The new university protest at UW-Milwaukee
The June meeting of the UW System Board of Regents is generally held at the UW-Milwaukee campus. It is also the one where the regents decide how much they want to raise tuition for the next school year. As a student at UWM, I thought the confab was held in June because classes were out of session and it was hard to organize a student presence to urge regents not to continue pricing people out of school.
Nonetheless, sometimes there were organized protests. In a rare winter meeting at UWM's Chapman Hall, the quintessential example of an Ivory Tower building was bombarded by students throwing snowballs and attempting to scale the building with ladders. It was great theater, no matter the end result.
The regents' meeting last week at UWM was met with protests, indeed, but not from students. It was the neighbors of the university that came to voice their displeasure with any possible expansion of that bastion of higher education that happens to stand alongside their East Side homes.
Folks from Shorewood even made the trek into the big city to lend their voices to the cause. Featured protesters included newly-elected Ald. Nik Kovac and County Board Supe Gerry Broderick.
Residents organized a picket line to press a message to the regents that UWM should cap its enrollment, not expand into the soon-to-be-vacant Columbia Hospital. They also asked for a crackdown on off-campus rowdy behavior. In essence, they tire of the university as their neighbor. Never mind the Wisconsin Idea or the fact that UWM is the only urban four-year campus in the state.
According to a statement issued by the Mariners Neighborhood Association: "The neighborhoods adjacent to UWM are the only ones in Milwaukee to experience a rise in absentee ownership over the past decade. Properties have deteriorated, neighborhoods declined, and crime increased. Scarce crime fighting resources needed in more dangerous neighborhoods are diverted to control illegal student parties which have turned increasingly violent in recent years."
Showing how in touch the association is with their university neighbors, a press release asking people to come to the protest urged people to meet at the UW-Milwaukee Memorial Union. Unfortunately, UWM's union is called the "UWM Student Union," while the Memorial Union is on the UW-Madison campus. Perhaps they were geographically challenged on that one.
UWM student leaders, however, were nowhere to be found, either to defend students from the attacks of the neighborhood associations or to defend the student body from what was to become a proposed 5.5 percent tuition increase.
Paper roses: It's not General Motors, and maybe that's why another state plant shutdown with larger economic and hardship implications didn't make the big-time headlines last week as did the announcement that GM was shutting down its Janesville plant in 2010, forcing some 800 people out of work.
NewPage Paper Corporation's announcement that it was shutting down its plant next month in Niagra, Wis., will have a much more devastating impact on that small northeastern Wisconsin town and region than anything GM could do to Janesville. Consider that the paper plant's closing will cost the community of 1,980 about 320 jobs and it is easy to see that this is going to hurt.
As of last year the company's plant along the Menominee River employed 520. Consider that NewPage is the largest employer in Niagra, something that GM can't claim in Janesville. The next largest employer in town is Gunville Trucking, which has 105 on the payroll. Following that is a nursing home with 100 employees. So who has the family-supporting jobs in this town? The paper-making guys.
While the pols were lined up to shed crocodile tears in Janesville, they were missing in action for the Niagra debacle. Included on the MIA list were Congressman David Obey, Gov. Jim Doyle, State Sen. Roger Breske and state Reps. Jeffrey Mursau, Dan Meyer and Don Friske.
Ode to the Acapulco: The Acapulco Restaurant on the corner of 6th and National was long known as one of the more interesting after-bar spots on the South Side. Consider it the Mexican food version of Ma Fisher's, where all types and creeds would pop in after bar hours to slide guacamole and beans down the gullet in an attempt to stave off any possible morning sickness.
It was bustling to say the least and was sorely missed by many when it closed last year. But the Acapulco Lounge was the bigger and more interesting draw. And while it closed several years ago, it had one of the larger venues for corner celebration in the area. Mariachi bands were a regular feature and -- washed down with some Negra Modelo or margaritas -- dancing would fill the hall and mirth abounded. It was one of the more interesting rooms that had live music on that end of town.
The Spanish Center purchased the corner earlier this year for $350,000 and had designs on gutting the lounge and the second and third floors, which were unused. But thanks to the rains on Saturday, the top floors collapsed into the lounge and onto National Avenue, demolishing the 19th century building and maybe saving the Spanish Center some reconstruction costs.
Staying the course: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is sticking with the status quo for his second term, changing no key posts in city departments for the foreseeable future. Two recent posts up for approval were for the commissioners of Building Inspection and Department of City Development.
- Marty Collins, head of Building Inspection, received his last confirmation for the job, since he says he's leaving in July and using up his accumulated vacation until sometime in fall. Collins, who spent 27 years with the city after coming from New York, took the opportunity to take a swipe at the city's daily newspaper in his confirmation comments. The Journal Sentinel "dutifully" reported recently that Collins is the second highest paid city employee behind Police Chief Ed Flynn. Collins reminded the Zoning and Neighborhoods Committee that when he was hired at Building Inspection he changed the way notices were sent out. Instead of sending violation notices out certified mail with a receipt to be sent back, he just started sending letters out by regular first class. He said the savings in that move alone paid for his salary throughout his entire career.
"You've had me free for 27 years," he joked.
- Rocky Marcoux, head of DCD, touted that the city has built just more than 1,000 new units of single-family housing under his watch, and defended the use of tax incremental financing districts, which a recent report by a public policy group noted that were sometimes overused at the expense of neighborhoods. Marcoux agreed that more TIFs are needed for neighborhood upgrades. TIFs take property tax dollars from a specific area and invest them in that area, keeping those properties off the general tax roles until a specific investment is paid off. Marcoux and Collins were given unanimous approval.
Not to think negative here, but it seems everyone is thinking that Columbia-St. Mary's is selling that property to UWM when they open the new St. Mary's in a couple years. While this would be a logical move, I haven't heard of any deals on the table.
rj | June 12, 2008 at 9:51 p.m. (report)
The concerns of UWM's neighbors are generally valid (I don't care for the increasing rowdiness and crime, either), but it nonetheless puzzles me that many protest the university's acquisition and development of the Columbia property. That would go a long way to bringing students back onto campus and discouraging the further development of the "rental culture" that has changed the neighborhood over the years. If the neighbors really want to stabilize their neighborhood, they should be behind UWM's efforts to house more students on campus, instead of letting the students disperse throughout the neighborhood. And if the neighbors want UWM to cap its enrollment, perhaps UWM should ask the surrounding community to conform to certain demographic requirements, too. The protests can go both ways. On the other hand, maybe UWM should just take its campus elsewhere. Perhaps there are other neighborhoods that would like the campus and its interest in change and development. And yes, there are universities that have done so. But we all know that UWM will not move. Many of the neighbors hope it will remain as is--a kind of ornament to the upscale look of the neighborhood, with reduced gym fees for locals. But I hope many neighbors see that UWM is primarily an educational institution with a commitment to educating all sorts of students, and with a chance to develop beyond its "post-teacher's college" role into a real engine for positive change for the whole area. With some planning and understanding, I don't see why 53211 can't develop into something like the best parts of Evanston, IL--a more vibrant college zone with prosperous residential districts. I don't think the choices have to be merely "ultra-residential" or "college ghetto."
It's sad that these NIMBY neighbors look to squelch the continued emergence of what could become a economic engine for the region. UWM is in dire need of additional space, on their main campus - namely for student housing. What a great fit for the soon to be vacant Columbia complex. Next door to the existing dorm complex, right in the heart of campus. I don't excuse poor behavior and it should be dealt with. That's an issue around any major university. However the larger issue is the continued growth of an emerging university... one that will be vital to MKE's economic success. I hope UWM's progress isn't derailed by a self-centered vocal minority. What a shame that would be.
As a resident not far from the campus, I am embrassed and sick of my neighbors who protest everything about UWM. The only ones complaining are those w/ half million dollar homes that want everything gated and quiet. Well if you want that, then move to snoozer Whitefish Bay or farther north. Seriously. Shorewood people should not even be involved in the meetings as it has nothing to do w/ them. Finally, what exactly should be done w/ the soon vacant hospital if the college doesn't take it over?? So there has been some crime (aka gun holdups) and the house party thing is getting old and annoying. But hey I think it's all part of the neighborhood and I love it.
This is a fantastic article. When I was VP of the Student Association in 06-07, I remember how hard we tried to work with the neighborhood associations to improve relations between the students and them. The University even created a new position to improve neighborhood relations. This person spent his nights out on the streets keeping students out of trouble and handling disputes, but they really don't care. The University then created the COAST student leader program that the neighbors asked for, and they still don't care. What it really comes down to is that the people who are creating all the ruckus are the same people who came to the meetings when I was VP, they are not the definitive voice of the neighbors, they are just a very vocal group of stubborn people who can only see things their way. I have met many neighbors who love the University and understand what happens when you live so close to a couple thousand twenty-somethings. I wish that the neighbors who are starting these protests and causing all of this commotion would understand that creating dorms in Columbia would be adding student housing that is controlled and monitored unlike the student slums in Madison and the rental units on the streets of the East side. one more thing...I'm not one to stick up for the current administration, but there were some members of the Student Association out there forming a counter protest. Thanks again for the article and bringing light to an extremely frustrating situation.
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