Friday, August 26, 2016

Bigger picture reporting about Milwaukee region noted

I may have more to say about the nuts-and-bolts of Scott Walker's grant of $4.5 million announced Thursday and discussed publicly Friday for job training and neighborhood improvements in and around Milwaukee's Sherman Park, but I was glad to see that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about the grant offered readers a bigger picture analysis - - a repeat topic on this blog - - about basic Milwaukee-area socio-economic realities that many media accounts routinely ignore.

Said the Journal Sentinel:
Milwaukee and its suburbs are one of the most segregated areas in the nation, and the inner city has been devastated by the effects of lost manufacturing jobs and high rates of unemployment and incarceration 
Walker, a longtime former resident of Wauwatosa, has related better to the conservative suburbs of Milwaukee than to its liberal urban core, first as county executive and then as governor.
I have long felt that descriptions of Milwaukee as 'the most segregated city in America' missed the fundamental reality that the Journal Sentinel story makes clear: it is the region that is segregated; wealth creation in that region is regularly sparked by politicians and power brokers more interested in diverting public resources to suburban highway expansion 

and job growth than in equitable development, public transportation and equal opportunity in Milwaukee and its heavily-minority, lower-income central city.

My point has long been this:
The "hypersegregation" label applied to Milwaukee is regional, tolerated for decades.
I reiterated that perspective in a series of blog posts in the wake of the Sherman Park troubles; an example, here:
On Monday I posted some lesser known facts and history about race, economic justice and inequitable use of regional and state governmental power that have kept the City of Milwaukee poorer than its wealthier and whiter neighbors for more than 50 years.
*  I added a link to the most recent budget of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - the seven-county, state-created agency located in Western Waukesha County that makes recommendations for the region in such crucial development-related areas as land use, transportation, water distribution and others - - but on which the City of Milwaukee has no designated seat, no authority to name a commissioner and thus relatively less influence on commission spending and policy-making than its whiter, more affluent, more suburban and still-rural neighbors. 
The six other counties outside of Milwaukee all have three commission seats, fewer minority residents and residents total than both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County - - yet while Milwaukee County with most of its residents living in the minority-majority city pays the largest annual share of the agency's budget...
Media and others interpreting civil unrest in Milwaukee might want to dig deeper into a few issues: 
*  Cities are creatures of the state in Wisconsin, and during the Scott Walker era, Milwaukee has lost state-supplied revenue - - the program dates back decades as a substitute for local income tax collections - - and also lost the ability to expand its budget above state-mandated limits.
*  The "hypersegregation" label applied to Milwaukee is regional, tolerated for decades.
The more accurate information we can get about the issues which confront us, the better are the chances of making progress on solutions. 


Anonymous said...

You could turn your posts about Milwaukee Transit into a book. Really important and interesting story.

James Rowen said...

Thank you.