Calls for Doing Better Set Tone for Catholic Schools Conference

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Category: Marquette Law School, Marquette Law School Poll, Milwaukee, Public, Religion & Law, Speakers at Marquette
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Perhaps Kathleen Cepelka effectively summed up a half-day conference Wednesday on the future of Catholic kindergarten through twelfth grade schools simply by describing the state of the schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Cepelka, the superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, told the full-house audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall about the strengths of schools in Milwaukee, about positive developments in enrollment, and about the many praiseworthy people and organizations involved in making the schools as good as they are.

But, she said, the quality of some of the schools isn’t what it needs to be and there are weak levels of achievement among students in some schools.  “We are not satisfied,” she said.

That mix — loyalty and pride in Catholic schools with an understanding of the pressing need to improve —  was voiced frequently during the conference, “The Future of Catholic K-12 Education: National and Milwaukee Perspectives,” sponsored by Marquette Law School and the Marquette College of Education.  Maybe “we are not satisfied” could have been the slogan for the event.   Read more »

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Some Hopeful Perspective on Foreclosures and Abandoned Homes

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Category: Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Foreclosures and vacant homes in some of Milwaukee’s most challenging neighborhoods – sounds like a pretty grim subject, right? But, without sugar coating the serious problems involved, an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Monday offered optimistic and upbeat perspectives.

Two reasons were highlighted: There are programs underway in the city that are successfully taking empty homes, reviving them, and putting them in the hands of eager owners who are want to be successful, responsible owners.  And Milwaukee’s foreclose and abandoned home problems are less formidable and being managed more successfully than in some other urban centers.

Gousha spoke with Michael Gosman, assistant director of ACTS Housing; Willie Smith, director of housing for the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation; and Aaron Szopinski, housing policy director for the City of Milwaukee. ACTS and the Northwest Side organization are both non-profits involved in turning vacant homes around and putting new owners in them. Read more »

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Mike Spector: The Passing of a Public Servant

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Category: Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public
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IMichael-Spector1 set out in June to write a story for the current issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine about the state of the idea of local control of schools. I started with the expectation of saying local control was pretty much a fiction now, amid all the laws and regulatory mandates coming down from the federal and state governments.

The first person I went to talk to was Mike Spector. I knew if I wanted wisdom, perspective, and common sense, he was at the top of the list. And he knew a huge amount about schools – for decades, he was a leader as a lawyer and citizen in education matters in the Milwaukee area and throughout Wisconsin.

And it only took him a few minutes to shift my thinking on the piece I was going to write. He talked about the law on local control in Wisconsin. He talked about the history of specific issues. And he pointed out how local school boards, school administrators, and teachers can still put their own imprint on the education they offer. Look at how different communities have different education cultures and practices, he said, citing his home community of Shorewood, where he was involved in school governance for many years, and how its education culture differs from nearby communities. Read more »

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The Howard Fuller You Probably Don’t Know: An Advocate’s Remarkable Life

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Category: Civil Rights, Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Fifty-five minutes into Thursday’s one-hour “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, prominent education advocate Howard Fuller finally began talking about the last 20 years of his life. Because the conversation was dragging on? Definitely not. It was because Fuller has led such a remarkable life, with so many chapters (and so many stories to tell) that talking about earlier years was appealing and confining even a well-paced interview to an hour was hard.

Many people in Milwaukee associate Fuller with his nationally significant role as an advocate for private school vouchers and charter schools in the last couple decades. But the full story of his life offers not only a remarkable personal narrative, but provocative perspective on the development of political thinking and advocacy among African Americans in the United States since the 1950s.

Fuller, 73, provided a healthy dose of that narrative and perspective in the session with Gousha, Marquette Law School’s Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy, before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. In much more detail, it is what he provides in his autobiography, No Struggle, No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform, published this month by Marquette University Press. Read more »

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Conference Probes the Depth and Breadth of Political Polarization

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Category: Media & Journalism, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“I believe in my heart that we have a lot more in common than we have differences,” said Tom Meaux, Ozaukee County Administrator.

But if you do the numbers, we have a dramatic amount not in common. And no one has done the numbers the way the Marquette Law School and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have.

The numbers – voting data, polling results, a wide range of demographic statistics – spell out the polarization that has become a dominant fact of politics in Wisconsin and especially in southeastern Wisconsin. A six-month fellowship at the Law School, funded by the Lubar Fund for Public Policy Research, allowed Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to collaborate with Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, in producing an analysis of the growing political divide that offers remarkable depth and breadth.

The result was a four-part series in the Journal Sentinel and a conference Thursday at Eckstein Hall, sponsored by the Law School and the Journal Sentinel, that brought together Gilbert, Franklin, political leaders, and academic experts to discuss what unites us, what divides us, and what lies ahead, given the intense current divisions. Read more »

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Violence in the Heartland, Part VI: Cities Within the City

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public
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My most recent posts in this series have compared violent crime data from different cities. However, focusing on a single crime-rate number from a city may mask wide neighborhood-to-neighborhood variations within the city.

Consider Milwaukee. A helpful on-line data tool permits interesting comparisons among the city’s seven police districts. The data reveal that rates of violent crime vary within the city by about as much as they do across cities. Here, for instance, are the homicides per 100,000 district residents since 2010:

district homicide

District 5, encompassing the north-central portion of the city, has easily had the highest homicide rate each year, while Districts 1 (downtown and northeast) and 6 (far south) have easily had the lowest. (District boundaries are described in more detail here.)

Robbery rates reflect a similar pattern:   Read more »

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Sounding Like a Candidate, Clarke Asks, Where’s the Plan for Milwaukee?

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Category: Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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He said hardly anything about running the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department or the controversies he is involved in within county government. The policy area he talked about the most was education. And he spoke a lot about the Milwaukee of his childhood and the Milwaukee of the future.

No, David A. Clarke Jr. is not a stick-to-my-own-business law enforcement agency head. Milwaukee’s sheriff since 2002 didn’t say he was going to run for mayor during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday at Eckstein Hall, but he sure sounded like a candidate.

“What’s the vision for the city of Milwaukee?” Clarke asked, faulting Mayor Tom Barrett for not putting one forth. “What’s the plan” for getting better student outcomes from Milwaukee Public Schools? A $1.2 billion a year operation ought to get better results, no matter how many problems kids have due to their lives outside of school, he said. “I think they’re mass producing illiteracy,” he said. Read more »

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Violence in the Heartland, Part IV–The Biggest Losers (and Gainers)

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public
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Among the eleven biggest Midwestern cities, Chicago has experienced the largest drop in homicide rates over the past quarter-century, while Cincinnati has experienced the largest increase.  The other nine cities are scattered between the biggest loser and the biggest gainer, reflecting a range of markedly different urban experiences with lethal violence since the mid-1980s.

This rather messy graph indicates the annual number of homicides (murder and other nonnegligent manslaughter) per 100,000 residents for each of the eleven Midwestern jurisdictions with a population of more than 250,000:

homicides by 11 cities

Other than Detroit’s position as the region’s perennial homicide champ, it is hard to discern any patterns in the mass of lines.

The following table provides a clearer picture of each city’s trajectory.  Read more »

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Impact of Reductions in Poverty-Fighting Increasingly Affecting Policing, Flynn Says

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“Think big, folks,” Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn urged a full-house audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall on Tuesday. And Flynn did that himself during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, taking a broad view of the role of police in protecting and enhancing the quality of life of people and communities in the city.

Flynn’s perspective focused frequently on how police have become the ones dealing with a gamut of social problems, as well as criminal problems, as public investment in programs aimed at helping people, especially those in poverty, have declined across the United States.

Over the last 25 years, Flynn said, “we have seen a consistent and unrelenting disinvestment in the social network, OK?” He gave mental health as an example: “Right now, the response of our society to issues of mental health is the criminal justice system. I’ve seen this for years and it’s becoming more so. . . . If you have a mental health problem, we can guarantee you a jail cell.” He said substance abuse problems are another example. “What is our social network dealing with substance abuse? Jail.”

Flynn, who is in his sixth year as Milwaukee’s police chief, said, “I’ve got 1,800 men and women out there who are being asked to deal with virtually every single social problem that presents as an inconvenience, discomfort or issue. . . . It is this one group that right now has the weight of every single social problem on it. And maybe we should start asking ourselves, do we need to double back and see what else we’re doing?” Read more »

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Norquist Lets Zingers Fly in Eckstein Hall Program

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Category: Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“I wish you wouldn’t hold back,” Mike Gousha told former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist at the end of an hour-long “On the Issues” conversation at Eckstein Hall on Feb. 5. That got a big laugh from the audience of about 200 because Norquist held back little in giving zinger-filled opinions on a range of subjects.

In nearly four terms as mayor, from 1988 through 2003, Norquist was known for speaking his mind. If anything, he is even more willing to speak out now that he’s a decade removed from that office. A few examples from his session with Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy:

On Waukesha’s request to get access to Lake Michigan for its water supply: Given the way some Waukesha officials have treated issues of importance to the City of Milwaukee, Norquist said, “If I were one of the elected officials, I’d be tempted to say, ‘you want our water, that’s too bad, you can dry up and blow away.’ ” Read more »

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The Fragility of Strads

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Category: Milwaukee, Public
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266x180xlipinski-strad-300x204_jpg_pagespeed_ic_-vowBH2CskBravo to the Milwaukee Police Department and everybody who cooperated to ensure the safe return of the Lipinski Stradivarius! What an impressive feat.  The recovery of the violin ends several days of anxious speculation about the violin’s fate. Was it still in Milwaukee, as former FBI officer Robert Wittman (founder of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team) believed? Or in a vault of an extremely wealthy and unscrupulous person in a remote country, perhaps side by side with the missing Vermeer painting “The Concert”? Did these robbers know what they were doing or were they a group of blundering amateurs—and which of the two would be more favorable? Read more »

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Why Orchestras Matter

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Category: Milwaukee, Public
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MSOWhen orchestras hit the headlines, the news is rarely good. The latest example is the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO), which announced in December that it must raise $5 million just to complete the season. Although management and the musicians have cooperated to come up with substantial cost savings, the orchestra’s survival has become highly uncertain.

But why should you care? More to the point, why should a community support an institution that cannot finance its operations out of ticket sales?

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