Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

The lady or the accountant? Two questions for the next mayor

Wauwatosa, mayoral candidates, Kathy Ehley, Peter Donegan

(First an edit: Pete Donegan is not an accountant--not that there's anything wrong with being an accountant! I misheard that, although I'm sure he would not mind the implication that he pays careful attention to the numbers. But we'll let the title stand because it's a good enough description.)

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Go forth and set the world on fire

Wauwatosa, Marquette University Call to Service, Thanksgiving, Underwood Parkway, American Transmission Company

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Thwack! Bam!! Craaaack! Thud. . .

Wauwatosa, Trees not transmission lines, Walnuts

Yes, it's black walnut time again.

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Wauwatosa, Redevelopment, Houses

One of the things I love about this city is that it’s a mature, fully built community. With the exception of the County Grounds, whose fate is always precarious, you know pretty much what you are going to get when you buy a home here.

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What's with the diva thing, anyway?

Wauwatosa, Diva Night, Midwesterners

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Village matters: when a facelift's more than vanity

Wauwatosa, economic development

Imagine this: you manage a large commercial complex. Times are hard and there’s plenty competition for renters.

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Could you be the mayor?

Wauwatosa, mayor, salaries

While eating one of Cranky Al's sinful cinnamon rolls this morning, I noticed former alder and state assemblyman senator Jim Sullivan at the next table. Really, I tried not to eavesdrop on his animated political talk with a friend. But tonight's pending discussion of mayoral compensation by the Committee on Employee Relations was on my mind.

So I interrupted, introducing myself (I've met Sullivan before, but women my age are largely invisible and people have trouble remembering us. Which makes it easy to eavesdrop, but I digress). I asked Sullivan what he thought about the salary question.

Should the council raise the mayoral salary for the next term of office? Right now, the mayor gets $22,500 a year, the same salary the mayor got in 1984. Then, it was a decent salary, equivalent to $50,000. Today, well, it's $22,000.

The arguments for the raise are that it's long overdue, the mayor and most of her predecessors have worked a lot more than half time, the salary limits the kind of people who can or will run for office, and it's kind of embarrassing to pay so little.

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What makes a place home?

Wauwatosa, Nature

During the past week, my job has taken me to a place I thought I knew. 

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Butterflies and buildings on the Community Development docket tonight (2/23/10)

Wauwatosa, Economic development, County Grounds

It's a little slower moving than the kind of action theater we've grown use to, but community government meetings are the best act in town for the patient.

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Glenn Beck, Jennifer Love Hewitt's butt, and crime in Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Glenn Beck, Jennifer Love Hewitt, crime

I lured you here under false pretenses--my own little SEO (search engine optimization) experiment. Just goes to show: you can't trust the media, and especially you can't trust the blogosphere. Or something.

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A sense of proportion and history

Wauwatosa, historic preservation

I love old houses, their surprises and unpredictability. Of course, when that unpredictability has to do with plumbing or electricity, the charm fades. Still, there’s something about adapting to a house built in another time that ties you to the stories that went before. It gives you context.

Two WauwatosaNow stories make me think other Tosans have some of that same sense.

The first is the plan of Mo's Irish Pub to move the modest ranch houses on the lots it bought for expansion. These are not houses that make people swoon with envy. They’re ordinary houses of the kind in which many of us grew up or raised our children. 

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Little boxes -- and bigger ones


I’m not talking about the pretty ones under the Christmas tree.

Driving around in a car with a dead radio and CD player has raised my awareness of the world around me. Seeing the winter wonderland is nice, as long as the roads are clear and the deer stay hidden along Underwood Creek.

But I’m also noticing those ugly steel utility boxes that proliferated in yards everywhere over the last year or so. I think they are called Video-Ready Access Devices, or V-RADs. We know them as cable and AT&T U-verse boxes. And I call ‘em ugly.

A small cable box popped up in my neighbor’s front yard one morning last summer. When I got home in the afternoon, it had crossed the border into mine. Neighbor Ellen had sweet-talked the installers into moving the unsightly thing. So now it stands, vaguely green and slightly askew, in front of the forsythia that will never grow big enough to hide it. We have walnut trees that stunt the growth of any living thing around them. I wish they’d do the same with The Steel Box Thing.

I guess I should be grateful I didn’t get one of the big honkers that goes 4-6 feet as some people have.

A little research shows that it’s possible to install the boxes on utility poles and in hidden places. At least one community got AT & T to commit to paying for $1500 worth of landscaping around each of the beasts.

Apparently, it’s also possible to put them underground, which is really where they belong. Buried. Competitors (Verizon FiOS) run fiber optic technology right up to each house, not just to the middle of a neighborhood. So it’s possible these jarringly unattractive thingies will soon become obsolete.

How did we let this happen in our pretty community? Why didn’t we at least insist that they be placed in rear yards? And what, I wonder in my holiday bah humbug-y mood, is next?

If it weren’t so cold and I so lazy, I’d start a stealth campaign to wrap the damn things as presents for the holidays.

Instead, I’ll just ask you what you think. Shouldn’t Tosa have some higher standards about what gets built and placed here? Or are you okay with anything goes?

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Public Citizen #1: Lois Weber

Wauwatosa, politics, Lois Weber

Like me, you probably keep hearing people say things they assume everyone believes to be true but you are pretty sure. . . aren't.

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Sometimes, a longing for vigilante justice

Wauwatosa, kids

When my sister and I were teenagers, someone kept peeping into our windows at night. We had a pretty good idea who it was. So did the police, but they never caught him in the act and couldn't do anything until they did.

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Boats, business, and breakfast

Wauwatosa, Mayor Didier

There may have been more city staffers and elected officials at this morning's 7:30 am mayoral meet 'n greet at the FlatTop Grill. But the result was a chance for Mayor Didier to engage in a more relaxed conversation than usual.

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Love where you live


The bases were loaded, with a dad on third. The one girl in the group was up: she hit a solid grounder, and despite some pretty accomplished fielding, the dad and the kid on second made it home.

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"A deplorable mess:" Economic development in Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Common Council, Community Development

Hard times or not, economic development's going on in Menomonee Falls, West Allis, West Milwaukee, even Milwaukee. But here in Wauwatosa. . . not so much. Not so at all.

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Tosa Council considers rules to prevent pigs from flying

Wauwatosa, Common Council

Go to school, keep a clean nose. . .those used to be the rules in these parts. If you followed them, you could be fairly certain of being able to have a decent, ordinary life.

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Cloudy in Milwaukee and Madison: could be sunny here

Wauwatosa, Common Council

While Milwaukee and Madison are looking pretty bad when it comes to exposing the work of government to the light of day--and the thoughtful eyes of taxpayers--Wauwatosa is considering taking a small but important step in the right direction.

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Good policy: establishing naming criteria

Wauwatosa, Community Development Committee, naming rights

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Brat rules

Wauwatosa, Sendiks, bratwurst

That's "braht," as in bratwurst.

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Now it's up to Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Economy, Development, County Grounds

One of the key players in the development of the Milwaukee County Grounds wasn't at the table today. But the Milwaukee County  Economic & Community Development committee agreed that nothing will happen with the UWM Foundation plan for the engineering campus and other related development  "unless and until (it is) approved by the City of Wauwatosa."

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If it's an accelerator, it must be good

Wauwatosa, Economy, Development

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New school-based technology prevents obesity

Kids, Wauwatosa

 A study in the journal Pediatrics has found a new way to prevent obesity in school-age children:

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The worlds we live in

Development, job hunt, libraries, This and that, Wauwatosa

Snow at the start of spring is pretty normal in Wisconsin. More than once we've been turned back by bad conditions on Hwy. 41 heading north to Oshkosh for my nephew's April Fools Day birthday. Whether we want to or not, sometimes larger forces make us step back when we think we should be moving forward.

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Earth Mamas vs. the Patriarchs

County Grounds, economic development, Wauwatosa

The love of people for the land isn't just an economic proposition. It goes much deeper. Maybe you believe that God shaped a little figurine from clay and blew the breath of life into him. Or that our fishy ancestors crawled from the sea to find home on the muddy shore. In either case, our connection with the dirt on which we live is the stuff of mythology.

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Butterflies and jet fuel on the County Grounds

County Grounds, Development, UWM engineering school, Wauwatosa

The Milwaukee County Board Committee on Economic and Community Development will hold a public meeting at the Zoofari Center Wednesday March 25, from 6 - 8 pm. The purpose is to "gather comments" on the proposed sale of up to 89 acres of land to UWM Innovation Park LLC for development of an engineering campus and more. I'm a little nervous about the "and more" part.

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Man stopped after walking underdressed

Fluff, It's not easy, Wauwatosa

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Branding places: the state of Wisconsin

branding, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

I'm not the biggest fan of brands, whether they have to do with parks or people. Whenever the branding language gets trotted out, a little voice inside whispers "Emperor. . . clothing." That's especially the case when the brand seems, well, generic: anyone could apply it to their "uniqueness." But I must be wrong, because everyone's doing it.

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Leff's and the city

Development, Leff's Lucky Town, Wauwatosa

The other night I decided not to infiltrate a "blog and grog" event at Sprizzo's in Waukesha and attended a Wauwatosa Community Development Committee meeting instead. I was there at 8 pm for the Hart Park athletic fields naming rights discussion that didn't start until after 10.

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What's in a name: branding the Hart Park playing fields

branding, Jill Didier, naming rights, Wauwatosa

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Turning away business on a Friday night

Food, village, Wauwatosa

Friend Susan and I were ravenous and looking forward to trying the Firefly tonight. So we were glad when we walked in and saw at least six empty tables. The couple before us, also without reservations, was seated right away, so things looked promising.

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Greed'll get you: racketeering in Wauwatosa

CSMC, Economy, Wauwatosa

Last March I wrote a very chirpy little bit about Central States Mortgage Company (CSMC) and their then-CEO Richard Jungen. CSMC, the largest mortgage company in Milwaukee, is headquartered in the Fairview Building on North Avenue. The real estate market was starting to wobble, and I wanted to know how this prominent local business--my mortgage originator--was doing.

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Heinemann's, RIP

Economy, Heinemann's, Wauwatosa

 Last night the kids and I had our only winter break restaurant meal at Juniper 61. I'd just spent $700 on car brakes, so it was one of those "what's another 40 bucks?" kind of indulgences. Enchanted by the tempura green beans, they began talking about opening a restaurant of their own. "Of course, you need a theme, a gimmick," said one. That, good food and service, enough operating capital, plenty customers, and lots of luck, I thought.

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Racism, crime, and Wauwatosa

Mayfair Mall, Race, Wauwatosa

 Until the next incident, the latest outcropping of violence at Mayfair Mall has this community--and others, thanks to the viral progression of online video--abuzz.

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Single--and simple--tasking for the holidays

Christmas, Kids, Wauwatosa

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Buy the paper. . . and read online too

newspapers, Wauwatosa

The other day I was grappling with bill paying, and one of the envelopes I'd been ignoring drifted to the top. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel home delivery invoice arrives quarterly, and sometimes I don't get around to paying it right away. I know they'll keep delivering for awhile, and someone will call eventually to remind me. Then I sift through the piles, find the statement, add in the tip, contribute to the education fund to get papers to school kids when I'm flush, and write out the check. Or go online to pay: more about that later.

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A really good week

job hunt, Wauwatosa


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Snow, Wauwatosa

Tuesday December 9: it seems like only yesterday that I was bragging about my new-found fitness hobby, shoveling snow.

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Last chance to see America the Beautiful?

Beauty, Wauwatosa

 No, this isn't another dire prediction of the end of life as we know it. Though there is a bit of wishful thinking that the beauty industry might come crashing down like so many  financial and other fantasy-based businesses are these days.

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Waukesha's waste wends Wauwatosa way

Environment, Waukesha, Wauwatosa

Waukesha has bad water problems. It’s likely that they will soon be using Lake Michigan water. But now we learn that the city has unilaterally decided to send its wastewater—treated, whatever that means—back to the mother lake through Underwood Creek. Which happens to run practically through my back yard.You can read about it here.

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Must be that time of the market. . .

Economy, Wauwatosa

I’m playing with a new theory: one of the reasons Wauwatosa is such a sound and stable community is that for years now, it’s had a woman at the helm.

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Real heroes are in the city clerk's office

Politics, Wauwatosa

When I moved into Wauwatosa seventeen years ago, no one came to my door with a welcoming plate of cookies. But neither did a self-appointed guardian of liberty come demanding to verify my personal information against the voter registration records.

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What happened to the people's voice?

Politics, Wauwatosa

 I could have sworn that I saw a deadline for submitting people's letters to the NOW editor in support of presidential candidates. So I was surprised when I opened the lovely hard copy of Wauwatosa NOW this morning and saw none. No carefully thought out, reasoned arguments. No wacky contentions. No voices we've heard for years and voices that surprise us. I miss that.

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Don't be scared silly

Politics, Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa seems to be divided about a couple things, Halloween and who should be president among them. October 26 was official Trick or Treat day, but the real Halloween is next Friday. Some neighborhoods celebrated this weekend, others are holding out for the real thing. Some of us didn't figure out which until it was too late.

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To WEDC or not to WEDC: that is the $95,000 question

Politics, Wauwatosa

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Can Tosa seize a great opportunity?

city development, Wauwatosa

I just bought my own home for more than it's worth, and I'm not too upset about it.

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Why we vote the way we vote

Fire station, Politics, Wauwatosa

Everyone is pretty sure that we vote for candidates based on rational decision-making. But the research says we're not rational. Instead, we are rationalizers. We hunt and sift for good sounding reasons for our decisions after we've already made them.

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In the 'hood: mortgages and auto repairs

CSMC, Mortgages, Wauwatosa

The past two weeks have been full of encounters that could have been  painful--but weren't. Trips to auto repair shops and trips to refinance a mortgage at a higher interest rate aren't on anybody's top ten list of life experiences. But both neighborhood trips were painless, even pleasant.

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The financial institutions formerly known as "Wauwatosa"


The name "Wauwatosa" is disappearing from local institutions. Wauwatosa Credit Union is now Focus. Meanwhile, Wauwatosa Savings Bank announced that it's changing its name "because of recent growth and expansions," though it hasn't decided to what.

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Wauwatosa's Cool Pool

Hoyt Park Pool, Wauwatosa

No, this isn't about Wauwatosa's real Cool Pool at Hoyt Park, whose friends invite everyone to a Valentine's celebration and fundraiser on February 9.

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