Confronting Gun Violence Through Theater: South Milwaukee Students Bring Alum’s Unique Project to Life Tonight

South Milwaukee High School theater students continue to show their creativity with unique performances during the pandemic — tonight, in partnershp with a Rocket alumnus.

From 2004 alum Michael Cotey …

For the better part of a year, I’ve been working on a project called #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, a theatre social activism initiative engaging young people to confront gun violence through playwriting. Our culminating event begins today and I’d love for you to check it out!

All you have to do is create an account with BOD with an email.

Here’s a trailer for our work:

Selected by award-winning playwrights Lauren Gunderson, David Henry Hwang, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Robert Schenkkan, and Karen Zacarías, these seven powerful short plays written and performed by teens nationwide confront gun violence through the lenses of race, police brutality, community violence, school shootings, and American mythology. Co-produced by Alliance Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep, Goodman Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre, and South Coast Repertory. 

There are also 50+ unique readings happening across the country.

More details on the project here, and more on Michael’s other work here.

And here is more information from the South Milwaukee High School Theater Company …

If you want to tune in to a live stream of SMHS Thespians Present ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence this evening, we will be streaming live in addition to hosting in person. The event begins at 7:30. Doors open at 7 for in-person attendees.For those coming in person tonight, reminder that admission is free, but we will be accepting cash and check donations, all of which will be going toward the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort. You can make checks out to “SMHS Dramatics,” and we will be sending the organization one check encompassing all cash/check donations. Here’s the Zoom link!

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Lights, Trees, Santa and More: Ways to Celebrate a (Safe) Christmas This Month

Taking a holiday tour around South Milwaukee …

  • New in 2020: Thank a veteran at the War Memorial. The Christmas tree is up and decorated at the South Milwaukee Veterans Memorial, thanks to the Street Department and the work of several volunteers from the Beautification Committee. Now let’s use it to celebrate our military this Christmas! To recognize a veteran or someone in active service, please stop by the tree between through December 25 and write the name of a local military member and his or her service branch on one of the red, white and blue ornaments. (Bring your own Sharpie, or similar marker. ) Or hang your own ornament from the tree. Please consider joining us in this special tribute, as we thank everyone who has stepped up to serve.
  • Be part of the Festival of Trees. There are still a few trees available as part of the Festival of Trees at the farmers’ market site. Do you want to decorate one, individually or as a team, group, organization, etc.? Email Karin Wierman at Caterpillar at Trees, donated by Ace, are open for decoration by Dec. 15, and will be on display December 16 to January 1, weather permitting.
  • Nominate a light display. Get your nominations in for the Beautification Committee’s Light up South Milwaukee holiday lights awards. Submit your favorites here, via the pinned post on the city’s Facebook page, or by emailing Katie Crosby at, including photos. Deadline: Noon on December 14. I see lots of candidates around town. Make sure to nominate them!
  • Enjoy Lights on Edgewood. The Gray family has brought this terrific local light show back in 2020, at 13th and Edgewood. Shows start at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings through December 31. Details here.
  • Have Breakfast with Santa. Starting at 8:30 a.m. this Sunday, Dec. 6. From Pat’s Oak Manor: “Breakfast buffet and a free ‘SAFE’ picture with SANTA. Children receive stocking. Adults $10. Kids $7 (4-10); 3 & younger $4. Call ahead , reservations only 762-4660.”

Did I miss something? Please send me information!

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South Shore COVID-19 Testing Site to Remain Open Through December

From the health departments of South Milwaukee/St. Francis, Cudahy and Oak Creek …

SOUTH MILWAUKEE – On Monday, December 7th, 2020, the heath departments of Cudahy, Oak Creek and South Milwaukee/St. Francis have committed to support community testing through the end of December along with support from the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsin National Guard (WING).

At this time, we can confirm that the South Shore Community Testing Site will be active through the end of December with the potential expansion into 2021.

To accommodate the transition, there will be a gap in testing dates. The South Shore Testing site will be open the following dates in December with the extension and given the holidays:

  • Tuesday, December 8th, 2020
  • Wednesday, December 9th, 2020
  • Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
  • Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
  • Friday, December 18th, 2020
  • Saturday, December 19th, 2020
  • Tuesday December 22nd, 2020
  • Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020
  • Tuesday, December 29th, 2020
  • Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

More details, including hours of operation, here.

I’m proud of the work of our local health departments in launching, maintaining and now extending this testing site. What should be a coordinated federal or state effort — testing for COVID-19 — has fallen to local health departments, and ours are stepping up, delivering hundreds of tests a day.

The goal: To get a better handle on where the virus is, so we can slow spread. And save lives.

In the last month, 626 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in South Milwaukee, with six people dying. Please stay safe and act responsibly, South Milwaukee.

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South Milwaukee Police Seek Suspects in BB Gun Shootings of Vehicles

From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

During the afternoon on 12/7, between 2pm and 2:30pm, SMPD took numerous calls of vehicles with windows shot out with a BB gun in the areas of the 1700 and 900 block of Madison, 1400 block of Rawson and 500 block of Manistique. The suspect vehicle is a dark colored Jeep Renegade (see photos), We request residents in these areas who own exterior security cameras check their footage for the black Jeep Renegade. SMPD is looking for info on this vehicle and the driver/any other occupants.

Call us with any info or video, 414-768-8060. Thanks for your help

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City Council Approves Revised 2021 Budget, With Expense and Levy Reduction

The South Milwaukee City Council on Wednesday approved a revised 2021 budget, reflecting a $195,000 reduction in expeneditures from what was passed in November.

The end result: a 0.7% reduction in the city tax levy from 2020, to $11.4 million. The tax rate also decreases to $9.81 per $1,000 in asssessed valuation in 2021. The changes will be reflected in tax bills being mailed in the next couple weeks.

The change was the result of an error in how we calculated our debt. Our staff, through our internal processes, caught the mistake this week, an we immediately brought it to the council’s attention, and sought passage of the revised budget. It passed 7-0.

The reduction in expenditures will be spread across departments, and we have asked our deparment heads to manage any cuts so service delivery is not signifcantly impacted. We also reduced our economic development fun by $25,000 and contingency fund by $10,000 to help fund the reduction.

Mistakes happen, especially during a time when we are being asked to manage a number of generational challenges at once. And the buck stops with me. Thankfully, we caught it, we learned from it, and we are going to take steps to improve our internal processes to ensure we catch issues like this sooner.

You can see the newly passed budget here.

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Upset Alert! Big Early Wins for Rocket Basketball Teams

Amid a pandemic, and taking precautions to play as safely as possible, the South Milwaukee boys’ and girls’ basketball teams are already turning heads with big wins.

The girls, seeking their third straight Woodland East Conference title, are off to a 6-0 start, including a huge upset win over Division I power Oak Creek on Nov. 27. Watch a replay of the game here.

And the boys, behind first-year head coach Lance Marifke, split a pair of games with conference favorite Brown Deer this week — including a 47-42 upset win at Sullivan Gymnasium on Friday. Check out a replay here, and a feature on Coach Marifke and Peter Dufek (the new football coach) in the current edition of Bridges magazine (page 10).

Follow all the action on the South Milwaukee High School Basketball Facebook page.

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December 9: Oak Creek Watershed Restoration Plan Update; Offer Feedback on Goals and Objectives

Progress continues on the Oak Creek Watershed Restoration Plan, as key chapters are now being produced for feedback. Next up: Public review and discussion of a draft of chapter 5, “Watershed Goals and Management Objectives,” set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9 via virtual meeting.

From the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission …

To the Stakeholders for the Oak Creek Watershed Restoration Plan,

We have scheduled a Stakeholder meeting for Wednesday December 9th, 2020 from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. via  GoTo Meeting (online or via phone). The intent of this meeting is to briefly review and receive comments on Plan draft Chapter 5, “Watershed Goals and Management Objectives.”

Copies of all the draft Chapters are available for download from the SEWRPC website at:

Here is the link to join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone:

You can also dial in using your phone: 224-501-3412 | access code: 832-928-285.

The plan is expeced to be complete at the end of 2021, delivering the roadmap we need to begin making major and necessary investments across the watershed. See a revised schedule here.

Find more information on the SEWRPC web page.

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Lighting the Tree, Virtually, and Recognizing Some Everyday Heroes

To stay safe during COVID, we took our tree lighting virtual on Thursday.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, including all of our special guests, especially our high school faculty singers, the Clauses, and local nurse Deanna Hebner, who flipped the switch with her two children. South Milwaukee’s MidKoast Entertainment, LLC handled AV — well done!

Here is the Facebook Live video …

Check out my remarks here. From them …

We’re starting a new tradition at this year’s tree lighting … choosing someone from the community to help us flip the switch. This year, we decided to honor someone who has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We had a number of deserving nominees … and this evening, I want to send a special thank you to nurses. These are some of the real heroes during the pandemic. 

I thank our public health nurses and all of our public health professionals with the City of South Milwaukee — in communities everywhere — who have stepped up in so many ways during the pandemic to try and slow the spread of this virus. 

I thank school nurses, and nurses at our clinics and doctors’ offices. And I thank those at our hospitals. They are on the front lines of patient care, and they are doing amazing things amid incredibly challenging times. 

In the 1850s, Florence Nightengale, maybe the most famous of nurses in history, was called a “ministering angel” for her work in field hospitals during the Crimean War. 

One nurse was quoted as saying, “We have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may not remember your name but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

This has also been said of nurses … “The definition of a nurse: To go above and beyond the call of duty. The first to work and the last to leave. The heart and soul of caring … who will pass through your life for a minute and impact it for an eternity.”

That is true now, more than ever, during COVID, where nurses are often leading the way in treating the sickest of the sick with the virus … putting in the hard, long hours to bring people back to health … often in their darkest hours … putting their own lives at risk … and often in full PPE.

And these days, those job descriptions are being expanded … as nurses now find themselves as a lifeline between hospital-bound patients and their families, perhaps connected through video chat … and are often there for patients in their final moments as too many people pass away from this terrible illness. 

All of this … and then nurses go home to their families. 

At today’s tree lighting, we honor nurses … nurses like Deanna Hebner. Deanna — a South Milwaukee resident, wife, mom and Cub Scout leader — is the head nurse at Ascension’s Franklin hospital.

In nominating her for this, Deanna’s mother-in-law noted …

“During months of working extra hours … she is exhausted but continues to go to work to save others. Deanna deserves to bring a little light in this darkness by lighting the tree. If selected I hope she will be able to include her two children in the lighting because of all the things that she does, her children always come first.”

When I spoke to Deanna yesterday she shared a little about what she and countless other nurses have faced during the pandemic. Her story is inspiring, even though she’d never admit it. She also knows it’s not just her story. It’s the story of countless nurses everywhere … and their passion for helping others, their courage amid sometimes impossible circumstances and their relentless, enduring hope through all of it.

“There are so many nurses that have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic,” she told me. “I am really proud of my profession.”

We all should be this holiday season, and we thank Deanna and all nurses today at our tree lighting. 

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Reminder: Virtual Tree Lighting Set for 5 p.m. Today on Facebook Live

Reminder: Join us on Facebook Live (city Facebook page) at 5 p.m. today (Thursday, Dec. 3) for our virtual tree lighting. or catch the recorded version.

We’ll be featuring Christmas music from several South Milwaukee High School teachers and a special, jolly guest.

We’re also be recognizing someone who has gone above and beyond to serve their community and help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had almost 20 people nominated for this opportunity, and we’ve chosen someone on the front lines of the fight against COVID to “flip the switch” and light the tree.

See for yourself, and hear her story, on Thursday. Merry Christmas, South Milwaukee.

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Giving Back and Giving Locally

Giving Tuesday is today, Dec. 1, and it reminds me that South Milwaukeeans always step up to help those in need — especially around Christmas, especially during the pandemic.

Don’t know where to start? Here are opportunities to give back locally.

  • Of course, I always turn to South Milwaukee Human Concerns, and they are serving more people than ever — sponsoring more than 700 children this Christmas alone, Executive Director Deb DeBoer tells me. She said they can especially use gift cards for holiday gifts for teenagers from places like GameStop, Walmart and McDonald’s, but please consider giving money, too. I know they can use it not only during the holiday season, but all year long. And why not give your time?
  • Get behind the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, which opens as part of the Bucyrus Club next summer. Details and links to give can be found here.
  • “We serve.” That’s our motto as South Milwaukee Lions. They can use your support throughout the year, financial and in volunteer power, to in turn give back to local organizations in need.
  • Want to help the South Milwaukee Police Department? Support DARE. From Chief Jessup: “DARE is the largest, most recognized anti-drug and violence program in the world and is taught by specially trained police officers. Our officers go into the South Milwaukee elementary school classrooms to teach a series of one hour lessons designed to help young students cope with some serious risks. The topics include: learning the harmful effects of drugs, tobacco and alcohol, strategies for resisting peer pressure, and the damaging impact of bullying.  Any donations to the program go toward classroom supplies and graduation certificates.  If interested in donating, please contact Officer Jim McLean at”
  • The South Milwaukee Fire Department can use support for its in-school fire safety programs, and other public education efforts. Contact Chief Knitter ( to see how you can help.
  • South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. Support the terrific performing arts in South Milwaukee, especially during the pandemic, with audience size and shows limited. Consider donating in person at one of the upcoming socially distanced holiday shows coming to the PAC. This Saturday, Studio K presents “Flamenco Nutracker,” and the South Milwaukee High School Theatre Company presents a radio show version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Dec. 11-12. Details here.
  • Speaking of the South Milwaukee High School Theater Company, I’m a big fan, and they can use you help. They’ve done really creative work during the pandemic.
  • Help the South Milwaukee Historical Society preserve our proud past, for our promising future.
  • Want to support classroom and other projects in our local schools? Start with South Milwaukee Legacy.
  • Or maybe help Friends of the Mill Pond and Oak Creek Watercourse or Friends of Grant Park. They do so much work to support our local parks, and they can use your volunteerism and donations.
  • And how about the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network? They are the nonprofit that will play a major role in bringing the Oak Creek Watershed plan to life by securing funding for and leading various watershed restoration projects.

Did I miss any? I’m sure I did. Send your favorite local charities along!

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25 Ways to Shop Local on Small Business Saturday

Every day should be Small Business Saturday in South Milwaukee!

Here are some ideas, with a reminder to shop safely and responsibly amid the pandemic. Shoppers and business owners, mask up!

  1. Local coffee makes a great gift from Avenue Coffee.
  2. Nothing says Christmas like meat products! South Milwaukee Sausage & Meats, specifically. Very cool new business.
  3. Nothing says “happy holidays” like jewelry, Check out C3 Designs.
  4. Pick up some holiday flowers or a centerpiece from one of our two awesome Milwaukee Avenue florists: Parkway Floral or Mari’s Flowers, Wine and Gifts.
  5. Buy gift certificates from some of our great bars and restaurants.
  6. Give the gift of fitness and health at the South Milwaukee Fitness CenterSorce Martial ArtsNeutral Ground … the list goes on.
  7. Games for Christmas? Absolutely! Shop downtown at Pink Bunny Games for trading card games, board games, table top games, and more. Also, check out the Board Game Barrister clearance center.
  8. Get a beautiful stained glass piece from Studio One Art Glass.
  9. We have boutiques! Check out Serendipitous Designs & GiftsHollyville, and Dupree’s for some truly unique holiday gifts.
  10. Think leather! Gecko Leatherworks has some terrific handmade items.
  11. Speaking of handmade items, shop local on Etsy! Buy a bandanna, jigsaw puzzle, notebook and other HANmade item — designed by South Milwaukeean Colleen McCarrier. Or some unique wood items from Dr. Box, a “family-owned business making wooden deluxe beverage transportation and extraction systems.” Do you live in South Milwaukee and sell handmade items on Etsy? Comment below with your link and I’ll see about including you on a future post.
  12. Buy Rocket, South Milwaukee and other apparel from one of our downtown t-shirt shops, Styled Aesthetic or JB’s Tee Shirt Factory.
  13. Military collectibles? You really need to see the museum-like atmosphere at Military Connection Collectibles.
  14. Staying with collectibles, check out South Milwaukee-based MEARS Online Auctions, which has one-of-a-kind vintage sports gear, toys, and military items up for bid as we speak. Wise Owl Auctions also operates from downtown South Milwaukee.
  15. Give the gift of performing arts with tickets to an upcoming show at the South Milwaukee PAC.
  16. Enjoy a children’s book from award-winning local author Janet Halfmann.
  17. Keep your vehicle running right with the gift of an oil change or three from a local car care center in our fair city.
  18. Get your holiday meal from a local caterer like Charlie’s Catering or Skyline Catering, moving to South Milwaukee in 2021 as part of the Bucyrus Club.
  19. Pick up a pie, bread or cookies from Wild Flour Bakery.
  20. And don’t forget holiday beer, wine and spirits from local liquor stores Chicago Avenue Liquor, Marquette Liquor, G&H Liquor or BJ’s Liquor.
  21. Give the gift of golf this Christmas, with a free round or three at Grant Park or other county courses.
  22. Know a disc golf fan? Stop by Acetime Disc Golf.
  23. Get a loved one (or you) a new hair style, with a gift certificate from a local salon. We’ve added several in the past year.
  24. Or get a tattoo, from Black Sheep Tattoo!
  25. And, finally, let’s not forget local chains, many of them owned by local franchisees — small business owners themselves — places like South Milwaukee Ace, Cousins, and others that all call our city home.

What did I miss? I’ve turned comments back on for this post, so please add your ideas. And shop local!

For more on local shopping opportunities throughout the year, follow my Shop Local South Milwaukee Facebook page.

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Thankful, For Our Health Care Heroes and Much More

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for many things — family, friends, colleagues, co-workers.

I am thankful for my home, my health, my hope for a better future, knowing some do not have any of that. I’m thankful for the food I eat, knowing some will go hungry tonight.

I am thankful, and humbled, by the trust you have given me to lead this city during these most difficult of times. I am also thankful for our team of city workers, who continue to deliver on our promise of a promising future, in a year filled with historic and unprecedented challenges. Some are working this holiday weekend.

But today, I offer a special thanks for health care heroes. Their roles are many and varied at our hospitals, clinics, physician offices, senior care facilities, public health departments, and anywhere else workers and volunteers have stepped up to put their own lives at risk to help others during the pandemic. Many are working today, as our hospitals groan under the weight of a surging number of coronavirus cases.

Do you have a health care hero you’d like to recognize, or anyone else who has stepped up during the pandemic? Nominate them to flip the switch, as we light the city Christmas tree on Thursday, December 3. Here is the form.

Be safe, South Milwaukee, and do you part today and in the months ahead to help these heroes by living the common-sense measures necessary to see us through to a virus vaccine. Wear a mask. Avoid gatherings. Socially distance. Practice good hygiene. Isolate if you’re sick. Act responsibly. I can’t think of a better way to honor these people … especially on this Thanksgiving Day.

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The SHOP: Help a Local Business Owner Fix His S*%#

Tim Schneider, owner the The SHOP in South Milwaukee, regularly posts to his Facebook page how “s*%# gets fixed” at his vintage motorcycle repair business. Now, he needs the same thing.

Tim was recently diagnosed with cancer, and needs help to fund treatment.

Learn more about his situation in this story. From it …

Schneider was recently diagnosed with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Eventually, it will damage his immune system, kidneys, blood and bones. It’s incurable, but treatment can bring the cancer into remission and improve his quality of life.

It’s also extremely expensive to treat, and while the small business owner has health insurance, his out-of-pocket expenses and inability to do the hands-on motorcycle wizardry he’s know for, are only adding to Schneider’s burden.

So, Schneider’s friends, led by Evan Barnes, are stepping up. They’ve created a GoFundMe page, and in just a few days, they have raised almost $35,000 to assist in his out-of-pocket expenses. But they need to raise more.

Tim moved his business to South Milwaukee in 2016, relocating from Bay View and making a major investment to transform a former auto body shop into one of the coolest properties in town. Now let’s invest in him.

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City Council Passes 2021 Operating Budget

The South Milwaukee Common Council passed the 2021 operating budget on Tuesday. You can see it on our website here.

More details on my post from last week.

The city tax rate will increase 1.2% to $9.98 per $1,000 of valuation. The increase is a little higher than the levy increase of 0.99% due to a small reduction in equalized property valuation locally.

Budgeting is the most important thing we do as elected leaders, and I want to thank the council, city administration and all of our department heads for their work on it. Budgeting is a team effort in South Milwaukee, from building it to passing it to, most importantly, bringing it to life. That is where our front-line workers come in, and I thank them too. Forward!

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Festival of Trees: Reserve Your Tree Now!

An image from the 2019 tree display.

Caterpillar, Ace Hardware and the City of South Milwaukee are again teaming up to bring some holiday magic to the public space at 11th and Madison Avenues.

Trees, donated by Ace, arrive at the site on Nov. 24, are open for decoration by Dec. 15, and will be on display December 16 to January 1, weather permitting.

Do you want to decorate a tree, individually or as a team, group, organization, etc.? Email Karin Wierman at Caterpillar at

Thirty trees available are for decoration. Karin is asking each group to set up a time to decorate their tree, and that groups be kept under 10 people.

Please consider stepping up to be part of this new South Milwaukee holiday tradition. It’s an especially great opportunity for families.

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