Some Thoughts On Electric Scooters

This may seem bit a field for Blogging Blue…but Governor Evers signed a bill allowing local governments to permit and regulate the scooters in their areas. This is the result of the scooter controversy in Milwaukee last summer when Bird scooters started operating in the city unannounced. Naturally a number of companies want to operate in Milwaukee and I imagine in Madison.

Scooters in Wisconsin will have to operate like bicycles and have limits on their speed. And municipalities get to place other restrictions on their use. Oddly enough it won’t be illegal to operate them while intoxicated. wtf????

I see their appeal. They look like fun to operate. They are hip. The are alternate transportation that like cars can go point to point as the user sees fit. But for the non-user, they seem like a pain in the ass and I am not going to be a proponent.

This past May and June, I spent two weeks in France including ten days in Paris. There are at least four operators, maybe five, in Paris. So scooters are everywhere. Some areas restrict them or prevent them from entering, like the Tuileries Gardens and the plaza immediately around the Pyramid at the Louvre.

But as far as I can tell, there are no lane restrictions, speed restrictions, passenger restrictions, or other. Of course there are no parking corrals or racks…

So my experience says these can be a little dangerous. When used in the modern bike lanes that Paris is establishing they are a breeze to use. Assuming traffic laws are obeyed…I nearly got knocked down by a young woman who swore at me as she whizzed by as I was crossing a street WITH the walk light…excuse me for making you swerve while you were running the red light.

I saw dozens of close calls while scooters wove in and out of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks along the Seine. Luckily it wasn’t quite high season yet and the walks in that area are wide by Parisian standards. Although I did see one scooter lying near the curb that had hit something.

But Paris is an old city and many of the sidewalks are barely three feet wide. Riding a scooter there is problematic. The street I was staying on was very narrow and very popular and very crowded. At ten at night it was like trying to walk down the main aisle at Summerfest…so I can’t imagine how the scooter that was dumped in front of my apartment door that nearly tripped me up one morning….got there.

A friend who lives there and owns a pub there said the city is trying to determine what they need to regulate i.e. scooters. Dumping them in the middle of narrow sidewalks or in front of businesses is becoming a big problem. Dumping meaning…just dropping them where they stop using them…not standing them up using the kick stands or placing them near a building or light pole…just laying flat on the sidewalk. They definitely want to ban multiple passengers on scooters…I saw a lot of that…apparently it causes hazardous riding. And winding in and out of vehicular traffic at stop lights has resulted in a number of serious injuries.

Milwaukee will do what it wants to do. I would recommend some limits on where the scooters can be picked up, dropped off and stored. Obviously keep them off the sidewalks while in operation and limit number of occupants. And please make it illegal to operate them while intoxicated…that can’t be good for anyone. And make it a requirement that the scooter company retrieve any that end up in the river, park lagoons or lakes…and fine users who ‘place’ them there.

Milwaukee Alderman Using City Resources to Campaign for Mayor?

It doesn’t surprise too many people in Milwaukee that this last combination of snow and cold and snow and snow has caused interruptions to the business of running the City of Milwaukee and environs. And that city and county and other local municipal road crews have been working overtime to keep the streets clear of snow. It happens at least once and often more than once each winter season.

But this year something is different. Alderman Tony Zielinski of Milwaukee’s 14th Aldermanic District is running for mayor of Milwaukee in 2020. So given the complaints about city services connected to the recent snow storms, he sent this out today on his official city stationary and from the official city email account:

The Alderman who is obviously part of city government is calling out the mayor and the department of public works for failing to do their jobs. A government he is responsible for…not responsible to. If he weren’t running for mayor this would never have been published. If he were concerned as an alderman this would have been taken up with the DPW directly. If he was concerned as alderman he would bring up budgeting for additional manpower and replacement equipment in the city council.

And it is known that the alderman is openly hostile to the street car and has stated that he won’t allow it to be expanded through the 14th district (despite the fact that it makes logical sense to run a spur from downtown to the airport which would run through the 14th). So the overall content here…attacking the incumbent mayor (who is expected to run for re-election) and his administration and the street car (one of the mayor’s priority initiatives) in this email smacks of concern as a mayoral candidate.

Calling the mayor to task and blaming the street car for budgetary restrictions are fine…for a mayoral candidate. But I find that there are serious ethical questions here. Alderman Zielinski used his city email account, his city letterhead, and his city title to castigate the city. Totally out of line…if this is how he feels…and this is how he wants to communicate this…it should have come from his campaign account with the indicia authorized and paid for by Citizens for T. Anthony Zielinski. Not with my tax dollars!

Milwaukee Common Council To Honor Colin Kaepernick!

After being snubbed by the GOP membership of the Wisconsin legislature, the Milwaukee native and former NFL Quarterback will be honored as part of Black History Month by the Milwaukee Common Council:

Colin Kaepernick will be honored by the City of Milwaukee after Republican lawmakers in Madison rejected efforts to recognize him statewide.  

Kaepernick, who was born in Milwaukee, will now be featured in the city’s “28 Days of Black History” project, seven African American aldermen said Friday.

The announcement comes just days after Republicans in the state Legislature rejected a move by black lawmakers to recognize Kaepernick as part of Wisconsin’s Black History Month.

“It is unfortunate that certain state legislators in Madison have worked in opposition to their African American colleagues to block Wisconsin native Colin Kaepernick from being included in a state Black History Month resolution,” the aldermen said. “Unlike some in Madison we are truly honored to feature Colin Kaepernick as part of our Black History celebration.”

The statement was signed by Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, Alds. Milele Coggs, Russell W. Stamper II, Chantia Lewis, Khalif J. Rainey, Cavalier Johnson and Nikiya Dodd.

“We understand that Mr. Kaepernick is a controversial figure, but black history makers tend to be controversial by nature,” they added. “Few, if any, were accepted by the broader society when they were doing their work, but in hindsight, our nation recognizes that their counter-cultural actions were crucial to the growth of our country.”

Milwaukee’s move came after tempers flared at the state Capitol amid GOP opposition to honor Kaepernick, a former National Football League quarterback who has drawn attention — and stirred controversy — for kneeling during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black people.

“Mr. Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and his willingness to stand up for what he believes and against the violent and oppressive (and sometimes deadly) treatment of black and brown citizens by law enforcement has brought attention to some of the most important issues of our time,” the Milwaukee aldermen said. “Quite simply, by doing so he has made history.”

Some, including Coggs and Lewis, wore shirts this week showing their support for the quarterback.

Coggs was recognized in the state resolution, which was approved at the Capitol after Republicans pulled Kaepernick’s name from it. 

The council members also noted that Kaepernick has “donated generously to help many worthwhile causes” including two Milwaukee groups, the I Will Not Die Young Campaign and Urban Underground.

Kaepernick will now be included in Milwaukee’s 28 Days of Black History project, which means he will be featured on the city’s website and on the City Channel. Others featured include Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum founder Clayborn Benson, state Rep. Kalan Haywood, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik and others.

“Black history is still being written and is ever developing,” the group of council members said.

Update on February 16, 2019. In the initial article and resolution, Milwaukee’s seven African-American alderpersons were the official signees. But in the final release thirteen of the fifteen alders supported the resolution: : Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, Alds. Milele Coggs, Russell W. Stamper II, Chantia Lewis, Khalif J. Rainey, Cavalier Johnson, Nikiya Dodd, Nik Kovac, Robert Bauman, José Pérez, Mark Borkowski, Michael Murphy and Tony Zielinski. The two who did not sign were Alds. Robert Donovan and Terry Witkowski.

Side note: it was announced today that Mr. Kaepernick and the National Football League have come to a financial settlement but terms will not be published.

Defense Contractor Abandons Milwaukee for the Falls!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently published an article about a City of Milwaukee defense contractor heading for Menomonee Falls!

Defense contractor Leonardo DRS could have developed its new $56 million factory and offices, with more than 400 workers, at Century City Business Park — less than a mile from its outdated facility on Milwaukee’s north side. 
Instead, armed with up to $25 million in state and local government financing help, the company will move to the Woodland Prime business park in Menomonee Falls.

Now this is troubling at base. The MJS article goes on and questions what would be the issues at Century City Business Park that prevented Leonardo DRS from moving there. And looking into that is something that Milwaukee needs to do…and remediate it if at all possible. Being at just a mile from their current headquarters would seem to make it a logical move. But I am not going there right now.

My question relates to the second paragraph in the quote shown above. Financing help from the state and local government. Hmmm. Should the state actually be providing funds to state companies to move from one municipality to another? This is my mind raises all types of questions.

Is there a conflict of interest on the part of state officials in intra-state moves of this type? There is always a question of governments picking winners and losers…should they be benefiting one village over a neighboring city? Shouldn’t state monies be used to grow businesses in their own neighborhoods (or to keep them from leaving the state)?

Not apparently in this case…screw you Milwaukee:

The state will give DRS up to $18.5 million in income tax credits over the next seven years. Also, Menomonee Falls is providing $6.4 million in tax incremental financing for the new facility.

I understand the Falls eagerness to add a new business and their willingness to spend millions to do it. But the state is spending $18.5 million and allowing a company to leave one municipality for another. I understand DRS’ desire for a bigger modern plant but there is plenty of space at Century City.

So briefly, why is the state allowed to pit one municipality against another in business development and actually encourage pirating businesses while providing state funds to do it?

A final word from DRS:

The company “looked all over the state, including sites in Milwaukee, and the Menomonee Falls location met the requirements for us to best serve our U.S. Navy customer,” said Michael Mount, senior director of public affairs.

Yeah, Menomonee Falls is so much closer to any US Navy base or facility than the City of Milwaukee… ha ha ha!

Madison GOP Legislators Interferes With Milwaukee City Rules AGAIN!

As all cities are wont to do, the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department inspects restaurants for cleanliness and health code violations. They create reports that outline what they’ve found and file them. In the 21st Century they post them on line as well. But they are pages and pages long and quite frankly no one looks at them. So following a cue from other big cities around the nation they decided to convert the inspection results into letter grades…you now…like A or B or C? All of us clearly understand what those mean. We’ve all been graded using that scale through out most of our educational years.

This grading system went into effect in January of 2018 and restaurants could post their grades voluntarily. This was essentially a test and starting in 2019 they would be required to post the results. And then all hell broke loose in Madison. Apparently the Wisconsin Restaurant Association didn’t like the idea!

Milwaukee is the only city in Wisconsin to award grades, although cities elsewhere, including New York and Toronto, have similar programs.

The number of critical health violations found by inspectors, which had been increasing, has declined this year, said Claire Evers, director of Milwaukee’s environmental consumer health division.

She credited the improvement to restaurant operators “actively managing now to get better grades.”

Kristine Hillmer, the president and CEO of the WRA, countered that the information is too distilled and open to misinterpretation, and consumers should obtain full inspection reports from searchable databases.

She said the association prefers a simple pass-fail system, in which restaurants that fail and are food-safety risks would be closed to correct the problems.

Hillmer said more than 80 restaurants opposing the grading system have contacted the association but that none wants to be identified, fearing repercussions.

Eighty restaurants oppose the system and don’t want to be identified? I think we really need to know how many of them are actually in Milwaukee and how many are not, fearing the grading system will spread. And are they local restaurants as opposed to fast food joints or fast casual places? I would think with their low cost business plans, entry level employees and mass sourced food products, they are the most likely to pull low grades.

And it’s too distilled? As I said above we all pretty much know how ABC grading systems work. And an A establishment is cleaner than a B. If you want distilled, I think a pass/fail system is even more oblique. And the full reports are going to be clear and easy to understand for the average consumer? I bet not!

So something rather user friendly and consumer oriented gets shat on because the Wisconsin State Legislature and the Governor’s office are in the back pockets of big business. Banning the ABC grades is not in the best interest of consumers and interferes with the operations of the City of Milwaukee, again. When are they going to get out of that cycle?

Anyway, the administration has decided to rule against Milwaukee:

The state Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on Thursday supported food-rule changes that include barring cities from creating grades of restaurants based on food-safety inspections.

Officials from Milwaukee, the only municipality in the state to issue such grades, had objected to the change, while the Wisconsin Restaurant Association supported it.

The rules now go to the governor for review and approval before being sent to the Legislature for its approval.

Shame on the legislators of the Wisconsin GOP!

BTW: is the oversight of admin rules one of the changes that the legislature going to take away from the governor in their lame duck power grab?