Addressing the Housing Crisis on a Statewide Level

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public, Student ContributorLeave a comment» on Addressing the Housing Crisis on a Statewide Level

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 An apartment building in MIlwaukeelimited 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”

Climate Responsiveness at a Local Scale

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Milwaukee, Public, Water LawLeave a comment» on Climate Responsiveness at a Local Scale

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.

A photo of Earth, taken from space.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.

Continue reading “Climate Responsiveness at a Local Scale”

Fresh Thoughts on How to Close the Pre-Kindergarten Learning Gap

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(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.

Dana Suskind
Dana Suskind

“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”

The Process of Writing About Your Childhood Library

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Cover of Midwest Architecture JourneysHow 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”

A Community Lawyering

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Civil Rights, Legal Practice, Milwaukee, Public, Race & LawLeave a comment» on A Community Lawyering

(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.).

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee applied for and received a grant funded by the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to introduce its related but unique approach of embedding lawyers into communities called “neighborhood lawyering,” focused on two targeted communities in Milwaukee.  Continue reading “A Community Lawyering”

Conference Gives Milwaukee a Good — But Not Great — Progress Report as a Water Hub

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water LawLeave a comment» on Conference Gives Milwaukee a Good — But Not Great — Progress Report as a Water Hub

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”

Bradley Foundation Chief Describes Its Conservative Philosophy and Grant Making

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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”

Education Is Key to Broader Economic Success for Milwaukee Hispanics, Speakers Say

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Consider three pieces of data that shed light on the economic potential and the challenges of Milwaukee’s Hispanic population:

The population of the Milwaukee area has been generally unchanged since 2000 – except for the significant growth of the Hispanic population in the area.

Hispanic people are over-represented in low-paying jobs and under-represented in high-paying jobs in greater Milwaukee.

By a variety of measures, there have been positive trends in educational success for Hispanics in the Milwaukee area, but it continues to be the case that smaller percentages have college degrees than people from other demographic groups. Continue reading “Education Is Key to Broader Economic Success for Milwaukee Hispanics, Speakers Say”

Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith

Posted on Categories Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Pro Bono, Public1 Comment on Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith
head shot of jana budet
Jana Budet, 2L

Yesterday, September 17, 2019, the Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation honored two Marquette University Law School students with scholarships.

Jana Budet, 2L, received the AWL Foundation scholarship. The AWL Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a woman who has exhibited service to others, diversity, compelling financial need, academic achievement, unique life experiences (such as overcoming obstacles to attend or continue law school), and advancement of women in the profession.

Budet was on active duty in the Army for six years and earned her bachelor’s degree while she served. She balances her law school work with parenting her four daughters, ages 6, 5, 2, and 1. Continue reading “Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith”

What’s going on with Milwaukee’s population?

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The US Census Bureau releases two main annual estimates of population. Both indicate the City of Milwaukee’s population has slipped in recent years. This is a reversal of gains made in the first half of the 2010s.

The most current statistics are from the Population Estimates Program (PEP).1 These numbers are calculated using a combination of administrative records and a recent estimate of housing units. Details are available here. According to this method, Milwaukee’s population grew from 594,500 in the 2010 census to 600,700 in the summer of 2014. By the summer of 2018, this had fallen to 592,000.

The second method used by the Census Bureau is the American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the long form of the decennial census after 2000. It is randomly distributed to 3.5 million addresses a year, and participation is mandatory.2 The ACS estimates that Milwaukee’s population reached 600,000 in July 2015 before falling to 595,000 in 2017 (the most recent data available).

Irrespective of method, the trend is the same. Milwaukee’s population grew steadily during the first half on the 2010s, but it has declined just as steadily since then.

Continue reading “What’s going on with Milwaukee’s population?”

You Want Less Violence? Build Stronger Communities, Speaker Says

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on You Want Less Violence? Build Stronger Communities, Speaker Says

Maybe it’s not fair to reduce to a few points an hour of conversation with Reggie Moore, director of the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention, at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Feb. 6. But let’s hope it’s a way to drive home a few of his major points and perhaps to encourage you to watch the video of the program.

Moore’s effort is best known for the document it produced, “The Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace.” It offers goals and strategies aimed at reducing violence in the city, many of them dealing with community development and investment. “Every strategy in the blueprint is evidence based,” Moore said.

Here are eight short take-aways  from  Moore, a Milwaukee native with a long history of working with young people in the community: Continue reading “You Want Less Violence? Build Stronger Communities, Speaker Says”

National Voter Registration Day: Make Your Voice Heard

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Today has National Voter Registration Day—a good time to remind everyone register to vote so that all eligible voters can make their voices heard on Election Day (which, by the way, is Tuesday, November 6). While Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration, save yourself the time and the hassle of doing it all on Election Day and register now.

You can register to vote online at My Vote up to 20 days before Election Day (para Mi Voto en español, haga clic aquí), by mail up to 20 days before Election Day, or in person at your municipal clerk’s office until the Friday before Election Day. I’ll explain how to register online at My Vote, but first let me explain who is eligible to register to vote in Wisconsin. Continue reading “National Voter Registration Day: Make Your Voice Heard”