agreement …

The concept of cooperative purchasing is not new. Volume buying and centralized procurement has gained considerable prominence as a means by which local governments can secure a greater return for the expenditure of public funds through taking advantage of the economies of scale. Cooperative purchasing often enables the smaller user to secure the price advantage of larger volume purchasing.

In most cases, cooperative purchasing results in reduced costs derived from large scale centralized purchasing (including reduced shipping/handling costs), improved specifications leading to less duplication of equipment/services and better equipment familiarization, and increased price competition. Advantages are obviously not limited to actual dollar savings on goods as indirect savings are also realized by eliminating administrative duplication, thus saving time and personnel hours.

Equipment sharing

This would also cover many items on the first list. Here is how the sharing piece will work, per the agreement …

  1. When an individual fire department identifies the need for an item or service included on the Suggested Cooperative Purchase Item list, it shall contact the other departments to determine if a suitable item is available in their own respective inventory. This assessment shall include the forecasted acquisition of major automotive apparatus and/or miscellaneous mobile equipment and the determination if a replacement is necessary.
  2. If the determination is that the item is deemed necessary and exists in the inventory of another department, an evaluation should be conducted to determine availability and suitability of the item and any costs associated with sharing the equipment.
  3. If it is determined that the item is available and suits the needs of the requesting department, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) shall be developed between the involved departments outlining the parameters for sharing, including responsibility for maintenance and repair costs, indemnification, a projected timeline for the sharing period and a list of associated costs.
  4. Items made available for sharing shall remain the property of the original owner and nothing contained in the MOU shall be interpreted to convey any rights of ownership to the borrowing agency.

Indeed, the biggest savings may be in this purchasing and potential sharing of large equipment.

We all respond to same fires in the South Shore already. Next time there is a fire call in town, take a look at the names on the sides of the trucks: South Milwaukee, Cudahy, St. Francis, Oak Creek, the 128 Air Refueling Wing … those are among the departments that always rush to our aid when the bell rings.

(The image in this post is an example; it’s a picture of a South Milwaukee truck fighting a fire in downtown Cudahy.)

The question this: Do we all need ladder trucks? Do we need all the engines we have? Or would be it be more cost effective — while still providing the same level of service — if we share some of those pieces?

This agreement will force that necessary conversation, while still allowing communities flexibility and ultimate control over their spending decisions.

Maybe we can do something like they do in Hales Corners and Greendale … or maybe we decide it’s best not to in that particular case. At least we’re crunching the numbers.

You can read the resolution we passed in South Milwaukee here. It does a good job of explaining why we are leading this effort, and why it’s so important.

In the end, we have to explore these kinds of partnerships, and we will continue to do so. In an era of state-imposed levy limits, decreased revenues and ever-increasing expenses, we must work together as communities to ensure taxpayers are getting their maximum value for their dollar. This agreement is a great start.

As Alderman Joseph Bukowski said at a recent council meeting, “It’s irresponsible for us not to do stuff like this.” I couldn’t agree more.

Check out NOW coverage of this story here.


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Fall Leaf Collection Has Begun


From the South Milwaukee Street Department …

The South Milwaukee Street Department has begun the collection of fall leaves.  We ask that residents place leaves ready for disposal in the curb/gutter for collection until November 15th. 

Please do not add any yard waste or plants to leaf piles, this material needs to be disposed of directly at the Self Deposit Station (SDS).   Residents who wish to dispose of their leaves directly to SDS, will have the user fee of $2.00 waived (only available until November 15th).  The SDS is located at 1106 Blake Ave. Hours of operation for SDS are Tuesday and Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 pm.

Please do not add leaf piles into the gutter after November 15th, as the City may not be able to collect after that date.

And here is my open letter on leaf collection from 2014. While we have found a closer location to dispose of our leaves, the rest still applies.

Long story story short: Please consider alternatives to putting your leaves in the street.

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Police Locate Missing 2-Year-Old


Update: This ended in harrowing fashion, with a car chase in Indiana and the suspect allegedly holding a knife to the child’s throat. More details here. The suspect was charged on Thursday

This all happened overnight, so you may have missed it.

From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

Kendra Faith Brown and her Non-Custodial parent, Kenneth O Brown, were located by Indiana Law Enforcement early this morning around 4:45am. Kendra appears to be uninjured and Kenneth is currently in custody. More details will follow as information becomes available.

Here are more details from the original story.

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