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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007

Race for City Attorney Raises Crime Issues

Colon wants to increase crime-fighting powers

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Last week, Colon released a new plan for the office that would beef up its crime-fighting duties. Working in cooperation with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Colon, if elected, would appoint a public safety deputy within the office, and also instruct Milwaukee police officers about how to make an arrest while respecting the rights of the accused. Colon contends that this will help to build trust between the community and the police force.

But Colon would go one step further and ask that some of the attorneys be deputized in certain cases to add more prosecutorial power to the DA’s office. Colon said that this would help break up the conditions that lead to crime, such as by shutting down nuisance properties and crack houses, and breaking up gang hangouts.

“If you share the information with the district attorney, you can fight crime in a real-time way,” Colon said.

Colon also said he hopes to sort out the city’s long-standing problems with unlicensed drivers.

He added that while the program may be new to Milwaukee, the city attorney’s office in San Diego has had a similar program since 1992, and other cities around the country have followed suit. So it came as no surprise that City Attorney Grant Langley held a “media event” on Monday—almost a week after Colon’s announcement with District Attorney Chisholm—to announce that his office has filed a public nuisance action against the owner of a house that allegedly had 11 pit bulls acting as guard dogs, space for dog fighting and a “substantial amount” of marijuana.

Seems like Langley is worried that Colon’s plan could ignite a real race for city attorney.

Not Child’s Play: Only one full-time toy tester is employed at the federal safety laboratory in Maryland—that’s one full-time employee to test toys for the entire country— so perhaps it’s no surprise that reports of toy hazards have gotten parents worried. And WISPIRG’s 22nd-annual toy safety report is full of warnings about what our kids are playing with. According to the study released on Tuesday, choking is still a major cause of toy-related injuries and deaths, and balloons are still the top cause of choking deaths. Magnets, when swallowed, can cause death or serious injuries, and the report’s authors urge parents to seek immediate medical attention if their child swallows one. And lead—not to mention other toxic chemicals such as toluene and xylene—is found in kids’ toys and cosmetic sets. WISPIRG recommends that the feds ban all toxic chemicals in cosmetics marketed to children and step up their efforts to test toys for safety.

Oh, Now We Get It: Immigration foe F. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) doesn’t seem to be a fan of a new bill (sponsored by fellow Republican Vito Fossella of New York) that would withhold federal highway funds from states that issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. According to Wispolitics.com, Fossella’s bill would repeal some of the Sensenbrenner-championed Real ID Act, which sets national standards for state driver’s licenses if they are to be used for federal purposes, such as boarding a plane. Sensenbrenner’s spokesman told Wispolitics that Fossella’s bill would interfere with a state’s right to issue licenses to whomever it wants. Splitting hairs? Not when you’re trying to build a legacy with Real ID, apparently.

In Like Flynn: Last week the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission selected Edward Flynn, formerly the police chief in Springfield, Mass., as Milwaukee’s new top cop. Nan Hegerty’s successor entered the running late in the process, and was only considered after the search for a new chief was narrowed to eight finalists and consultants from the Bradley Foundation put his name forward. But Flynn, who was praised for his performance in the public Q&A in City Hall, won over the panel. Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett seemed to be pleased with the new chief, saying in a statement: “Edward Flynn possesses a bold, dynamic view of policing, and I am confident he will implement new, creative, aggressive strategies to fight crime, reduce violence and make Milwaukee streets safer and stronger.”

Trends: Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College released their latest data on public opinion in Wisconsin. At the federal level, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are the front-runners, to the surprise of few. But the survey also found disturbing trends about how we feel about our elected officials.

According to the survey, only 22% of Wisconsinites polled feel that the country is headed in the right direction; that’s down from 47% in the autumn of 2002. Those who say that they’re somewhat or very satisfied with President Bush’s performance have fallen from 93% in the fall of 2001 to 36% this past month. And while 53% said that Iraq was the most important issue facing the country in the spring of 2003, only 25% now say it is. But concerns over health care have grown from 2% to 11% in the same period.

At the state level, taxes and the budget, education, health care, gas prices and government ethics have all seen a rise in their levels of concern. But the issues of welfare, crime and drugs have dropped off of the public’s radar.

Speaking of Ethics: It’s not surprising that Wisconsin residents are concerned about the ethical conduct of our elected officials. Take new state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler, for example, who is facing conflict of interest allegations regarding her past rulings on West Bend Savings Bank, which has financial ties to her family. Ziegler famously said that she does a “gut check” before cases to decide whether she has a conflict of interest, even though the judicial ethics code clearly states that a judge must recuse himself or herself from a case if there is such a financial tie. Individuals who were in litigation against West Bend Savings Bank did not realize that Ziegler’s husband was on the bank board. Needless to say, justice was not served— and now she is to serve on the highest court in our state. So what does a member of the panel reviewing her case say about it? It’s not even a “blip on the screen” compared to other judges’ ethical violations, says Appeals Judge Ralph Adam Fine, a conservative jurist who usually comes down hard on those who violate the law.

This Just In: Just as our 25th-anniversary issue went to press, the Shepherd Express received new—and encouraging— data about our readership from Media Audit. While most newspapers are suffering a loss of readership, ours is growing. In fact, we have 12% more readers today than we did one year ago, and we’ve grown from 231,000 to 258,800 regular readers. This does not include those who read the Shepherd online.

Heavens!: They won’t clean up your credit score, but they may help you clear your conscience. On Nov. 27, Rev. Billy and the gospel choir of the Church of Stop Shopping will blow into town to preach the message of non-consumerism. The group is also featured in What Would Jesus Buy?, the new film from Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me. Catch Rev. Billy (for free!) at the UWMilwaukee Union at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Looking for a Coffee Shop on Thanksgiving Day?: You can stop by the Brewing Grounds for Change coffee shop at 2008 N. Farwell Ave. on Thanksgiving, because they’ll be open. Not only that, but they always serve 100% fair trade coffee.

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