Power Play

Editor Kurt Chandler’s monthly letter to our readers.

Power and influence come in different shapes and sizes. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company and a real estate developer have far different roles than a high school principal or police chief. Yet collectively, their influence becomes a compelling force in setting a city’s direction and framing its future.

For our cover story, we set out to identify Milwaukee’s power grid, selecting 10 categories – politics, business, health, education, media, etc. – that define a city’s form and function. A team of reporters interviewed dozens of people in the know, asking them to nominate those with influence in our 10 categories. When we began to hear the same names again and again, we knew we had hit a vein.

Some people show up on our list more than once. For example, the three owners of the Milwaukee Bucks – featured on the cover – rank at the top of both the Sports and Business lists. And no wonder. They swept into town in 2014 with grand plans for a new sports arena, and with a little charm and a lot of moxie, their full-court press prevailed.

No matter where you stand on the arena deal, there’s no doubting this triumvirate has commanded the city’s attention. What we don’t know yet is how these newcomers will follow through on a wealth of promises.

Two other stories in this month’s issue touch on uncommon power and influence. Since founding the Marquette University Law School Poll in 2012, Charles Franklin has become a relied-upon source for political data. His measurements of public opinion serve as solid ground for making policy decisions and electing politicians. If information is power, Franklin has scads, and he talks about his job in a Q&A on Page 96 of the magazine.

But power also corrupts. As writer Bill Lueders recounts in “Wisconsin’s Secret Society,” high-ranking Republican legislators tried to gut the state’s open records law in the summer, as it relates to lawmaking. Joint Committee on Finance members craftily cloaked their dirty work within the distraction of the July 4 weekend.

When the public cried foul, the politicians dumped the plan. For now. Legislators, Lueders notes, hint that they might revive the effort, which is a glaring example of how influence can run amok.

If you’re a subscriber to Milwaukee Magazine, you’ll notice a second magazine in your mailbox this month, the premiere issue of Milwaukee Health. Produced by Milwaukee Magazine, this new title focuses on wellness, fitness, diet and prevention, with stories about acupuncture, fitness programs, coping with cancer, and more.

Look for the second issue in the spring.

And if you’re not a subscriber, you can find Milwaukee Health on the newsstands, right alongside Milwaukee Magazine.

‘Power Play’ appears in the November 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the November issue on newsstands Nov. 2

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Kurt Chandler began working at Milwaukee Magazine in 1998 as a senior editor, writing investigative articles, profiles, narratives and commentaries. He was editor in chief from August 2013-November 2015. An award-winning writer, Chandler has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, editor and author. He has been published in a number of metro newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Minneapolis Star Tribune, to Marie Claire, The Writer, and Salon.com. He also has authored, coauthored or edited 12 books. His writing awards are many: He has won the National Headliners Award for magazine writing five times. He has been named Writer of the Year by the City & Regional Magazine Association, and Journalist of the Year by the Milwaukee Press Club. As a staff writer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and chosen as a finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Award. In previous lives, Chandler worked construction, drove a cab and played the banjo (not necessarily at the same time). He has toiled as a writer and journalist for three decades now and, unmindful of his sage father’s advice, has nothing to fall back on. Yet he is not without a specialized set of skills: He can take notes in the dark and is pretty good with active verbs.