Marquette University Law School Student Bar Association writes to you today to address the tragedy that we as a community and a country have faced in the last three weeks. Not one of a pandemic, but rather the state-sanctioned murders of Black Americans. Namely, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others. Their deaths are not novel, and we would be remiss to categorize them as such. Their deaths are the tragic manifestation of a long-standing system of racial oppression that continues to unjustly claim the lives of Black Americans.
As new Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley was being interviewed for an online “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program this week, viewers could see a message board behind Crowley with the phrase, “It’s a good day to have a good day.”
When Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, asked Crowley about it, Crowley said it was a motto in his family and he described himself as an optimist – in fact, he said, some say he is “recklessly optimistic.”
He maintained that tone, even as he discussed the enormous problems he faces in the job he won in the April 7 election. Milwaukee County government continues to struggle with large financial stresses and increasing demands for services. Add on the crises that Crowley faced the day he took office – responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp economic slump that resulted – and the urgent issues that arouse in late May in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, and it would be easy to guess Crowley’s optimism had declined.
Can you offer a note of optimism when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, asked Jeanette Kowalik, the health commissioner of the City of Milwaukee, that question at the end of an online “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” interview on Wednesday, May 20.
Kowalik tried, but it was a challenge to put a cheerful face on the impact the virus is having on Milwaukee and most of the world.
“Definitely what’s happening right now is like Haley’s comet,“ she said. It was hard to anticipate “something at this level” as a health crisis, she said, saying the United States as a whole was experiencing “these astronomical numbers” of confirmed cases and deaths.
I posted just over a week ago about some of the ways our faculty and students were coping with the ever-changing global pandemic; in the week since, the world has changed even more. And it’s going to be ever-changing for the weeks to come.
There are so many ways that this virus has affected us—or yet will affect us—that it’s difficult for me to try to list them. Instead, I’ll just pass along three specific resources I’ve come across. Continue reading “A Few COVID-19 Resources”
This summer was going to be Milwaukee’s “coming out” party. With the Democratic National Convention coming to town in July, the Milwaukee Bucks poised to play for a championship, the rest of the country—even the world—would have a chance to see Milwaukee in a different way. As a city on the rise; as a community that never fails to surprise its visitors; as a place that turns new arrivals into the city’s biggest cheerleaders. It would be our chance to drive a stake through the heart of cringe-worthy, decades-long associations. Milwaukee: the home of Laverne and Shirley. Milwaukee: the home of Jeffrey Dahmer.
The DNC convention and the NBA playoffs have yet to be canceled. But the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic is real and makes you wonder. Will the coronavirus cause Milwaukee to miss its moment? More disturbing, could it reverse a new momentum in the city and exacerbate our most difficult challenges?
In a world of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and ventilator shortages, those questions rightfully pale in comparison to life and death matters, and questions about how to deal with a serious public health threat. But in addition to thoughtful planning and strong civic leadership, a city’s destiny is determined by a fair amount of serendipity, or at the very least, good timing. Before the coronavirus hit, Milwaukee was poised for a very special summer.Continue reading “One More Concern: Will Milwaukee Miss Its Moment?”
Milwaukee residents know firsthand that many cities in this country are facing an affordable housing crisis. The California legislature has recently taken major steps to address this problem. In addition to providing other protections for tenants, California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 has limited annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation for the next decade. This legislation was enacted on January 1, 2020, making California the second state to institute a statewide cap on rent increases.
Whether or not this is the best way to solve the affordable housing crisis is debatable. On the one hand such a restriction seems to oppose free-market ideals by limiting landlords’ incentives to invest in housing. Furthermore, although capping rent increases may provide many people with a relatively expedient solution to unaffordable housing, it does not address all the root-causes of the crisis and may even make the problem worse in the long run. In this regard, the cap may be likened to giving a person a fish rather than teaching the person how to fish. Continue reading “Addressing the Housing Crisis on a Statewide Level”
We often focus on the international level when discussing responses to climate change—for example, the just-concluded 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the ongoing struggle to operationalize the Paris Agreement, or even the war of words between President Trump and young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
But a much wider spectrum of entities and organizations will have to conduct adaptation and mitigation measures to respond to the intensely local impacts of a changing climate. Among these are what used to be known as wastewater treatment utilities—now often called water reclamation facilities—that may have to deal with (among other things) predicted widespread flooding dangers caused by an increase in larger, more intense precipitation events.
For years, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has been recognized as a “green leader” on a number of fronts, including climate change preparedness. The Marquette University Water Law and Policy Initiative received funding through the MMSD-Marquette WaterCARE grant program to examine and benchmark the District’s considerable climate progress against federal guidance, against actions taken by six peer utilities, and against the ambitious goals it has set for itself (the District seeks, by 2035, to meet 100% of the District’s energy needs with renewable sources, including 80% from internally generated sources, and to reduce its carbon footprint by 90% from its 2005 baseline). Earlier this month, the Initiative completed its work and issued a final report to the District.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a column I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that ran in the Dec. 8, 2019, print edition.)
Dana Suskind is a surgeon at the University of Chicago whose specialty is providing kids who have little or no hearing with high-tech cochlear implants that allow them to hear much better. But she noticed about a decade ago that some of her young patients had much better outcomes than others after receiving the implants.
“It was a really painful experience to watch” kids who now could hear but weren’t thriving. She worked to find the reason. Her conclusion: The problem “had less to do with their hearing loss and more to do with the environment into which they were born.” Generally, their lives were shaped by poverty, instability, high stress and limited exposure to experiences that are intellectually and emotionally beneficial.
Much the same is true for millions of children who are born with normal hearing. By the time they reach kindergarten, they are nowhere near as ready for school as children who with better lots in their early years.
Suskind became founder and co-director of a project called Thirty Million Words. The name came from a study from several decades ago that concluded that, by the time they reached school age, low-income children had heard 30 million fewer words in every-day conversation than children from higher income homes. This limited their educational readiness. Continue reading “Fresh Thoughts on How to Close the Pre-Kindergarten Learning Gap”
How do you properly write about the Midwest? Since 2016, the Midwest and the Rust Belt are often lumped together as an area some people refer to as “Trump Country,” an anonymous area filled with diners of people who cling to guns and Bibles. There is nothing remotely interesting, other than possibly Chicago, and an article about how an area previously dismissed by coastal newspapers is up-and-coming because of places that will look good on Instagram. Belt Publishing, a small press in Cleveland, OH, was started in 2013 with the purpose of publishing the work and voices of those from the Midwest, Rust Belt, and elsewhere.
Midwest Architecture Journeys, released in October 2019 from Belt Publishing, examines a diverse range of spaces that would possibly be overlooked in a survey of the buildings of the Midwest. Among the topics covered in the book are the Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois, flea markets, Lillian Leenhouts’s work in Milwaukee, Fermilab, public housing towers, mausoleums, Iowa rest areas, parking lots in Flint, and a post office that became a public library in Waterloo, Iowa. The Waterloo Public Library is the subject of a piece I contributed to the book, “Please Return Again.” Continue reading “The Process of Writing About Your Childhood Library”
(Gratitude to Rodrigo Sanchez for assistance in compiling data on 53206.)
The Shriver Center in Chicago provides training on a particular model of community-based lawyering. They define “community lawyering” as “using legal advocacy to help achieve solutions to community-identified issues in ways that develop local leadership and institutions that can continue to exert power to effect systemic change.” The concept grew out of the older ideas of community organizing generally pioneered by Saul Alinsky’s work in 1930s and 40s Chicago, where, broadly speaking, the goal is to promote the empowerment of citizens, i.e. members of the community, to address problems and effect change. These ideas were applied to the practice of law at least as far back as 1970 in the form of a Yale Law Journal article where Stephen Wexler outlined a number of ways in which effective lawyering in an impoverished community is different from the traditional practice of law.
Whereas the traditional lawyering model sets up an adversarial dynamic between parties, community lawyering may engage alternative systems of relational power or power sharing aimed at ultimate reconciliation or compromise, founded on a recognition of common interests between parties. (See Ross Dolloff & Marc Potvin, Community Lawyering—Why Now?,37 Clearinghouse Review 136 (July–Aug. 2003)). Whereas traditional lawyering may entail simply spotting issues that can be resolved through litigation or formal legal recourse, community lawyering can approach citizen-identified problems as opportunities to engage stakeholders in a broader conversation in the hope of building authentic, trusting relationships. Whereas the traditional lawyer model is that of a litigator, negotiator of claims, and counselor to the client, the community lawyer’s focus may be to “develop inside the client population a sustainable knowledge base that allows the population to build foundations for opportunity from within,” to identify and defeat the causes of poverty. Whereas in the traditional lawyering model the attorney is the “voice” of the client before the court, in a community lawyering model, the strategy and policies are accountable to the voice of the population being served. The lawyer assists a community in identifying a structural barrier (access to economic resources, housing, sustainability, stability, employment opportunities, political voice, etc.) and then helps build capacity within the community to take action (through organizing, relationship building, advocacy, policy development, traditional case work, etc.).
Ten years ago, Marquette Law School sponsored a conference, “Milwaukee 2015: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward.” Speakers at the conference, including Wisconsin’s then-Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, put forward a vision of Milwaukee becoming a world leader in water expertise with a Milwaukee area economy boosted by an influx of water-based jobs and companies.
On Nov. 5, 2019, a decade later almost to the day, the Law School convened a follow up conference (titled “Milwaukee 2025: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward”) with some of the same speakers, as well as others, to ask how things have been going and what lies ahead.
How would you rate Milwaukee’s record on becoming a water hub? Mayor Barrett responded that the area has moved in the right direction. “I won’t give us an A plus, I’ll give us a solid B for moving in that direction,” he said. “We have changed the perception of Milwaukee in a significant way in the last 10 years.”
Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell, a major proponent of the emphasis on water, said the goal in 2009 was to make Milwaukee a global center of excellence for all things related to water, “something like the CDC for water,” a reference to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lovell said, “We have not gotten there yet; we are still striving to do so.” Milwaukee should be proud of what has been done, including the creation of The Water Council, the Global Water Center, and the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Lovell said. Continue reading “Conference Gives Milwaukee a Good — But Not Great — Progress Report as a Water Hub”
As Rick Graber sees it, the Bradley Foundation operates “in a world of ideas, and we fund people who are in the world of ideas.”
That’s one way to describe the work of the Milwaukee-based foundation. But it is important to add a few things to that description: The Bradley Foundation is huge – it has an endowment of about $900 million and it makes grants of $40 to $50 million a year. It is influential – it has provided funding sparking big changes in American policy since it was launched in the mid-1980s. And it is conservative – its leaders have never hesitated in using that label to describe its support of limited government, free markets, traditional values, and other conservative causes. One of its signature issues is support of programs allowing parents to send their children to private and religious schools using public money.
Graber, president and CEO of Bradley since 2016, told an audience at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Thursday, October 17, that the foundation tries to do what two brothers, Harry and Lynda Bradley, would want them to do. The two were founders of the Allen-Bradley Co., and they were supporters of conservative causes. Both died more than a half century ago and the foundation is funded out of some of the proceeds of the sale of Allen-Bradley in the 1980s. Continue reading “Bradley Foundation Chief Describes Its Conservative Philosophy and Grant Making”