June 2003

By the time you read this, “Compass,” a sculpture by Gail Simpson, should be installed in the median at the east end of the North Avenue bridge. The sculpture, in the form of a destination pole with a spiraling cluster of signs related to the history and personality of the neighborhood, was commisioned by the East Side Business Improvement District (BID). If you ride your bicycle in the bike lanes eastbound across the bridge, you can admire the new addition and soon take advantage of another. The East Side BID, along with Milwaukee County Parks Department and with the help of a federal transportation grant, have installed a bike ramp just south of North Avenue and on the east side of Oakland Avenue. The Oak Leaf trail, which runs 15 feet or more below the grade of Oakland Avenue, will be accessible from North Avenue with a June dedication of the new ramp. Right there, near the ramp and Beans and Barley, The East Side Open Market will get an early start with vendors selling plant starts and maybe some greens on Saturdays in June starting at 10 a.m.

During the week of May 11, signs appeared in Riverwest and on the East Side with the cryptic message, “If you like media censorship, then you’ll love the Riverwest Currents.” What can this mean? Earlier in the month, a Riverwest resident wrote a similarly brief letter to the editor on an enlarged copy of a Vets’ Association ad against lawn pesticides that was printed in last month’s issue. The message: “No negative political ads?! Fuck you and your paper!” This is likely a response to our decision not to continue printing paid ads that contain potentially libelous accusations against 3rd District Alderman Michael D’Amato. Instead, we printed the assertions as a letter to the editor. Our policy is to review potentially libelous material on a case by case basis, as we are legally liable for it.

Speaking of potentially troublesome legal matters, the River Neighborhood Association (known to some as River Neighbors) is insisting the Riverwest Neighborhood Association (RNA) change its name, and now. River Neighbors’ letter, on legal letterhead, alleges that the neighborhood association’s use of the name is infringing on its “service mark and trade name.” River Neighbors, also known as the Federation of Block Clubs, is headed by Marlene Jansen, a Riverwest landlord and former resident who now lives in Brookfield.

Neighborhood organizations Woodland Pattern and the LGBT Community Center have both received reprogramming CDBG block grants for the 2003 fiscal year. Congrats!

COA Youth & Family Centers and the new Columbia St. Mary’s Family Health Center have come together to create a new “Riverwest Health Initiative.” Riverwest residents and community members are invited to participate in a planning meeting to be held on Monday, June 9, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at COA, 909 E. North Ave. Discussions about creating this initiative began April 10 with a focus on the basic question: “How do we create and support a healthier Riverwest community?” Riverwest residents may see one immediate result of these discussions. Mark McInerney from Community Partners will be going door-to-door with some of the Resident doctors from Columbia/St. Mary’s Family Health Center.

There’s been some spirited discussion on RNAmail, the neighborhood e-mail network of 260 + residents, about development and gentrification, dog poop, and what to do about drug houses… want to find out what it’s all about? E-mail to with a request to join the list and include your name and address. It is gently moderated by Tess Reiss, who puts out e-mails as time allows, usually in batches of several at a time, one to three times per week.

Riverwest’s Brewzerkus members spent some time in jail in St. Louis recently as part of that police force’s “pre-emptive strikes” against protestors at a World Agricultural Forum conference. For more info, check the notices section at or

Kids Working to Succeed (KWTS), the kids’ summer gardening program at All People’s Church begins this month. The summer-long program lets 8-13-year-old kids earn money while working in a community garden several mornings a week. Work mornings open with devotions and end with a free lunch, and children are expected to attend the church at Clarke and 2nd Streets with an adult each Sunday to sign up for the following week’s work. The work includes planting, weeding, watering, and picking up trash in the neighborhood. Each child can earn $10 per day, and the program includes a trip to open a bank account. Kids can earn up to $200 over the summer if they attend all sessions. For more information about KWTS, contact All People’s Church at 264-1616, e-mail Catherine Alexander at , or e-mail Pastor Greg Van Dunk at .

Peace Action Center is sponsoring a half-hour Voter Registration Training session June 11, from 12 -7 p.m. at Peace Action, at the corner of Weil and Keefe.

Citizens Allied for Sane Highways (CASH) continues to push against the South East Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) freeway plan that reminds some observers of Milwaukee’s 1950s-era roadbuilding spree. Can you imagine what the lakefront would be like if the asphalt and cement boosters had their way then? The City Council and the Board of Supervisors voted against the current plan to expand in Milwaukee, but on May 21, the all-white, mostly suburban SEWRPC board ignored them, asking Wisconsin DOT engineers to plan for a full 127-mile expansion of area freeways. Jim Rowen, an aide to Mayor John O. Norquist, blasted SEWRPC’s planning process, in which public hearing after public hearing showcased intense public dislike for expansion in Milwaukee. “A bad process leads to a bad outcome — which is logical…and pretty shocking since a planning organization is at the center of this fiasco,” Rowen said. “Planning for whom and to what end? SEWRPC is unrepresentative of the City of Milwaukee, minorities, people without cars and the urban lifestyle….It wasted public funds on PR firms and bogus surveys, put road-building special interest reps on its ‘advisory committee, and stifled debate.” SEWRPC commissioners want the state to fund a $6.5 billion freeway expansion during what Rowen calls “Wisconsin’s worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.” Freeway opponents vow the fight is not over.

Milwaukee Poet Laureate Antler, described in the Oyster Boy Review as a “one-man living manifesto,” recently won the Lynde and Harry Bradley Major Achievement Award from the Council For Wisconsin Writers. He also was the only Wisconsin poet included in the Poets Against the War anthology sent to Laura Bush at the White House. He and his partner, Jeff Poniewaz have also had poetry accepted into two forthcoming poetry anthologies. Centennial Press of Cedarburg is also printing a collection of recent poems Antler has written.

Riverwest’s Gardeners Market will be back in business starting Sunday, June 15. Come and check out the early-season selections of fruits and vegetables, see the arts and crafts your neighbors are selling, and listen to The Druthers.

The Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park has installed new playground equipment that has a natural appeal. It is called the “Habitat Playground.” Check it out, and watch for progress on the new center which is being built near the bike trail in the southwest corner of the park.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School, 2463 N Buffum St., celebrated Arbor Day with tree plantings on the school playground. Mayor John O. Norquist, Alderwoman Marlene Johnson-Odom, MPS Dr. Dan Donder, staff, students, and friends participated in the planting. Ms. Mays, School Counselor, reports that the students will be planting more than trees in coming weeks. The fifth grade students wrote a grant to install prairie gardens on two vacant lots across the street from the school. They will take a bus trip to a growers’ fields and return with their choices. Planting in raised beds will be done before the end of June. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 6 – June 2003