James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows Policing

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Poverty & Law, Public, Race & Law6 Comments on James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows Policing

Media coverage of the death of conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson on March 2 correctly identified him as the originator of “broken windows policing” and blithely assumed such policing had been successful. Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times of March 4, for example, said that Wilsonian policing had resulted in “the low crime rates that have made urban areas from Portlandia to Brooklyn safe for left-wing hipsters and Obama-voting professionals alike.”

The basic premise of “broken windows” policing is that criminals are encouraged when neighborhoods look decayed. However, if police crack down on such things as broken windows, public urination, graffiti, panhandlers, and prostitutes, neighborhood pride is restored and residents are more likely to stand up against crime. Eventually, the theory goes, criminals will get the message and give up their nefarious ways.

Continue reading “James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows Policing”

What Price Protest?

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, First Amendment, Poverty & Law, Public, U.S. Supreme Court4 Comments on What Price Protest?

On December 1, the Wisconsin Department of Administration released new rules governing access to state facilities, including the State Capitol, for protests, rallies, demonstrations and any other “gathering of four or more people for the purpose of actively promoting any cause.” You may read the entire policy here.

The most controversial aspects of the new policy are the fact that it applies to small groups of individuals (four or more), the fact that it would require the filing of a permit application 72 hours in advance of any planned event, and the fact that it allows the state to require the advance payment of a bond to cover security costs when such payment is determined to be necessary by the State Capitol Police. The rules contain an exception to these requirements for a defined category of “spontaneous events.” Continue reading “What Price Protest?”

Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Popular Culture & Law, Poverty & Law, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence

As Milwaukee County Children’s Court Judge Joe Donald put it, “We do a very good job of trailing, nailing, and jailing.” But can Milwaukee do more when it comes to dealing with crime so that it can be prevented and the lives of those on the path to committing crimes turn out better?

The good news, participants in an “On the Issues” discussion Monday at Eckstein Hall generally agreed, is that the large majority of young people in the community are not involved in crime, that there are existing constructive programs involving thousands of youths , and those who went on highly-publicized sprees in the Riverwest neighborhood on July 3 and in and around the State Fair grounds on Aug. 4 are not typical.

The bad news is that it doesn’t take very many crimes to cause great harm, not only to the victims but to neighborhoods and the city as a whole, panel members agreed. Furthermore, criminals are getting younger and more violent, and the poverty which is so often the environment for criminals is getting broader and deeper in the city.  

The panel discussion, hosted by Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, before an audience of about 200, followed the showing Sunday night at the Milwaukee Film Festival of a documentary, “The Interrupters,” about efforts to reduce youth violence in Chicago. Continue reading “Doing Better Than “Nailing and Jailing” in the Fight Against Violence”

Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program: Theory to Practice

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, Mediation, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Wisconsin Law & Legal SystemLeave a comment» on Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program: Theory to Practice

Andrea Schneider and Natalie Fleury have a new paper on SSRN that describes the Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program and analyzes the MFMP’s design by reference to dispute resolution theory.  The MFMP responded to the ongoing foreclosure crisis in Milwaukee, emerging from an initiative involving Marquette Law School and several government agencies, elected leaders, and community organizations.  The MFMP creates voluntary mediation opportunities for homeowners and lenders in the hope of renegotiating payment terms such that both sides will benefit.  So far, the results seem impressive, with home-retention agreements reached in more than forty percent of mediations and high levels of satisfaction reported by program participants.

Andrea and Natalie conclude as follows:

The opportunity to put years of writing and work in the field to use to help out the city, state, and court system was an honor and unique opportunity for the law school. Both professors and students witnessed law school teachings put to work and had a rewarding impact in their own backyard.  It also has given us, as designers, far greater insight into the local government and local community than we would have had without this collaboration. Most importantly, mediation has worked in exactly the way that we theorized. The communication between the parties is vastly improved through the program than it would be otherwise. Parties have control over the outcomes, not perfectly, but again, much more so than they would have in the alternatives. And the program provides for efficient solutions as the city continues to struggle with foreclosures. Moving forward, we have to map student availability and interest with the needs and opportunities presented by the program. But we have witnessed the putting of theory into practice in a wonderful way while recognizing that we would have all preferred that this particular need not exist.

Their paper, entitled “There’s No Place Like Home: Applying Dispute System Design Theory to Create a Foreclosure Mediation System,” will appear in the Nevada Law Journal.

Department of Justice Files Fair Housing Act Suit Against City of New Berlin

Posted on Categories Eastern District of Wisconsin, Human Rights, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Race & Law2 Comments on Department of Justice Files Fair Housing Act Suit Against City of New Berlin

On Thursday, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint against the City of New Berlin. The complaint arises out of a series of events that led to the City’s denial of a “workforce” housing development proposal made by MSP Real Estate, Inc. (MSP).  The DOJ alleges that the City of New Berlin ultimately denied the proposal on the basis of racial discrimination, in violation of Section VIII of the Fair Housing Act.

According to the complaint (which can be viewed here), on March 10, 2010, MSP submitted a development application to construct 180 units of affordable housing in what is known as New Berlin’s “City Center.”  The proposal stated that the development would include 100 elderly units and 80 workforce housing units.  The development was intended to be financed in part by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, a program that allows a developer to sell tax credits to investors in exchange for the promise that the developer will rent the apartments for below-market rates to tenants who qualify.  For this specific development, MSP was going to rent to individuals who made 40 to 60 percent of the median household income in New Berlin.  In New Berlin, the median income as of 2000 was approximately $70,000, which means the proposed development would rent to individuals who made $28,000 to $42,000 a year.

Continue reading “Department of Justice Files Fair Housing Act Suit Against City of New Berlin”

Holloway and the Housing Code

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Poverty & Law1 Comment on Holloway and the Housing Code

The media have given ample attention to housing code violations in properties owned by Lee Holloway, Chairman of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.  According to one account, city inspectors have identified over 200 housing code violations in Holloway’s small, north-side apartment buildings.  The violations include roach and rodent infestations, faulty locks, missing smoke detectors, crumbling plaster, and malfunctioning plumbing.

Because Holloway is an announced candidate for the office of County Executive recently vacated by Governor Scott Walker, Holloway’s violations of the housing code are indeed newsworthy.  What’s more, aspects of Holloway’s dilemma are suggestive of the problems related to municipal housing codes, the most serious of which is lack of enforcement.

Why are the codes in Milwaukee and most urban areas so ineffectively enforced? Continue reading “Holloway and the Housing Code”

Mayfair – Tumult in Wisconsin’s Shrine of Consumption

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Poverty & LawLeave a comment» on Mayfair – Tumult in Wisconsin’s Shrine of Consumption

Much has been written and said about the tumult at the Mayfair Mall on January 2.  Commentators have argued the theft and destruction grew out of, among other things, the general rebelliousness of teenagers, deep-seated racial tensions, and/or colliding urban and suburban subcultures.  All these arguments have validity to them, but the very nature of the Mayfair Mall itself may also have played a role in the disturbances.

Mayfair epitomizes the modern shopping complex.  It has more sales per square foot than any other shopping complex in the metropolitan area.  A staggering 16 million shoppers pass through the mall annually, making Mayfair the busiest mall in all of Wisconsin.  With its flashing signage, swooping escalators, and elaborate display windows, Mayfair is a striking shrine devoted to late capitalism’s excessive consumption.

The central belief at Mayfair and hundreds of comparable shrines is that the purchase of goods and experiences will lead to personal happiness. Continue reading “Mayfair – Tumult in Wisconsin’s Shrine of Consumption”

Whatever Happened to the Underclass?

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Poverty & LawLeave a comment» on Whatever Happened to the Underclass?

Those of us whose political memories extend back before the Clinton Administration — and I am still in denial that this is not true for many of my students — may recall a time when the plight of the urban poor seemed a major preoccupation of mainstream journalists and politicians.  I suppose there were even some echoes of this concern as recently as the “No Child Left Behind” phase of the second Bush presidency.  On the whole, though, it has seemed to me that the urban poor have received steadily decreasing attention in our political culture for many years.

Now I get some confirmation and explanation of these impressions in a new paper by David Papke, “The Rise and Fall of the ‘Underclass’: An Exploration of Ideology and the Legal Arena.”  David is particularly interested in the notion of the “underclass,” a common term two decades ago that has since fallen out of use.  Had it retained a more robust place in our political discourse, David suggests that this sort of class conceptualization might have contributed to the political mobilization of the urban poor.  In his view, the displacement of the “underclass” in our national consciousness reflects “a resurgence of the dominant ideology’s traditional emphasis on the individual” (28) — a resurgence that served the interests of the socially powerful by drowning out the social criticism associated with the development of the underclass as an ideological construct.

David’s paper thus provides an interesting counterpoint to a recent paper by Matt Parlow that I blogged about here.   Continue reading “Whatever Happened to the Underclass?”

Encouraging the Working Poor to Save for Retirement

Posted on Categories Federal Law & Legal System, Legal Scholarship, Poverty & Law, Tax Law1 Comment on Encouraging the Working Poor to Save for Retirement

Are you saving enough for retirement?  It can be a struggle even for those of us who do not live paycheck to paycheck.  For the working poor, the challenge must seem truly daunting.  Yet, Social Security payouts average only a little more than the poverty line, and benefits seem far more likely to decline than to increase in the future.  For those on the margins of poverty, putting money aside today may be critical to avoid a financial crisis in old age.

Should government step in to promote retirement savings by the working poor?  Vada Lindsey thinks so.  In a new paper on SSRN, she proposes reforms to the earned income tax credit that would push recipients to put a portion of their tax refunds into retirement savings.

Vada’s proposal has many intricacies, but the core features include an automatic allocation of ten percent of EITC benefits to a retirement plan, IRA, or other investment vehicle, plus a matching contribution from the government for additional savings beyond the automatic ten percent.  EITC recipients could opt out, but the default position would be in favor of savings.  Continue reading “Encouraging the Working Poor to Save for Retirement”

Milwaukee’s Residential Segregation – It’s Not Simply Black and White

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Race & Law3 Comments on Milwaukee’s Residential Segregation – It’s Not Simply Black and White

The Milwaukee metropolitan area is taking what seems to be its annual beating in the media because of its racially segregated housing patterns.  According to a new report from the Brookings Institution based on 2005-09 census data, the City of Milwaukee and the surrounding area including Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties is virtually tied for first  (or last!) with Detroit and New York City for the highest degree of black-white residential segregation.  A second study conducted by John Logan of Brown University ranked Milwaukee second in residential segregation by race to only the New York City metropolitan area.  Newark, Detroit, and Chicago were next on Logan’s list.

To what extent are the troubling rankings and the patterns to which they point truly based on race?  American racism is hardly dead and buried, but in our society race often obscures the equally pernicious workings of socioeconomic class inequality.  Continue reading “Milwaukee’s Residential Segregation – It’s Not Simply Black and White”