25 people. 12 conversations. The rules? No rules. Read what Milwaukee's most interesting had to say to each other when face-to-face in a Tweet-free zone.
D’Naya Collins (Sophomore at Rufus King IB High School) and Tom Barrett (Mayor of Milwaukee)
Topic: The City’s Youth
There’s no hyperbole in saying that 15-year-old D’Naya Collins is an overachiever. This high school sophomore and cheerleader gets excellent grades, and her involvement with the Boys & Girls Club led to her being named the 2014 Year of the G.I.R.L. Ambassador and the 2015 Argosy award winner. Collins came to her meeting with Mayor Tom Barrett equipped with questions written out on notecards. But when the mayor learned that Collins, who was born in Tennessee and lived in Naperville, Ill., until six years ago, isn’t totally enamored of our fair city, he had a few questions of his own. / Moderated by Carole Nicksin
TB: So why don’t you want to be in this beautiful city the rest of your life?
DC: Just all the violence and the crime. I know that is everywhere, but I like diversity, and I think that Milwaukee, well Wisconsin really, is very segregated.
TB: Do you think Milwaukee itself is segregated or the state?
DC: The surrounding cities like Wauwatosa and Waukesha, those are all primarily white. It’s just a big separation from the inner city to the rest of Wisconsin.
TB: Well, you’re correct. Unfortunately, often race is correlated with poverty. The city of Milwaukee has 72 percent of the region’s low-income people. And that means we have a lot of challenges to deal with. It saddens me to hear what you are saying, but I can’t say that I am 100 percent shocked. I have people who say, those are the city’s problems, and my response is, “They are the society’s problems, but they are concentrated in the city.”
DC: What are your plans to reduce the violence among youth in our city, and for bettering the relationship between the MPD and the youth?
TB: In terms of the youth crime, I need the young people to be leaders. The fact of the matter is, you personally have a lot more sway over your group of friends than I ever would in a hundred years. Teenagers listen to other teenagers. And I think the vast majority of teenagers in this city are really, really good. I need the good ones to step up, to help those and talk to those who are being bad. How do you think we can connect better?
DC: I think creating a program that brings the Milwaukee Police Department and our youth together, like an after-school program, to talk to each other and build a better relationship. Most of the time, the youth, they can’t really talk to anyone at home, so if they were able to talk with the actual police, and realize they are not bad people, that might help stop the violence.
TB: We actually have a program where we hire young people to be ambassadors, they are in their early 20s, and part of what we are trying to do is expose young people to the Police Department so we can start having conversations, just like the conversation you and I are having now. If we did this for six months, you would have a better appreciation of who I am and I would have a better appreciation of who you are. In our society and our culture, we don’t see enough of that.
DC: Is there something you would like the youth to know or encouraging words to give to them?
TB: I want the young people in this community to know I believe in them. You are the future of this city, and I need you to succeed. I want you to stay. I want you to help make this a better community.
Melinda Davenport (Morning Anchor, WISN-12) and Jessica Tighe (Morning Anchor, CBS 58)
Topic: Broadcast News
Judging from the top searches on Google, here’s what you want to know abuot Milwaukee anchor Jessica Tighe: No, she’s not married, and regarding her age, she’s “older than 30 and younger than 40.” As for Houston-born anchor Melinda Davenport, she’s engaged, but no, she doesn’t want to reveal his identity. Here, the two discuss work, Milwaukee and friendship. / Moderated by Carole Nicksin
JT: I remember when you got the promotion to the morning anchor spot in 2015. I reached out on Twitter and said, ‘Hey, congrats.’ You wrote back, and then it took off. The first time we went out for lunch, it was like three-and-a-half hours.
MD: Three-and-a-half hours, and a whole bottle of wine. We are both foodies, so we have this bond. We have been like 10 out of 10 in terms of really good food when we have lunch.
JT: Except for that one time.
MD: Let’s just say there was a time where we had an extra special bond because of what we had to go through.
JT: And we both tried to figure out if we were on the air after “the incident,” as we’ll call it.
MD: I think that proves the work ethic we both have. Because we were both on the air the next day and for three miserable days afterwards, and no one would have known. But we knew!
JT: Yep, and another bond is that we keep the same hours. We both get to work around 3 a.m. and finish for the day by noon or 12:30. Wintertime makes it a little easier. You don’t feel like you are missing out as much.
MD: Oh, it feels so good when it is dark at 5 o’clock! The hours are hard, but it’s worth it. Any time we have the opportunity to actually highlight the amazing things that are happening in the city, I jump at the chance. We go live from Summerfest, and I try to make that my own with the team that I work with, because there is nothing like it anywhere in the rest of the nation.
JT: This market for me is different. Just being able to be home in my own community and be able to tell those stories, these are my friends and my family members.
MD: You’re from here, and I got here as quick as I could!
JT: It was tough over the summer when we saw the (Sherman Park) unrest. I did a radio interview with a host in Vegas and we talked about what was happening, but I also said, “Keep in mind that the whole city is not on fire, it’s not something that happens daily. We have issues in Milwaukee, you can’t deny that, but Milwaukee has a lot of good stuff going for it.” I said to the host, “Call me back when you want to know about everything good we have.”
MD: One thing I admire about you is that you really care about this city, I mean truly, truly care. You’re very genuine. I can tell you something, and even though we are competitors, I trust you, so we can have a friendship and a professional relationship and have fun, too.
JT: I think that is a big deal. I trust you, too. We understand we are in a business, but at the same time, we’ve talked about things to the point where I’ve known some things that people have really wanted to know, and I said, “I can’t tell you because Melinda and I are friends.” I think that is a unique relationship that a lot of people don’t have, especially in this business.
Nik Kovac (City of Milwaukee Alderman, District 3) and Rob Henken (President, Public Policy Forum)
Topic: Milwaukee Streetcar
Few debates raised more hackles than the one over the Milwaukee Streetcar, approved in 2015. To switch tracks in the long-running debate, we asked proponent and East Side Ald. Nik Kovac to chat with Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum and a skeptic of the streetcar plan, about the line’s future. / Moderated by Larry Sandler
RH: Rail transit tends to lend itself to being a poster child for those who believe that government overreaches. We’re talking about an investment that not everybody will get the same benefits from. And it’s very expensive.
NK: I agree it’s very expensive. But it’s certainly not anywhere near to the most expensive thing government spends money on. The amount of public money we spend on public roads dwarfs anything we’ve ever even thought about spending on trains. This has become a lightning rod issue for people who listen to talk radio and think the American Constitution gives them a right to traffic-free automobile trips and parking spots right in front of wherever they’re going.
RH: My fundamental concern is that the initial starter line is not going to be able to do enough to demonstrate the benefit a fully built-out 8- to 10-mile streetcar system could bring.
NK: I agree it’s too short. It’s only successful if we plan on expanding it. It’s the right two miles in terms of getting early ridership. But extending it to the Bucks arena would be an outstanding spur of ridership with the expectation that it will get to Bronzeville soon, or to North Avenue, and along the East Side.
RH: I think the appropriate way to view this project is not as a transportation project but as an economic development project. To me, the first definition of success should be whether the economic development objectives come to fruition. We already are seeing some evidence of that.
NK: I agree that in the short term, the best measure of success is the associated economic development. But long-term, this is intended as a transportation system. It will have positive effects on the bus system as well. This is intended to cross the major bus routes and supplement them, not replace them.
RH: The element we have been missing here is a modern, balanced transit system with local, express and rapid services. I can see the [streetcar’s benefits] to our convention industry, tourists and downtown residents. Still, I remain concerned that it’s going to take us so long to get to the point where the streetcar is that game-changer.
NK: The real game-changer is to increase ridership. We’re going to work hard to make it work.
Edward Flynn (Milwaukee Chief of Police) and Heather Terhune (Executive Chef, Journeyman Hotel)
Heather Terhune, a former “Top Chef” contestant, arrived in Milwaukee last summer from Chicago, where she served as executive chef at Sable Kitchen & Bar at Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. When she and Chief Ed Flynn sat down to lunch at Tre Rivali, where she runs the kitchen, the topic was supposed to be the restaurant scene in Milwaukee. Flynn is a bit of a foodie and enjoys eating out at least once a week. But the conversation got a lot more interesting when the pair started comparing notes on being outsiders in a city of insiders. / Moderated by Carole Nicksin
EF: I went to the police academy in New Jersey, initially in Sea Girt, and worked in Jersey City [until 1988]. I got my first chief’s job in Massachusetts, my second chief’s job in Massachusetts, and then I went to Virginia. I found myself working for Mitt Romney [back in Massachusetts] for a few years, and then he decided he wanted to do something else besides be governor; so I needed a job. If you think of yourself being in a profession as opposed to having a job, you end up having to move. It was like, “Okay, now I take the next step,” you know?
HT: Yeah, I have three sisters and a brother, but I am really the only one that lived like a gypsy, moving around. I moved to Vermont to go to culinary school, then I moved to New Orleans to do an externship, then I went back to school for six months to Vermont. And then I lived in D.C. and then I lived in Raleigh, N.C., until I came to Chicago. I think my parents were like, “What is she doing?” But it was all for career advancements. I try to encourage my guys [who work for me], “You’ve gotta do something uncomfortable. You’ve got to break something in order to make it grow. Staying in one spot is not necessarily good, right?”
EF: If you’re born and raised in a place, it’s one thing. You know who your friends and allies are. But when you’re not, everybody in your environment is a potential critic. So guardedness can come across as aloofness. That’s just the way it is. The other part is this notion of arrogance, which I think is a misperception. I’m very confident in what I do because I’ve got a track record. I’ve been doing it for 45 years. I’ve led six agencies. But again when you’re not from a place you’re proving yourself every day. For those who don’t like you, that makes you arrogant, as opposed to confident and adamant, which I am.
HT: It’s funny; we have very different jobs, but we have a lot of similarities in the fact that you’re right, everyone is a critic and everybody judges you every day. Okay, well, they’ve never been a chef. They’ve never worked in a professional restaurant, but they seem to think that they know more about what’s going on in this business than I do. That’s fine. They are entitled to their opinion.
EF: Somebody I know once said, “People want access points to you,” and an access point is some perceived shortcoming you have. It’s happened to me before, and it’s certainly very much true here. I mean, you’re coming in as a hotshot, and I was coming in as a hotshot.
HT: When I arrived, people were like, “Oh, you’re big-time,” and I’m like, “No, I don’t think so. I’m just opening another restaurant. I’ve just had a bit of success.” But I worked very hard to have those successes [Being on a] reality TV show, that’s not something I ever thought I would do. It just happened. And with that, I think we got hit with a Mean Girls reputation, which isn’t true. We just have strong personalities. When you put 16 executive chefs in one room and everyone wants to be in charge, then certainly some voices are going to be heard more so than others because we’re all competitive and you want to win. That experience, it actually was great for me; it was great for my career. The only thing that matters is what you think about yourself and what your family and your friends think. If they were saying those things, you’d probably need to look at it.
EF: If you’re going to be in public life, you have to understand you’re going to spend most of your life being misperceived, misunderstood – either accidentally or on purpose. There’s a whole strata of audience out there that wants to get you into a caricature of yourself, so they can be against you. I have this assigned role in life, you know, “the police chief.”
HT: Yeah, it doesn’t matter if you’re at a grocery store or at the library,
you’re always going to be the police chief.
Robert Lowe (Professor of Education) and Howard Fuller (Director, Institute for the Transformation of Learning)
Topic: School Choice
Howard Fuller and Robert Lowe are good friends, professors of education at Marquette University and longtime admirers of each other’s work. They also disagree sharply on the issue of school choice, an arena in which Fuller, a former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent, became a leading proponent for the school voucher program in Milwaukee. / Moderated by Matt Hrodey
RL: I think you and I would agree that public education and racial inequality have been and continue to be intertwined. The question is, do you work to try to transform [institutions] and make them more egalitarian? Do you exercise voice, or do you exercise exit? My position is voice, and yours has been more exit.
HF: One of the things I’ve concluded is that black people in this country can never afford to put all of their eggs in any one basket. It is critical that we have as many different options as possible because anything that starts out for our benefit can be turned around. So what are all the different levers you can use to fight? For me, parent choice is one of them.
RL: To me, the problem [with exiting] is to what. What kinds of choices are available? Kids who come from affluent backgrounds do have, I think, a different set of choices. Another question is whether the choice program improves MPS or has the opposite consequence. When you’re out of [a school system], it’s very hard to even be sympathetic with it, let alone act in ways that will support it and move it to change.
HF: Let’s talk about all of the policymakers who actually have the power to influence what happens and put their kids in private school.
HF: People say, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve got to do this for public schools.” And you find out their children are in private school, or they moved to certain communities so they could ensure their kids could get a great public school education without having to be in classes with a whole bunch of poor black and brown children.
RL: The hypocrisy is everywhere.
HF: There are people who are hypocritical on my side. There’s enough hypocrisy to go around.
RL: I offered you this formulation some time ago but didn’t pursue it: Who’s running all these charter schools? Isn’t there a tinge of colonialism with all these young white people running these schools?
HF: I’ve gone on record arguing that we cannot continue to have a movement that is allegedly about liberating a people, and those people are not playing a critical part.
RL: I would think so.
HF: When integration came, three things happened: Black schools were closed; black teachers lost their jobs; and black teachers’ opinions were devalued. When education reform came, three things happened: Black schools were closed; black teachers lost their jobs; and black teachers’ opinions were devalued. I’m in [the school choice movement], but I’m making an argument that what you all are doing is very similar to what has been done to us before. We need to create organizations that focus on making sure the interests of black children and the black community are met.
RL: You have a steep hill to climb.
HF: I would have a steep hill to climb if I were over at MPS! On the same issue.
RL: Well, that’s true, too. I would just rather
you were there.
Linda Marcus (Designer, Linda Marcus Design) and Bjorn Nasett (Stylist)
Linda Marcus left behind her TV anchor job to start her own design label, a move that led her back to television as a contestant on “Project Runway.” She’s got high design principles but strongly believes the best style is wearing what you love. In addition to his day jobs, Bjorn Nasett performs in drag under the moniker “BJ Daniels,” and he’s been an all-around fashion observer and vintage collector since the 1980s. Marcus and Nasett, friends through fashion, sat down in Marcus’ Milwaukee Street studio to talk about what we’re doing right (2016’s version of Milwaukee Fashion Week) and how to take more fashion risks. / Moderated by Claire Hanan
LM: People are looking for permission to be themselves. And I don’t know why that is in Milwaukee, but people are very humble. That’s the great part about Milwaukee, but at the same time, when you are talking fashion and expressing your personal style, I think people need permission to do it. And they need to allow themselves to do it.
BN: You are going to find [Milwaukee style] in pockets and neighborhoods. I live in Riverwest, and that is totally rock n’ roll, deconstructed and DIY. You’re going to see that kind of thing. You go to the Third Ward, and that’s totally different. You know, there’s sort of a Tosa thing, it’s the people walking their dogs and the moms in their athleisure wear. It’s always going to be reflective of your environment. There’s no Milwaukee look that’s not valid to the people who are wearing it.
LM: It’s not super obvious to people who come to our city, but if you’ve been here a little bit, you understand the vibe of it. We like comfort, we are humble, and we don’t want to spend a lot. Price point is a huge thing. I do think fashion doesn’t have to be expensive. In some of my designs I’ve used pet netting!
BN: I was very proud of Milwaukee Fashion Week this year. In previous years, organizers tried to do too much. This year they pared it down to the essence of design and did three nights of fashion shows with three independent designers each night. To me, that was genius! It was like, more people need to see this, to see our city and to see the innate talent that’s here that people always tend to try and knock.
LM: [Local designers] are here; I just wish we would have some sort of directory or some way of finding the talent that’s here. My dream is to have a calendar that has fashion and design on it, and at any point you can find out what is going on in Milwaukee. And a directory that lists jewelry designers, shoe designers.
BN: You need to do an app, the Linda app. Something I would recommend to all Milwaukeeans is don’t limit your shopping to one area. One day I decided to go down Mitchell Street, and I’m telling you, I found some cool stuff at unlikely places. There is even a Mitchell Mall thing. I’m telling you, even in there, there was a point of view and a thing. The way Milwaukee works, and how Milwaukee style is, you have to get out of wherever you live and go to other neighborhoods. Use your feet and go and walk and talk to those store owners and artists.
LM: The city is just on the precipice of exploding. I feel like it’s just enough people, it’s bubbling below the surface. There needs to be something, an event that opens that door and has it explode. I feel like it’s just almost there, you know?
Mordecai Lee (Professor of Urban Planning, UW-Milwaukee) and Charles Franklin (Director, Marquette Law School Poll
Longtime political analysts and professors Mordecai Lee – a former member of the state Legislature – and Charles Franklin, the state’s leading pollster, sat down with Milwaukee Magazine after the election to discuss the fallout. Their take: The opportunity has come for Republicans to enact measures they’ve long called for. But does the public really want such sweeping change? And does GOP control of two branches of government really ensure unity between President-elect Donald Trump and Congress? / Moderated by Kay Nolan
CF: I think unified control is going to be really interesting, because lots of promises were made during the campaign, lots of Republicans talking about getting things done. [However,] Donald Trump was pretty unspecific about the details of anything he was going to do.
ML: But he was pretty clear about what areas were priorities.
CF: Now, we’ll see how he moves on immigration, health care and the economy.
ML: What we’ve now got is no-excuses politics. There is no reason for them not to do their agenda. The only caveat is there are some issues that Capitol Hill Republicanism does not see the same way as Donald Trump Republicanism. In particular, it’s “drain the swamp.”
CF: I think it will be very interesting (to see whether) the public is ready to go along with some of these dramatic changes: “Wait a minute, we didn’t mean that.” For example, some sort of privatized Medicare, with a health savings plan or some limited vouchers. Every time that’s been called for in the past, that’s been quite unpopular.
ML: Within two years, we’ll have a pro-life Supreme Court which will overturn Roe v. Wade, and will leave it to the states. Most states nowadays have Republican governors and legislatures. They’re going
to limit abortions to near zero.
CF: There are other things that (are surprisingly) controversial. We had a fight over the Export-Import Bank, and that’s a great example where the big business interests behind the Republican Party are overwhelmingly in favor of it, but the party, in effect, did shut it down for awhile.
ML: Wouldn’t it be funny if, four years from now, the “business party” is the Democrats?
CF: I think that’s exactly the question. You saw, in 2014, for the first time, the national Chamber of Commerce took a side in Alabama in favor of the business conservative as opposed to the Tea Party conservative. The irony is the Democrats are now the free trade party, at least nationally.
ML: A similar manifestation might be infrastructure financing. If you’re a Republican on Capitol Hill, you’ll probably say if you want to increase spending on infrastructure, you have to, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, cut government spending or taxes elsewhere.
CF: It will be interesting to see if the pressure to eliminate departments wholesale, such as Education or Energy, will make real progress in Congress. There are a lot of interests, businesses and individuals that depend on the things those agencies do.
ML: There is a possibility of a kind of Reagan scenario: cut taxes in a way that increases the defi cit (but stimulates the economy), and just don’t talk about the deficit. Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan
used to shrug off deficits.
CF: Whenever it’s convenient, you shrug off the deficit. When you’re out of power, you complain about it.
ML: I think it will be very hard for purist conservatives.
CF: Trump has big agenda items, but very little detail. One possibility is that Trump just enables existing agendas to step in and fill in the subject matter. The other issue is that he’s had prickly relations with members of Congress and leadership. There are policy differences that emerged during the primary when he took positions that Republicans generally hadn’t supported.
ML: I think the moment of truth will be when some appropriation bill, loaded with Christmas ornaments, comes to his desk. It might fund an important department, but it might also have a tax cut for this special interest and spending for this special interest group – and does he veto that? Is that when “draining the swamp” becomes the most important thing?
Adam Carr (Staff, MKE Neighborhood News Service) and John Gurda (Historian and Author)
John Gurda and Adam Carr are Milwaukee experts. Gurda has written 21 books about the city, most recently Milwaukee: A City of Neighborhoods. Carr brought us stories of city neighborhoods on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and now works for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. They both give city tours, and Carr is working on a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Milwaukee’s open housing marches. Their conversation, at Riverwest’s Beerline Café, had elements of mentorship. Which figures: Carr went to high school with Gurda’s younger son. We start with descriptions of how they ended up doing what they do. / Moderated by Tom Tolan
AC: I sort of fell ass-backwards into an internship at 88Nine when I moved back to Milwaukee [in 2008, from a year working on a farm in Greece after college]. I [canvassed in support of Obama] at the same time as I got the internship. So I view those two things as exactly what I’m still doing now. The canvassing work was being invasive and walking around, talking to strangers. I kind of got addicted to the act of …
JG: Accosting strangers?
AC: Yeah! We got to go to places we’d never been before, we’d go to cul-de-sacs, we’d go to Brookfield, go to Tosa, but then the next day we’d be in the shadow of the Domes, or we’d be on the North Side. It sort of blew up my account of the city. 88Nine was the other side, the presentational side. Indulging your curiosity, processing that, and then finding some way to share with the public.
JG: I had kind of a parallel path. I graduated from college, an English major. I wanted to be a poet, but not many of those jobs were available in 1969. I painted houses with a friend, Frank Miller, but then the weather changed. Frank was working at Journey House by then, and I came down as a volunteer. I’d been sort of a head-up-the-ass literatus. Journey House then was working-class white, some Latino. Getting close to those kids was an eye-opener: There are other worlds out there. I still don’t know why I did it, but I drew the historical portion, the narrative of how that neighborhood had developed [when I wrote a report on the community center], and how it had changed to the point where it had problems. This is something I [still find] sustaining and fascinating. There’s still an element of social work in what I do.
AC: I know you’re very committed to biking. That actually made me feel cool, when I found out. “OK, I’m getting that right.”
JG: The first job I ever had for the city was [writing about] a bunch of different neighborhoods, so I put on seven thousand miles inside Milwaukee city limits, and a lot of it was biking. By the time that project was done, I’d been down virtually every street in the city of Milwaukee. The poet Wallace Stevens talks about the pleasures of merely circulating. I feel that a lot, on my bike. You know, just being out there, no real agenda.
AC: There’s very low percentage of people, I think, that have the privilege of crossing a lot of boundaries and participating in a lot of communities. There are places that [we] get an invitation into and other people don’t.
JG: Or that [we] seek out, and other people might not. What we do – what you and I do – is our choice, and we maybe are seeing things more granularly than other folks. It’s not the only way to see the city, but it’s just a really cool way to see the city.
Rev. Jason Butler (Lead Pastor, Transformation City Church) and Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom (Senior Minister, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee)
Jennifer Nordstrom is the first woman to serve as a “settled senior minister” at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, a 175-year-old congregation located just north of Downtown. The Rev. Jason Butler, a native of Virginia, watches over an 8-year-old evangelical Wesleyan congregation on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side. Their wide-ranging conversation started with the state of religion at a time when the percentage of people claiming no religion is the largest it has ever been. / Moderated by Erik Gunn
JN: Religion is how we cope with the reality of being mortal. We’re so divided from one another that people deeply need a space to make meaning with other human beings in a community that gives value and richness and purpose in their lives. I don’t think that’s going to change.
JB: Yeah, I’d agree with that. I’m not an alarmist, feeling that the church is dying. The Christian church has existed for 2,000 years in every culture in the world. It’s been alive through some very difficult moments, and it’s survived. The church is one of the prominent places in our society that says, “Wait a minute, there’s something more. Something bigger, and we need to surrender to that.”
JN: At our congregation we have a similar experience. We have a lot of people who come into the Unitarian Universalist church for the first time saying, “I didn’t know that there was a church like this.” Unitarian Universalism [was] instrumental in participating in the marriage equality movement. Our congregation has a Black Lives Matter banner hanging on its church and is involved in work for racial justice.
JB: I love that. As followers of Jesus, I think we’ve lost our rudder a bit. We live in the most segregated city in America, and it’s crushing communities.
JN: One of the things that we talk about in Unitarian Universalism is how do you create a kingdom of God on the earth, here, today? What does it mean to live with love right now? On your website, I [saw that] your “What Do We Believe?” [document asked,] “How do we create it here on earth today?” Which is unusual for an evangelical congregation.
JB: Maybe it is. To us, the Kingdom is the central teaching of Jesus. How is God’s world breaking into our world and making all things right? We’re followers, and we’re bringing God’s spirit into the world, which brings equality, justice, hope, love and light. To me, it’s lamentable that you read that on an evangelical website and thought, “Oh, that’s unusual!” I tell our church a lot of times that the church doesn’t ask enough of us. [God says,] “You’re going to have to give up your life for this call. You might have to stand in the gap for somebody. You might have to march in the name of justice. But this is going to cost you something.”
JN: I do think the church needs to ask more from us, but I also think the church needs to offer more. It needs to offer the real opportunity for a changed life. Young people are looking for something that will bring out their best selves and call to their spirit and tell them to live fully their whole lives, their best version of their reality. When the church doesn’t do that, it’s not worth their time. And when it does, it’s worth their commitment, because they will jump in.
Bob Maas (Milwaukee-Area Landlord) and Maudwell Kirkendoll (Chief Operating Officer, Community Advocates)
Maudwella Kirkendoll comes at the issue of low-income housing from three different angles: He grew up in the impoverished 53206 ZIP code on the city’s North Side, went into housing advocacy with the Community Advocates nonprofit as an adult and subsequently became a landlord himself, owning several properties in the city. He speaks with another landlord, Bob Maas, who owns several residential properties on the Northwest Side and got into the profession after years spent installing flooring for other area landlords. The pair delve into the thorny issues brought to national attention by Matthew Desmond’s best-selling Evicted, a chronicle of low-income housing in
Milwaukee. / Moderated by Matt Hrodey
MK: My biggest frustration is the fact there’s a lot of need and a lot of landlords that prey on low-income tenants. They’ll go to the sheriff auction and buy 10-15 properties in one day. They get [tenants] in there, collect rent for six or 12 months and don’t fix anything.
BM: The bad landlords give the good landlords a bad stigma.
MK: The city is getting to the point where they’re addressing those specific landlords. I think we’ll see change in the near future. With [embattled local landlord] Will Sherard, I’ve attempted to say, ‘Listen, you can get out of [the city’s] hair, and them out of your hair, by setting up this system in terms of hiring the right people and getting repairs done.’
BM: Does he think he’s doing anything wrong?
MK: No. His story is, “I’m providing for people who cannot rent from anyone else a place to live.”
BM: I think that’s the biggest problem: Tenants, at the time, don’t have an alternative to what they’re doing. They make the mistake of not communicating or not acting fast enough for resources like Community Advocates or UMOS. It costs us a lot in resources and oney to evict people.
MK: If you do it the right way. We have other landlords who don’t do it the right way and change the lock. Or they’ll turn the electric or gas ff or shut the water off.
BM: That’s completely illegal, but tenants are too intimidated to call and complain about it. There are also tenants who are really savvy and now that the electric and gas are about to be cut off, and [they know] there’s a way to get it transferred to someone else’s name.
MK: How much do you feel like you’re doing social work?
BM: I think it’s good to know your resources, where you can send people. If people have an issue with how you run your business, I don’t ell them not to call the city. They can try everything.
MK: A lot of people are one paycheck away from being in the situation that low-income individuals are in. People are paying 70-80 percent of their income toward rent. If you or I were doing that, we wouldn’t be ble to survive.
BM: You might. We would try to find a way to hunker down. But it would be tough.
Greg Deuhs (Master Brewer, Pabst Brewing Company) and James Larson, Tommy Vandervort (Enlightened Brewing)
The recent brewery boom has brought lots of new players to the scene. But it’s hard not to credit the likes of Miller and Pabst for creating a brewing culture. We sat down with two newcomers, Enlightened Brewing’s Tommy Vandervort and James Larson – who expect to brew 400 barrels of beer this year – as well as Greg Deuhs, master brewer at Pabst, which produces about 6 million barrels a year domestically. / Moderated by Tom Tolan, Edited by Dan Murphy
GD: It takes a lot of Pabst to make good craft beer. I find a lot of people on the West Coast, craft brewers, that drink Pabst [while they’re brewing their own beer]. It’s a cool-down beer.
JL: True. I drink Pabst. Every time I take a sip of my own beer, I’m always finding something I want to improve upon or make different. At the end of the day I want to drink somebody else’s beer. And I don’t have much money, because I own a brewery, so I drink what I can get my hands on that’s cheap and also good.
TV: I do wonder what the climate is like in the bigger breweries. It’s obvious that things are being shaken up right now, but I feel like Pabst in particular has done pretty well adjusting. Something’s working, you know?
GD: I’ve been to a lot of large breweries. You can go to a brewery like Coors in Golden, Colo., and they’re a very tight organization. Everyone is happy and gets along. It’s a lot like a craft brewery. And I’ve been to some breweries where people are unhappy. It really depends on the company culture.
TV: It’s an interesting time to be in beer. I feel like one of the only reasons I’m able to be in it is because consumer tastes have changed. People drink local. We were able to start something up, and there’s beer knowledge out there. I imagine that 20 or 30 years ago, it would have been hard to do it.
GD: What we don’t want to have happen is a repeat of the ’60s, where consolidation took all of the little breweries out. Is this the start of the next consolidation? We certainly hope not. If you had a brewery here in Milwaukee that went around and bought up Lakefront, Milwaukee Brewing and Sprecher and made it one facility in Milwaukee – that’s kind of what happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
TV: It’s kind of weird thinking about Pabst and Schlitz and Miller and Blatz. As small brewers, I feel like we’re still living in their shadows a little bit. But also, what’s the expression, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. I feel like Milwaukee was hungry for it. And now there are a lot of options and places that you can drink beer that is made right behind you. That is so cool. I feel like that is somehow ingrained in the culture of Milwaukee. Even for youngsters like me.
Chad Bauman (Managing Director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater) and Reggie Baylor (Owner, Reginald Baylor Studio)
Topic: Art and Diversity
Chad Bauman and Reginald Baylor had never met before we paired them together, which is a bit surprising, considering they’re both leaders in their respective areas of the arts. When they sat down on dusty chairs amid the renovation of a Sherman Park library – the future home of Baylor’s The Next Museum, a reimagining of an art museum – they found they had much to talk about, including how the arts can be used to build bridges between the citizens of Milwaukee. One question remained once the conversation had ended: How come we’ve never talked about this before? / Moderated by Claire Hanan
RB: One of the things that is inspiring to me is how the city is talking about world-class status, and one of the roadblocks is world-class investment. I think Milwaukee could collaborate and really make it a goal. We choose to be competitive nationally with our sports. Can we choose to be competitive nationally with our creative industry?
CB: I brag about Milwaukee all the time. But when I use the term world-class, a lot of folks that have lived here their entire lives recoil against it because there’s a humbleness about the city. I think that in some cases, humbleness holds us back. It is OK to say we want to be world-class. It’s going to require signifi cant investment in terms of leadership and resources, but I think that with the cultural leaders and artists in this city, I’d put us up against anybody in the world.
RB: Anyone, absolutely. Just like there are gyms in schools – bring all the art programs back to schools. Just mimic the sports industry for the creative industry, and you’ll fi nd that we can compete nationally because, like you said, the talent’s here. It’s to the city’s advantage to provide a platform for us now. That’s what a city does for its ommunity.
CB: The elimination of arts education in schools is a complete travesty. I started out as a teacher, so it’s close to me. I am impressed with some f the things Dr. [Darienne] Driver is doing with MPS. The Turnaround Arts initiative has started now in Milwaukee. I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I’m hopeful there’s a return.
RB: Yeah, I’ve been saying it for a while. I think our acceleration is going to be very unique, and I think the country is going to respond. And I believe there’s an urgency to make sure creativity is integrated in the North Side, because of segregation, incarceration and poverty. These problems require creativity. I think that’s where our cultural enaissance is going to happen. I’m super excited. I wouldn’t leave this place for anything.
CB: We have a responsibility as leaders in the city to set us up for what the future decades look like. And to quite frankly repair some of the poor decisions that were made decades ago. My opinion is this country is in serious need of some empathy right now. I think that theater and the arts cultivate that.
RB: This city is something because of its totality. I’m not really interesting in saying, let’s just focus on this [area], because if we make that part cool, then we don’t have to go over [to another part of the city]. No, I want to go to every neighborhood in the city. I love them all.
CB: I really like what you said about The Next Museum, about not requiring everybody to come to you. You’re going to push out into the communities. There are people, let’s just say it, who do not feel welcomed in Downtown Milwaukee for a wide [range of ] reasons. Arts organizations, how they’ve been conceptualized right now is everybody come to our theater, everyone comes to our building. I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to work in the future. ◆