Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And Don’t Come Back

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.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Xoff's response had its own excellent points, but (a) it's just too difficult to post a reply there, and (b) yours is just as good, as you have the MPD evidence . . . plus the righteous anger that the Freerag piece deserves.

But it well reflects the idiocy of just about every Waukeshan from Whiteflightland I ever have met. They haven't had bad experiences in Milwaukee, they don't know anyone who has had bad experiences in Milwaukee, but they also don't want to hear from any of us who actually live here and have great experiences in Milwaukee. That would upset their worldview -- in that tiny-minded little world they have made out there on the other side of the watershed.

And such attitudes can stay out there, as there is much more than a continental divide that divides us. Can we turn 124th Street into a moat? We'll even supply the water for it, since it's this side of the divide. But beyond it, not a drop for them -- unless it's to wash out Freerag columnists mouths with soap.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't people from Waukesha be frustrated with what they see happening in the inner city.

Just a generation ago, many of the people who are now critical grew up in those very neighborhoods.

And today, they choose to live where there is little gamble in their safety.

And while you lament the criticism, keep in mind that it is the people in Waukesha (and Washington, Ozaukee, Jefferson, and Walworth Counties) that keep that city afloat.

They are the ones that work there. They are the ones who's children live there. They are the ones who pay the income and sales taxes that subsidize the city and its schools.

Would Milwaukee survive without the resources that are shoveled into that town from the suburbanites? Unlikely. How about Milwaukee schools start paying for themselves? How about any other government services?

The suburbs you condescend to are at least self-sufficient. Is your community?

You're Milwaukee-centric, self-righteousness lasts only as long as the income is redistributed.

Anonymous said...

They are NOT the ones who pay for Milwaukee -- they make their money off Milwaukee and then head home.

They certainly are not the ones paying for Milwaukee's school choice program. They elected the legislators who chose to mandate it -- and now refused to fund the mandate, leaving Milwaukeeans not only to pay property taxes for our public schools but also to pay an extra $1,000 in property taxes per "public" student in private schools.

Redistribute some of your income to where you mandate it, fool, if you think that income tax and sales tax pays for schools. And then you can redistribute your self-righteousness where it belongs. It doesn't belong in this city, so don't you come back, either.

Anonymous said...

To anon 1/3:

It was Republican legislators that tried to fix the flaws in Milwaukee school choice funding. However, Pedro Colon slammed the door on it:

Moreover, your assertion that the suburban counties don't pay for Milwaukee's services, e.g., schools, government, is DEAD WRONG. Look at the amount of state aid that flows to Milwaukee for schools and shared revenue: and

The state has two primary sources of revenue: the sales tax and income tax. Therefore, state aid to Milwaukee comes from the suburbs. This isn't rocket science, fool. For every dollar that Milwaukee sends to the state, it receives back $2.85 in aid.

Feel free to contact the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and ask for yourself which counties generate the most sales and income taxes. Milwaukee does generate a considerable amount in sales taxes, but it is largely a function of economic activity from non-Milwaukeeans.

That new upscale store that Xoff notes? Do you really believe that is there for native consumption?

You are right that many suburanites come to Milwaukee to work and then leave. Why do you think that is?

Anonymous said...

You really ought to look in better sources for budget coverage; see -- and also look up how much Waukesha County gets back in state and federal funds, and that doesn't include the windfall for farmers still there (the largest welfare state in the country) from the Republican legislators' recent shift of farmers' property taxes from farmland's real value in terms of potential development. That cost all of us many millions in annual revenue statewide, and most in areas where farmland is ripe for subdivisions.

The rest of your puffery is just that, and I have better things to do. As for why you leave Milwaukee, I don't care. Just do so. All of us here have better things to do than deal with you and ex-editors who still want a stage.

EddyPo said...

Anony (9:30): You are right that many suburanites come to Milwaukee to work and then leave. Why do you think that is?

Just a guess. Maybe it's because of the fear and loathing inspired by the likes of Belling ("Standing up for Milwaukee") and delightfully worded op-ed's by Pete Kennedy. Again, yes Milwaukee has problems. How does saying Milwaukee sucks help anything. Thanks for your opinion Pete.

Anonymous said...

anony (9:30): "many suburanites come to Milwaukee to work and then leave."

Or, as the last week's police reports show us, to get drunk and then leave. Just look at the stats - majority of those arrested at Summerfest are NOT from Milwaukee.

Matt said...

Its sure nice of Waukesha to pay for our public schools- they should maybe look into opening a few schools for their own kids.

And anonymous, once you finish high school maybe you can go to one of those fine Waukesha colleges. When they build one.

Maybe know that you have your big shiny new jail finished-- oh, why did you need that new jail out their in utopia. Don't tell me there's crime in Waukesha. Lucky you, now maybe you can get rid of Pete Kennedy too.

Its easy to stereotype Milwaukee from the front seat of your SUV, as you drive on those big wide freeways in the middle of nowhere to shop at one of then thar fancy shopping centers. (Its not just a Target, its a Super Target!) Its a lot harder to stereotype Waukesha, since so few have ever bothered to go there.

But lets try:

many [Waukeshans] come to Milwaukee to work and then leave... why do you think that is?

1. Because the farmer's markets are closed at night.

2. Because they have to bale the hay.

3. Because they have to feed their butlers.

4. Because Mark Chmurra is looking at their daughters.

5. Because Bill O'Reilly starts at 7.

I got a million of them.

Anonymous said...

See, the thing is that no Milwaukeean ever would write anything like this:

Waukesha County can’t be defended any longer
Critics from Milwaukee proven correct

Waukesha County sucks.

Many of you Milwaukeeans have known this for years. You told me time and time again, but I wouldn’t listen. What can I say? I’m a slow learner.

I always liked Waukesha County for its rich history of progressive reform a century and a half ago, and I rolled my eyes when people from Milwaukee talked about their fear of the bland and boring county to the west -- mostly because they’ve been doing so since I went to see its largest city’s so-called downtown and couldn’t get through it or around it or escape it.

That Waukesha downtown is gone – well, sort of; the gazebo in the middle of the main intersection is gone, but the street grid imposed on old Indian trails around that freeky river loop still don’t make a lot of sense. But the talk about Waukesha County never really subsided, even though there was so little to talk about there. People in Milwaukee have forever felt Waukesha County was ground zero of the apocalyptic end that awaits us all, but some just reach brain death sooner by living there. The change, for me, is that now I believe them.

It’s a radical departure. In fact, I missed Waukesha when I didn’t live in southeastern Wisconsin. Waukesha has a down-to-earth feel that typically can’t be found elsewhere (or at least that street plan has never been emulated elsewhere, and we can be grateful for that).

Other places have nice Italian restaurants in neighborhoods, not shacks on Main Street without anyplace to sit down or even bathrooms required by law. At one point I lived in the city with no trendy entertainment area, just the restaurant called Jimmy’s Grotto, known as “Guido’s Slime Pit.” During a visit to Milwaukee, I asked a buddy what was in the warehouse buildings in Milwaukee. "Amazing artists’ lofts and restaurants below street level -- they don't flood here, like the basements in Waukesha by those fly-by-night builders -- and other spaces that haven’t been discovered yet,” he said then. “So move fast before the word gets out to Waukesha, and all those people on the way to Summerfest realize how trendy it already is and how hot it’s going to be. Of course, they’re so drunk that they probably won’t realize it – or be able to see it, since they treat the area like a toilet and pee in the Third Ward streets.” Frankly, I preferred peeing in Waukesha County, where parts of it smell like manure, so nobody will notice if humans join the cows by just dumping anywhere.

Sure, there was crime in Waukesha County. But you could say that about any place that was gaining population rapidly but giving all those people nothing to do. And by most standards, Waukesha County was safe.

Then there would be an alarming yet seemingly isolated incident, like the crazy guy who shot up the “church” in a hotel in Brookfield and killed eight people in minutes, more than die in Milwaukee any day. (You didn’t already forget about that incident, did you? Waukesha County did.)

Then another isolated incident, like last year’s, when a resourceful young "kid" in Kettle Moraine used an axe as a weapon on his mother.

How about the gang rape of the environment? It’s increasingly overlooked because something else comes along and gets our attention. Of course, that includes this year’s debacle about Waukesha water, when the mob there again pulled a fast one to get around international agreements to preserve the Great Lakes for at least another generation, unlike Waukesha County, which already has had the heaven beat out of it and bulldozed over.

What a mess.

It amazes me that mobs of officials are so often involved, and that few arrests are ever made. But I suppose the cops are too busy forming their own mob and beating up all those illegal immigrants in Waukesha to make an arrest of an official. (It’s pretty amazing how the Waukesha County cops criticize the public for not coming forward to disclose illegal immigrants but for the most part keep silent when it’s their turn to be witnesses, since they eat at the Mexican restaurants there. Hmmmm.)

The picture really gets ugly when you consider the horrendous crimes that aren’t mob-related -- including private developers of places like Pabst Farms who made the fatal mistake anywhere else of planning a mall without a freeway exit in the middle of nowhere. So they figure they’ll stiff taxpayers – no doubt of Milwaukee, too – with the $20 million cost. And then there are the incidents of residents -- wearing guns and schooled in the art of self-defense, weapons and conflict from years of soccer games -- who gunned down some local punks knocking down mailboxes just for something do in Waukesha County, other than drugs. Or maybe also drugs. Hmmmmm.

How about the innocent bystanders who get carcinogenic levels of radium from their faucets every day, even every hour or so – the ones who can’t afford the cases of bottled designer water that fill shelves and entire aisles in stores there?

It appears that no one is in charge in that county, and it’s not the headline-grabbing crime that Milwaukee gets, but it’s crime all the same, and it proves this point. How many people visit Waukesha to take in a game or have dinner -- well, okay, no one does. But if they did, they would only have their ubiquitous SUVs get low on gas, guzzling it as those monsters do, and they get stuck with freeway-priced fill-ups. How many people work in Waukesha County and suffer the same fate? Oh, that’s right, it’s supposed to be hard for Milwaukeeans to get work in Waukesha County, since it refuses to put in real mass transit but just wants to keep taking millions in federal funding that was supposed to go to cities with mass transit, like Milwaukee.

Sure, it’s little stuff, at least when you have the income levels of a lot of Waukesha County. But it’s also personal experience -- which changes habits. So Milwaukeeans can take mass transit or walk to work, school, and the store, so they don’t even have to worry about anyone breaking into their cars.

Waukesha County didn’t join in the warning this week to the public not to leave anything of value at park-and-rides out there when heading into Summerfest. It’s good advice, but sad that they had to hear it from Milwaukee County, which just wants them to have a good time in a great city and not have to end their night with cars broken into in Waukesha County. (Speaking of those endless acres of park-and-ride lots, how long until something goes really wrong there, without what urban planners call “eyes on the street” that keep so many of our city neighborhoods safe?)

There is debate about who is to blame -- the politicians, the cops, broken homes, including the homes of the politicans with the cop mentality, a lack of leadership in the white community of Waukesha County – which, of course, is 99 per cent of Waukesha County. I realize it’s a tough situation, and I don’t have any answers myself - short of staying out of Waukesha whenever possible. How about all those "leaders" give us a call when they figure it out? Maybe we’ll stop by for dinner then -- if they don’t put a gazebo in the middle of the downtown of their largest city again. But it still beat the ambience of dining in a strip mall.

It’s not just the boredom, either. The county can’t get through a water balloon fight without wanting to take Lake Michigan but not give it back. Let’s go to the backyard swimming pool! Who needs a beach? There are all of "those people" there, so we'd rather consume chlorine. Then again, if Waukesha gets its way and water levels drop, there will be even more beach on Milwaukee’s lakefront. And that will make more room for an even bigger Summerfest for even more Waukesha County residents to come here to get drunk and drive up our crime rates, before they head west on the freeway to nowhere to their vandalized cars in park-and-rides.

So I won’t argue with those of you from Milwaukee who say Waukesha is a rotten excuse for a city. You win. What can I say, that there are good restaurants as long as you don’t mind being in a soulless strip mall, surrounded by acres of blond people, more than there are cars in a park-and-ride lot? But it’s more likely there than most other places in the United States.

OK, than any other place in the United States. After all, Waukesha was the fourth-reddest county in the country in recent elections, so it's responsible for even more messes in the country and the world.

Defending the county just doesn’t work anymore. It makes me sound like the guy who says the war in Iraq is going well. Especially when he’s one of those guys with a three-car garage for his three SUVs, each with a yellow “Support the Troops” magnet.

In the case of Iraq, you can judge the "progress" by counting the bodies. Unfortunately, you can apply the same method to Waukesha. If you did, you would learn that as of Wednesday, probably 46 people died in Iraq this year for the cause of filling gas tanks in SUVs alone in Waukesha County. Or this week, more black people were subjected to profiling and racist remarks, including by Waukesha County cops. And that doesn’t count the church shooting, the axe murder, the hot-tub rape, the car break-ins or the cancerous radium water.

All right, all right, stop it -- I’m convinced. As much as it hurts, I can’t deny the truth anymore.

Waukesha County sucks.

Anonymous said...

I would be what Plaisted would be considered a "wing nut" however I agree with him in his assessment about Milwaukee. I live downtown and work in Waukesha. The reason why suburbanites and ex-urbites think Milwaukee is the 2nd coming of Fallujah is because our wonderful ratings-driven media only leads (and emphasizes) everything BAD and BLOODY about Milwaukee. What's the top news story every night? A murder or shooting. How is that news? If it happens every day in the same place, then why is it NEWS? News would be if a murder happened in downtown Shorewood.

As long as local media is fixated on bloody headlines about Milwaukee, then we will have fear-filled surburban residents who will think that they will be immediately shot on site when setting foot out of their car anywhere in the city of Milwaukee.

And by the way, Mark Belling lives in downtown Milwaukee and rarely, if ever, slams the city in the same regard as the Freeman writer.

EddyPo said...

Fair enough. I still think Belling is a turd.

Mr. R. Gyle Socks said...

allow me an intellectual response comparable to Kennedy's piece:

"Waukesha sucks and you look like Ralph Reed with a bad dye job."

Jeff said...

I live in Waukesha and I love Milwaukee. Is there somthing wrong with that? I am so sick of this suburbs vs Milwaukee bs. Look, there are good things about living in Waukesha and good things about living in Milwaukee and there are bad things about both Cities as well. What good does it do to volley insults back and forth and paint residents of each community with one brush? To make people feel superior to each other? I find is deplorable that someone like Pete Kennedy would paint Milwaukee as a City full of murderous thugs and I also find it deplorable that Milwaukeeans assume that everyone in Waukesha is a gun-toting, republican voting jerk with 3 SUVs...the last time I checked Waukesha had elected a left-leaning Democrat as our mayor.

Anyhow, I posted a rebuttal to this escalation of the Milwaukee vs Waukesha war of words on my blog

Anonymous said...

arimor1 said...

wow the comments are funny waukesha cannot remotley be compared to milwaukee,

1.its like comparing chicago to milwaukee

2.its way smaller than milwaukee and has not a damn thing in it.

3.i never seen a city before that looks like a hick town

lastly how in the hell is waukesha a suburb? its itsiwn city in its own county, its like people saying that madison, racine, and kenosha are suburbds because they are smaller than milwaukee

kenosha, racine is smaller than milwaukee with its own suburbs like milwaukee. but at least those 2 cities look like cities wheras waukesha looks like a hick town with a highway in the middle of it.

like i said the city of waukesha is not a suburb, its a city of its own within its county lines with absolutely nothing in it.

the city of milwaukee is the best city in this state but is years behind medium sized city like minneapolis, boston,baltimore, cleveland, new jersey esp with transit issues almost every medium sized city has other transit optoins than busses and all milwaukee can do is come up with is a rail bus? lol those things are slow. elevated trains like they have inboston or baltimore is the way to go milwaukee is big enough for them

city of racine>>>> waukesha
city of kenosha>>> waukesha
city of milwaukee>>>waukesha
city of madison>>>> waukesha
city of appleton>>> waukesha

the desert=waukesha