Bold ideas for Milwaukee

One compelling study on segregation is the March 2011 report from Logan and Stults, The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census. In addition to the earlier revelation that the Milwaukee area ties the Detroit area in segregation, the chart on page 8, Table 2. Black-White Isolation in 50 Metro Areas with Largest Black Populations in 2010 shows Milwaukee is 5th in isolation.

The average black person in the Milwaukee metro area lives in a tract that is 65.5% black. Four decades of numbers: 2010 65.5 ; 2000 – 67.2; 1990 – 69.1; 1980 – 69.4. That isolation is lessening some, but not a great deal in the Milwaukee area. Keep in mind these numbers are averages. There are indeed some neighborhoods that exceed that percentage.

What I couldn’t find was a correlating measurement for whites. Whites are 72% of the American population. A predominantly white neighborhood is to be expected. What is out of the norm is a predominantly black one. If we were to achieve perfect integration, no more than 13% of neighborhood’s residents would be black.

One thing appears obvious: blacks want to live in neighborhoods with other blacks. That’s the way humans work. I want to be around people like me. I’d be miserable in Shorewood, which is very liberal. Brookfield suits me just fine. All of the legislation to demand integration of race or political preferences or personality types has failed. America remains segregated. To some extent we are obligated to recognize that some households choose to live in more homogeneous environments.

According to the 2010 census, about 13% of the U.S. population is black. About 40% of Milwaukee is black. The state shows 6.3% as black. Clearly the blacks living in Wisconsin are predominantly living in Milwaukee. And while Wisconsin is less populated with blacks at the rate of half of the U.S. average, Milwaukee is more than three times that average. If you are black and live in Wisconsin, chances are you live in Milwaukee.

What do blacks want?

I can only assume blacks want the same things in a neighborhood as whites do. To live around people who share their goals – we saw that above with the isolation number. To live in a safe environment. To live in an affordable location. To have reasonable access to a variety of stores and businesses necessary to get through a week. To have good schools. To have safe community gathering places like parks and churches. To have access to health care providers when needed. To have a job.

I was all set to do a comparison of neighborhoods by crime, but realized it would be unfair to make assumptions without actually visiting the neighborhoods. That will have to wait until April or so.

What I can assume based on some classes on urban environments is that it is likely that crime is higher in more densely populated areas. That the neighborhoods could use more in the way of green space. A quick glance at the map did indicate parks were few and far between.

If Milwaukee wants to reduce crime, developing pocket parks as a grander urban plan might be something to consider.

Foreclosures, empty homes, and blight might be a problem as well. Here’s a map from Zillow of one areas I was exploring showing the foreclosures.


One Democrat in Madison introduced legislation on foreclosures. Of course not every fix is a good fix. The Ezekiel Project appears to have a few good ideas.

Milwaukee needs to do more to encourage stable developers and landlords.

Home ownership is a grand idea, but few can afford it. Better to cooperate with proven landlords than end up with blighted neighborhoods.

Milwaukee needs to change the laws to streamline the response to blight.

Cities across America are razing the homes that are blighted in order to stabilize neighborhoods. Milwaukee’s done that in the past (my memory says they did it with the Jeffrey Dahlmer house), and may need to consider more of it. It would provide space for the occasional park, or even allow community gardens. One of State Rep. Evan Goyke’s (D-Milwaukee) foreclosure bills asks a lender to post a demolition bond the city can pull if the property becomes a problem.

It might sound counter intuitive to raze a home in order to save a neighborhood, but it is working in Detroit.

Teach the population how to handle weapons.

Fine. So I’m going all Cindy on you, but hear me out. A lot of the guns in the area are not legal. I’d venture an easy bet that most of them are handled by young men. Teach their mommas to handle a gun confidently. That way when one ends up in their home, they have no problem handling it to get it out. Gun culture is a mystery to a large part of America. The respect for weapons brings the safe use of weapons. Ignorance of a firearm just promotes fear.

Finally, consider a state of emergency in the worst crime areas to invoke curfews.

That last one made me cringe writing it. The concept is the antithesis to what every freedom-loving American holds dear. But if it is impossible to police an area because of the crime in that area, shut down a bit of the mobility, and let the officers do their jobs. Make congregating in groups of more than three or so a reason for an officer to intervene. If one is out past curfew, make it known that person will be stopped. Issue permits to manage work schedules. It’s a drastic idea, but it would likely be very effective in reducing crime. And, if the city is going to keep throwing money at crime, wouldn’t taxpayers prefer an effective effort? Would funding increased patrol be more effective than granting individuals more income?

The last component we will discuss is income inequality. That’s going to have to be another day, but yes, I have an opinion there, too.