Most people have dozens of great ideas on how they would have made changed this or that during the past to make the present better. These geniuses find ways to prevent wars, abolish poverty, and fight racism. This paper constitutes my turn.
Milwaukee, 1945... The headlines tell of a war that is just about over (I could have prevented it). Milwaukee still has the right to annex other municipalities, but the rate of annexations is low, and within ten years, the right will be gone (Oak Creek law). Had I been the planner back in '45, I would have pushed the city out, annexing land that seemed even too far away. The automobile had been around, and sprawl would be imminent with so many soldiers returning from the war. My weapon in annexing lands around the city would have been water. Just as the current Sewer Wars demonstrate how much the suburbs rely on the city, the same has held true since Milwaukee built its water system after the Civil War.
Let us assume that Milwaukee owned all of the land which we today consider suburban, not only Oak Creek and Franklin, but much of Waukeshau and Ozaukee counties. The city now has the ability to control the sprawl that may occur. I would, after securing large city limits, focus on abolishing many of the already out-of-date zoning laws. Some industries were still dirty in 1945, but other industries, shopping, and apartments could have coexisted with the American Dream house. All the idea of mixed use neighborhoods would have needed was a little post-war propaganda from Audie Murphy or Ira Hayes ("Hey, I can walk to the liquor store!"). Seriously though, the government did promote the use of the automobile and trucking to induce sprawl.
The Federal Government called it defense spending and a way to connect cities; Norquist calls it idiotic. The Federal Highway act of 1956, according to Kevin Soucie, allowed local governments to construct roads with federal money, thus free-ways. These roads had been deemed too costly by the state department of transportation. City mayors at the time welcomed the inflow of traffic. Soon, however, more traffic was flowing out to the suburbs. The automobile allowed people to live in the middle of the pristine country and commute into the dirty city, an idea undoubtedly exploited by suburban developers.
When people began the move towards the outskirts of town, I would have looked for a good reason. Confrontation of the drive to move out may have saved the city from this sprawl. I would have challenged the reasoning behind creating what some of us call the mansion subsidy. The government just wanted to allow veterans to live the American dream . Low rates on loans and tax deductions on mortgage payments allowed families to purchase houses when they may have rented, or larger houses than necessary. The main argument against tax deductions is that it tends to benefit the very rich the most. According to Riemer, 50 billion dollars are going back to homeowners, most of it back to the rich, as it is a regressive tax. Levittown was an example of how the federal government not only promoted single family suburban homes, but also the segregation of whites and blacks.
Money aside, people must have had other reasons for leaving the city. The city was often seen as dirty, but it was also still very convenient. The professional jobs certainly were staying in the city, and industry still had a stronghold, yet citizens migrated out as if the plague had hit Milwaukee. The plague that hit Milwaukee after the Second World War was racism. I interviewed my mother about the situation known as "White Flight." She lived at 19th and Hampton in from her birth in 1952. I told her that Mayor Norquist was certain that people moved out to the suburbs because the school system was better. I told her that the automobile made this move feasible and may have caused people to move. I even mentioned that people were able to afford the move out because of federal funds aiding them. I then asked her why the people in the area of 19th and Hampton moved out to the suburbs. She replied "African Americans." I asked her to elaborate, as I have eight pages to fill. " One family came into some money, and they moved into this big house in Brown Deer. They sold their old house to a black family. Nearly everyone sold their houses. You know, White Flight." I do not believe my mothers neighborhood was in a vacuum in the Twilight Zone. Milwaukee's metropolitan area has been rated in the top five in segregation for as long as I can remember. Whitefish Bay isn't called Whitefolks Bay just for laughs.
Let us pretend that as a planner in the fifties and sixties, I recognized racism in Milwaukee and knew that white people would flee to the suburbs to avoid blacks. I could have written an article proclaiming that racism is wrong, or I could have tried to fight racism itself. That would certainly be a tall order, even today. Poverty would likely have been my primary concern, as crime and eventually racism tend to stem from poverty. I would have made darn sure that a viable public transit system existed for the employees to get to work. Luckily, the trolley was still operating in 1945. The hard part, however, would be convincing business owners that locating in the city was still a sound idea. Assuming the free-ways were being built, industry would have felt pressured to move out along the express-way, where infrastructure would be new , access would be accommodating for trucks, and taxes would be lower. I would have tried to convince them that the workers lived in the city and all that, but workers are mere peasants who must find a way to work or starve. Let's just say that I would have used everything within reason to hold on to employers in this area.
Businesses will leave, and poverty, when it occurs, tends to cause crime.Art Jones was our instructor on how to deal with crime. He talked about the current theory of making little busts instead of big busts, or the broken glass theory. Running kids in for drinking forties and raiding apartments where some friends are smoking pot is scaring villains straight, I guess. I'd like to see the police officer as a parental figure who patrols a beat on foot, or, heaven forbid, a horse. I'd have these officers not only have to live in the city, but in the same neighborhood that he patrols. One of the most respected people in my neighborhood while growing up was the mailman. He was an authority figure who we felt could be trusted. Police officers should use this approach rather than the "I' m a cop and you're not " idea.(Andrew)
Crime stands little or no chance of survival in well designed towns, according to Mayor John O. CPTED seems like a wonderful daisies-in-the-valley idea that will likely lessen some crimes, but hell, people still break into banks and convenience stores with cameras everywhere. The theory that crime is opportunistic is relevant until the criminals are either starving or really need a hit. Speaking of hits, Chief Jones seemed to accuse drugs as public enemy number one in Milwaukee, as all other crime stems from junkies needing drugs. As a planner with no right to legalize some drugs, I'd have to be concerned with getting rid of the problem. People like parks, so maybe if every damn basketball hoop wouldn't be torn down throughout the city, kids won't turn to drugs.
The kids are an important element to consider as a planner. Educating these future decision makers is a top priority of any community. Back in '45, and all throughout the history of Milwaukee, schools were a part of each community. Magnet schools didn't exist and school choice was between a regular school and a nunnery. The fact was that kids went to the closest schools to where they lived, unless they were really religious or something. The Civil Rights movement changed the way public schools in Milwaukee were run, for the worse. Mayor Norquist himself lamented over the closing of Lincoln High, a mostly black school, in order to integrate.
Not only did the blacks and whites have to undergo forced integration, but communities were lost in the shuffle, as students were bussed all over the city. My parents chose to send me to a school two blocks from our house, but the magnet school moved, and I was forced to ride a bus seven miles through the city everyday, no doubt passing eight or so other schools on the way. Milwaukee under my planning supervision would have tried to integrate the neighborhoods rather than the schools, which would have eventually resulted in integrated schools. I would have done my best to create a sense of pride and ownership in the community around each school. Neighborhoods could have united for the common purpose of buying new uniforms so that Marshall could finally kick Tech's asses. Friendly rivalries would develop throughout the city, and each 'hood would feel the pride and power that results from competition. Maybe I should lay off the steroids!
I'll jump right back into school as an issue for today. I feel that school choice would certainly lower the confidence we now have for the public school system. Mr. Meyer (I think) lectured to us about the problems of school choice. He pointed out that studies have shown little or no improvement in testing after two years of attending a choice school. He also warned of the possible ramifications of these schools going out of business, as some of them will. Finally, he reminded us of the capitalist motto of lowest cost and highest gain-- swindlers exist in any competition-based business. Possibly the most important idea that this guest lecturer discussed was the fact that school choice might be an attempt at a simple solution to a complicated problem. The current public schools took a long time to get messed up, so we may not be able to fix the problem with new schools. I would interject into the equation that we currently have a separation of church and state in this country, and I am worried about what affect religion might have children, especially when they see that the state supports the ideas of that religion with money. Matthew 22 tells us what Jesus felt about the subject ...
"is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said " You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a Denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's"
Jesus separated church and state 2000 years ago. I don't see pictures of Jesus, Mohammed, or Buddha on our dollar bills.
I'm going to go back to where we were before. Neighborhood schools are at a human scale. Our city has about 96 square miles of land and nearly 100 elementary schools, along with a few dozen middle and high schools. My point is simple, kids can walk a few blocks or close to a mile to school. These schools could provide other community services, such as a meeting place at night and in the summer, or an adult education center, or even a place where the elderly can enjoy children and help out.
If we were to implement school choice today, the grass would seem greener all over the city for children. My own opinion is that kids would get sick of the bus and choose the closest school after a few pollution-filled years. I would fight against school choice if I was a planner and focus on strategies that have been proven to work, like the Head-Start program.
Just as transportation is an issue for children getting to school, parents must get to work. My first priority would be to lure businesses to the city, but retain our pride in doing so. Offering no taxes for ten years or free land makes a city a whore of big business. I'd try to convince the firm that they want to be here, not that I want them to be here. Within the city, transportation is not a terrible problem, as most destinations can be reached within an hour via the bus system. Light rail would speed up commute times and might be pretty, but the initial investment may meet with voter scorn, so I would try to secure business sponsorship or a sneaky gas tax to get some money together for such a system.
For Milwaukee's future to be secure, we will need to be closer to Chicago. I would encourage the development of a fast train between our city and theirs, with an obvious stop at the airport. If Milwaukee can align itself with a powerful global city in a global economy, the results could be quite favorable. In this case, I would promote Milwaukee as a convention city near a beautiful lakefront just minutes away from Chicago, or picturesque northern Wisconsin.
I would push for the upkeep and revitalization of downtown, but not as ferociously as Norquist. I think every community deserves to have places to remember and attractions. I would try to bring some business to the area surrounding Miller Park, for example. One of my more creative ideas includes running the Menominee River right next to the new stadium, with boat rides that go to and from downtown. I also envision the new GMO golf course just East of Miller Park, with a name like the Menominee Valley Public Golf Course. Some of the worst brown fields could be golfed on by the likes of Fuzzy Zoeler and Tiger Woods.
Very important to the future of the city could be a unification of the counties surrounding Milwaukee. We don't have to call it annexation. We don't have to call it Milwaukee. Hey, let's call it Peace Province. Milwaukee will share all of its resources-- clean drinking water and treatment, parks, museums, pretty bridges, human scale grid patterned neighborhoods, Summerfest, downtown, and Miller Park. In return, the suburbs can share their money, land, money, money, daughters, and money. Schools would certainly benefit from the consolidation of funds, as pointed out by Dick Heaps ( who curiously pronounced the word deaf "deef"). His main point was that the city pays high taxes in relation to income, whereas suburbanites pay very low taxes and still can pay more for schools.
I wonder whether New Urbanism will work, and I don't wonder too long, because it won't. New Urbanism can only work if the rich people are convinced that it works. Hell, city dwellers have known it works for years, but go tell some guy in River Hills, whose neighbor is more than 1/4 mile away, that he needs to move into an apartment a fraction of the size of his mansion. New Urbanism will only work outside of a city if it can be considered New Pragmatism. Planners need more than just a few "East Siders" praising the idea as they walk to another coffee shop. We need support from businesses and other local governments, none of which will come easy, if at all. Maybe the city can get others to follow by example. Actually, the idea of New Urbanism as applying to the city sort of surprises me, as most neighborhoods I've been in around Milwaukee already use these ideas, except for parts of Hwy 100 or Silver Spring (newer developments).
All told, I am happy that I am a student rather than a city official as we head into the final stages of the light rail debate and sure Miller Park overruns. The future of the city is secure , I feel, since people, way deep down, want to live close to each other. Whether the city will be a powerful entity or a suburban toy rests in the hands of those who can unite the two together.
Aderman, Ralph ed.; Trading Post to Metropolis; C.W Brown Printing Company, Oconomowoc, WI, 1987.
Holy Bible, New International Version; Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984.
Kunstler, James; The Geography of Nowhere; Toucstone, NY, 1994.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; multiple articles long since read.
My mother, Nancy Jaeger.
Norquist, John O.; various lectures and articles.
Urbplan 141; guest lecturers.
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