Lafayette Crump: Success as Development Commissioner Will Mean Improved Equity in Milwaukee

How does Lafayette Crump define success in his new job as the City of Milwaukee’s commissioner of City Development?

“I think it would be a disservice to this community if I did not view my success through the prism of how I am able to improve racial and economic equity in the city of Milwaukee,” Crump said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program. The interview, one of the “virtual Lubar Center” programs of Marquette Law School, was posted online on Wednesday, August 26.

“I’m charged as development commissioner to promote development in the City of Milwaukee, to bring jobs here, to ensure that we lessen the impact of home foreclosures, that we assure that there is affordable housing available for people. All of that is clearly important and we will never lose sight of that as a department,” Crump said. “But we have to think about those things through the prism of how they are improving racial equity.”

The city development department has played large roles in many of the developments that haveled to booming growth in downtown Milwaukee and some surrounding areas in the last couple decades. But Crump said the department needs to emphasize work on meeting the needs of the rest of Milwaukee.

“We have to pay attention to how is Milwaukee ensuring that it’s a place that promotes development, that improves the lives of all of our citizens and not just the one to two square miles of downtown,” he told Gousha.

Crump was a lawyer and businessperson in Milwaukee before he was named deputy chief of staff and chief diversity, vendor, and engagement officer for the Milwaukee Host Committee of the Democratic National Convention. As convention plans shrank to nearly nothing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Tom Barrett named him to the development post. Crump has also been an adjunct law professor at Marquette Law School.

Crump said the disappointing outcome for Milwaukee’s hopes of hosting a big political convention should not shake the confidence of people in the city and what it has to offer.

Gousha asked him about specific items on the development agenda for Milwaukee . Crump gave optimistic answers.

The Couture development, long-planned for the lakefront near the Discovery World Museum? “That project will move forward.”

Hopes for economic development at Century City, the former grounds of the A.O. Smith plant on the northside? Development will occur there and previous failed efforts don’t mean it won’t happen.

New ventures at the long-empty Northridge shopping mall on the far northwest side? “There is going to be something different at Northridge.”

Lessons from the success of meeting minority workforce goals in building the Fiserv Forum and the new Northwestern Mutual office building downtown? They show that such goals can be met in the future, given determination and commitment. And, Crump said, if there is some short-term cost to developers in pursuing such goals, the long-term gain of expanding opportunity and building up job skills of Milwaukeeans offset that. “We have to have a longer-term vision,” Crump said. “How expensive is it if we don’t train underserved and underutilized workers and businesses to be better at this?”

Crump said Milwaukee needs to be “a city of choice” for people, meaning that it is a place where people are eager to live because it offers good quality of life in many ways, a place where current residents want to stay and a place that is attractive to people from elsewhere.

And for him to consider his work in his new job a success, that will go for people of all kinds, living in all parts of the city.

The 45-minute video of the program may be views by clicking here.


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