Forum Abstracts 2012

School Board Governance and Student Achievement

Michael Ford, Urban Studies, Ph.D. Student

School boards are the democratic bodies tasked with delivering K‐12 education to local communities, yet their connection with academic achievement and fiscal health remains understudied. This paper adds to the existing literature on school boards by examining the role of gender politics in determining school district academic and fiscal outcomes. Several quantitative models are deployed to test whether the overall gender demographics of Wisconsin school boards is substantively related to school district academic outcomes and local levels of spending. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on school district demographics, academic performance, and fiscal health are utilized. In addition, original data on gender representation assembled by the author from a representative sample of Wisconsin school boards are used. The analysis finds that districts with female majority school boards have higher achievement levels in reading, and higher ACT scores for females than districts with male majority boards.


Drug Courts & Reduction in Drug Offender Rates

Ben Gilbertson, Sociology, Master’s Student

The effectiveness of drug courts in reducing drug offender recidivism rates has been well-documented since their emergence in 1989, to the extent that drug courts have been researched more than all other criminal justice programs combined (Honda and Sheen 2011). With the surplus of drug court literature, one might assume that further research may be redundant or obsolete. However, deficiencies in drug court literature still exist, namely racial discrepancies in graduation rates. This deficiency has been addressed by numerous researchers within the last decade, and for the researchers that sought to identify reasons for racial discrepancies in graduation rates, their findings were inconclusive. This is in part due to being unable – or simply neglecting – to control for other variables that typically differ between whites and non-whites. The purpose of this study is to further investigate possible reasons for the lower graduation rates of non-whites in drug courts. Specifically, this study inquires: to what extent can racial discrepancies in drug court be assigned solely to the racial categories of whites and non-whites? To be more precise, is it merely race that affects one’s predicted success in drug court, or can other variables – explicitly annual income, level of education, employment status, place of residence, prior substance use, and prior drug offense charges – account for the greater variance in white and non-white drug court graduation rates? After controlling for race, the aforementioned variables will serve as more accurate and significant predictors of a drug court participant’s likelihood of graduating from their program. Selection of these variables is moderated by previous research that has used or discussed in detail similar variables and can be divided into two groups: demographic characteristics (race, employment status, annual income, level of education, and place of residence) and substance use/criminal justice histories (prior substance use, prior drug offense charges).


Choosing a Path to Urban Renewal – The 1948 Spring Election in Milwaukee

Peter R. Janecky, History Department, Ph.D. Student

By the late 1940s, many cities in the United States had entered an important era of renewal. In 1948, Milwaukee’s leaders enthusiastically proclaimed a desire to break from the dismal past and march confidently into a future that held the possibility of boundless progress. The local election in spring 1948 included six referenda asking citizens whether the city should go into debt to fund expressways, parking facilities, housing for war veterans, and improvements for the city’s sewer system. The municipal debt issue demonstrated how consensus and conflict can co-exist within a civic debate. Elite opinion makers and citizens at large can agree on the ultimate goals for the city, but they may not necessarily agree on the means to attain those broadly desired goals. The debt issue also demonstrated that it was the conservative forces within the community that had lobbied for the city’s deeper immersion into the capitalist system.

Milwaukee voters also were asked to choose a new mayor that spring. The city’s daily press framed the mayoral race as a battle between Henry Reuss, a nonpartisan candidate who favored free enterprise, and Frank P. Zeidler, a Socialist who favored public ownership. Although he was vilified by Milwaukee’s daily press for his Socialist background, Zeidler was elected mayor. However, the Milwaukee electorate voted in favor of four of the six referenda, giving the city permission to go into debt while choosing the mayoral candidate who had opposed the idea of debt financing.With the fate of the city hanging in the balance, the propaganda campaigns waged against Zeidler by Milwaukee’s two daily newspapers did not benefit the community. The newspapers’ focus on broad politics was a distraction from civic affairs, which, by all accounts, needed undivided attention at that crucial moment.


Ancient Urban Generation and Ideology, Landscape and Ritual and Space

Sean King, Art History, Master’s Student

This paper is concerned with the ancient Peruvian city of Cahuachi, the ceremonial center of the Nasca culture circa 1 – 550 CE. The city was a center of pilgrimage, and became the ritual/social capital of the ancient Nasca world, but was never occupied by a large permanent population, though. As the Nasca were never politically unified, other means of unification—in this case througha shared ideology practiced through cyclic pilgrimages to Cahuachi—were important to the legitimization of the social order. The ritual specialists (priests) of Cahuachi engaged in a specific dialectic of power negotiations between them and the visiting pilgrimage populations. The Nasca people constructed massive geoglyphs in the surrounding desert spaces of Cahuachi, creating peripheral sacred spaces which bolstered the center’s religious power. I argue that through these geoglyphs and the temporally punctuated cycles of pilgrimage and public ritual, the priests utilized the landscape as a social mnemonic device that permanently created sacred spaces in the environment. I shall utilize the concept of landscape as a text and sites as inter textual places to understand the relationship between the geoglyphs and the urban place of Cahuachi. Specifically, I will look at the ritual/social discourses surrounding this urban-landscape relationship in terms of creating a group cultural identity through ideology. Nasca iconography, spatial paradigms, ritual materialities, as well as larger Andean cosmologies from ethnographies, will be utilized to more fully interpret the intertextual discourses at play in the arid deserts of ancient south Peru.


The Attempted Recall of Mayor Daniel Hoan in 1933

Scott Letteney, History, Ph.D. Student

Nineteen thirty-two had been a banner year politically for Milwaukee’s longtime socialist mayor, Daniel W. Hoan. Running in his sixth mayoral election, he campaigned on a theme of a “better, bigger, and brighter city” despite the fact that Milwaukee was heading deeper into the Great Depression. In the1932 election, Hoan won the biggest victory of his political career and, for the first time, had a functional majority in the Milwaukee Common Council. However, by the end of 1932, the problems of the depression were worsening. Nineteen thirty-three would prove to be the worst year of the Great Depression in Milwaukee. Under pressure from local taxpayer organizations, in part based on Hoan’s refusal to reduce municipal employee pay and a purported “confession of bankruptcy” based on a proposal to issue municipal scrip, by June 1933 Hoan was facing his second recall effort. While the recall attempt finally failed, 1932 to 1933 would be one of the most momentous and challenging years in in a remarkable mayoralty.


Floyd McKissick’s Soul City: Taking Back Control of the Black Community

Brian Mueller, History, Ph.D. Student

Despite the tremendous gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, many of the movement’s leaders and foot soldiers understood that the right to vote and drink from the same faucet as white individuals did not represent the end of their struggle. African Americans, after all, still faced residential and economic prejudice in their everyday lives. As a result, many proponents of Black Power starting thinking aloud about “black capitalism.” Looking to end these forms of discrimination, Floyd B. McKissick, a past national president of the Congress of Racial Equality, looked to construct a new town in Warren County, North Carolina. Soul City, as the town came to be known, connected the “new town movement” to the heightened interest in “black capitalism.” My paper will analyze Soul City not as a microcosm, as previous studies have done, but in relation to the larger new town movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. I argue, in particular, that much greater attention needs to be focused on the way in which the government failed to completely support the new town movement. By widening the study to include new town development as a whole, it is possible to see that many of the town’s problems, though not all, stemmed from poor management of the new towns by HUD, the economic recession, and the rising anti-government stance of conservatives. Had Soul City and other new towns been allowed the time and funding necessary to build-up the infrastructure, housing, and industry, it is likely that they would have flourished. Rather than viewing Soul City as an unrealistic pipe dream or utopia, it is necessary to look at the town’s failure as being connected to the belt-tightening occurring due to the economic downturn.


A Lesson in American Democracy: Political Policing in Milwaukee, WI

Niles William Niemuth, History, Master’s Student

Americans are often reminded of their unparalleled political freedoms, but what is the historical reality behind this rhetoric of political freedom? Many who are concerned with the history of political freedom and civil liberties in the United States are aware of the innumerable attempts by the FBI to quiet political dissent, but few are aware of the integral role that local police forces have played in this process. Urban police forces developed secret political strike forces in an attempt to wipe out socialist, communist, and other leftist ideologies. These secret police forces took on many different forms and official titles depending on the locality, but because they targeted left wing organizations they are know more generally as Red Squads. These Red Squads were an integral part of a state apparatus wielded by the ruling elite as a means of maintaining the status quo and warding off wider class struggle in the Cold War Era, especially during the turbulent 1960’s.

A study of political policing at the local level will give historians a better sense of how political discourse has been shaped and political dissent quashed in a free society. Historians have given little attention to the Red Squads, and what attention has been given focuses on the larger metropolitan areas of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This paper uncovers the functioning of Milwaukee’s Red Squad during the 1960’s, and its subsequent reform, through the experiences of political activist David Novick. Examining the functioning of a Red Squad in a smaller metropolitan area such as Milwaukee will give historians a better understanding of the continuous and pervasive nature of political policing in America throughout the 20th century.


Different Structures, Different Fragmentations Comparing How Political Fragmentation in Metropolitan Areas Evolved in Milwaukee and Tehran

Mehdi Nejatbakhsh, Urban Studies, Master’s Student

The emergence of metropolitan areas consisted of a number of cities and villages that have daily relationships with each other has resulted in debates to have coordination in the management and planning of those areas. Some have argued to have unified, consolidated governments, while others have proposed more slight solutions, such as voluntarily cooperation. The problem is more intense in the United States, as the decentralized, democratic political structure of the government has brought about a high degree of political fragmentation in the metropolitan areas. This research is a comparative study between two cases, one in the US, which is Milwaukee, and another in a more centralized political structure, which is Tehran, in Iran, to see whether centralization would solve the problem or not. The methodology of the research was historical analysis through both primary and secondary sources. The study shows that while the problem seems easily solvable in Tehran, other new problems have emerged. In fact, although, the political structure is centralized in Iran, democratic trends during the recent decades have caused autonomy, to some extent, for Tehran municipality. This has caused a dichotomy between the central government and the central city’s municipality, which is called functional fragmentation, instead of political fragmentation between different municipalities in the region. It shows that a more central political structure would not solve the fragmentation problem per se. The research also suggests studying more case studies with centralized structures would help us to get a better understanding of the issue and may help us to find a solution there.


Defining the Symbolic Roles of Tahrir Square

Ashkan Rezvani Naraghi, Urban Studies, Ph.D. Student

“THIS IS TAHRIR SQUARE”. This sentence was not written in Cairo, Egypt, where Tahrir Square is located, neither was it written in any other country in Arab World. Instead, it was written on a banner in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York. During the protests against economic crisis, many Tahrir Squares appeared around the world. Here, Tahrir Square is a sign, a symbol that has developed far beyond the Egyptian society. Why did people refer to Tahrir Square? What did make such a comparison possible? Was there any physical resemblance? Or did it have more profound reasons? What did happen in Tahrir Square that created such an effect? Why were people so fond of occupying urban spaces in 2011? And why did they compare their occupations to Tahrir Square?

This article has scrutinized events inside Tahrir Square during Egypt 2011 Revolution. By doing so, it has presented different roles of the Square during this period and it has demonstrated special characteristics of this urban space and the reasons of their formation. Did these characteristics cause the previous comparisons? How did Tahrir Square’s different roles help the Egyptians? What was the importance of this square? And how did occupation work out during Egypt revolution?

At the first step, a timeline of the activities and events inside Tahrir Square and during the revolution was narrated. After that, certain roles and characteristics were extracted out of these events that were connected to all the events occurred inside the Square. In the third part of the article these roles were analyzed through the framework of semiotics to show that Tahrir Square created symbolic identities for itself that were directly related to the events that had happened inside the Square.


“All Pull Together”: Evaluating Collaboration in Milwaukee’s Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative

Rebecca Nole,Urban Studies, Master’s Student

In August 2011 a bus tour was organized to “celebrate successes and future plans” in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood and brought together representatives from the national office of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans as well as various neighborhood non-profit organizations. The local LISC office coordinated the presentations from both residents and community organizers to highlight improvements in housing, arts and culture, education and food provision as the bus toured the neighborhood. Numerous local leaders began their comments by noting that Harambee means “all pull together” in Swahili, claiming that the community’s Great Neighborhood Initiative reflected that sentiment. The national representatives indicated that the neighborhood’s success offers a model of development that could inspire others with similar challenges.

Today’s community organizations reflect a shift in how resources are mobilized and now involve a more complicated and delicate web of diverse actors. This paper seeks to investigate the Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as an example of this trend. The recent and expansive literature on community organizations will be examined in order to frame the Harambee effort within this dynamic tradition. We address the following questions: How did this “progressive response” to local neighborhood conditions come about/ Can, as suggested by the LISC and HFHI directors, the HGNI serve as a good model for how communities can be organized successfully? And, as local residents remind the development specialists – “This isn’t the end”, is this initiative sustainable?


City-Sponsored Film Censorship in Milwaukee

Matthew Prigge, History, Master’s Student

I wish to present my history MA thesis Outlaws, Rebels, and Vixens: Six Decades of the Milwaukee Motion Picture Commission, for consideration for inclusion in the 2012 Urban Studies Student Forum. The project details the years between 1913 and 1971 when the Milwaukee Motion Picture Commission (MMPC) censored hundreds of films before they were allowed to play in the city. For the purposes of this conference, I would like to present on the postwar era – when a wave of films featuring shocking amounts of sex, vice, and violence made their way into theatres. This period in Milwaukee coincided with rapid and volatile changes in the old commercial cores of the city. The most visible such area in Milwaukee was west-of-the-river downtown. This area was also the heart of Milwaukee’s movie business. The changes in Milwaukee’s urban environment was reflected in the programming these theatres offered – and these programs often ran afoul of the conservative standards of the MMPC.

The fevered pitch of the MMPC’s efforts against such films reflects a reaction not just to a new breed of motion pictures, but to the overall cultural changes occurring within the city and its downtown area. By the 1960s, it was clear that this was no longer the same Milwaukee that previous generations of its citizens had known. The battle against “dirty movies” in the city was just one of the consequences of the era’s changes, but it is a largely forgotten one. I wish to present on this topic to bring these old fights to light and to foster similar such examinations of the city’s post-war cultural shifts.


Investment and Inequality

Bill Reck, History, Ph.D. Student

In the post-World War II period, Americans increasingly have perceived home ownership to be a symbol of the country’s promise of democracy and freedom due to its associations with economic investment, the development of friendships within neighborhoods, and personal success. However, home ownership in a capitalist society is also a status and concept that is contradictory. It is upheld by speculative, abstract markets, yet subsidized through often-racist governmental policies, and it frequently reflects and reinforces white supremacy.

The paper I propose for the Urban Studies Student Forum, Investment and Inequality: Black Milwaukee and How Home Ownership Informed Responses to Demographic Change examines how black Milwaukeeans on the city’s north side understood freedom as it related to home ownership and its attendant economic and cultural investment from the 1970s through the 1990s. I argue that middle- and professional-class black Milwaukeeans’ perceptions of freedom were informed by their relationships to capitalist notions of home ownership and attendant cultural norms, which resulted in deleterious prospects for the freedom of less well-to-do blacks, especially after the inflated fear of drug-related crime in the mid-1980s and the related expansion of Wisconsin’s black male prison population. Middle- and professional-class blacks organized with liberal whites in response to an increasing and spatially mobile population of lower- and working-class African Americans, with the hope that they could at once reach out to a segment of the population that they perceived to be problematic while also maintaining property values within their neighborhoods.

However, the choices and life opportunities available to less well-to-do blacks limited their aspirations to bourgeois respectability, and concerns about the visibility and behaviors of these residents reflected class- and race-based assumptions about interpersonal relationships, morals, and economic best practices. Ultimately, capitalist conceptions of freedom, symbolized by the financial stakes involved in home ownership but circumscribed by demographic and cultural changes outside the control of most urban residents, cut through Milwaukee’s north side black communities and demonstrated the contradictions inherent in speculative, market-driven understandings of freedom.


Change Management in Unexpected Places: Lessons from Berlins’ Cemeteries

Dirk Rieber, Urban Studies, Ph.D. Student

Berlin is with approximately 3.5 million inhabitants Germany’s largest city and its capital. Once divided for 28 years and de facto consisting of two separate and independent cities, the City of Berlin once again became a single municipality after the German unification in 1990. Due to its volatile history and development the city is still equipped with an overall infrastructure meant to serve about 5 million citizens. Among this oversupply of infrastructure there are approximately 224 cemeteries with an overall area of designated burial grounds which is probably twice as much area as will be needed until the year 2050. In addition to this obvious oversupply the fundamental changes of socio-cultural, demographic, political, and economic parameters since the dawning of the twenty-first century have deep impacts on the condition and the framework of cemeteries. Changes in burial customs force many cemeteries to adjust their provided supply of services according to the changing demand.

This raises questions about the economic efficiency of the business operation of cemeteries in Berlin which are mostly owned and operated by the city. Necessities for alternative usage besides the intended usage as a burial ground seem to be the obvious conclusion. But cemeteries are not just normal enterprises so that each business decision has to be made with the awareness about the extraordinary background of the death care industry, the perception and recognition of any decisions by the larger public, as well as the respectful intercourse with the bereaved and the proper handling of the deceased.


Sowing seeds of inequality: U.S. policies and their impact on African American Farmers

Ron Smith, Urban Studies, Ph.D. Student

Through the use of primary documents and drawing on historical scholarly literature, this study examines the role the United States has played in actively disenfranchising the rights and severely limiting the economic mobility of Southern black farmers, particularly after the creation of civil rights laws and promises of equality.


Making News in Milwaukee: Two Newspapers’ Coverage of Police Brutality

Ron Smith, Urban Studies, Ph.D. Student

Through primary interviews, textual analysis and the use of framing theory, this paper examines how two Milwaukee newspapers—one geared at African Americans and one that serves a general audience—covered the biggest police brutality case to hit Milwaukee in 25 years. The papers took different approaches to reporting on the October, 24, 2004, beating of a biracial man by off-duty White Police Department officers in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. The Black-oriented weekly continued the advocacy tradition of the Black press and gave its readers a platform to discuss race and used sources from within the community to frame its coverage, while the mainstream daily took an aggressive watchdog approach and offered comprehensive reporting, utilizing a wide range of sources, in an effort to hold officials who wanted to keep the case from public view accountable. The victim’s multicultural background added a new dimension to this discourse as both papers grappled with the thorny issue of racial identification as America’s color line moves beyond just Black and White.


The Preservation Blues: The Daley’s and the Maxwell Street

John Terry, History, Ph.D. Student

Richard J. Daley was often reviled for his failures to preserve some of Chicago’s most cherished landmarks. The battle over the Stock Exchange in 1972 is one of the most famous instances. Richard Friedman, one of Daley’s Republican opponents, actually made finding money to preserve the building an element of his campaign, accusing Daley of “high-rise gigantism”. Richard M. Daley, despite his infamous midnight order to destroy Meigs Airfield, the American Institute of Architects and the American Architectural Foundation gave him their Keystone Award, he was given an award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his efforts to preserve buildings in the Loop, he also received an Honor Award from the National Building Museum in 2009. As Daley was receiving awards a struggle of vital importance to many of Chicago’s working-class black, Latino, Jewish, and Italian residents was the battle to save the Maxwell Street area from the expanding University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). Maxwell Street was home to the Maxwell Street Market, a centuries-old open-air market at which Jewish residents had peddled produce, black residents had peddled goods and played live blues and gospel, and eventually Latino residents had sold produce. The market attracted thousands of visitors, up to 70,000 a day during its highpoint, and became a landmark for many residents. Richard J. Daley initiated the building of UIC and the construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway that divided the street in the 1950s. Richard M. Daley oversaw the final destruction Maxwell Street and the market’s relocation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Eventually, Maxwell Street was leveled to make way for a parking garage, softball fields, and university condos. The purpose of this paper is to use the story of Maxwell Street to highlight the problems with rewarding preservation that reflects the interest of capital while praising the destruction of working-class landmarks.