Happy Birthday, Milwaukee
Looking back at its 166th year in news.
Tonight folks from the city as well as the Milwaukee Press Club will descend on the Grain Exchange to mark the 167th birthday of ol' Milwaukee. Accordingly, we're taking a walk down short-term memory lane and looking back at the highlights of its 166th year (through the Milwaukee Magazine lens, of course).
In January, Kurt Chandler asked if civic leadership had become too risky and wanted to know which local leader would take up the visionary baton. UW-Milwaukee's Chancellor Mike Lovell was commended for his big ideas about cutting health care costs, but others, like Mayor Barrett, were criticized by the likes of Sheldon Lubar and Ed Zore for not taking bigger risks. Who could have predicted Barrett would risk his sanity by running in a gubernatorial recall? Maybe some. But we're fairly certain no one could have known he'd receive a literal slap in the face for his unsuccessful bid.
In Chandler's feature, ten people were identified as the city's most effective leaders, including Chris Abele, Scott Walker, Michael Cudahy, Sue Black, Tim Sheehy and Ed Flynn. And for many of those leaders, the 166th year was filled with change and challenges. For Sue Black, who was fired from her job as director of the County Parks in mid-August, and her old boss Scott Walker, who faced (and won) a gubernatorial recall election, we're betting they are looking toward this 167th year - instead of back.
In February, Tom Bamberger argued that Flynn, chief of the Milwaukee Police Dept., had turned around the city's crime numbers but local media hadn't given him his due. Bamberger specifically pointed to the Journal Sentinel, whose series of Watchdog articles criticized Flynn and the department for a slew of misdeeds, including slow response times, racial profiling and officer transgressions.
But as far as crime numbers go, over the course of the summer the daily focused on the underreporting of crimes of all stripes. Yet a recent report by a consulting firm hired by the Fire and Police Commission joins Flynn in blaming the stats screw-up on computer and human errors.
March Madness arrived just in time for Howie Magner's profile of Marquette basketball head coach Buzz Williams (the team reached the Sweet Sixteen last year). Now in the middle of his fifth season as coach, (as of today) his team is ranked 25th in the AP poll and has a 5-1 conference record. Some of those prayers must be working.
The 166th year also proved that the local music scene gets hipper by the day. In April, Chandler profiled Marcus Doucette, one of 88Nine's daytime DJs who "embodies the diversity of this savvy urban radio station." The station held its sixth 88Nine RadioMilwaukee Music Awards with performances by Jaill, Field Report, Juniper Tar, Klassik and Vic & Gab. In July, Steve Hyden profiled Jaill and in December he looked at Gary Wiit, whose mission it's been to rebuild Milwaukee's historic and iconic music venues, the Pabst, Riverside and Turner Hall. Their ingenuity is paying off and perhaps inspiring onlookers. In fact, just a few days from now, as Paul Kosidowski covered in our February issue, a handful of local acts will join together to perform the music of the original pop star Stephen Foster.
Fitting for the city of festivals, our June issue chronicled Pride Fest -- and the fact that it was on the brink of bankruptcy. But the Wisconsin Gazette reports that the 2012 event broke revenue records and attendance increased by 11 percent compared to the previous year. Crisis averted?
In the July issue, Brew City writer Dan Murphy dished out superlatives for the best beer in the city and all things beer-related. We guarantee you can't reread this story without getting thirsty, even in this arctic January weather.
Chandler was also back in July, this time writing about Jesus Gonzalez, a gun-rights advocate and proponent of open carry laws, who is currently serving 20 years in prison for a shooting that left one man dead and another paralyzed. Later in 2012, the metropolitan area would be darkened by more horrific violence. In November, photographer Adam Ryan Morris' moving photo essay portrayed the families and community members affected by the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.
Here at the magazine we ended the year with Ann Christenson's December roundup of the most sophisticated dishes in town. From Umami Moto's lobster chowder to bison relleno at Meritage, this mouth-watering feature was the perfect inspiration for amateur cooks and professional diners alike.
And in the same issue, writer Jimmy Carlton explored an "Epidemic on the Down-Low," the little-discussed growing rate of HIV infections in Milwaukee County's African-American community.
To kick off the city's 167th celebration, tonight's event incorporates a contest called "Hidden Riches Revealed." The contest requirements ask partygoers to submit suggestions for what makes Milwaukee unique. And looking back on year 166, it's safe to say the list is, perhaps, mixed.