Vote Now! South Milwaukee Beautification Committee Curb Appeal Awards

Thank you to everyone who submitted their entries for the 2020 Curb Appeal Awards. We received over 30 entries and are now looking for your help. We need your help choosing the “Best of the Best”!

To vote, please comment or react to the photos (top five) in this Facebook post you think are the best! Voting will end this Friday, August 7.

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Record Rain: Following Up on the August 2 Flooding

Did you experience drainage issues and flood damage from last night’s rains? It’s important that you report those to the City of South Milwaukee, so we can get an accurate list of impacted addresses.

From the city’s website …

The City of South Milwaukee’s official rain gauge measured 3.3” of rain on 8/2/2020. Although the sewer inlets and storm sewer pipes functioned as designed, they do have limited capacity. Additionally, the height of the Oak Creek limits our storm sewer’s ability to outflow quickly. As a result, we have received some reports of water damage/flooding in residential areas. If you experienced any sanitary or drainage issues due to the rain on 8/2/2020, please report it by filling out this form, or call 414-768-8051.

While the city’s rain gauge (at the South Milwaukee Wastewater Facility) measured 3.3 inches, areas in other parts of the city likely received more.

Mitchell International Airport received almost five inches, and there were reports of more than five inches in Oak Creek and Franklin.

The images are from this page on the National Weather Service website. The deep purples indicate more than four inches of rain from noon on August 2 to noon on August 3.

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Taste of South Milwaukee: Debuting a New Series Focusing on Local Eateries

Today, I’m starting a new occasional series on the blog focused on promoting local restaurants, bars and other eating establishments.

I start with one of our newest — Pot Liquor, the soul food restaurant at 925 Madison Ave. Check them out!

Pot Liquor

For more information — including the meaning of the name — check out the story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Eat local!

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Recommendation Made for Virtual Start to School Year; Board to Vote on August 5

The South Milwaukee School District administration is recommending a virtual start to the 2020-21 school year.

Superintendent Jeff Weiss made the recommendation at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, following months of work from committees reviewing options related to reopening.

You can read the letter sent to parents here and the presentation made to the School Board here.

The board meets on Wednesday, August 5, to vote on options for the restart of school, including the recommended virtual approach, which Superintendent Weiss is suggesting should last at least six weeks.

From the letter …

It is important to note that the virtual model will be different from the emergency remote learning last spring. We will institute:

  • Schedules for synchronous (live) meetings with teachers
  • Schedules for synchronous classes with teachers
  • Social Emotional Learning opportunities for students
  • Rigorous curricular expectations
  • Ability to transition among the three modes of instruction throughout the school year. 

It is also important to share why I recommended this direction. Just a few short weeks ago, my plan was not to go back in a fully virtual setting. In the two week period starting after July 4th, the number of cases of COVID19 in South Milwaukee nearly doubled since the start of the outbreak. The only responsible choice is to recommend that we start in a virtual setting until our community spread numbers are under control. We will be continually reviewing the number of cases in our community. In the event we meet the criteria for declining cases as recommended by local health departments, we will bring our students back into our school buildings in early October.  

We considered the impact of different learning models on our students and the recommendations from the CDC and our local health departments. I understand that the headlines related to the CDC guidance all refer to the preference of getting children back to school, which is true. However, the CDC also provides four different scenarios on what “back to school” may look like, depending on how much the virus is spreading in your own local community. With “no to minimal community spread” of the virus, the recommendation is to go back fully. If there is “substantial, uncontrolled community spread” then districts should work with their local public health officials to determine if going back to school is appropriate and consider all options for continuing education including virtually.

Many suburban Milwaukee County health officials worked together to create a recommendation on when schools should be virtual, hybrid, or fully in person with mitigation strategies. The recommendation relies on our local data to make this determination. I believe that it is important to make decisions based on objective metrics along with considerations on what is best for students as a whole child.  The chart below summarizes the recommendations of the health department officials.

More than anything, I want students back into school buildings on a regular basis. To do this, we need to work together. We have to lower our burden rate, which means we need to stop the spread of the virus.  Please, follow the guidance from our public health officials. Wear face coverings, wash your hands on a regular basis, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance. Encourage others to do so as well. Our ability to safely educate our students in person relies on the actions of the community to stop the spread of this virus. 

I know that the decision regarding how to start the school year could be divisive, regardless of the final choice that will be made next week. It could easily pit friends and colleagues against each other. It could cause families to speak negatively about school board members, teachers, administrators, or me as superintendent. 

My ask of you, just as it was in my last communication, is to respond to these disagreements with kindness. We are stronger as a community, and as a nation, when we work to understand each other and to unite our community. We certainly want to know your opinion and thoughts, we simply ask that you remember the #SMWay when sharing.

I want to reinforce that last paragraph, as a parent, husband and mayor.

Whatever the board decides, I know this: The people involved in making these decisions — from the committee members studying it to the administration to the board members — are well-meaning and care deeply about doing what they think is right to educate our kids. They understand the impacts of their actions — and that there are no perfect options, as they look to balance student and staff safety with a desire (one we all have) to eventually return to normal schooling.

There are no easy choices here, and in that way their decision is like countless others being made by elected officials and other organizational leaders across the country throughout this pandemic. You may disagree with those decisions, and that is OK. Robust debate is a good thing; it makes us better and stronger. You can and should ask tough questions, and make your voices heard as decisions are made. But, no matter the outcome, I ask everyone to respect the people making these choices.

The pandemic has divided us like never before. Let’s not let this or any decision involving the health crisis divide us any further.

And, as Dr. Weiss said, be kind.

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State Issues Mask Mandate, as South Milwaukee Sees Spike in COVID-19 Cases

As you’ve probably seen or heard by now, a statewide mask order for indoor spaces goes into effect on Saturday, August 1.

Read the executive order from Gov. Tony Evers here and FAQs here.

I support the order. While I have concerns over enforcement, the reasons behind the order are sound, the motives are right, and the science is clear: Masks help limit the spread of COVID-19. They save lives.

We need to take these kinds of steps to keep people healthy.

The data is alarming locally. As of Wednesday, the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department had recorded 313 positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. So far this month, we have recorded 150, and 88 in the two weeks since July 15.

In other words, we have seen more than a quarter of all of our cases in South Milwaukee in just 14 days. That has led to an incredibly high “disease burden” — a relative measure of cases per 100,00 people.

Our positive test rate (11% of those tested from July 9-22 tested positive) is also high — but testing is just one reason we are seeing high disease numbers. It’s also clear there is significant community spread of the illness, and if we can take steps to limit that spread, we should, as a government and, more importantly, as individuals.

We all have a responsibility here. The decisions we make will impact how quickly and widely COVID-19 spreads.

Mask up, South Milwaukee.

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August Primary: In-Person Absentee Voting Opens Tuesday

From the South Milwaukee Clerk’s Office …

In-Person Absentee Voting in the Clerk’s Office begins on Tuesday, July 28th. Hours for in-person absentee voting are weekdays, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Friday, August 7th, from 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Please bring photo ID!To find your polling location or to request an absentee ballot by mail, please visit MyVote. https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/.

More details on the city’s Elections web page.

And if you’re looking for a suggestion in the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds primary, go with incumbent Israel Ramon. I proudly endorse his work to make that office more transparent, efficient and effective. He’s made major improvements since taking over in troubled times a year ago, and Issy deserves more time to continue those efforts.

The general election is November 3, and I’m running as a moderate Democrat for Assembly, planning to stay as mayor when I win. Details here.

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Sunday Morning: Suburban Soles Presents “South Milwaukee Takes Root”

The next Suburban Soles walk is tomorrow (Sunday, July 26), and it features South Milwaukee historian Nels Monson.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Grant Park Golf Course.

I guarantee you’ll learn something new about South Milwaukee’s proud past — I always do when Nels drops some of his wisdom.

More details here. And a special thanks to Brian Morrison and BMO Productions for hosting these events. They are two hours, well spent.

Here is the full schedule …

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Headlines: COVID-19 in the Suburbs, Repainting the Rock and More

The graphic is from this Shepherd Express story.

I’m bringing back the “Headlines” roundups on the blog — links to stories about our city from other media outlets.

Check out these recent South Milwaukee headlines …

And the South Milwaukee Police Department has published a new crime summary on its Facebook page.

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This Saturday: A Virtual Meet the Mayor Event

To ensure safety amid the pandemic, I’m making my next Meet the Mayor event — set for this Saturday, July 25 — virtual.

To join the Zoom call from noon to 1 p.m., click here. To call in …

  • Phone: 1-929-436-2866
  • Meeting ID: 82127094931

Please bring your questions, comments or concerns!

For now, I’ll be holding August Meet the Mayor session at noon on Saturday, August 29, at Taco Stop, 513 N. Chicago Ave.

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COVID-19 Update: 49 New Cases in Less Than a Week

The South Milwaukee Health Department has issued its latest COVID-19 data, and you can see it on the city’s Facebook page each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday’s update shows 49 new positive tests since July 17 alone — almost a quarter of the city’s total cases since the pandemic began, in less than a week. You can find additional data points on the Milwaukee County dashboard and tracking map.

Please take the steps necessary to stay safe, South Milwaukee, adhering to the guidance you can find on the city website, including wearing a mask in public. We are currently in Phase C.

And please join me in thanking our Health Department, which has been contact tracing each COVID-19 case since March. It’s an incredible amount of work, but critical to help reduce the spread of the virus.

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South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center: Reopening Statement and COVID-19 Guidelines

The South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center on Monday announced the steps it is taking to reopen amid the pandemic.

From the statement

We will present a modified Performing Arts Series for the 2020-2021 season. Subscribers will be notified by mail to pre-order tickets, and individual tickets will go on sale after that. The Performing Arts Series, school and rental partner events will be announced when confirmed. Community and rental partners will receive detailed information about our new health safety policies. Due to capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements, seating will be limited and look different this season. However, we will be able to gather again, just at a bit more of a distance!

Full Statement

We understand that the health and well-being of our students, audiences, volunteers, artists, renters and staff is vital. And, we believe that live performances can enhance one’s well-being and contribute to a meaningful and enjoyable life.

That’s why we’re taking steps to reopen the theatre following guidelines provided by municipal and county health organizations. To help ensure good health for all, we’ll continue to monitor and reevaluate the latest COVID-19 information and update our policies as needed. We’ll post updates on our website and social media pages. Everyone who visits our theatre will be asked to follow these policies. We know that by working together, we can keep our environment healthy for everyone who wants to keep performing arts in their lives. 

We will present a modified Performing Arts Series for the 2020-2021 season. Subscribers will be notified by mail to pre-order tickets, and individual tickets will go on sale after that. The Performing Arts Series, school and rental partner events will be announced when confirmed. Community and rental partners will receive detailed information about our new health safety policies. Due to capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements, seating will be limited and look different this season. However, we will be able to gather again, just at a bit more of a distance!

Here’s how we’ll be working together to maintain a healthy environment:

  1. Calendar of Events – Performances and events will continue as scheduled unless otherwise directed by public health officials or school district administration. Please check our website, southmilwaukeepac.org, and Facebook page for updates.
  2. Tickets, Cancellations & Refunds – Advance tickets will be sold via our website, southmilwaukeepac.org or by phone, (414) 766-5049. Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office one hour before show time. Tickets are non-refundable except when a show is cancelled and not rescheduled. If a show must be cancelled due to community health or other unplanned reasons, patrons will be notified by phone and email.  
  3. Physical Distancing – Audience capacity will be restricted to allow for physical distancing. This means that every other row in the house may be closed and patrons will be asked to leave two seats between each household group. Capacity may change in accordance with health department requirements. Signage will be posted and announcements will be made periodically asking patrons to maintain physical distancing.
  4. Masks – Wearing a mask will be required for all visitors and staff. A limited number of masks may be available for $1 at the box office while they last. 
  5. Hand Sanitizer – Sanitizer dispensers will be available in the lobby and throughout the theatre offices and backstage areas. 
  6. Cleaning and Disinfecting – Theatre, restrooms and backstage areas will be cleaned and sanitized before and after each event.
  7. Show Programs – Programs must be single use only. Renters may provide a digital program to be uploaded to our website.
  8. Concessions – Food may not be sold or carried in. Bottled water is allowed.
  9. Doors – Theatre doors will open approximately 45 minutes before show time to allow for more seating time. Patrons will be encouraged to take their seats upon arrival. 
  10. Live Streaming – A live streaming option is being considered to accommodate patrons who are unable to attend in person. Live streaming may not be available for all performances. Renters who choose to livestream events will be required to ensure that their content has the appropriate licensing needed.

SMPAC staff appreciates your cooperation and support as we navigate through this challenging and uncertain period. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely,

Rachel Sorce | Executive Director | 414-766-5048 | rsorce@sdsm.k12.wi.us

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Curb Appeal Awards Are Back. Submit Your Entries (With Photos) Now!

The South Milwaukee Curb Appeal Awards are back!

The awards, presented by the Beautification Committee, are given to South Milwaukee businesses, homeowners and civic organizations who devote extra effort to their property’s beautification, through landscaping and other street-facing efforts.

We are looking for utilization of color, appropriateness for the architecture of the structure, originality, lawn upkeep, and decorative exterior structures.

Submit your photo entries now using our Google form; pin your photos on this Facebook post; or email them (with the address) to Katie Crosby at crosby@smwi.org.

We will then upload entries to our Facebook page, with followers being able to vote for the best of the best.

All entries must be submitted by July 29.

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On the Wearing of Masks

South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Administrator Jackie Ove this morning issued new guidance on mask wearing. From it …

As we work toward a safe reopening of businesses and recreational opportunities in our cities, and with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase, I strongly encourage everyone in South Milwaukee and St. Francis to incorporate wearing masks into their daily routine when in public places. This includes all indoor public spaces and outdoor where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each person over the age of two years should wear a face covering or mask when in public. This is in addition to protective measures such as hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and when possible maintaining six feet of physical distance from others who do not live in your household.

I stand by this guidance, and strongly encourage everyone to follow it.

This is not an order, as you’ve seen issued in a few other area communities and in now half the states. (Milwaukee’s ordinance goes into effect today.) And the biggest reason for that is enforceability.

If you can not (or will not) adequately enforce an ordinance, it’s only words on paper, and we do not have the means or ability to enforce a mask mandate effectively. Even in those communities where they have been passed, that has been a point of contention.

Despite that, the motivation for these mandates is right. Masks save lives. And I credit leaders everywhere who are doing what they think is right to keep people safe. It is what we have been doing in the City of South Milwaukee since the start of the pandemic, knowing that not everyone will agree with our recommendations and actions.

For months, the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department have been offering guidance around mask wearing; today’s statement clarifies and strengthens those recommendations.

Meanwhile, individual businesses and organizations are putting in place their own mask requirements, equipped with guidance from local, state and federal health officials. I was happy to see places like Walmart, Pick ‘n Save and Kohl’s announce such requirements on Wednesday.

I’ve heard from a number of people in the past week expressing support and opposition to a mask mandate, and, barring business-specific requirements, ultimately it is your choice whether or not to mask up in South Milwaukee.

Some will choose to. Some will not, for very valid reasons.

I will heed the advice of health experts and do so, with these words from our health administrator in mind:

The case for wearing masks is clear: They significantly reduce the potential for spreading the virus. Please do your part in protecting yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 in South Milwaukee and St. Francis.

Stay healthy, South Milwaukee.

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Helping Two Local Families Through Tragedy

South Milwaukeeans always step up — and here are two more ways to do it.

GoFundMe pages have been established to help two local families following tragedies.

  • Learn more about the Vega Quintero family here. Isidro and Sandra Vega Quintero were killed in a crash last week, leaving behind five children. GoFundMe link
  • And here is more information on Dan Franecki, a South Milwaukeean who lost both of his legs in a crash while working on a utility crew in downtown Milwaukee in March. GoFundMe link

If you can help, please do. Every dollar makes a difference!

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Responding to COVID-19: Providing Property Tax Relief By Waiving Interest, Penalties on Late Payments Through September

From the South Milwaukee Treasurer’s Office …

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted Act 185. This law allowed Milwaukee County and the City of South Milwaukee to pass legislation providing relief to South Milwaukee property owners who are experiencing financial hardship with paying property taxes due to the impact of COVID-19.

Resolution 20-12, adopted by the City of South Milwaukee Common Council on June 30, 2020, temporarily waives interest and penalties on delinquent real property tax installment payments due and payable after April 1, 2020 for those property owners who were current with property tax installments as of April 1. Under this resolution, installment payments received after their due date, but paid by October 1, 2020, will be without interest and penalty. Any unpaid balance after October 1, 2020 will become delinquent and accrue interest and penalty from February 1, 2020 until paid in full.

The July 31 tax installment payment may be made to the City of South Milwaukee until the close of business on August 7, 2020, the end of the grace period. Please note, payment must be RECEIVED in the Treasurer’s office BY 4:00 p.m. on this date. Afterward, payment must be made directly to the Milwaukee County Treasurer, NOT the City of South Milwaukee.

All other tax installment payments may be made to the City of South Milwaukee until July 31, after which payment must be made directly to the Milwaukee County Treasurer.

I support this measure, and ended up for voting for it to break a 3-3 Common Council tie. It’s another small way we as a city can step to help those facing financial stress during the ongoing pandemic and recession.

I want to thank the state legislature and Milwaukee County Board for passing the enabling legislation, and am glad we can offer this.

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