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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

by capper

A close friend of mine recently lost her mother. The onerous task of going through her mother's, and subsequently, her late father's, belongings has fallen upon her, in order to put the estate in order.

As she was going through their papers, she came across a newspaper clipping from April 18, 1988. Her parents liked to stay up on the then current politics, and were quite savvy about these things, especially on a local level. This clipping, which she shared with me, was a paid advertisement taken out by the late Mayor Henry Maier. Here is the article, with any misspellings mine, as that I have to transcribe it the old fashion way:

An open letter to Sig Gissler, Editor of the Milwaukee Journal:

Dear Sig:

Your column of Sunday, April 10, was historic. It represented the first time in my 28 years as Mayor that a Journal editor signed a column attacking me in his newspaper. None of that wishy-washy editorial "we".

As you can see, I'm so impressed I have decided to expand the audience for my response. The Sentinel's ads no doubt have a better readership than the Journal's op-ed page. And it seems to be the only way that one can get a timely response to the Journal.

I'm not going to respond to the gossipy bits in your column, nor such passe Chicago-style usages as "hizzoner" and "blankety blank" (which I thought went out with "The Front Page"), nor your distorted view of the reality of such things as the circus parade and my record of leadership. I'm concerned with a more serious matter.

You see, your column reflects what I believe has been the basic difference between my viewpoint and that of the Journal over the years. We both realize that city and suburb co-exist in the context of a greater metropolis, and must be concerned with the development f this region in which we live. But there are two ways of looking at the metropolis.

You can look at it, as I think the Journal does, from a suburban orientation which
distances itself from the city except as a work place and an entertainment center. This also includes seeing the city as a source of finger pointing headlines without the Journal offering workable solutions. If this orientation is coupled with an indulgent bent, it also professes an interest in social concerns as perhaps a balm
to conscience.

But this is not the viewpoint of people who live in the city and with its problems. In addition to the largest concentration of poverty in the state, they city includes thousands of people who are barely making it. They also like the good things of life, but they greatly concerned about how you pay for them because it is more difficult for them to pay.

At the same time they do not wish to be looked upon as some kind of third world colony of the metropolis where missionaries from outside pontificate on how they ought to live.

The Journal has taken a position that the problem of the metropolis would more likely fade away if only mean old Henry Maier didn't "attack" the suburbs. Forget the fact that professional suburban interests have reacted like the landed gentry in the days of Robin Hood whenever I have made a proposal that would upset the status quo. (In one of our conversations which he apparently didn't tell you about, former Journal editor Richard Leonard told me that my problem was that I was trying to change the status quo and "it is very difficult to change the status quo.")

It is my belief that the issues deserved to be examined as issues rather than turned into another analysis of the personality of Henry Maier (as was again the case in your column).

I am sure you will be pleased to know that I was published as long ago as 1975 on "Conflict in Metropolitan Areas" in the distinguished Annals of American Political Science. There you would have found many of the issues spelled out. In that paper I said, as I have said many times in the past, that I have nothing against the people of the suburbs; many of them are the same people who once lived in the central city. I wrote, "The people of the metropolitan area are not so much at fault as
is the system which generates conflict."

In that paper I repeated proposals I have made for a four-county metropolitan transportation authority; regional industrial recruiting and sharing of new tax base coupled with a regional sharing of low-income housing; a metropolitan social district to take responsibility for financing and meeting social problems; and a metropolitan
school district.

I did not consider any of these proposals as "attacks" on the suburbs, but rather as changes int he system to benefit both the central city and the other municipalities of the metropolis.

I still do today.

Well, Sig, you concluded your piece by saying you bear no grudge and wishing me luck.

I bear no grudge either. So good luck, Sig,


Henry W. Maier

Well, it's twenty years later and the Journal has since merged with the Sentinel, but is still pandering more and more to the suburbs. And now we see that there are still suggestions of dissolving the county government in favor of regional approaches.

Like I said in the title, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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