How a streetcar can affect Milwaukee

After more than a decade of deliberation, Milwaukee has latched onto the transnational trend of implementing streetcars as catalysts for economic growth.

The Milwaukee Common Council on February 10th approved the 2.5-mile streetcar project connecting downtown Milwaukee and the lower east side in a 9-6 vote, claiming that the streetcar will drive economic growth. With the recent developments, an anti-streetcar movement began to gain traction throughout January. Opponents of the streetcar believe that the money could be better spent on improving the current public bus system and repairing intercity roads.

Here are the facts. Funding of the streetcar will be 80 percent federal and 20 percent local. Much of the federal support is legally tied to funding a streetcar, and a streetcar only. The local funds will be gathered by increasing the taxes on the downtown areas that will benefit from the streetcar. Technically no money will be lost or gained for any current public projects. The streetcar is designed to supplement buses in niche parts of the city. The building of the streetcar will occur concurrently with the developments in high traffic highways and the improvement of bus quality through federal grants.

The streetcar trend was made possible in part by grants from the federal government U.S. that have been available since 2009. Since then, more than 18 streetcar projects across the nation have received grants, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

Cities comparable to Milwaukee, like Portland and Seattle, have seen growth in their employment rates alongside already established forms of public transit like buses and subways. Milwaukee is one of the more densely populated cities in the U.S. and of the few without an alternative public transportation system.

But even without a transportation revamp, Milwaukee has regained economic footing as the national U.S. economy stabilized. It is worth debating whether or not Milwaukee needs a streetcar to develop.

There are two ways to look at streetcars.They can be seen as simply as an alternative public transit that takes commuters from point A to point B. Then there is also a more cultural view with the purpose of a streetcar reshaping the norms and habits in a specific area by building it alongside concurrent development projects. This approach takes the streetcar as more of a public contract for future development in a specific area. It’s important to clarify that the two views of streetcars are not mutually exclusive of one another.

Mainstream media often played up the role of streetcars attracting and transmitting millennials into developing cities. Even the official website of the new Milwaukee Streetcar embraces the belief that the streetcar will “attract and retain young talent needed to grow Milwaukee’s economy, support the creative class and fuel a culture of entrepreneurship.” Having a streetcar in a buzzing economic location is a logical decision. Scott Drewianka, associate professor of demographic economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, agrees.

“My guess is that streetcars would be more popular and effective when they cover a route that many people want to travel, run frequently, and are safe and inexpensive, and also when other means of transport are less convenient, for example when traffic is congested or it is hard to park,” he wrote in an e-mail.

However, according to the 2010 census data, the age demographics between Milwaukee and Portland are similar with or without streetcars.

In 2012 the CATO Institute, a libertarian think-tank, released a research report criticizing the role of streetcars stimulating the economy. The real problem that comes with developing around a streetcar is that as the areas around the streetcar develop, neighboring areas without the economic stimulus will be out-competed. If transportation is an issue in a developing city, the report suggests reinvigorating areas of the city with low employment by expanding the bus systems rather than investing in a new transit system in an already economically booming location.

Portland, often cited as the original success story of streetcars, saw economic gains through government development subsidies worth more than the actual investment of the streetcar itself. It is clear that a streetcar, as a means of transit alone, will not bring about economic development.

Jeff Brown, department chair and associate professor at the department of urban and regional planning at Florida State University, led a case study of five cities with streetcars in the U.S. The conclusion was it depends.

The report showed Portland as the golden star of streetcar cities. But, Portland’s experience came out of a unique combination of local populations, employment patterns, land development policy decisions and public investments that may not be applicable elsewhere.

One crucial factor in Portland’s success was the fact that it had a high-speed rail already connecting the neighboring suburbs into the downtown city area. If Portland is the standard, then Milwaukee is doing this backward.

There is a reason to this in Milwaukee. In a public forum about the streetcar issue in January, Mayor Tom Barrett said the U.S. Department of Transportation is reluctant to offer further aid in Milwaukee because of the Wisconsin’s rejection of the intended $800 million grant of the 2010 high-speed rail between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago.

More than anything else, it is the prospect of new businesses entering the city that will attract new employees. Portland had several business initiatives that encouraged development along the transit lines.

In order for Milwaukee to attract businesses, Milwaukee must rebrand itself as a modern city. Milwaukee will need some sort of investment to attract new businesses but also connect it to the surrounding neighborhoods. Reports dating back to 2008 highlight the disconnect between economic growth the inner-city areas and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Milwaukee already has several initiatives to attract new investment in the downtown area, such as the ReFresh MKE campaign, and the development of a water research business park. Kevin Muhs, a transit planner for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, believes Milwaukee has reached its limit in terms of developing Milwaukee without a centralized transit system.

“We’ve got good bones, how do we take them further,” he said during a public forum in Milwaukee. “The streetcars are what’s going to bridge that gap. If you look at Denver, they’re just booming. It’s not just downtown but in the neighborhoods around it are connected by various fixtures of transit.”

Everything boils down to how much of an investment Milwaukee puts into the development in the area to attract future businesses, whether that be through developing areas around public transit that are supported by the federal government or city lead subsidies and improved bus services.

The Wisconsin Idea is a Wisconsin college success story

Gov. Walker’s proposed revision of the University of Wisconsin mission statement carved out the core of the Wisconsin Idea. Yet, even after a weekend of heated brushback, recalled statements, and uncovered truths, the Wisconsin Idea remains a vague or long-winded statement about service to the state (there is a 92 page report defining the Wisconsin Idea).

For clarity’s sake, the Wisconsin Idea was the fabric of kinship between an unlikely pair of Wisconsin boys; Robert M. La Follette a fiery aspiring attorney and Charles Van Hise a pragmatic geological scientist. The two were roommates and classmates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, Van Hise immediately began his career as an instructor. He was to spend the next years of his life committed to adapting the sciences for practical use.

Fighting Bob

“Fighting Bob” Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

La Follette began his political career as a district attorney and quickly gained a seat in the U.S. Congress. The story goes that La Follette refused to take a bribe and lost his seat at congress. Bitter, he spent the next ten years across the state of Wisconsin with his fist pounding into the air and his eyes glaring with disappointment, resentment and belief in the people of Wisconsin. He demanded political reform and social justice that was trusted by logic and reasoning. Fighting Bob, he was called. He was the Progressive era.

Those ten years won Wisconsin’s trust. La Follette became governor of Wisconsin. Van Hise became president of the University. Through a twist of fate, the two roommates were reunited under their dedication to the University and Wisconsin. They moved under a united cause; to provide data and research for citizens to make informed decisions and hold the government accountable to the people. They pushed, drafted, and created room for collaboration between state officials and university experts.

One of the first iterations of the Wisconsin Idea came through a speech by La Follette in 1901. He rallied the duty of students to give back to the state that has allowed the University to grow. In 1904, Van Hise echoed similar remarks as he began the official implementation of the Wisconsin Idea into the University. He created the Extensions Network. With this structure, the Wisconsin Idea finally took a physical form.
Researchers reached out to farmers, factories, and villages to study their needs, hear their concerns and address them as fellow citizens of Wisconsin. Few laws were passed before they had been carefully studied by the university experts. This is what is meant by “the boundaries of the state are the boundaries of the university and the service to the state.”

Wisconsin became a central model for social reform in the nation. Newly established municipal research institutions, such as Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the National Bureau of Economic Research, adopted the Wisconsin model of applied empirical research for the public. This heartfelt and idealistic idea that grew from a couple of Wisconsin boys was now being implemented across the U.S.

Van Hise and Hoover

Van Hise and President Hoover Source: UW-Madison Archives

The Wisconsin Idea is Wisconsin’s college success story that shook the nation. According to a professor at UW-Madison, instructors at the University are familiar with this success story. For many, the Wisconsin Idea is reason they chose Wisconsin over any other higher paying, prestigious schools across the U.S. Only with story and context can the essence of the Wisconsin Idea be captured.

J618: Mass Media and Public Opinion Final Day 1

Here I will lay out my method in creating a content analysis between Xinhua, South China Morning Post, and the New York Times based of the coverage of the latest protest in Hong Kong. I will be using a simple coding technique to determine whether the reporting was framed as a disruptive act or a legitimate protest for a reasonable cause. through this content analysis  hope to find how these frames were created and from whom.

First, I am going to determine words that signal the first case, then determine the words that signal the latter. Second I will use these terms to do a simple LexisNexis search to determine how many articles are which. Then trace the neighboring events and coverage to determine where the frames came from.  I will be building up my case here.

Some sources I will be using:

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1612900/timeline-how-occupy-centrals-democracy-push-turned-umbrella?page=all

Challenging the status quo

Today, I attended a lecture by Tibet’s Prime Minister, Lobsang Sangay. The audience was a mix of Americans, Chinese, and Tibetans. Some knew of the situation between Tibet and China, other were hearing it for the first time. But, a Chinese professor interpreted the words that came out of Prime Minister Sangay as this, “you’re asking to change the world order.”

Now, with all due respect to professor, I believe Prime Minister Sangay’s proposals are rather moderate. However, this professor did raise a tension is very valid and true, asking to change world order is crazy. People can see the value in it. Yet, no one approaches it. No one fathoms the idea of how change will be achieved, or how change could be approached.

We just all accept that change is strenuous, difficult, and makes winners and losers in an alternative world that we do not know. Once we accept that change is hard, the efforts to implement change is already stunted. People stop thinking.

But is it really that difficult? If we could have these conversations? If people worked together to contribute to a unified change?

Change isn’t going to be easy, but that’s what humans are good at, adapting to change. And now, we’re in a world where it’s easy to communicate. We can shape a different world through passing on information between generations, between cultures, and between people.

Lack of an action is an action

Protest as the embodiment of democracy. Photo credit to KeroroTW.

Taiwanese citizens accused leadership of bypassing the democratic process by passing an increased free trade pact with mainland China without citizens’ consent. Only after two weeks of tension did mainstream media in the U.S. begin to update the story.

The U.S.protected  and embraced democracy in Taiwan since the end of the Chinese Revolution in 1946. Throughout the years, the U.S reiterated  Taiwan’s independence from China and support from the U.S through various documents.

In the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S clearly stated their position for Taiwan.”It is the policy of the United States -to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”

That support is missing today. The U.S. media exemplifies how things have changed.

Student protests  aligns perfectly with the essence of democracy. Yet, to discover this news took great effort on the reader’s part. Major news networks like ABC, NBC, FOX did not mention the event until a few days after the event happened.

 

Back in 1989 the year of the bloody student protests in Bejing, China, American reporters were quick to send information out back home even before the violence broke out.

Now, mainstream media are weary about reporting the events in Taiwan. After following U.S.-China relations for these past couple years, I’ve concluded that there are two main reasons: one, the big-time news conglomerates invest large sums of money into China and do not want to become censored. Two, the U.S. now has better interests elsewhere, namely the Middle East.

Self-censorship by U.S. news outlets has been noted throughout the end of last year. There was Time, Bloomberg, New York Times: these news outlets must censor out anything politically sensitive news towards china themselves or be censored by China’s government. Logically, news outlets would choose the prior to retain income.

As China and the U.S. grew old together, they have become dependent on each other. The economic ties between the two are so deep that they can not inflict harm on the other without wounding itself. Therefore maintaining the relationship between China and the U.S. is a mutual benefit.

When considering the best plan of action, nations prioritize domestic interests first.

The U.S. must play a balancing act between China and Taiwan. If the U.S. showed a favored relationship toward Taiwan rather than China, the U.S. would face lash-back from China. If the U.S. showed a favored relationship toward China, the U.S. would face an identity crisis, choosing to let a democratic society fall. Whereas if the U.S. has greater interest in creating relationships in the Middle East. Here, the U.S. can keep a reliable source of energy in exchange for military presence and the at least the perceived promotion of democracy.

The one gain from supporting Taiwan would be gaining a strategic balance point to counter China, to keep China’s power in check. Over the past couple of years, China has expressed aggressive policy towards its neighbors. But an expression is only an expression.China has yet to follow up. The rhetoric between the governments of both the U.S. and China prove that there is a mutual understanding that within this decade, China cannot compete with the U.S. The U.S. is riding on the fact that time is still on their side. For the domestic interests of both China and the U.S. is to maintain the status quo, although there are issues, overall the relationship is mutually beneficial.

As for the Press of the U.S., producing news and media for the domestic issues are, as well, more important.

It’s rather hard to link to the entire of the U.S. the importance of the Taiwan protest. It would require a niche audience to understand the effects on the U.S. it may have. Even then, it is an issue of international politics. The average American, the soccer mom sitting at home after a busy day at work, picking up the kids, cooking dinner, and finally watching the news would much rather listen to more personally relevant news and issues in the U.S. that directly affects her life.

The U.S. today is facing a wide range of domestic issues ranging from making the Affordable Healthcare Act accessibly to the public to tackling the core of our falling performance in elementary educational institutions. The powerhouse of the past may be that the U.S. of today is no longer but a legacy American aspire to keep.

Therefore, the lack of an action is the best action.