Milwaukee named drunkest city by Daily Beast

Milwaukee has yet again received a title regarding the amount of alcohol consumed here. On December 28, The Daily Beast declared Milwaukee the “Drunkest City” in the United States.

The study was based on the average number of drinks per person and month, the number of binge and heavy drinkers, as well as the number of alcohol-related deaths. With the current ranking of Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s history of topping the charts, there have been attempts to tighten present-day alcohol laws. However, the local and state governments seem to push away any suggestions.

The deaths of Senate bills trying to change state drinking laws are possibly due to fact that the alcohol industry does not only pay their employees, but also politicians.

A study from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign concluded Wisconsin lawmakers took $409,000 in campaign money from alcohol-related companies in 2008 and 2009. Additionally, the companies have given more than $2.5 million over the past 10 years, ranking fifth among the approximate 100 special interest committees.

“There is always too much correlation between money and politics,” said former Wisconsin State Sen. Jim Sullivan.

Sullivan openly admitted he received $1,000 from MillerCoors in 2009, but said that does not influence his political decisions.

Politics and the alcohol industry have crossed paths before under the previous administration of Gov. Jim Doyle. In the 2009-’10 session, Senate Bill 209 called for the beer tax to be raised from 0.6 cents per 12 oz. bottle to 3 cents per 12 oz. bottle.

This would have funded law enforcement grants and an alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention program, but the bill did not pass.

Cpt. Russell Shaw of Marquette’s Department of Public Safety did not comment on this specific bill. However, he had strong convictions regarding any bill that would help protect others both on and off the road.

“Any time you can pass a bill to protect or help others is beneficial,” Shaw said. “No one likes taxes being raised, but sometimes you have to look at it morally and you should look at it seriously.”

Michael Zebrowski, director of the Marquette Counseling Center, said Senate Bill 209 reflects the impact money can have on legislative officials.

“Anyone who relies on the alcohol industry for their livelihood would feel threatened by such a bill,” Zebrowski said in an e-mail.

Former Mayor of Madison Paul Soglin said with the high cost of campaigns, it’s unreasonable to monitor every donation.

“Campaigns cost millions of dollars,” Soglin said. “Every industry regulated by the state or units of the government make contributions. There is no way to prevent individuals from being connected with industries.”

However, Soglin thought Senate Bill 209 was “very reasonable and sad that it was not passed, but it is not just one individual’s fault.”

The study also showed Wisconsin State Assembly member Brett Davis and State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout were at the top of the list of legislators who have received alcohol industry contributions. Davis received $13,000 and Vinehout $5,629, the study said.

As Milwaukee holds the title of “Drunkest City,” some can’t help but compare Wisconsin’s laws and pastimes with that of other states.

Zebrowski said increased enforcement of drinking laws has been effective in other states, and increasing consequences for drinking here is one of the strategies to help address “problem drinking.”