If there was a dominant storyline for Milwaukee in 2015, it was this: Milwaukee is changing. From the streetcar system to the Bucks arena, from Downtown development to condos, condos, condos luxury apartments, luxury apartments, luxury apartments, Milwaukee saw more action—and more seeds of future action—in 2015 than in any year in recent memory. For better or worse, the do-nothing Milwaukee of yesteryear has given way to the do-everything-at-once version of the 21st century.
But what of 2016? What does Milwaukee still need to accomplish in the new year? We reached out to eight prominent Milwaukeeans to find out.
Angela Damiani — president, NEWaukee
Connectivity is the word for 2016. Milwaukee is disconnected on many accords and my hope is that this is the year our community invests new connections between: the generations within our workforce, the neighborhoods that face vast disparities in opportunity and development, the public transit system (in a very literal sense), and the way in which we trust one another as we build a brighter and better city for all.
Kavon Jones — poet, Kj Prodigy
Cream City is an amazing metropolis of unique dining, bizarre eats, exotic drinks, and openminded individuals. The musicians and artists I have collaborated with of audio and visual forms are seriously BRILLIANT. I was born in Milwaukee’s Harambee purlieu on Richards Street and attended MPS throughout. Martin Luther King Jr. K8 School and Riverside University High School were my stomping grounds. I watched through the years artsy components dwindle to sad numbers because there was no money. I will be honest, there are tons of arts organizations for kiddos to go to after school, but small amounts in school or during classes. Arts @ Large, ArtWorks for Milwaukee, and Still Waters Collective are examples, but then again how many teenagers even know about these organizations?
What I am trying to get at is Milwaukee needs to practice arts integration, particularly with MPS. We need to have more booze-less, all-ages music events so underage folks will be allowed in and not be carded. The jittery, hormonal young adults are hungry to express themselves, and arts integration will help. This accomplishment will help young artists establish their future vision, and open their minds to other art media besides the ones they are usually jaded by.
Nik Kovac — alderman, 3rd District
There is a residential building boom happening on Milwaukee’s East Side, Downtown, and on the near South Side. Downtown there is also an office building boom. This is good news, but in 2016 we must use that construction investment near our lakeshore as a springboard to accomplish even more. Here’s a list of three outcomes we should root for this year:
1. Local shopping. All these people that are now living and working near the center of our region need to get off the internet, stay away from suburban malls, and vigorously support the local retailers on our blocks.
2. Expand the boom. It needs to go beyond apartments, offices, and shops to include new industrial buildings full of family-supporting jobs. This has already happened in the Menominee River Valley, and it now needs to happen again in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, which stretches north from the Miller and Harley production facilities all the way past Capitol Drive. The city is making the same kinds of infrastructure investments along 30th Street as we did in the Valley two decades ago, and private investment from industrial tenants should now happen on the North Side.
3. Local employment. These new jobs can’t be just for commuters. The neighborhoods on either side of 30th Street weren’t just the hardest hit by the 2008 foreclosure crisis—they have been in a crisis of low employment ever since industry started leaving more than three decades ago. The city is investing in skills training for those residents, and is working with our partners in industry to make sure the skills trained for today will match the jobs of tomorrow.
If we get those three accomplishments done, then most everything else will follow. We will stop talking about the crisis of violence and the crisis of education and the foreclosure crisis, because neighborhoods with great housing, convenient shops, and employed households are stable, hopeful, and civil. The parents work, the children learn, and violence doesn’t happen.
Tarik Moody — DJ, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee
I would like Milwaukee to realize that there are other neighborhoods besides Bay View and Walker’s Point for development (businesses, restaurants, etc.). It would be great see more development in neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Harambee, etc.
Ted Perry — anchor/reporter, FOX6
This is vague, but Milwaukee needs to tackle a national problem like no one has before. It could be water related or protest-related, but we need to handle a situation that has the rest of the country saying, “You know…in Milwaukee, they tried this…”
Johanna Rose — musician, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Airo Kwil, New Boyz Club
In 2016 I think Milwaukee needs to recognize. Recognize ourselves: The people we work with, stand in lines at the grocery store with, pass on the sidewalk, share stages with, play music with, go to school with, attend concerts, football games, basketball games with, and those we love and those we despise. We need to recognize ourselves in each other because we are not seeing one another as people but instead as object, product, status, and subject. I’m talking about the difference between accessing power and challenging power. I’m not expressing a desire to see the systematically oppressed brought into the already established circles made and formed on the idea that people have worth based on sex, race, appearance, or whatever socio-indicator one uses to pass judgement on another human being. What I want to see is new circles drawn on the basis that our worth is visible in the mist our breath creates in the cold winter air, because what one or many of us carry and suffer, we all carry and suffer, and it’s up to you and us and everyone in between to recognize that.
And THIS, if anything, is essential: We are capable, Milwaukee is capable of this. I see our strength at vigils, our capacity to listen at packed-out venues, our collected courage at Dontre Hamilton marches in Downtown Milwaukee, and our compassion in the shovels we use to dig our neighbors’ cars out of the snow. By the fire of a scorching wind we have it in us to create a community and a city where all can flourish, all can accomplish, because all are recognized. It starts with love. I love you, I’m here, I see you, do you see me? Do you see you?
WebsterX — musician, WebsterX, New Age Narcissism
Milwaukee needs to accomplish a better understanding of the segregation amongst the demographic at hand. A firm grip on this issue can be a segway to the understanding and solving of the violence in Milwaukee as well (predominately North Side). I want to see numbers go down and I want to see progression towards more integrated neighborhoods.
Aside from demographic issues, I want to see a bigger rise in the Milwaukee music scene’s efforts as far as reach beyond the local horizon. I genuinely want folks of all genres to keep catching W’s and raising the bar. We did an amazing job this year (arguably one of the best years in Milwaukee music, especially hip-hop in a while). However, there’s ALWAYS room for improvement and more goals to set and accomplish.
To be honest, I want to see a lot from Milwaukee in 2016. The city as a whole has been progressing well, but as we progress we can’t just act like everything is okay. I want to see everything improve. I also want my audience and reach to be bigger so I can literally have more power to do more here. I’m gonna be traveling a fair amount in 2016, so I’m also going to be observing how other communities match up against ours in different states. From what I have seen, Milwaukee is doing pretty all right for itself. Ain’t nothing like that Midwest charm.
Beth Weirick — CEO, Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District
1. Continue to parley our work off of the successes that 2015 has brought. With multi millions of dollars in public and private investment, Milwaukee believers are putting their money where their mouth is. Let’s leverage this investment even further and tell the story of the great “Milwaukee Return.”
2. Remove political divisiveness. Our economic future depends upon our strength as a region. We will continue to lose ground in competing for talent, investment, and progress until we can find leadership to elevate our regional voice. Water, jobs, transportation, education, arts, and cultural institutions. We are all interconnected and so is our success or failure. With reasonable dialog we can find consensus.
3. Move now and let’s not rest on our laurels. With the streetcar investment underway let’s figure out how we successfully integrate existing public transit into the future streetcar system. Let’s develop a regional plan that addresses connectivity and accessibility with thoughtful planning aligning buses, streetcar, bicyclists, pedestrians, and hoverboard users.