Tuesday was a huge day for the future of the Milwaukee area, if you think developing strong, extensive knowledge on major issues is important and if you think coming together to work on dealing with those issues is important. Just ask R. T. Rybak.
Rybak, president/CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation and former mayor of Minneapolis, was the keynote speaker at a morning-long conference in the Lubar Center at Marquette Law School, which included the debut of the Milwaukee Area Project, a long-term research project that will be part of the new Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.
The conference included ceremonies thanking Milwaukee philanthropists Sheldon and Marianne Lubar for the $7 million in grants that are providing an endowment to support the work of the public policy center.
Rybak called himself “a civic person” and he said it is of great value to have neutral ground for dealing with major issues such as improving opportunities for people in a metropolitan area and providing good transportation alternatives. He called it “huge” for Marquette University as a whole to be involved with an effort such as the Lubar Center.
Both in his remarks and afterward in informal conversation, Rybak was enthusiastic about the value of data offered at the session, including a presentation by John Johnson, Lubar Center research associate, on trends in the five-county metropolitan area that will be the focus of the Milwaukee Area Project. (See Johnson’s new post on this by clicking here. More posts will follow.)
Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell said the launch event for the Lubar Center made it “a great morning for Marquette University.” He said, “We’re going to be a thought leader for this country for many years to come.” He called Sheldon and Marianne Lubar “two people who personify what it means to be civic leaders.”
Sheldon Lubar said that he expected the policy center to be an important institution for all of Wisconsin. He said knowledge and education are “the pathway to a better life . . . (and) a better and freer nation.”
“Intellect is the real wealth of a nation,” Lubar said, and the center will help build intellectual capital.
Results of a new Marquette Law School Poll were presented by Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll, and Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy. Opinions on the proposed Foxconn factory in Racine County, the Milwaukee street car, and other issues attracted the most attention from news outlets. But the poll also provided insights into views of residents of the five-county area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, and Racine) on many other matters, including perceptions of race-related issues, the economy, police and safety issues, and educational quality. Full results of the poll may be found by clicking here.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow offered their views on the future of the Milwaukee area.
Barrett’s theme was that “Milwaukee is fighting back,” and is making progress. That is particularly clear when it comes to the downtown. But, he said, there is a big need to find ways to bring progress to Milwaukee neighborhoods and to dealing with inequalities in opportunity and living circumstances for many residents. He also said decisions by the state legislature, including declining state aid to the city, have put financial handcuffs on Milwaukee that are leading to cuts in important areas such as the number of police officers and fire fighters.
Farrow said the dynamics of the Milwaukee region will continue to change in coming years. He said the economy overall will get stronger, the Foxconn development in Racine will be an important boost, and greater collaboration on workforce development will help throughout the region.
In his remarks, Rybak said the successful development of communities always has been driven by people working together. Strong efforts to work together are important elements for creating a strong future for any metropolitan area. He emphasized the need to get past racial and political divides.
“What I ask you to do is to do what you’ve always done and what really made Milwaukee great — to be a place where people came together across lines, where you found common ground.” He said the different backgrounds of people need to be seen “as an asset and not a deficit.“
“Milwaukee is hot and is going to get a lot hotter, in a good way,” Rybak said. He described new development in Milwaukee’s downtown as “one of the great downtown comeback stories.” And he said the creation of the Lubar Center is a big step toward making “the civic infrastructure” of the region better able to pursue well-informed, well-structured policies.
For news stories about the Marquette Law School Poll and the launch of the Lubar Center click here and here. To read a blog item about poll results on open housing questions by Professor Amanda Seligman, a visiting fellow in law and public policy, click here. To read a blog item by researcher John Johnson on his findings about the metropolitan area, click here.
Video of the entire conference may be viewed by clicking here.