Saturday, July 19, 2014

PBS discusses the divided Milwaukee

Here is an intriguing report from last night's PBS New Hour. It's former presidential debate moderator Gwen Ifill heading to Milwaukee to discuss the huge amounts of red vs. blue polarization that defines the metro area.

A few thoughts.

1. The report itself is relatively even-handed, but outside of Mayor Barrett's mention, avoids discussion of the poisonous role of Milwaukee talk radio and the Bradley-backed right-wing propaganda machine that causes both sides to head to their respective corners, and not trust the other. I also love the interview with the Boomer-aged woman with the Polish name that claimed to be a former Democrat, but now lives in the suburbs and votes Republican. When Ifill asks her why this happened, she says "Because of liberalism," but won't say what about liberalism turned her off. Then again, maybe she doesn't have to say it. racism and AM radio lies

2. Oconomowoc Barbie (aka Lt. Gov Kleefisch) made a comment about how the division "makes for a stronger Wisconsin," which is even more stomach-churning than her usual tripe. Apparently she didn't catch the references made by officials from other cities at a recent Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce roundtable. The goal of the meeting was to pump up support for a new Bucks arena (which the MMAC oligarchs are all about), but instead backfired into an analysis of one of the Milwaukee area's biggest failures.
Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, had the most straight-forward quote of the day. Speaking about millenials she said “this generation wants transit, they want amenities. They want it all downtown.”

The leaders from Denver and Oklahoma City began their remarks by noting all the lists they’re on, and how those two cities are similar. Joseph Roman, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, had a different message though. He noted multiple times how Milwaukee and Cleveland are peer cities, and appear on the same lists (he didn’t mention any specifically, but his attitude indicated they weren’t the same rosy ones Denver and Oklahoma City are on).

Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, noted that in Oklahoma City “we all followed Richard Florida.” But he mentioned for a long time most of them didn’t believe in Florida’s creative class gospel. He noted that they’ve now changed their mind and when it comes to attracting millennials, it is all about place. Williams said Oklahoma City has 130,000 college students in the region, and has managed to increase from a graduate retention rate that was below 50 percent to its current rate of 90 percent. He, too, emphasized that young people want transit and amenities, and Oklahoma City has been able to figure that out with their MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) program.

Following a question about doing projects mainly downtown, Williams offered a line he says his mayor often uses: “you can’t be a suburb of nothing.” Noting that the health of its downtown is good for a region as a whole, Roman said “downtowns are what makes our regions thrive.”
Compare that to the situation in Wisconsin, where the Lt. Gov/Oconomowoc Barbie won the 2010 GOP primary by running ads that claimed Wisconsin didn't need high-speed rail and transit because she could take her kids around in her mini-van. Suburban Milwaukee legislators (like Barbie's fool of a husband) do everything in their power to weaken the city of Milwaukee, tying the city's hands through shared revenue cuts and unfunded mandates. And you wonder why brain drain from the area seems to be speeding up, especially to more open-minded and transit-oriented areas like Madison, the Twin Cities and Chicago?

3. Having Dimwitted David Brooks comment on anything is worthless. This is especially true when he tries to state that the polarization has to do with "diminishing resources, including pensions." Obviously, Dimwitted Dave didn't check the fact that Wisconsin's pension system is fully funded, making it Number 1 in the nation. And that situation had nothing to do with Scott Walker's Act 10 "reforms", because Act 10 merely changed how much public employees paid into the pensions vs all taxpayers - "savings" that were later used to give rich people tax breaks. The result in 2014? Wisconsin has lost jobs in 4 of the first 6 months of the year, and now has revenue shortfalls that will lead to massive budget deficits over the next 3 years.

But it's good to see the national media give attention to this unsustainable level of polarity (the J-S's Craig Gilbert notes the only other place you see something like this is in the South). They beat around the bush on the racial angle (unlike Alec MacGillis' excellent article in the New Republic on Walker's "toxic racial politics"), but it doesn't take a genius to watch that piece and see it's a significant factor. And as the old "white flight" Archie Bunker-like racists die out, the 262 trailer trash and their boy Scotty get shriller, dumber, and angrier, probably because they know their time is starting to run out.

Now here's the question. Will JournalComm care more about its community, see the damage it is causing, and clean up their act in both their newspaper and their broadcast stations. Or will they care about the millions in ad money that might come in from a heated and closely-contested Walker-Burke race, even if it makes the Milwaukee area decline into a hateful area that no one wants to move to? We need to watch them, and keep the dollar signs from blinding them to the reality that's right in from of their faces.

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