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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, April 25, 2014

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According to Dave, installing cameras in alleys is just the kind of bad idea you'd expect from the team of Bob Donovan and David Clarke.
According to Dave, installing cameras in alleys is just the kind of bad idea you'd expect from the team of Bob Donovan and David Clarke. (Photo:

Milwaukee's own odd couple unveils camera plan to make alleys safer

It was with stunned amusement that I sipped my coffee this morning and read about the merger of two local institutions – Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

The two have come up with a plan to make the alleys safer in a small area of Donovan’s South Side district by installing cameras.

Having Donovan and Clarke team up is kind of giving us our very own Thelma and Louise, just biding time until they drive off a cliff holding hands. These two guys are what we call "media hogs." It’s a joke they tell about someone else but it fits with Donovan. Where is the most dangerous place to stand in Milwaukee? Between Bob Donovan and a TV camera.

Clarke, who is about a zillion dollars over his budget because of overtime that has resulted in deputies drawing six-figure salaries, continues to stick his nose into stuff where it doesn’t belong. Crime fighting and patrol of the city belong to the Milwaukee Police Department. The sheriff runs the jail, provides bailiffs in court, patrols parks and expressways, and maybe one or two other things that I forgot.

Donovan said the cameras will help prevent crimes like illegal dumping, graffiti, illegal car repair, drug dealing and drug use, as well as break-ins and burglaries. He also said he thought the cameras would be paid for by private donations.

Try to forget for a moment about the possibility that these cameras may be an invasion of privacy for the people who have legitimate business in their alleys: shoveling snow, putting out the trash, visiting a neighbor, sneaking into the house of the person they are having an affair with, etc.

I can’t imagine Felix and Oscar coming up the walk to my house to solicit a private donation for this thing. That would be a reason we should pass a "stand your ground" law in Wisconsin.

YPs are engaged and connected in Milwaukee.
YPs are engaged and connected in Milwaukee. (Photo:

An OP reflects on YP Week

Today ends YP week in Milwaukee, co-sponsored by, where I work, and a creature of Newaukee, the organization of young professionals that is working to make this a better place to live and work and play. In fact, and its co-owner Jeff Sherman helped found the city's first young professions group, Fuel Milwaukee (formerly YPM).

I didn't participate in YP week, but it was open to everyone. If they had an OP week, I could probably go. Weeks and events aside,  I do have a couple of words of advice for the young people who are gathering and participating.

You guys don’t have to reinvent the wheel. What you really have to do is make the road smoother for that wheel to roll on.

You are not the only people who are making important decisions about this city. I’m part of the generation that has made, and continues to make in many cases, crucial decisions about politics, business, the arts and living.

Don’t forget about us. We are eager to share with you the things we’ve done and the things we’ve learned over decades. We’ve made mistakes, and you can learn from ours. We’ve done things right, too, and  you can also learn from that.

Many of  us have families and children who are your contemporaries. We care about them, about all of you, a great deal. We know how intractable some of the problems are here. We know that there are no easy or quick answers for a lot of them.

But we also believe that there are some quick answers to some of the issues. We sometimes haven’t had either the skill or the will to get some things done we know we should have.

But we believe in  you. We want you to be successful. We admire your passions and your energy and your ability to work in a cooperative way. That’s something a lot of us could have learned from you. Our generation was good at protecting our own interests, but not so great at working with people who had different agenda.

So, don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve been involved in the arts…

George Webb's famous prediction.
George Webb's famous prediction.

George Webb's takes the high road in Brewers' burger giveaway

You really have to hand it to George Webb, the venerable Milwaukee restaurant chain.

There may be a "new" kid on the block, trying to mimic Webb’s claim to fame, but the Webb people aren’t all that concerned.

The deal is that for 65 years Webb has been offering free burgers if the Milwaukee Brewers win a certain number of consecutive games. Currently that number is 12.

This year, Sobelman’s, the popular bar/restaurant in the Menomonee Valley, offered a promotion to give away free burgers if the Brewers win 10 straight.

I’m a lot more bothered by this than Webb’s seems to be.

"Let them do what they want," said Ryan Stamm, whose dad used to own the chain. "We’ve been offering this for 65 years and paid off once, in 1987. Who cares what they do?"

Dave Sobelman, owner of the bar, said he wasn’t concerned about any criticism that he was playing off somebody else’s idea.

"We announced this two days before opening day," he said. "I really haven’t heard that much criticism from anyone … except that elite downtown crowd."

Well, at least one person isn’t all that enamored of his idea to replicate a Milwaukee institution, and at 70, I don’t consider myself part of this "downtown elite crowd."

That would be kind of like someone building a duplicate of the Calatrava and filling it with sunglasses stores and and a mini-mart. Or somebody who gets the monthly flavor of the day card from Kopp’s and does the exact same thing every day at his custard stand.

One thing Milwaukee doesn’t like is people who mess with our traditions. We revere our traditions.

I really admire Webb for taking the high road on this whole thing. They are going to keep on doing what they have kept on doing for over six decades. Good for them.

Sobleman makes a good burger, and for some, his restaurant is…

JJ Phillips (left), Luke Brotherhood and Bob Amaral star in the Milwaukee Rep's production of "The History of Invulnerability."
JJ Phillips (left), Luke Brotherhood and Bob Amaral star in the Milwaukee Rep's production of "The History of Invulnerability." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Rep's "History of Invulnerability" suffers from an identity crisis

Ever since he made his debut into the American pop culture world, Superman has been a character who made people wonder what he really was.  After all, he's technically an alien disguised as a human.

"Look. Up in the Sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman."

That was kind of the way I felt walking out of the opening night of "The History of Invulnerability" at the Milwaukee Rep, which runs through May 4. I wasn’t totally sure what I had just watched, but I knew whatever it was had made me a little uncomfortable.

Playwright David Bar Katz sets out to tell the story of Jerry Siegel, who along with artist Joe Shuster, created Superman.

It’s an interesting and even fascinating story, full of factoids sure to summon a lot of "I didn’t know that" crowd reactions in the early going.

Siegel and Shuster were Jewish. Jews also created Batman, Spiderman, Popeye, Tarzan, Zorro and the Incredible Hulk, among many others. Katz's script posits that it is their very Jewishness that drove Siegel and Shuster to create what may well be the most enduring fictional character ever made. 

And once that part of the door is opened – being Jewish – the door becomes a swinging door like the old time cowboy westerns used to have. The audience is dragged along, first one side, then the other, then back again, then once more through the door.

But I wonder about that initial claim. The two were teenagers when they had the idea for Superman, and it took them six years to get someone to buy in. Certainly the kind of person Siegel was played a big role in his signature creation.

"Make him everything that I wasn’t," he says. "Look me over, then draw the opposite."

The story has all of the elements of a good play: creativity, the struggle to escape obscurity, being ripped off by businessmen, years of suffering and a failed attempt to win back your hero, and an eventual moment of recognition, finally.

What happened was that Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to …