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Visions for Milwaukee’s Future: A Community Forum

JERRY BOYLE: Good afternoon. My name is Jerry Boyle, and I'm the Managing Director for Community and Economic Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. I'd like to welcome you to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's session, "Visions for Milwaukee's Future-- a Community Forum." Before we get started with our panel discussion, I'd like to welcome the Chicago Fed president, Charlie Evans, to say a few words. Charlie.

CHARLIE EVANS: Thanks, Jerry. Good afternoon, and thanks to everybody for joining us for our discussion, "Visions for Milwaukee's Future-- a Community Forum." As we gather today, we continue to face the dual challenges of the COVID-19 virus-- sorry. As we gather today, we continue to face the dual challenges of the COVID-19 virus and recession with a combination of uncertainty and hope. The pandemic and efforts taken to contain its spread have exacted a heavy toll on the lives and livelihoods of many of our neighbors, friends and co-workers though growth has resumed in recent months we are still far from the robust economy we previously enjoyed.

The virus continues to dictate the country's prospects for a recovery from a global health crisis, even as our recent news from the pharmaceutical industry offers some hope. Very early in the pandemic, the Federal Reserve moved aggressively to keep borrowing costs low for households and businesses and to keep markets functioning. To further support the flow of credit, the Fed also introduced several temporary lending facilities, including the Paycheck Protection Program liquidity fund and the Main Street Lending Program.

These measures supplemented a strong fiscal response under the CARES Act. However, uncertainty regarding the future path of the virus and further fiscal and policy responses threatened to roll back earlier evidence of a stronger than expected recovery. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago launched Project Hometown to examine how communities in our region can recover from our current health and economic challenges and grow even stronger by addressing racism and other inequities.

Today's event is the 11th in a series of forums which have brought together civic leaders, policymakers, researchers, Chicago Fed staff, and concerned residents. Several common themes have emerged in these discussions. First, while the combination of recession and pandemic have challenged us all, rates of infection and mortality from the virus, as well as job losses and business closures, have disproportionately affected our least advantaged neighbors. The longer these challenges remain, the greater the risk of widening many pre-existing inequities in our most vulnerable communities and leaving long lasting scars on our economy and society.

Children and young adults are particularly vulnerable. They are experiencing these shocks which might affect their future well-being and lifetime earnings at a crucial time in their lives. Second, our district's communities and their challenges are diverse. We need comprehensive and tailored approaches to address the unique challenges of each community. I'm looking forward to today's discussion on the particular challenges Milwaukee has and the opportunities to make its future better. Our discussion will help us understand the challenges faced by individuals and families in the Milwaukee region living at or near poverty to gain access to credit, jobs, quality housing, and education.

We will also hear how the municipal and private sector leaders are responding to both immediate and long term challenges faced by these vulnerable communities. I want to thank the Social Development Commission, the city of Milwaukee, and the Greater Milwaukee Committee for engaging in this discussion with us today. And I look forward to hearing their insights. But I also hope that all of you listening along with me today will think of this conversation as the beginning of a dialogue regarding how to promote and support a more inclusive recovery.

So thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from today's panelists. I'll turn this back over to Jerry to get the conversation started.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, Charlie. As some of you on this call know, I have a longtime connection to Milwaukee, because 20 years ago when I started at the Fed, my primary responsibility was for the state of Wisconsin. And so I spent a lot of time in Milwaukee. And even today, my ties to Milwaukee remain as my daughter is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and has benefited from a truly welcoming community in the city of Milwaukee.

A little more than a decade ago, the Community Development Offices around the Federal Reserve System partnered with the Brookings Institution to produce a national report on concentrated poverty in America, highlighting the isolating effects that result from living in poverty while surrounded by poverty. I contributed a case study to that report that focused on 11 census tracts on the Northwest side of Milwaukee. The Social Development Commission was a very important source of information for me at that time, as they remain an important player in that field today.

We are glad to have George Hinton on our panel today representing the Commission. When the national report was released, Mayor Tom Barrett was the keynote speaker at the national launch event. And we are glad to have Lafayette Crump on the panel today representing the city of Milwaukee. And finally, Julia Taylor was also a source of information for me back then, and she continues her important work bridging the private sector's civic leadership of Milwaukee to the needs of all Milwaukee communities on behalf of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

Today, we'll talk about how those communities are faring and how the city and civic leaders are responding to the most immediate needs and looking forward to a more inclusive economic recovery. I will not read our panelists' biographies here, though I encourage you all to view their biographies at ChicagoFed.org/hometown. George, I'd like to start with you to give us a sense of how those communities I studied are responding today to the dual challenges of a public health crisis and the economic disruptions along with it.

GEORGE HINTON: Thanks for the opportunity. I'm really, really excited to be here today. I'm representing the city I love, the city I was raised in, left to go to the Marine Corps, came back to go to school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I'm a product of MPS-- Milwaukee Public School system. So I'm extremely excited to be here to talk about our city, our challenges, and what we can do going forward. We're a great city, but we have challenges and have things that we can work on to make our lives for ourselves and other citizens in our community better.

Milwaukee was in a crisis before the pandemic. That means things are a little worse off than what they were back then. What I'm going to try to do is to help you understand what's happening in Milwaukee, I'm going to share some statistics from a recent study released by Mark Levine, who is a researcher and Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The reason why I use Mark Levine's study is important, because it's important to understand before you can talk about solutions, you really have to take a look at the causes that result in the outcomes that we see in Milwaukee today.

Secondly, Milwaukee is a majority minority city. The plight of the minority population is going to indicate statistically how well the city is doing from a health, from an economic standpoint, and from a poverty standpoint. I'm going to be talking about this study which is talking about outcomes for Black people in Wisconsin, but these indicators also are very much aligned with some of the issues in the brown community or the Latinx community. So I'll start with some statistics.

This data is from 2014 and 2018, the latest-- this is where it comes from his research. So the first thing-- despite the success that many other urban cities like Milwaukee have had, Milwaukee is still identified as the most segregated city in the United States. It's interesting to me that since 1979, the median income for black households in Milwaukee after inflation actually decreased by 30%. Next, Milwaukee has the second-lowest black home ownership in the country.

Next, Milwaukee has the third-highest incarceration rate for black males who are working age. In one of our zip codes, we actually have the distinction of being the highest incarcerated zip code in the country. There is still a lot of evidence of redlining that may impact our insurance, how our property is appreciated, and other indicators that may affect the wealth of people of color. I just want to add, in addition to that, the health of individuals in our community are disproportionately not equitable.

Milwaukee County is ranked number 2 in the state for health outcomes in terms of negative health outcomes. And Milwaukee being the largest population in the county is definitely representing the reason why those indicators are so negative. In a nutshell, people of color in the Milwaukee area are affected as a whole by some of the things I'm going to talk about today.

I want to ask this question-- I was asked to answer this question-- how to recover our community, and what does that recovery look like. So going forward, I want to talk about three different areas. One is labor, one is home ownership, and the next one is incarceration. So I'm going to start with labor and the challenge there.

In the city of Milwaukee, we have lots of land, and we have we have lots of jobs. Now, when I say, land, it's not necessarily always in the city, but we do have some vacant lots in the city. And we have a lot of people in the city. I shouldn't say we have a lot of jobs, we have a lot of people in the city. The infrastructure is in place in Milwaukee. We have a very nice infrastructure that is very well put together for Milwaukee and most parts of Milwaukee County.

There is a desire among the people who live in Milwaukee to work. We take every opportunity to work, and we take some of the lowest paying jobs in the city and the county. And so when people talk about working class, yes, we are working class-- minority brown and black people. And there's a great need for economic development. But what we see in the Milwaukee area is many businesses who have moved to the suburbs, we see businesses building in the suburbs where there is very little labor and almost no significant transportation.

Let me give an example of what I'm talking about. When Amazon moved to Wisconsin to build a distribution center which created thousands of jobs, they bypassed the opportunity to build that center somewhere near Milwaukee where its infrastructure could have moved labor to those opportunities effectively. Instead, they moved it to Oak Creek. Now, I don't want to just pick on Amazon, because Foxconn came along just recently and decided to put their company in Mount Pleasant, another area that doesn't have significant labor and not a transportation to move the labor to the opportunity.

In both cases, labor was not a success factor in their determination to make that move. This is my opinion as a solution-- Milwaukee has to become competitive and take advantage of the labor that it has right here in the city. It needs to take advantage of transportation and infrastructure that is in place right here in the city. I learned in business school that where you place your business is just as important as any other indications of why you should start a business.

And I would say that we should start investing in those businesses and organizations within the city that's got their act together and understand the place in the business where the labor is is important. We need to invest in those businesses in our urban centers. So a lack of investment in the city directly correlates with the decrease in household income, which was mentioned by the Levine study.

Secondly, I want to talk about home ownership. You can't build wealth without home ownership. I recall that back in the time after the Second World War, the GI Bill provided a lot of opportunities for people to start that process when they were able to buy homes with the GI Bill. That particular opportunity was not afforded to black GIs or people of color who were GIs. But it's still a fact-- home ownership does give you an opportunity to begin the process of creating wealth. I would say that that's a process that we need to continue and do much, much better in Milwaukee County.

We must look at home ownership as a long time strategic issue. You can't just talk about, I'm going to buy a home here or buy a home there without factoring in, what does that mean for the long term growth and appreciation of that home? I want to talk about a project that SDC is going to be involved in with the Garden Homes Housing Project. This particular neighborhood had a rich history of success until a couple of significant things happened in our community-- one, the integration of our schools which created the white flight that was associated with many communities during the '60s, and then secondly during the '70s and '80s, we began to lose a lot of our manufacturing jobs-- our significant large manufacturing jobs that had no problem hiring people of color.

Those industries are gone, and the neighborhood is not what it used to be. But the community came together and decided, we're going to make a difference. Homeowners, owners of property that were renting to others said, we want to take charge of our neighborhood, and we want to take charge of those homes that need fixing, repair, sell them back to the community, individuals who are interested in having a strong community, and then start the appreciation process for the homes and investments that we've made. That's a strategy that makes sense, because you're talking about like homes growing in wealth, growing in appreciation that creates wealth for families that own them.

But really, one of the other things I liked about their strategy is the fact that they decided to work on the economic engines that feed a neighborhood. How do we create those businesses that are going to be near the neighborhood, businesses that are needed to make a community thrive and be healthy like health care businesses, food security businesses, businesses that are going to give products to that neighborhood while at the same time providing jobs to people who live in that neighborhood?

Again, I'm interested in that because that shows a strategy to increase the value and the availability of homes to its people who live in the city. And it's also important to remember, this is a strategy to not kick people out their neighborhoods or have them think that they have to move from their neighborhoods, but one that works with the community to build that neighborhood. This is important because we need a tax base. We need to improve the tax base in Milwaukee, because that feeds a couple of things. First, our infrastructure, and secondly, our education.

Like I said, I went to MPS. MPS is at a disadvantage right now because of the lack of tax base to support our education process here in Milwaukee County. So that brings me to the third point-- incarceration. Incarceration is an issue in Milwaukee. You saw that from the statistics. But I'm not going to talk about incarceration directly, because once we start-- and we do need to help people who are incarcerated, but that's not the problem. The problem is, why did they get incarcerated in the first place?

We need to concentrate our efforts on issues that are causing us to not be successful and the vision of a pipeline. We're going to put our children in a pipe, some type of process to move them through their life. And education is one of the most important remedies to fighting incarceration-- outstanding education. Because at the end of that pipeline, you have individuals who are able and ready to go to work, go to school, or further education and be contributing members of our society.

We can no longer put the Band-Aid on what happens to people after they go through incarceration. More resources need to be guided towards preventing people from going to prison. So I want to talk about one of the projects that is fairly new. It's not new in terms of concept, but in terms of partnership. But before I talk about it, let me just tell you why and what we need to do in terms of our education process.

We need to invest in early childhood education everywhere, because it starts just that early. We need to reduce the class sizes in our schools. I was volunteering at one school and this class size was just too large for an appropriate education. And I'm not even the teacher, and I could see that. And we need to pay our teachers competitively. Right now, because we're not able to pay competitively against the suburbs, we lose some of our best teachers, and we're constantly bringing new teachers in, which is not necessarily healthy for our children.

Again, that's why we need an increased tax base. That's why we need those types of investments that's going to make that happen, so we can begin to groom those doctors and lawyers, radiology techs, and all those needed resources in our communities for jobs. This project that SDC is working on is one that's already been in place for quite a while now. There is a high school that is interested in trying to make itself a pipeline for health care resources-- health care careers, people who are interested in become doctors, lawyers, CNAs, respiratory therapists, you name it. Health care has such a large industry and has many job opportunities. I know, that because I was the president of a hospital once and I know exactly what's in that industry and how much it can yield jobs to people of color in all our communities, but that's not the case today.

What I'm really excited about is the fact that this is another issue where businesses, academic colleges and universities, tech colleges, the community alumni, MPS, the school system, and others have come together to say, we're going to work with you to try to make this go from being a vision to a reality. SDC is a part of that because we believe social service agencies of course contribute to that opportunity as well.

I'm going to close by saying I hope this conversation leads to investment in projects that make sense here in Milwaukee County and that can impact people of color specifically. Because if we can impact people of color, I think the state, the city, and county and the state will do much better. If you're going to have a vision for the city, we have to have strategies for the city. But I do give one caution. One of the things said is a culture can eat a strategy for lunch.

So the culture that we live in in Milwaukee sometimes is not necessarily conducive to a strategy working. We must address racism, we must address the inequalities, the structural racisms that exist in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County and the state of Wisconsin if we're going to truly make a strategy work [INAUDIBLE] that I inspired Milwaukee to be. Thank you.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, George. Lafayette, I know that the city is called upon to address all of the issues that George just raised for us and then some. And so I'd like to invite you to give us a little bit of an introduction on how the city does respond to those many challenges and others.

LAFAYETTE CRUMP: Sure. Well, thank you, Jerry. And I couldn't agree more with the issues as outlined by George. As I was just sitting here overhearing, doing quite a bit of amen-ing to the topics that he addressed. The city, we are called upon, as you indicated, to address those matters through policy and through execution. And I think about this time period that we're in right now where we often talk about the pandemics that we're experiencing-- the health pandemic as well as the economic downturn.

And then a lot of times, people say social unrest is another pandemic. I think it's important to recognize that social unrest is not a problem. It is a symptom of the real problem, which is inequality-- racial and ethnic inequality that rears its head in a number of different ways, from the economy to social stratification to health care to education, all the different topics that George mentioned. And we have to find a way as a city through the efforts that we put in place directly through policy and practice, but also in using our bully pulpit.

I was happy to hear you mention some of the work that Mayor Barrett has done. He has really empowered his departments to speak to these issues and to find ways to address them, both through the tools that we have at our disposal at the moment, but in figuring out innovative ways to get that done-- all the different areas that George mentioned from unemployment to home ownership, incarceration, all topics that we have to find a way to deal with.

And what's really important this year and into 2021 is that we do not leave people behind as we look for a way to come out of the pandemic and come out of the economic downturn in a quick fashion. When you do things quickly, that is sometimes used as an excuse to not do things in an equitable way. This is really an opportunity for us to think about how we do things-- who we engage, what our expectations are of people and institutions, and implement that as we come out of this period that we're in.

So when we do government contracting, it's not time to say, well, we need to do things so quickly that we can't pay attention to our normal rules. We have to think about, do we need to make those rules even more stringent? Do we need to find a way to include even more diverse businesses? Do we need to target not just a full picture-- so say a number is 25% small businesses, are we doing that in each segment of our contracting, or are we doing it just overall? How do we find a way that we are moving people forward in each specific industry sector, that we don't give up on certain industry sectors and say, well, people of color are never really going to participate there, or historically, they have not. That's an opportunity to diversify that space.

Similarly, when we look at what we're doing with housing, a topic that that's really important to us in the city and really important to my department-- Department of City Development-- is figuring out this homeownership crisis in Milwaukee. And it is a crisis, because when you do not have people who leave in the city owning these properties, they just will not care as much about what is happening with those properties and the residents who live in them than people who live in the city, people who live near those properties. So we certainly want to increase owner occupancy in residences in Milwaukee.

But we also want to make the opportunity greater for people who live in the city to purchase homes. If you are going to have landlords, if you are going to have renters, that more and more of those people live in the city and really care about what is happening in and around those properties-- incredibly important. George mentioned how much home ownership plays a role in creating wealth. I would quibble a bit with the statement that that is the path to wealth-- that is the path to wealth generation.

I think we recognize and we live in a world now where there are other ways to build that wealth. And in fact, our people have had to figure out in some ways other ways to generate that wealth, because we have been withheld or blocked from some of those other opportunities. Nonetheless, if you are talking about economic stability, if you're talking about neighborhood stability, if you're talking about generating wealth that is easily passed down from generation to generation, homeownership is absolutely a cornerstone of that.

One of the things that we're doing at the city is dedicating funding in our upcoming budget to not just help increase homeownership in the city in the immediate future, but also to figure out how we leverage city resources to bring in other partners that can expand what we're doing and to really implement something that addresses not just the current need, but is addressing the need for the next 5 to 10 years so that we create an appropriate culture here. I hate to keep me too-ing what George was saying, but he laid it out-- that culture really does eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sometimes for dessert too.

If you have a strategy but you don't think about the culture that is impacting that strategy, you're not going to get anywhere. So we are creating a culture not just in city government but in the city as a whole of equitable economic development. And we're going to need the private sector to care about that, we're going to need the philanthropic sector to care about that, and I know that there are people out there who do. We've got one of them coming up here, one who's on the panel, who cares greatly about these matters. It's been a pleasure being new to this role to get a chance to work closely with Julia and see the impact she has on forward thinking and implementation of things that are going to last for years to come.

So we've got people in this city who really care about making that impact, about changing the culture, about getting Milwaukee off of the lower end of some of these lists about what it's like for an African-American individual or Latinx individual to build a home, to raise a family here, to participate fully in the economy. And we are going to change that culture and the both internal and external perceptions of what Milwaukee is like. Milwaukee will be a city that demonstrates how you come out of that dip, how you come out of an economic downturn, how you build a culture where people of color truly do have an opportunity to advance.

And we're just going to keep doing the things that need to be done. And part of what that is is talking about it-- talking about it consistently, talking about it vocally, and telling our partners that that's our expectation. That if you are building in the city of Milwaukee, if you are hiring in the city of Milwaukee, if you are seeking employment from people in the city of Milwaukee, you have to be thinking about how are you moving the needle forward. How are you doing that in not just an equitable manner, but in a manner that is resolving some of the inequities of the past?

And we're going to have to do more. We're not just going to have to think about how do you guarantee that the people that are here now have opportunity, but how do you set things up in a way that, going forward, Milwaukee is a place where we are building and building away from, again, those in equities of the past, but setting up not just a culture, but then also putting in place the systems that make that culture a reality. Final thing I'll say, because I know we want to leave time for some question and answer after Julia speaks, is we recognize the value of collaboration.

We cannot do this all alone. I certainly recognize that, having gone through my first budget experience with the city of Milwaukee. I would love if our department had a budget probably 10 times its size, but my staff does a lot with a limited budget. But what we need is partners who are willing to row in the same direction with us. I mentioned the private sector, I mentioned the philanthropic community-- there are other community-based organizations that we partner with. But that also includes other governmental entities and quasi-governmental entities-- thank you so much for the Fed for what you are doing in this respect.

But we also need state government, we need the federal government to be on our side and pushing forward with us. Part of what we've got to do is use our bully pulpit as a city not just to talk to the private sector, not just to talk to other city departments about how we can do things, but we also have to get some cooperation from the state and from all the branches of state government to care about what's happening in Milwaukee and to recognize that a city of this size and this sort of economic focus that we have in Milwaukee and our region, that when Milwaukee does well, it benefits the entire state. So collaborating with the state and helping those in state government to recognize how we can benefit them and they can benefit us as well is certainly a key part of what we'll be seeking to do as well.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, Lafayette. Julia, obviously, Lafayette began to do my job for me in transitioning to your remarks as well. But obviously, the civic and corporate leadership of the city is called upon to not only respond in the moment to the crisis elements that George pointed out, but also as we begin to think about growing into a more inclusive economy in a recovery that not only corporate citizenship and corporate philanthropy, but also the business decision making that is made among corporations in the city of Milwaukee are important elements of be becoming a more inclusive economy in Milwaukee.

And I know that the greater Milwaukee community has been organizing its membership to begin to address those issues. So if you could take a few moments to let us know about how that work is going, we'd appreciate it.

JULIA TAYLOR: Thank you, Jerry. And I also want to thank George for laying out the issues so clearly and also the call for investment, because that is what it's going to take to really make change is significant investment into black and brown-owned businesses and homes and neighborhoods. And I really appreciate Lafayette's leadership. It's been a great pleasure to get to work with him in his new role. And I see a much better future ahead for Milwaukee.

Part of it is this whole focus on culture that both George and Lafayette talked about. And I think the business community is at a point of reflection right now about what do we do to make change, what have we contributed in the past that has created the issues that we have here in Milwaukee. And I think as a white person, it's been a real moment of reflection for me as well. Why have things not changed, and what have I contributed to that?

The GMC is basically a civic and business leadership organization. It's been around since the '40s. We have 200 members. Our membership is influential, and we've made change over the years in various policy areas. So for us, this is a big opportunity to come together and say, what type of soft knowledge do we need? What type of culture change do we need to make a difference?

So last time I was talking to Jerry, I held up this book by Andre Perry-- there you go-- called Know Your Price. And it's on valuing black lives and property in America's black cities. And I would suggest if you get a chance, to read it. It really talks a lot about how past practices and policies have become codified into the situation that we have, particularly exhibited in Milwaukee, of having huge areas of disparity, of having basically a lot of policies that are due to racism that are existing.

So currently within the GMC, we're really not looking at diversity efforts. We're looking at how do we become an anti-racist organization. So it's a journey of personal change and commitment that will influence organizational and corporate changes as well. It'll mean changing power dynamics, challenging policies and practices that we've taken for granted. And this is going to be, I think, a big sea change for the GMC. We've established a Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee that will help us guide the steps as we go through this.

We've been working in this area for many, many years on a program level. And we've been able to cross-cut sectors but also at the community level, and have worked for years on things like we created Anti-displacement Fund working closely with the city, with Lafayette's department to help individuals that were in the neighborhoods surrounded by the downtown that saw huge increases in their property values as well as property taxes. Many people owned their homes there for many years and we're basically not going to reap the benefit of the value that was coming into their area because they were going to be forced to move because of the increase in property values.

So given the uniformity clause that we have in our Constitution, you can't use public funds to create any equity in that situation. And we raised private dollars to be able to do that. And we're also continuing to raise funds in that area. We've also worked a lot-- and all this work is done in partnership-- Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the city, the Urban League, LISC. We worked closely on a commercial corridor revitalization in those neighborhoods as well, because when you get down to the economy and jobs, people need to have jobs and have control in their own neighborhood and know that the businesses that are there are businesses that they own, that they support, and that they work in.

We've also worked a lot to scale up and spark in investing in small businesses in those neighborhoods, particularly to help ones that have the opportunity grow to see some real growth potential. One of the big things I think that we've found since the pandemic hit is that there were a couple of infrastructure issues that are significant in Milwaukee. George talked about transportation, which we know certainly is one, but I think digital infrastructure is also a big issue. We found that there is a real lack of abundance of Wi-Fi subscriptions in disinvested parts of the city. There is also just a lack of technology.

We're working with small businesses to help them apply for PPP loans. People were trying to apply on their phones. You can't get a PPP loan by applying on your phone. So looking at this digital divide is something that's going to exist coming out of this-- helping companies find new market places to shift with. Online was really important, and Scale Up is actually now working with Stripe and with some other technology firms to help bring that technology in.

So there's a lot of different areas we've worked in. We've also worked a lot with college students. And I think everybody knows almost all the internships went away this summer. And in our programming, we have a lot of first generation college students. It's about 50% students of color. And we were able to put together a virtual internship program for 150 students. For some of them, it meant the difference in whether they can return to college or not. So there have been a lot of areas that have been certainly impacted by the pandemic, but I think also impacted by this knowledge that's out there that we as a community have to change our culture.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, Julia. I do want to do a couple of follow-up rounds here. We got several questions from people who are participating online with us. But, George, if I could just circle back to you quickly. And I am going to use the word, briefly, with all of you now, because we're going to run out of time fairly quickly. But the Commission's mission is to help people move out of poverty. And you emphasized in your remarks how Milwaukee needs to be more thoughtful about how we recover in Milwaukee's hardest hit neighborhoods. Can you expand on that idea and share your vision about what a real, sustainable, and more equitable long term recovery looks like and the steps to get there?

GEORGE HINTON: Yeah, I guess when I think about that as an opportunity, it's because it took us generations to get to the point where we are as a people. But in the case of Milwaukee, it took 100 years or so-- less than 100 years to go from very healthy neighborhoods to now neighborhoods that are not sufficient and not able to sustain themselves because of the lack of jobs and lack of businesses supporting neighbors and then just the lack of ownership.

And I think what we have to do is be purposeful in how we then reverse all those things that happen, because those were systemic issues that caused those outcomes that we see today . And systemic issues need to be first identified-- just like if you're in health care, you identify what's wrong. What is the root cause of those outcomes? And then you go and you dismantle those root causes as you start to rebuild the new world.

Because if you don't dismantle those root causes, what you end up with is the same thing over and over again. So when I talk about being thoughtful, it means we're going to have to go deeply into some of the cultural norms that we have that need to be dismantled as well as challenge some of the thought processes of how we invest, where we invest. We need to make sure-- like what I said. We can spend a lot of time trying to get the suburbs to accept people of color into their communities, or we can spend more time rebuilding our neighborhoods and making sure that we have strong businesses in our neighborhoods that's going to make it possible for people to have jobs that make sense in terms of transportation in the time they need to spend away from their homes.

We need to invest in, as Julia said, the technology necessary for the new world. We don't need to be building on things that happened, opportunities from the past economy. We need to be thinking about what will the new economy look like and how do we build an infrastructure and a strategy that's going to move this community into the future, not into the past.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, George. Lafayette, you've only been in your position a relatively short period of time, but as evidenced with the interactions with these panelists, you're already establishing partnerships that are serving the city well. But it is a question that arises of how the Department of City Development can go about demanding an equity lens from those interacting with the city, and how do you change the expectations and perceptions in the drive for equality in Milwaukee's economy?

LAFAYETTE CRUMP: Well, I think you start with the demand, first of all. You do it. You name the thing. And by naming it, you give it power. You tell people that this is our expectation. You want to build here? How are you going to do it equitably?

And I need to go back to what Julia said, because it really struck me in this moment. Anti-racism is a term that we've heard in anti-racism training and being an anti-racist. And I think for those who haven't gone through the training-- and I actually count myself among those. I have not gone through the anti-racist training-- but I think what happens is you don't really think about what that term means.

And what Julia said, they're not trying to be an organization that promotes diversity. They want to be an anti-racist organization. Think about that. That means that in your policies, in your actions, you are working to dismantle racism and dismantle the impact of generations of racism which have led to the inequality that we experience here. So we tell people, it is our expectation that you are going to contribute to greater equity, to resolving some of the problems that government and private sector created in the past.

We tell people that we want to do that not just in the building of the project-- so if we're talking about commercial development, residential development, but I have also started talking to people about what our expectations are on the end user aspect. And sometimes those discussions are going to precede what the actual language in our agreement says, but those are going to be some uncomfortable conversations. We have to be cognizant of what our documents say, what we're allowed to do constitutionally.

But there are things that we can talk about, there are things we can say that we want to see. There are projects that we can laud and praise because they go out of their way to do these things. And we can be a little bit more reticent about other projects. Yes, that project's moving forward, but what I really want to talk about is this project over here that's doing all of these great things. People care about things like that. Developers care about not just the project going up, but how a project is perceived.

In my previous professional incarnation, I worked on projects where developers were building in the city and were asked to meet certain requirements from a diversity standpoint with respect to contracting, with respect to workforce. And there were some owners and developers who just wanted to squeak by and hit the numbers. And there were others who were really committed to not just hitting the numbers, but exceeding them because of what it meant to them personally and the impact they knew that that would have on the city and, yes, on the culture of the industry.

And that is what we're going to be talking about and what we're going to be expressing as a city. And I know my staff is excited to do that, to be empowered to do that. Other city departments that we're collaborating with will be on board with that as well. And you then hold people accountable for what they said they were going to do, whether that be in the language of the agreement or what they said vocally, what they said that they were going to do even beyond what the agreement asked for.

And finally, with respect to dismantling the impact of years, generations of policy, I think there are a few things that really impact what is stopping some of that equity from coming online, so to speak. So it's capital, it's experience, it's perception, and it's relationships. We can help facilitate relationships. We can help get people that experienced by getting them on either smaller scale projects or demanding that people partner with emerging developers when they're doing building in the residential and commercial space.

We can help build relationships that impact availability of capital. And through other city departments, we can help to make some of that capital available, and we can continue to talk to different entities that are doing things not just in our city, but in other cities, making that capital available to close the gap between some of our emerging and diverse businesses and some of their counterparts. And finally, with perception, you change that by giving people the opportunity to fly, and you do not immediately cast them aside if in their first project or their first few projects, they don't quite live up to what some of their counterparts who've had access to all these other things for years have been able to do. Not going to change the perception immediately in an industry, but over time, you do it, and you make up for that with those other areas-- with access to capital, building relationships, and giving people experience.

JERRY BOYLE: Thanks, Lafayette. Julia, in your remarks, you held up that book, Know Your Price-- Valuing Lives and Property in America's Black Cities and mentioned how the GMC is actively addressing systemic racism through a posture of anti-racism. Can you talk more about the GMC's role at the policy level and how you see this as a pathway to help Milwaukee to make systemic changes?

JULIA TAYLOR: Sure. I think some of it goes into things like helping look at the appraisal system, quite frankly, is part of it. The appraisals are often based on undervalued properties within a neighborhood. And if that neighborhood continues to be undervalued, those properties will never get up in value to a point that will allow people to have that type of generational wealth that they need.

But some things don't always seem connected on policy side, but we've been working very hard to try and ensure that we can have some additional revenue coming into the city and the county. The current structure we have for our budget just doesn't work for a city of our size and a county. And quite frankly, it doesn't work very well for the state either using shared revenue all the time was our heavy reliance. So we've been pushing to get a local sales tax enacted that would have to be voted in by referendum, but would provide some very much needed additional revenue for the city and the county.

And while that may not seem like a policy piece, it is, because a lot of the work that needs to happen to the city and the county is now getting pushed out to some of the philanthropic areas because there just isn't enough revenue to do what should be in the municipal realm. And I love Lafayette, I love partnering with him, bringing more charitable dollars to the table, but we also need to make sure that we have the public funds for Lafayette to be able to make the decisions and the investments that he needs to make as well. So there is a lot of work in the policy area, and there is a lot of work that each individual person can do to make a difference.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, Julia. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to run out of time much sooner than any of us expected. And there were a lot of questions that were raised, so I'm thinking that we're probably going to need to circle back and do another session in Milwaukee, because there are a lot of questions that were sent in about very specifically how we are thinking differently today about matching pools of employees with a better industry mix that would provide more opportunities and have a better sense of how to connect people with those opportunities, especially in very targeted communities.

But I think it's important to sort of jump to sort of a lightning round question that begins with this general sense of trying to get an understanding of how we expand the geographic support for building inner city Milwaukee to become a source of strength for the larger region and the state and that kind of thing. So I'd like you each to take a moment to think about that question of how you expand the geographic support for what happens in Milwaukee. And also if you could offer one or two things in response to a question of, if I want to get more involved in addressing questions of equity in Milwaukee, how can I get more involved? So, Julia, could I start with you?

JULIA TAYLOR: Yeah, I would suggest-- I want to first talk about if you want to get more involved. I think that what people need to do is to take the time to educate themselves. The YWCA has got a great program on unlearning racism people can participate in. There's a lot of great books out right now to read. I think that's one thing.

I think investing is another thing. Sometimes we don't think that we have the means to make large investments. But the ability to invest in black and brown businesses can make a huge, huge difference in the work that we're trying to move forward. And I would say the third thing is to challenge. Where do you buy your items from? Vendors that you support, ask what they're doing in terms of working with minority vendors, ensure that you are also working with vendors of color and supporting them as they go forward. That's what will make a difference is if we start to put our money really more where we want to see our city go.

JERRY BOYLE: Thanks, Julia. George, how about you? The double question of how do you expand the base of support for improving things inside Milwaukee, but also for people who would like to know one or two things that they could do to get involved.

GEORGE HINTON: Well, let me just-- I'm going to offer my poverty summit that we have every year. We didn't have it this year because of the virus. But if you want to get involved and understand more in depth what it is to be in communities of poverty, which is where I work, that's one opportunity. The other is to look for organizations that have impact on this problem. But I do want to talk about the first question-- how do we-- for me, it's a common sense approach to things.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to me that we would want to keep large populations from being successful when that success in itself creates value to us all. We act too much like if another group of people are successful, it's going to take away from my success. I think that's an educational problem that needs to be dismantled in our brains. We need to understand that people can have success everywhere.

And to be quite honest, if people were successful, the city of Milwaukee is successful, it's going to be a engine for success in other parts of the state. It has the infrastructure, I guess kind of the basketball, sports terms-- it has the ups to do a lot more than it's doing right now, we just gotta get out of our own way when it comes to how we think about how to invest in people and what value they bring to the table.

I do want to say this to our city-- as I work very hard to train people for work, we have to understand that in our city, not just outside our city, we need to spend a lot of time talking about how do we make things better-- we start at home. We start in our own organizations, and we start in our own city and say, how do we ensure that we get out of our own way to be successful.

JERRY BOYLE: Thank you, George. Lafayette, same two questions.

LAFAYETTE CRUMP: So I want to underscore some of the things that Julia said, which were on my list. How do you make a difference here? How do you help demand more of your partners? You think of a couple of plaques or little aphorisms I have here my office, one of them which says the most effective way to do it is to do it. And another we've all heard-- the best time to start was yesterday, the second best time is today.

Start doing it. Demand of your partners what you think should be happening. Invest local, invest in black and brown businesses. You want to get involved, come start a business up here in Milwaukee, or come invest in our local businesses. See what you can do to help them grow. And certainly, I'd be remiss if I didn't say, reach out to my office. For those that are listening, I'm easy to find-- Lafayette.Crump@Milwaukee.gov.

We want people to invest in this city. We want people who are looking to employ people and people who are looking to do innovative things. It's part of my charge. And so please reach out and think of what problems you are uniquely situated to solve. What can you do that others cannot do or have as yet been unwilling to do? And do those things. Set out to do those things.

JERRY BOYLE: So Lafayette Crump, George Hinton, Julia Taylor, thank you all for being a part of this conversation, which I hope is just the beginning of a conversation, not an end of a conversation. We at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago certainly intend to circle back on these issues, not only in Milwaukee, but around the five states that we serve.

Thank you, everybody, for joining us today for this conversation. I'd like to invite all of you to visit ChicagoFed.org/hometown to see some of the other sessions that we've done, but I'd also like to invite you all to offer your opinions on what we may be able to do going forward so that we can all work together to promote a more equitable and inclusive economic recovery going forward. With that, thank you again on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and we hope to see you all soon. Thank you.

Visions for Milwaukee’s Future: A Community Forum

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