Monday, June 5 was a very nerve-wracking day for me as County Supervisor of the 12th district. It was 6:54 p.m., and the Mitchell Park Domes input session I had scheduled was starting in six minutes. I paced at the entrance of the Mitchell Park Pavilion, nervously chatting with Evan Furtsch, my legislative assistant. Someone came from over the hill and asked, “Is this where the Domes event is?” Yes, very nice to meet you, my name is Juan Miguel Martinez, your county supervisor. I extended my hand. The man took it and gave it a shake. “There’s a bunch of people in front of the Domes thinking that’s where the event is being held,” he said. My face fell. Evan trotted up the hill to redirect people to the pavilion. Within 10 minutes, people were appearing atop the hill in what seemed like droves, making their way to where I stood.

They filed in, giving me cards for non-profits and community organizations. Some called me “brother” on account of our union affiliations. People signed in, made a name tag, and claimed their free plate of food from Sabor Divino, a Boricua food truck from within the district. Once everyone was in, I introduced Christa Beall Diefenbach from Friends of the Domes, Emma Rudd (who stepped into Jeremy Ebersole’s role) from the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, and Jim Tarantino from Milwaukee County Parks.

Originally, the meeting was meant to be a free-wheeling event where local residents could meet the officials who work with the Domes and Mitchell Park, but the organizer in me made me want to have an order of how things should be expressed:

1. Present and break down to the attendees the resolution written by myself and Supervisors Sheldon Wasserman and Steve Taylor, demanding the Parks department give us all the options for the Domes, including demolition.

2. Assure the public that demolition is as expensive as fixing the Domes, therefore throwing demolition out of the window.

3. Try to match the public’s suggestions to the options, and, when they’re revealed, schedule another meeting where the public can choose their preferred option.

People’s suggestions were voiced. People wanted to make sure crime was reduced and sex workers and homeless individuals no longer roamed the park. One of the residents shot back at these statements, saying there are not enough proper mental health resources to help these people, and that they should not be ostracized. That response drew a mixture of grumbles and applause, and both were valid. I am of that same mind, believing that over-policing is not the way to cure society’s ills. More suggestions came in. A group believed that more frequent community clean-ups would be a way to keep our park actively used.

I jumped at the chance to inform the crowd that community clean-ups would indeed be taking place on the first Saturday of every month at noon, starting July 1. I will use these clean-ups as an update session as well, letting residents know what is happening at the county level with allocating funds, and any other pertinent info.

One of the questions that arose was “Why do other parks get more money than Mitchell Park?” Jim Tarantino responded that parks are rated a certain number within the department, as to what is needed. Mitchell Park happens to be one of the parks that needs the most help from capital improvement projects. It also has some of the most expensive needs, thus making it harder to allocate funds.

“We are going to hold you accountable,” one of the attendees told me. “When the Parks budget comes out, we will ask you why Mitchell isn’t getting funds while Humboldt Park is.”

“Other parks are not our enemy,” I explained. “The Parks department is stretched very thin. It is my duty to find a source of funds from somewhere else to make sure we get what we need.”

The meeting came to a close, with a total of 65 people in attendance. On our way out, I was approached by Drea Rodriguez, a well-known figure in the Latine community. “You know what would be a great benefit for Mitchell?” she said. “A friends group. Think about it.”

This week, I had a meeting with Adam Carr of the Milwaukee Parks Foundation, and Dana Hansen. The purpose was to start the conversation on establishing a Friends of Mitchell Park group. I remembered something Vic Huyke of El Conquistador told me: “We can make Mitchell like Humboldt, with our own south side Chill On The Hill.”

The first step would be getting money to be able to make it happen; with a friends group, it would be a much more simple and streamlined process. The future for Mitchell Park is bright, as long as the public keeps being involved. I am simply their servant.

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Welcome to the summer Domes show, “DinoDomes”

Public input session on Domes set for June 5, aimed at Mitchell Park neighbors

About The Author

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Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.