Category Archives: South Milwaukee

Making a Key Connection: Taking Another Step on Our Downtown Redevelopment Journey


We don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to downtown (re) development — but we can certainly learn from others.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that South Milwaukee — a partnership between the South Milwaukee Community & Business Association’s Project ReStore and the city — has been named a Connect Community by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The WEDC announced the news today. The application is a result of the efforts we started about a year ago with Graef Consulting and Downtown Business Districts Inc. — work that included tours of several city centers in the region, to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be applied to South Milwaukee. A key finding: Partnerships can only help in delivering expertise and best practice sharing, and the Main Street/Connect Communities program is a great example of that.

Thanks to everyone on Project ReStore, led by chamber President Leah Manthey from Parkway Floral, and the city staff who helped put together this application. It was worthy investment of time and resources.

The press release is below. As I state …

“It’s an honor to be accepted into this program, and to partner with the SMCBA and local business owners on our downtown revitalization efforts. We’ve made strong progress already. Being a Connect Community will allow us to accelerate that work and help us on our journey to bringing new life to our city center.”

South Milwaukee Welcomed into State’s Downtown Revitalization Program

MADISON, WI. Aug. 21, 2017 – The South Milwaukee Community & Business Association (SMCBA), in partnership with the City of South Milwaukee, has been accepted into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)’s Connect Communities Program, an initiative that works with communities to advance downtown and urban corridor revitalization efforts.

The SMCBA’s Project ReStore is one of six downtown organizations around the state added to the program this year, bringing the total number of participants to 61.

The Connect Communities Program, which was launched in 2013, provides access to resources and training to help communities pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Participating communities have reported adding 274 net new businesses and more than 1,600 jobs, as well as $115 million in private investment, since the program’s inception.

“WEDC congratulates Project ReStore and the city for being accepted into this program,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “A vibrant downtown is key to the overall economic health of the community, and we applaud South Milwaukee for taking this step toward making its business district even stronger.”

“The numbers demonstrate that the Connect Communities Program is playing a vital role in helping spur downtown revitalization throughout Wisconsin,” said Barb LaMue, vice president of business and community development for WEDC. “We believe we will see that same level of success replicated in South Milwaukee as we work with local leaders to provide them with the guidance and assistance they need as they continue to strengthen downtown.”

“Being accepted into WEDC’s Connect Communities is a milestone that the team working on Project ReStore is proud to have passed,” said Leah Manthey, president of South Milwaukee Community & Business Association. “We believe that taking advantage of the benefits included in the Connect Communities program will guide us towards an economically viable future for downtown South Milwaukee. We are very excited to start working one-on-one with our new network of community leaders and revitalization professionals.”

Said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks: “It’s an honor to be accepted into this program, and to partner with the SMCBA and local business owners on our downtown revitalization efforts. We’ve made strong progress already. Being a Connect Community will allow us to accelerate that work and help us on our journey to bringing new life to our city center.”

In addition to being able to engage with a broad-based network of communities with similar objectives, Connect Communities participants receive a variety of services and resources, including:

  • A ListServ/network group to get new ideas from staff and other participating Connect Communities
  • Participation in Main Street workshops focused on a downtown revitalization topic
  • An on-site visit from a member of WEDC’s community development staff to assist in identifying needs and offering assistance
  • Training for downtown director or board president
  • Roundtable discussion groups on pertinent topics
  • Access to WEDC’s downtown development online library
  • Access to resources and training materials developed for Wisconsin Main Street communities
  • Invitation to the annual Main Street Awards program, plus eligibility to nominate a project for a Connect Communities award
  • Quarterly webinars/regional training

In order to be admitted to the program, each applicant had to explain the type of activities or assistance they hope to undertake, and had to identify a local team that will carry out activities and participating in program events and training.

The program is designed to support and complement the Wisconsin Main Street Program, which has supported projects statewide resulting in the creation of more than 3,100 net new businesses and 7,200 net new jobs since the program’s inception in 1987.

The other five new Connect Communities are: Arcadia, Kenosha Uptown, Kiel, Manitowish Waters, and Orfordville.

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Food Trucks Return Sept. 17

I’m so glad to see this event get established, and thankful for the Rotary Club of Mitchell Field for stepping up to take it on.

The May event was terrific. This one will be too.

I’m told they have 15 trucks already booked. Outstanding!


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This blog reached a milestone recently I never thought I’d see: one million page views.

As you can see in the attached graphic, readership has grown each year since I launched the blog in 2009, with the three highest traffic months coming in the past year. The blog also recently picked up its 700th follower. I’ve posted more than 3,000 items.

There are plenty more stats I can quote, but this is not about the numbers. It’s about you, the readers, residents and non-residents alike.

I thank you for reading … and pledge to continue to fulfill the mission of the blog since the day I launched it: to be a key source of news and information from around South Milwaukee and the South Shore.

You may not agree with everything you see here, and that’s OK. But, as I state in the “About” section …

As South Milwaukee’s mayor, I am committed to ensuring that district residents have their voices heard on key issues, and that they are informed about happenings around their neighborhood and city. This blog delivers on that promise, fulfilling a vital need in an era of shrinking coverage of our city by the traditional media.

Behind that mission, we’ve been growing strong for eight years, one reader at a time. Times a million.



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Real Impact: South Milwaukee Library, by the Numbers

I love the South Milwaukee Library, and looking at the data below, I’m not alone.

The positive changes we’ve seen in the past few years are taking root, and the future is bright for this terrific community facility.

Libraries are no longer just places to go and check out books. These days, they are community centers, internet cafes, and their own versions of Blockbuster Video and Kinko’s. They are learning centers and event spaces, places where children of all ages can gather for fun, enrichment and socialization.

And they are places to check out books, too.

I want to thank our library director, Nan Champe, for her continued hard work, and the members of the Library Board, who give of their time to make sure this community institution continues to deliver real value to residents.

Libraries make communities, communities. Ours is an example of that.




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November 7: Referendum to Preserve the Future of Public Safety


The future of our paramedic program and additional funding for police officers is officially going before the voters — you.

The South Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved an operating funds referendum question asking taxpayers to increase the tax levy by $616,641, or less than 6 percent, to maintain current paramedic services and hire two additional police officers.

The special election will be held on Tuesday, November 7. If approved by voters, homeowners would pay an additional $52 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s value starting in 2018 and beyond.

Here is how the question will read on the Nov. 7 ballot …

Under state law, the increase in the levy of the City of South Milwaukee for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2018, is limited to .09%, which results in a levy of $10,774,142. Shall the City of South Milwaukee be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2018, by a total of 5.73%, which results in a levy of $11,381,095?

This funding would enable the city to adequately fund our paramedic program for years to come, and help us overcome funding challenges, arising from issues out of our control, that have been building for years. It would also help us add two cops, strengthening the second-smallest police force in the county, amid increasing demand for their services.

It took many years to get to this point, starting with more than a decade of state-imposed levy limits that have financially hamstrung fully developed cities like us (and many others) by not allowing us to increase the size of our operating tax levy more than the amount of our growth. That number is almost 0. For 2018, for example, the state says we can increase our tax levy by $9,688 … to fund our $19.7 million budget.

Costs increase. Our operating levy, essentially, can’t. And it’s been that way for a decade. We are paying that price now, and we will continue to, until the legislature fixes this.

There are other factors, too, especially when it comes to paramedic program funding: significantly reduced payments by the county and an increasing number of people on government insurance (and their low reimbursement rates), among them.

So while we have worked hard for many years, well before my time as mayor, to deliver strong value for your taxpayer dollar — and deliver fiscally responsible budgets that reflect our enduring reality of doing more with less — here we are … needing to address the underfunding of key services with the only tool the legislature has given us.

A referendum.

You can learn more about the referendum, find plenty of data and other background information on what led us to this point, and see what options we’ve considered to deal with these challenges here. I also encourage you to review the community survey results from this spring — which showed strong support, among respondents, for seeking to potentially increasing taxes to pay for these vital city services.

Also, look for additional communications in the weeks ahead via mail, our city digital and social channels, and public meetings. I’ll also regularly update on this blog, and on my mayoral Facebook page.

We know there are questions about what got us to this point, and the potential solutions for our funding dillemma. We will do our best to answer them.

We know this will not be an easy decision for many, and we do not enter into the decision to call a referendum lightly.

But we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing when it comes to funding our paramedics — pulling money from our reserves to cover shortfalls. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing when it comes to our police — operating with a too-lean department when we are being asked to do more and more.

Enough is enough. We’ve kicked this problem down the road for too long.

On Nov. 7, we will see if you, the voters, agree.

And some legalese: Along the lines of my blog disclaimer, this post is my opinion and does not reflect that of the city or of the common council.


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Ready for Some South Milwaukee Football?

8-8-17 SMHS Football Seniors for EB-1It’s hard to believe, but high school football season starts Friday, as South Milwaukee travels to Burlington for a 7 p.m. game.

South Milwaukee’s home opener is next Friday, August 25, against Brown Deer.

And mark your calendars for Homecoming on Sept. 15 against Shorewood/Messmer. The parade and bonfire are returning Sept. 14.

More details on the team website. Go Rockets!

Thanks, Julie Swanson, for the terrific shot of this year’s seniors. 

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Citywide Watch Meeting Set for August 31

SM-PoliceFrom the South Milwaukee Police Department …

Join the South Milwaukee Police Department on Thursday, August 31st at 6:30 p.m. in the South Milwaukee City Hall Council Chambers. 

Representatives from the State of Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry Unit and members of the South Milwaukee Police Department will be present to answer your questions.

Here is the Facebook event posting.

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