Lots of people complain about Franklin. I know. I’m one of them.

Personally, I submit that I don’t grouse about Franklin all that much, roughly on less than five fingers on the issues I do. And when I am pessimistic it’s because I want to somehow persuade others to work to improve our city.

There’s another faction in our city, however, that is just a bunch of  busybodies that loves to complain for the sake of complaining.

Stay with me.

First…from March of 2020.

Some brief history.

Lo and behold, they were back, and Franklin was a trendsetter.

The new attraction immediately was popular.

Terrific news, right?

Remember, this is Franklin we’re talking about.

It’s no surprise Supervisor John Weishan (who doesn’t live or represent or anywhere near Franklin) is throwing thumb tacks in the road at Franklin’s Ballpark Commons. In June of 2017 at a County Board meeting he offered an 11-page amendment filled with all kinds of obstacles designed to kill Ballpark Commons. It failed.

Now Weishan wants to cause more trouble. The police have been out to Ballpark Commons many times and the development has always complied with Franklin’s ordinance on noise levels. A study at the time I wrote would be a waste of time.

Now it’s September 3, 2020

When the six members of the Franklin Common Council pulled into the parking lot of City Hall Tuesday night for their regularly scheduled meeting, their minds were made up on a Milky Way Drive-In Theater item on the agenda.  Franklin’s miserable business climate, the future of a popular business attraction led by a loyal hometown corporate citizen be damned.

Their hearts and hip pockets were reserved for a small minority of loud, rude, arrogant, demanding NIMBYs that spoke only for themselves and not for the city as a whole that the Common Council is supposed to represent.

At issue was changing the way ROC Ventures operated the drive-in theater in the parking lot at Ballpark Commons. The noise and at times offensive language from the movies had neighbors up in arms, claiming their lives were being destroyed but no one would listen.

What’s that old saying? The squeaky wheel gets the grease? This was no longer a squeaky wheel. The drama had now escalated to whining, screaming, attacking, threatening (criminal charges and recalls?).  So much so that a weak Franklin Common Council found itself at their own personal breaking point.  We give up. Uncle. Another Franklin business bites it.

Here’s the local news report
, which is OK. But this news source strays from the hard-hitting stuff. It would never publish what I submit. The Franklin Common Council Tuesday night didn’t give a damn about a local business or the local businessman that runs it.

There are two reasons why.

1) They don’t care.

2) They lack any understanding of business and how important it is to our community. They will arrogantly dismiss my assertion. Trust me. I’ve lived here since 1992. When it comes to the local economy, businesses,  and economic development, Franklin flunks big time, and the people in charge have themselves to blame, even though their egos are in the highest level of denial.

Mike Zimmerman who runs Roc Ventures and the Milky Way Theater tried his best with calm reserve to explain to the Common Council his business operation. You’d think it was nuclear physics.

Confining the audio of movies at the drive-in theater to just AM-FM Radio in cars and not allowing set-up speakers which is what the six economic geniuses on the Council approved did not fit Mike Zimmerman’s “business model.” It was as if Zimmerman was speaking in Swahili.

Zimmerman nicely, calmly, slowly, respectfully tried to inform the council that his business model of the Milky Way was not just a theater. It was designed for revenue-streaming corporate events that yes, in 2020, required, guess what? A PA SYSTEM!

To continue the drive-in, a concept that has caught on like wildfire all across America, Zimmerman has invested $750,000 in essentially rented equipment and must make good on that investment. What he wants to do comes with a cost he said.

Zimmerman told the council the Milky Way is NOT a traditional drive-in. Why? Because traditional drive-ins are no longer in operation because that business model is OLD.

More Swahili.

The council either wasn’t listening, didn’t understand, didn’t care, or all of the above.

At some point Zimmerman offered a brilliant suggestion. If that’s a bit too much for some readers, then it was definitely dripping in common sense.

Are you ready?

This isn’t rocket science.

What did Zimmerman suggest that was totally dismissed by the Fortune 500 wizards on our council?

“Try to work on a solution where everybody’s happy.”

In other words, by all means do not dismiss the concerns of the residents. But let’s arrive at the BEST alternative.

Simple. Easy. Again, common sense.

Our omnipotent council would have none of it.

Zimmerman said don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Do not shut this opportunity out (the drive-in). Radio audio only restricts his business

The council was close-minded.

I’ve lived here since 1992 and have followed local politics ever since. It’s ironic that Franklin historically drags its feet whenever a remotely important issue arises. And yet Alderwoman Wilhelm badgered Zimmerman the other night on not addressing this issue in a timely matter. She’s been waiting all summer she whined for a solution from ROC Ventures. Good grief.

And newly-elected Alderwoman Shari Hanneman also complained to Zimmerman that she expected him to have all kinds of specifics ready for Tuesday’s meeting and, by the way, what exactly did he mean that the problem was being worked on with progress being made?

Franklin wants answers right now? Where I live the neighbors are just learning the Twist. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable. These council people telling Zimmerman how best to run his business. What a joke.

Finally, this point from Zimmerman at the meeting. And it’s a beauty.

“The council should think bigger and more strategically.”

Let that sink in a bit.

The council should think bigger and more strategically.”

Mike, nice try, but what Zimmerman asked for was basically…

October of 2020

Franklin Alderman Dan Mayer suddenly emerged as an authority, on sound engineering? Really? Truly?

I blogged:

It’s not easy being the mayor of Franklin these days. Steve Olson must deal with a below average Common Council (that’s being diplomatic) whose members operate under the false notion that they’re experts on policymaking, business and industry, public safety, public health, city planning, design, architecture, job creation, job retention, environmental protection, and now the latest, sound engineering.

For some time the sound emanating from Franklin Field has been problematic. The Franklin Common Council at its meeting Tuesday night had an opportunity to, as Mayor Olson put it, “fix the problem, not study it.”

Olson requested authorization for the city to contract with Shen Milsom Wilke to perform an analysis of the Franklin Field sound system. Olson, who has a wealth of personal work experience on sound, called Shen Milsom Wilke “world renowned experts in sound and audio.”

When the item came up on Tuesday’s agenda Franklin Alderman Dan Mayer who with Kristen Wilhelm are the two worst aldermen on the council immediately moved to kill Olson’s suggestion (seconded by Wilhelm) and order city staff to develop a comprehensive plan to resolve sound issues at the site.

During discussion Mayer took a direct jab at Mayor Olson when he remarked, “I think it’s up to staff and not just some contact we met at Walmart.”

Maybe Mayer’s sarcasm was a futile attempt at humor. Regardless, he said it, on the record, for all to hear. Stupid doesn’t come close to describing Mayer’s comment. Try asinine. Absurd. Illogical. Preposterous.

Shen Milsom & Wilke was started in 1986 and has grown to become an international company with a worldwide staff of over 230. From their website:

We identify potential acoustical issues at the earliest point possible and bring forth all available options for team review, discussion, & coordination.

Our projects range from extremely sensitive environments, such as studios, performance spaces, laboratories; to the corporate and learning environment involving boardrooms, executive offices, collaboration spaces, open plan areas, classrooms, etc. Solutions have to work within the framework of a project and team.

Our Acoustical services include:

Architectural Acoustics
Mechanical Noise & Vibration Control
Structural Dynamics
Environmental Analyses
Performing Arts Acoustics
Community & Industrial Noise Control
Open Plan Offices
Environmental Acoustics Modeling

At one point during the meeting a city official acknowledged he didn’t believe city staff had the expertise to provide what the aldermen were considering.

Didn’t matter. The council voted 6-0 to approve Mayer’s motion.

Mayer’s mentality and that of his colleagues should be appalling and frightening to Franklin residents. The aldermen firmly believe everything is all about them, that they are the experts. Truth be told, they’re not experts on anything.
—October 7, 2020

November 10, 2020

On Monday the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.18 billion 2021 budget. The vote in favor was 14-4. Supervisors Ryan Clancy, Patti Logsdon, Anthony Staskunas and John F. Weishan Jr. voted against.

Included in the approved budget was an amendment approved unanimously by the County Board’s Finance Committee for the county to issue Request for Proposals (RFP) to hire an expert to conduct a comprehensive sound study at the ROCK Sports Complex in Franklin.

The cost will be $50,000 that in essence will be transferred from one county fund to another. Co-sponsors of the amendment included Logsdon, a longtime opponent of Ballpark Commons, along with Staskunas and Joe Czarnezki. All three co-sponsors represent a portion of the city of Franklin.

BTW, a county document claims this budget amendment will have 0% impact on the county property tax levy. I just love the rationale government-ese used by bureaucrats. Their reasoning is there’s no tax impact because the money was already budgeted for and was just being transferred from one pot to another pot. Hell, that money didn’t come from elves in some county backyard. It’s tax money.

This entire noise issue has been around for a long time. There are enough folks who want to make life miserable for the Rock and its owner. Supervisor Logsdon is one of them. Her list of accomplishments since taking office is a blank sheet of paper.

The entire Ballpark Commons development has been a God-send for Franklin, the city’s most attractive and popular destination. From Business View Magazine:

Ballpark Commons is a mixed-use destination development started by ROC Ventures in 2012. Mike Zimmerman, President of ROC Ventures and owner of the Milwaukee Wave soccer team, created The Rock Sports Complex on a closed and failing landfill with six major league baseball replica fields, a large outdoor Umbrella Bar with food truck rallies and live music series, a regional Halloween attraction, The Hills Has Eyes, and The Snow Park ski and tubing hill. Encouraged by 125,000 annual visitors, ROC Ventures expanded The Rock with assistance from Franklin in the form of $29M in TID funding for public infrastructure improvements, transforming the development into the 200-acre Ballpark Commons development. With this public-private partnership came rapid private investment to the tune of more than $200M once all projects are built out. To date, BPC includes Franklin Field, a 4,000-seat stadium for the Milwaukee Milkmen, the 2020 champions in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball (now also a Partner League with Major League Baseball).

“The stadium became the linchpin for additional development, including the Milky Way Drive-In, a three-story 46,000 sf office and retail building, New Perspectives Senior Living with 150 units, and Velo Village, a 265-unit, five-building high-end apartment complex,” says (Franklin Economic Development Director Callie) Berg. “The Performance Sports Village is currently under construction, permits have been pulled for Luxe Golf, which is comparable to Top Golf, and will include two unique restaurants and a beer garden; and a Holiday Inn Express breaks ground in the spring.” Franklin is still seeking additional private development for a proposed brew pub as well as two additional retail/commercial buildings.

Why the constant effort to second guess this project and obstruct its progress? I don’t understand what kind of warped satisfaction there is in badgering and hounding this community gem. Has the ballpark not conformed to all city ordinances and regulations? Has it not been a fine corporate and community neighbor?

Apparently it’s nice to just willy-nilly authorize spending tax dollars on studies when it’s not your money.

More news came on December 1

The noise issue at Ballpark Commons in Franklin is back on the agenda at tonight’s meeting of the Franklin Common Council. Many details, but in a nutshell:

City of Franklin “Staff believes a sound analysis would result in a generally faster means to reduce noise; however, if a more comprehensive approach is required, then the Council should authorize a comprehensive outdoor sound study, in terms of scope and budget of up to $50,000.”

For complete details, click here and scroll to Page 71.

UPDATE: Some important notes.

Why is the council still dragging this out?

This is the council caving to Alderman Dan Mayer instead of moving forward with a solution offered by Mayor Olson and Rock owner Mike Zimmerman. The council has opted not to fix the problem, but study it to death, in part because they think they know more about sound than the expert Olson suggested.

No need to study the Umbrella Bar. Just implement better management of the bands that play there.

Umbrella Bar concerts can be fixed with better management of the bands. No need for a study of that component.

And as I blogged not too long ago, Milwaukee County has budgeted $50-thousand for a 2021 study. Therefore no need to have ANOTHER study. What part of that doesn’t the council understand?

UPDATE: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Alderman Mayer moved we delay any action on a city study and find out what the county finds and have the county report back to Franklin at that time. No need to have two studies. Alderman Barber seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

December 22

“Rock Sports Complex Noise a Puzzle”

No photo description available.

That’s the headline of a report on

Noise continues to be an issue at Franklin’s Ballpark Commons. And based on this website article, little if any progress has been made.

Urban Milwaukee reports:

“Milwaukee County Parks is  having trouble studying noise at a sports complex in Franklin that has plagued neighbors for years. The county parks department has now been charged with performing a sound study. As parks worked to find someone to perform the study, it looked at available sound data from measurements taken by the City of Franklin, but has been unable to analyze the data ‘due to both the large volume of data and lack of specific technical expertise,’ according to a report from the department.”

Oh, this is a beauty. The masterminds at Milwaukee County, apparently not smarter than 5th graders, are unable to figure out what the hell they’re doing. So they react the way government does. They blame someone else, in this instance, Franklin.

This isn’t surprising since our own Einsteins on the Franklin Common Council scoffed at suggestions by both Mayor Steve Olson and ROC Ventures owner Mike Zimmerman to resolve the sound dispute by using industry experts. Instead our council made the foolish decision to seek government assistance, which amounts to no help at all. Naturally the county bureaucrats are clueless.

Reminded me almost instantly of an interview done in the late 1970’s by legendary big bandleader Woody Herman, a Milwaukee native. Herman expressed frustration with some of his audience members who preferred he play onstage his recordings from the 30’s and 40’s rather than his more contemporary charts. Taking a shot, Herman said they wouldn’t know good music from their electric shavers. And some Franklin aldermen expected the county to come through?

Another thought I have is why is Urban Milwaukee so interested? In Franklin.

When I was at WHEDA one of the projects I worked on that we funded was a national award-winning multifamily development that provides supportive services that benefit individuals with mental illness who are at risk for experiencing homelessness, police encounters, and emergency hospitalizations. The success rate at turning these folks around has been impressive.

Highland Commons, just across the city of Milwaukee border in West Allis got national press. But when I pitched the story to Urban Milwaukee the reaction I got was lukewarm because, after all, this was West Allis.

But neighbor complaints in Franklin? That has Urban Milwaukee jumping. Seems the right person whispered in the right ear.

Read the article. I frequently visit this liberal site because it does, to their credit, cover a lot, and at times does a fair amount of good work when they’re not so biased. But…

Sounds like they have a predetermined template on this issue, going so far as to suggest Franklin intentionally designed Ballpark Commons so that no complaints could ever be enforced. This is not award-winning journalism, even though Franklin detractors (i.e. certain Franklin aldermen) might use it as ammo to rip a top Franklin corporate citizen.

Ballpark Commons has proven it was a super idea and is successful. Franklin can continue to grow, as long as we don’t become our own worst enemy.

Stay tuned. Will the ridiculous attack on arguably Franklin’s best corporate citizen continue?

My sad prediction. Yes.


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5 thoughts on “THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2020: #5

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