July 28, 2009

Aldermen exchange barbs over committee's review of liquor licenses

Alderman Mike Shields accused the City Council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee Monday night of treating minority-owned bars and restaurants unfairly.

"The way they drill people of color is a problem with me," Shields said in the hallway during the committee meeting.

Shields' comments came after the committee asked Gerald Bester, an African-American businessman from Milwaukee, a series of tough questions about his plans to open a new restaurant in Uptown.

Alderman Aron Wisneski, chairman of the committee, forcefully rejected Shields' contention.

"As usual, he (Shields) didn't do his homework to make an informed decision," Wisneski said.

Wisneski said the committee asks every business that's applying for a liquor license a series of questions designed to probe the applicant's ability to run a safe business.

He acknowledged the committee is tougher than its predecessors, but said it's tougher because the council allowed people to sell alcohol without doing enough research into their backgrounds. The result: Unsafe and unruly bars that brought down the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

"Our committee is doing its job," Wisneski said. "We don't hand out licenses like candy. Liquor licenses are a serious job for our committee."

Every meeting the committee calls bars and restaurants before it to review recent police incidents in or near the establishment. License holders are typically asked to explain what happened and are given a series of actions meant to control crowds and cut down on violent incidents.

For example, the committee asks bars to install a certain type of video camera to help monitor the premises. Another common request is an electronic ID checker that forces the bars and liquor stores to scan IDs of people buying alcohol.

The committee will also ask bars to close early if police incidents are occurring after 1 a.m.

Occasionally, bars choose not to comply and turn in their liquor license. Cash Money, a former bar on S. Memorial Drive, shut down after a murder and a shooting occurred nearby.

Other times, businesses are denied. A proposed Sixth Street convenience store failed to win a liquor license because neighboring businesses were opposed.

Mostly, though, bar owners are called in, scolded for police incidents and ordered to work with the City Attorney's office to make improvements. The underlying threat is the city will pull a business's liquor license if it doesn't comply.

"We have to do a better job of making sure they're good neighbors, not bad neighbors," Wisneski said about liquor license holders. "Alcohol makes people do stupid things. Good tavern owners know how to do things responsibly. They know how to be good neighbors."

As for business owners of color, Wisneski said the committee is tough to all applicants and license holders. He pointed to a tough series of questions Karley Barcalow, who is white, went through about her new restaurant on Lathrop Ave. They were similar to the questions Bester and another applicant, who is Hispanic, had to answer Monday night. (Barcalow, who received committee approval, said after the meeting she was a little flustered by the committee's questions.)

To ensure fair treatment, Wisneski said the committee works off a list of standard questions it asks all applicants, Wisneski said.

He added that while the committee is tough, it grants most liquor license applications.

"It is very rare we deny a license," Wisneski said. "A person would have had to have committed a felony. But we take this seriously. We don't just rubber stamp applications. We have high expectations for them (license holders)."


  1. Our committee is doing its job," Wisneski said. "We don't hand out licenses like candy. Liquor licenses are a serious job for our committee."

    Thank you Alderman Wisneski

  2. It's not the questions they ask, it how they are asked. Wisneski is not too bad, but Kaplan, Maack, and McCarthy are condenscending and lecture way too much about things they know nothing about.

    They should televise these so people can see how horrible it is.

  3. Yes they should be on CAR 25. The issue is CAR 25 needs more staff to do that. I feel this would be a good use of our taxes.

  4. Is this the same Mike Shields that commented about Friedl's appointment and minorities. This is the same Mike Shields that as NAACP president complained that he did not get enough Obama tickets and that was racist. New day..same tune

  5. Even second-hand, it still comes across as unseemly sometimes.

  6. "As usual, he (Shields) didn't do his homework to make an informed decision," Wisneski said.

    Uh oh. A politician accidently told the truth.

  7. Well, now that Sheilds is El Prez of the NAACP, he must stomp his tiny feet louder! I'm sure he was hurt when he wasn't invited to the White House for a beer!

  8. I know you can see the Common council meetings every day on CAR25. It's great!

  9. Why do Blacks always cry racism?

  10. anon 5:14

    because it exists.

  11. Reminds me:
    During his speech at a National Press Club luncheon, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), questioned the point of lawmakers reading the health care bill.

    “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers.

    “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

  12. Optimistic Person7/29/2009 8:38 AM

    I agree that racism exists. However, Mike Shields reminds me of the Peter and Wolf story. He yells racism way too often even when it does not exist. If he would yell it when it does he would be listened to and respected more for his opinion.

  13. Alderman Shields represents ALL the people of his district. Since he's the president of everything, he might want consider being the kind of role model that stands up for ALL people. Everything he says and does, shows he does not.

    Whining isn't leadership.

  14. I know people don't want to believe this but Racine is a racist little city in a racist little state. This is my experiance after having traveled to many other areas in the USA.

  15. Anon 6:14.

    Yes racism does exist, mostly from people like Shields who cry racism where it does not exist.

    Unfortunately our first "post racial" President proved he does not match up to his label when he came down on a cop in a situation where he could not even be bothered to read the police reports. And we are about to a racist on the supreme court who believes certain ethnic charactheristics improve ones ability to come to a conclusion. (nominated by the racist in chief)

    Every time someone cries racism when it is not appropriate, it hurts the cause of getting rid of real racism.

    Shields has become a cartoon, he has lost all credibility.

    The committee is applying the law fairly. Nothing is more fair than following the same template with every applicant.

  16. Anon 1:32

    You make a good point in that decrying racism where it doesn't exist minimizes real racism. Sadly, you proved your own point.

    Opinions spoken about people of a different race is not racism. The President stated his opinion about how he thought the police acted given what he knew. You did the very same thing. More information is coming out every hour about this incident that seems to show the police report was inflated and it is very likely Prof. Gates was not unreasonable in his behavior. For the President to state his opinion is not an act of racism.

    As for Justice Sotomayor, you know perfectly well that isn't what she said. Calling the president a racist and repeating half a quote from the first Latino woman confirmed to the supreme court should not be used as a game to further a political objective. People have died in the pursuit of racial equality.

    It's an odd situation where we have someone like Mike Shields who sees racism where it is not and someone like you who also sees it where it is not.

    As you said, he is a cartoon: as are you.

  17. Anon 11:28 AM

    If it's so bad or as bad as you say, why don't you leave??? Certainly an intelligent person would not live where it is soooooo terrible.

    Hit the road and piss and moan in a different city. We all thank you.

  18. 2:33 - Shields is an elected official in our community, charged with representing all the people in his district fully and fairly. Anon 1:32 is a blogger. That's no small difference.

  19. Where's Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition on this and the Gates affair - he usually loves to stick his nose into issues where no racism exists and then claims it does. It's amazing how a guy who hasn't had a job in the last 20 years can fly all over the world and try and dig up dirt when it does not exist.

  20. Racine is far less racist then other places I have lived. You can hardly turn around without seeing a blended/mixed family.

    Racism does exist. But, don't play the racism card unless you have a real racism incident.

    I have been accused of being racist and it is horrible. I also know of others that were accused and it is a very horrible feeling to have someone unfairly accuse you of racism because they can.

    This particular person has a tainted past. (black, white or Danish) I am not sure what and how the questions were asked, but I do want the committee to be tough on handing out these licenses.

    I would love to see the committee meetings online. Car 25 needs to get online. I don't have cable.

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  23. We don't leave because racism exist everywhere, you can't run from it. People in Racine are mean spirited!

  24. It's good to see the committee takes liquor licenses seriously. But, I could see where they might be more concerned about granting one in one part of town than in another based on the amount of historic trouble and police calls in an area. If I were on the council I would be harder pressed to grant a liquor license for a bar wanting to open at the corner of Hamilton and MLK than one wanting to open at Washinton and Rt. 31. Call it racial profiling and racisim if you want, but historical facts don't lie. Look at the gangs in this town, the vast majority of gang members are black and hispanic (and some white trash). Now ask yourself, "Do we really want to grant more liquor licenses in the neighborhoods where these sub-human, drug dealing scum live or frequent?" If you answer "yes" to that question, why don't you move into those gang infested neighborhoods and set up shop?

  25. This applicant had issues and none of it was the color of his skin. Didn't he get the license anyway? Lets see what happens.

  26. 1. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton exist due to thier slogan "Keep the hate alive!".

    2, What is the correct description? African American or black? No matter what I use, I can't win. As for police, I was watching the news one day and some lefty was saying that police and dispatchers should not not mention skin color due to racial profiling. Give a a friggen break! Skin color is very noticeable and a easy detector.

    By the way, most crime in Racine is done by black people. Listen to the scanner once in a while and listen to the police calls... Pretty pathetic. Be pillars in the society instead of piles!