Every Friday, Off The Record looks to other Milwaukee publications for bits of news we missed throughout the week.
• “What is a city for?”
That’s the opening question of a recent Washington Post piece, “The people designing your cities don’t care what you want. They’re planning for hipsters.” The essay, written by urbanist Joel Kotkin, has been making the Milwaukee social media rounds this week, and it’s easy to see why. Buried beneath a click-bait-y headline (“Hipsters.” Heh.) is a thoughtful examination of urban planning, gentrification, inequality, “luxury cities” vs. “opportunity cities,” and why the middle-class dream of owning a home and having a good job is increasingly being ignored and ridiculed. Though Milwaukee doesn’t make an appearance in Kotkin’s piece, there’s still plenty to chew on for 21st century Milwaukeeans. Some pertinent selections:
“A vast majority of people—roughly 8o percent—prefer a single-family home, whether in the city or surrounding communities. And they may not get ‘creative’ gigs at ad agencies or writers collectives, but look instead for decent-paying opportunities in fields such as construction, manufacturing or logistics. Over the past decade, these jobs have been declining rapidly in ‘luxury cities’ like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.”
“Meanwhile, cities like New York and San Francisco continue to reflect the media’s preferred form of urbanism, first articulated by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg that, to survive, a city must be primarily ‘a luxury product,’ a place that focuses on the very wealthy whose surplus can underwrite the rest of the population.”
Milwaukee certainly isn’t the next New York or San Francisco (or Portland!), but it does seem to pride itself in going that direction. Events and organizations aimed solely at well-off young professionals (when did we stop calling them “yuppies”?) receive the lion’s share of attention from city hall and the press, as do programs created by the same well-off young professionals designed to help those unfortunate enough not to have high-paying tech, marketing, or “social architecture” jobs. Attracting (and retaining) young people is certainly important for Milwaukee, but lost in the “It’s Tuesday so we have to publish something about Millennials” noise are actual initiatives and opportunities for middle- and lower-class residents. Kotkin’s final paragraphs sound a warning bell for the impending hipster zombie apocalypse:
“For years, Rustbelt cities have pegged their aspirations on mimicking ‘luxury cities.’ But now local scholars, like Cleveland State’s Richey Piiparinen, believe these areas need to follow the opportunity city model. He points out that lower costs and a more family-friendly appeal is allowing Cleveland to attract more young, educated people to their region than they now send to places like Chicago or New York.”
“To achieve an urbanism that works for most Americans, cities need to develop a very different focus, emphasizing such things as affordability, middle-class jobs and opportunity. No doubt the luxury city model will continue to flourish in places, particularly for the well-heeled, but this paradigm is not applicable to most places, or most people.”
Food for thought. In related news, here are three items about further transforming Milwaukee into a place like Chicago or New York:
• A green bike lane has been installed in Riverwest, with another to follow in Wauwatosa, reports the Journal Sentinel. The story notes that “green bike lanes are now in more than 50 cities across 24 states, including New York, Chicago and Portland, Ore.”
• The city’s new and ever-expanding bike-share program, Bublr Bikes, continues to get rave reviews. The Chicago Tribune even claims that Bublr is a better deal than Chicago’s bike-share program, Divvy.
• In a move that was bound to happen sooner or later, five taxi companies are suing the city in hopes of blocking the recently lifted taxi permit cap, which has also made ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft legal. The Milwaukee Business Journal has more info, though sadly no tips on how to hook up with your Lyft driver.
• Alpine Valley is for sale, reports the Milwaukee Business Journal. The asking price for the East Troy venue is $8.44 million, or approximately 211,000 Dave Matthews tickets.
• Milwaukee Magazine briefly chatted with Testa Rosa’s Betty Blexrud-Strigens about her upcoming Patti Smith project for Alverno Presents, “Smith Uncovered: A Reinterpretation of the Songs of Patti Smith.” The show is scheduled for Saturday, October 18 at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre.
• Speaking of Patti Smith, the Journal Sentinel’s Jim Higgins kicked off a new series where he listens to each of Smith’s albums in chronological order. It follows a similar series from Higgins on Lou Reed.
• After nearly being counted out, the DearMKE video series made a stunning comeback this week with a Sam Macon-directed installment on Mondo Lucha. The homegrown Luche Libre wrestling company returns to Turner Hall Friday, September 5. Look for our feature on Mondo Lucha next week.
• Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield chatted with Trapper Schoepp on WUWM’s @Nite program.
• Holy fucking shit. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Duane Dudek, Mr. Fucking Belvedere starring Bob Fucking Uecker will be added to Milwaukee’s Antenna TV in 2015. Fuck. Yes.
• Thursday, September 4 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first (and only) Milwaukee concert. A 30-minute documentary on the 30-minute concert will debut on PBS Monday, September 1 at 9 p.m. OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo has more.