NEWaukee and How to Create the Most Awesome City on the Planet

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Category: Milwaukee, Popular Culture & Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Angela Damiani has a clear goal: “To make this the most awesome city on the planet.”

Note that we didn’t say “an easy goal,” we said “a clear goal.” But don’t tell Damiani that it can’t be pursued and there can’t be progress in getting there. In the six years since it began, NEWaukee, the organization she leads as president, has become a fast-growing  energizer and catalyst for community-building activities, particularly among young professionals.

At an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Wednesday, Damiani said the jargon term for NEWaukee is that it is a social architecture firm. What does that mean? In short, NEWaukee is an organization aimed at consciously designing ways to shift a population toward a goal – and that goal is to make Milwaukee a place people think is attractive and appealing.  Which is where the ”awesome city” ambition comes in. Read more »

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Deadly Force in Philly (and Milwaukee)

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public
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Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a voluminous report on uses of deadly force by the Philadelphia Police Department. In recent years, there has been a drop in both violent crime and assaults on police officers in the City of Brotherly Love, but officer-involved shootings (OISs) have remained stubbornly high. Amidst media coverage of rising OIS numbers in 2013, the Police Department requested assistance from the DOJ in order to assess the problem.

The new report, authored by George Fachner and Steven Carter, finds there were 394 OISs in Philadelphia between 2007 and 2014, for an average of 49 per year. The suspects were unarmed in 15% of the cases. Fachner and Carter provide a wealth of data regarding the 394 OISs and dozens of recommendations for the Department.

One recommendation is that the “PPD should publish a detailed report on use of force, including deadly force, on an annual basis. The report should be released to the public.”

I’m pleased to say that we are already doing such annual reports here in Milwaukee. How do the numbers compare?

Read more »

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MULS Conference to Consider Human Trafficking and Restorative Justice

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Labor & Employment Law, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public
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MartinaVImage_0On Thursday and Friday, Marquette Law School will host an important conference, “Restorative Justice and Human Trafficking — From Wisconsin to the World.”  As the title suggests, human trafficking — for sex or labor — is a both a global human rights problem and a significant issue locally.  Hundreds of cases have been reported in Wisconsin, mostly in the Milwaukee area.  The conference is designed to raise awareness about trafficking and to help concerned citizens get involved in efforts to address the problem.

The Conference kicks off at 4:30 on Thursday with a keynote address by Martina Vandenberg (pictured above), who leads the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, D.C.  Vandenberg has worked on cases involving trafficking and other humans rights violations around the world.

On Friday, the Conference will continue with a full schedule of speakers and panels.  A panel of victim-survivors will share their experiences.  Local leaders and activists will discuss the impact of trafficking and current efforts to help victims.  Other speakers will cover the existing legal framework, potential legal reforms, and the international context of trafficking.

The Conference is sold out, but there will be a live feed that can be viewed by clicking on the “Watch Now” tabs in the pages linked to above.

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Mercenary Justice?

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public, Race & Law
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Earlier this week, the United States Department of Justice released a scathing report on police and court practices in Ferguson, Missouri. Figuring prominently in the DOJ’s criticisms, Ferguson criminal-justice officials were said to be overly concerned with extracting money from defendants. For instance, the DOJ charges:

Ferguson has allowed its focus on revenue generation to fundamentally compromise the role of Ferguson’s municipal court. The municipal court does not act as a neutral arbiter of the law or a check on unlawful police conduct. Instead, the court primarily uses its judicial authority as the means to compel the payment of fines and fees that advance the City’s financial interests. This has led to court practices that violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements. The court’s practices also impose unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African-American individuals, and run counter to public safety. (3)

I don’t know how fair these particular criticisms are, but they echo numerous other criticisms made in recent years about the increasing tendency of the American criminal-justice system to rely financially on a burgeoning array of surcharges, fees, forfeitures, and the like.

Professors Wayne Logan and Ron Wright have a fine recent article on this subject, appropriately entitled “Mercenary Criminal Justice” (2014 Ill. L. Rev. 1175).   Read more »

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Milwaukee Arrests Rarely Involve Force, But Numbers Vary by District

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law
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Last week, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission released its annual report on police uses of force for 2013. The report counts 895 incidents in 2013, employing a very broad definition of “use of force” that does not require either an injury or the use of a weapon. To put that number into perspective, the Milwaukee Police Department made more than 30,000 arrests in 2013. For each arrest in which force was used, there were about thirty-six arrests in which force was not used.

In nearly three-quarters of the use-of-force-incidents, no weapon was used by the police officer. In the remaining incidents, the most commonly used weapons were Tasers and pepper spray. Firearms were used on forty occasions, most commonly on dogs. Firearms were used against human subjects in fourteen incidents; eleven of the subjects were hit.   Read more »

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Milwaukee Residents Give Solid Marks to Police

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law
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Last week, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (of which I am a member) released the results of its first-ever survey of citizen attitudes toward the police.  Although the survey identified a few areas of concern, the overall tenor of citizen attitudes seems positive.

Conducted for the FPC by UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives & Research last summer, the survey involved telephone interviews of 1,452 Milwaukee residents.  As detailed in the CUIR’s report, the survey respondents were reflective of the city’s diversity in racial composition and in other respects.

The report’s lead finding is that about three-quarters of Milwaukee residents report that they are at least somewhat satisfied with the Milwaukee Police Department, while only about nine percent said they were “not at all satisfied.”  These findings are notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that fully one-quarter of the respondents reported being stopped by the police in the past year.  One might suppose that this group would be predisposed to negative evaluations of the police.  However, the vast majority (71%) of those stopped felt that they were treated fairly.  The MPD has significantly increased its number of stops in recent years, but it does not appear that involuntary contact with the police normally leads to hard feelings by the person stopped.

Given recent racial tensions in Milwaukee and nationally regarding policing practices, it is especially important to note the racial patterns in survey responses.   Read more »

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The Difficult Pursuit of a Cohesive Approach to the “Megacity” Economy

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Category: Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public
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Metropolitan regional economies are “the most cohesive economies we have,” Charles L. Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, says.

But what is it that gives cohesion to the metropolitan region that stretches from the Milwaukee area through Chicago and into northwestern Indiana? And how should the region move forwardMarquette Lawyer in a cohesive way?

It’s a tall order to change the way people think, but the Alliance for Regional Development, a non-profit co-chaired by major business figures from Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, is trying to do that. On Dec. 19, it convened a “Summit on Regional Competitiveness” at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.

The effort to foster more cooperation in building on regional strengths in pursuit of greater economic success was spurred in large part by a report released in 2012 by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which concluded that the Chicago region was growing more slowly than many other economic hubs around the world. The report strongly urged more effort by all involved to work together as a region. It said regions that work together have flourished more than those that do not. The regional alliance was created in the aftermath of that.

The “megacity” effort has been of great interest to Marquette Law School, as well as Marquette University more broadly. In 2012, a conference at Eckstein Hall brought together leading experts and advocates, and that was followed by the Summer 2013 issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine which focused on the subject. Our interest in the regional effort has continued. Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and I attended the Dec. 19 conference. Read more »

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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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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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