Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.
The South Milwaukee Common Council has an unenviable job. First, it has to make decisions. Then it has to somehow let residents know what those decisions are.
True, we residents could and should be more proactive about learning what the Council is doing. Like attend Common Council meetings or read meeting minutes either at city hall or on the city's website, except that they aren't current. Perhaps as part of the fallout of having to do more with less, the last meeting for which the minutes are posted on the website as of this Thursday (Oct. 15) was Sept. 15.
But even if the minutes were current, keeping track of what our elected officials do is no longer the American way.
So the Council tries to be proactive. The aldermen voted 6-2 on Oct. 6 to change the annual trick-or-treating date in South Milwaukee from the traditional Sunday before Halloween, which this year is Oct. 25, to Saturday the 31st. An understandable decision, as that would have kids trick or treating on Halloween Day, not compete with the Packers game and not have merchant discounting or boxing up Halloween merchandise nearly a week before the holiday.
In response to my blog post about no one seeming to know about the change, Alderwoman Lisa Pieper explained how the vote came about. Then after my subsequent post about notifying residents about the date change, Alderman Peiper replied that last week the city had contacted CNI (Community Newspapers Inc.), which operates the MyCommunityNOW.com website that carries this blog), Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Tri-City's electronic board, the Chamber of Commerce, County Supervisor Jursik, and the public schools.
The results so far, are no notice in this week's South Shore NOW which is carried as an insert in Thursday's Journal Sentinel (although St. Francis trick or treat on Oct. 31 was), nothing on the Chamber of Commerce website, nothing in the JS, nothing via the schools -- at least not via E.W. Luther.
Perhaps the fact that these contacts didn't pick up on the Council's change-of-date announcement is the result of and a reminder that South Milwaukee no longer has a dedicated or local news source and is at the mercy of outlets that have broader or higher priority agendas than informing South Milwaukee residents of events or news about South Milwaukee.
Something the Council might consider is that employing the usual process to disseminate information about traditional event works fine when there are no changes, such as trick-or-treat day being the Sunday before Halloween. But a Council vote that results in a significant change or departure from the norm might require taking a more aggressive or different approach in getting the word out. My first knowledge of this year's change was via Alderman Jim Shelenske's www.southmilwaukee.org website more than a week ago. There square in the middle of the homepage in large type was an announcement of the change. After I emailed him about posting two community events on his website, he emailed the trick-or-treat date change to me. I'm assuming he similarly notified other South Milwaukee residents in his email address book. Even so, that was pretty short notice for people who had already made other plans for the 31st.
The fortunate part of this is that we're only talking about a change in the traditional trick-or-treat day--a pretty low stakes situation (except, perhaps, to South Milwaukee kids.) But what if it had been a more serious issue that was time sensitive? Although the city could have been more strategic about disseminating its decision, perhaps the residents -- including me and my family -- knowing that there is no dedicated source for news in South Milwaukee, should be more proactive and engaged in trying to be informed about what our elected officials are doing.