The Waukesha Freeman has published an outrageous attack on Milwaukee in the form of an opinion column by a former editor. Has it really gotten this bad that people in the suburbs think they can just throw bombs at the City and still expect to benefit from all the good things the City does and can bring to them?
Pete Kennedy is the apparently otherwise undistinguished former editor. Given the (lack of) quality in Kennedy's work -- at least in this example -- maybe it’s not that big a deal to be an editor at the Freeman. After all, how hard can it be to edit literary heavyweights like Mark Belling and Jessica McBride?
Anyway, Kennedy of Waukesha has decided that "Milwaukee sucks". You can tell he thinks it – the clever phrase both opens and closes his column. Proclaiming himself a former defender of the city, a battery of exaggerated bad news having nothing to do with him has led him to this dire conclusion. Let us bow our heads in reverence as the suburbanite casts his final judgment. My god, how could we have gone this far astray?
In doing so, Kennedy joins the ranks of Sykes, McBride and other adult suburban brats with a media forum to bash the City. I wonder – is this going on amidst a significant portion of the (relatively) young adult suburban population that don't have a column, a blog or a radio show? Have they really gone south on the city that some of them grew up in and most of them come into every week to drink, eat, recreate and shop, if not work? Are they really going to hole up in their subdivisions and shut out the rest of the world?
I hope not. I hope these sentiments are limited to the small-minded media dim-bulbs like Kennedy, Sykes, etc. They must know that, without Milwaukee, Waukesha is Wausau. Without Milwaukee, they’d have to go a long way to get any big-city culture – theater, music, restaurants. Hey, when is Waukesha Night at the Brewers this year? Can we expect anyone to come? Anyone at all? Does Kennedy have his playoff tickets lined up? Should we let him?
You would think, given this drastic verdict, that something horrible has happened to Pete Kennedy in the City. But, no. A family member or friend, perhaps, put in mortal danger while waiting at a stoplight? No. Hell, there must have at least have been an uncomfortable moment in the company of black teenagers on the second floor at Mayfair. No, again.
Instead, Kennedy says he has been persuaded by things he knows nothing about, but about which he has read and heard a lot. From what he has heard about various well-reported and over-hyped incidents in the City, he extrapolates like crazy. "How many people visit Milwaukee to take in a game or have dinner, only to have their cars broken into?" he asks, I’m guessing rhetorically, although it’s hard to tell. "How many people work in Milwaukee and suffer the same fate?".
Those answers are not hard to come by, if he really wants to know. A couple of clicks on the Milwaukee Police web page gets you to a fairly comprehensive crime data compilation, the last available from 2004. Let’s see: in 2004, motor vehicle thefts were down from the year before – all property crimes down an impressive 15.2%. I am in the criminal courts everyday and I haven’t seen any sort of increase in vehicle theft cases – what is he talking about? Like all wing-nuts, Kennedy believes what he wants to believe, facts be damned. He says right-wing media hound Sheriff David Clarke has advised people "not to leave anything of value at park and rides heading into Summerfest". Good advice, anyway, but at the park-and-rides? Is the problem in Milwaukee or Goerke’s Corner in Kennedy’s own Waukesha County?
Kennedy is outraged, apparently, by 46 murders in the City this year so far, about on a pace for 2004's 88 and certainly less than 122 a decade ago. "And that doesn’t count the mob beating, or the gang rape, or the break-ins or the sewage," he exclaims. Well, no. Let’s see – one mob beating, one gang rape...hardly seems like a trend to me. Problems, yes. But Milwaukee as "ground zero of the apocalypse"? "A rotten excuse for a city"? Is he more likely to be the victim of a "mob beating" "than any other place in the United States"? This is crazy talk.
Kennedy says he’s done with Milwaukee, and that’s fine. Although we appreciate the diversity that a vibrant city brings, we can probably do without another smug suburbanite in an alligator shirt talking loudly at LaFuente about how miserable we are.
But, for all his righteous lecturing to the city he knows nothing about, Kennedy and his fellow Waukesha County residents will be back. It’s a long way to get around Milwaukee to get to that beautiful Lake Michigan water. And that smug white enclave in Waukesha does need the water. And, whether they know it or not, they also need the vibrant, imperfect city that lies just to the east.
UPDATE: I was so incensed by this ridiculous column, I missed Xoff's more expert and economically-based response.