Thursday, February 7, 2008

While Milwaukee Region Shuts Out Minorities, Seattle Leads

Seattle regroups to include its minority populations in its plans, says The New York Times.

Around here, the Milwaukee region is going the other way.

And you wonder why the region is always behind the eight-ball.

Its hyper-segregation, making it one of the less-desirable and slowest growing regions nationally, isn't an accident after all.

It begins with Milwaukee being a landlocked city, via a special, discriminatory state statute ("The Oak Creek Law," so Oak Creek could gain the tax benefits from a Wisconsin energy power plant, along air pollution and all the other sad ironies, 50 years later).

That action by the legislature froze Milwaukee's borders in 1955, stunted the city's growth, and kept the state's largest minority population encapsulated where the job base would decline.

White Flight nationally was gaining strength at that time, leading to the Iron Ring of growing, but segregated suburbs around Milwaukee turned it into a regional policy.

Census figures indicate that patterns of suburban segregation are strong today, but fresh government planning, transportation and water policy are making them ever more permanent.

Additionally, while restrictive covenants in housing deeds to keep out African-Americans and other minorities have been banned, clever local zoning codes that prohibit modest-sized homes, or multi-family, market rate apartments create the same effect:

Upper-income populations that are predominantly Caucasian continue to expand in the suburbs, while lower-income residents, predominantly minority, remain concentrated by in the city.

Add to that A) the seven-county highway reconstruction and expansion plan crafted by the regional planning commission - - where the City of Milwaukee has no vote among 21 commissioners - - and B) pressures to divert Lake Michigan water to many of those highway-enhanced suburbs, and the region's decision-makers are willfully excluding its minority residents from the very areas where growth will accelerate.

And excluded likewise from participation in these substance and process of many critical decisions: the regional planning commission's water advisory committee, for example, has 32 members, all Caucasian.

And, I'd argue, this exclusion and diminuition of minority participation retards the region's appeal, and full growth potential, by its institutional evasion of equity in public resource distribution/

You remember equality? That key part all the due process, equal protection, and life, liberty and property language that anchor our law and democracy?

I have written extensively about these trends for years, including a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday Crossroads op-ed piece, here.

1 comment:

krshorewood said...

Part of this is the pulling of the ladder that has been going on for the past 30 years.

We all know about the racial code behind the idea of cutting government. The same booster shot that whites got in the 1950's and the 60's has been shut off to those groups seeking to move up.

The add in W2 which has been an economic disaster for the inner city, but the rapid tear to put black males away in the prison system it then becomes no surprise why life is dismal for blacks in Wisconsin.