Monday, September 17, 2007

Nothing earthshaking ever happens here

Milwaukee got a favorable mention of sorts in the September issue of Governing Magazine, which touted our city’s virtues by picking up this Journal Sentinel quote by Mayor Tom Barrett: “We lack the hour-and-a-half commute, and we lack the hurricanes and earthquakes.”

I don’t know how often people – and, more important, businesses – situate themselves in a city because of something it doesn’t have, and it’s certainly not the mayor’s fault that Governing decided to highlight negatives. But surely we can put a more positive spin on Milwaukee’s virtues than the idea that catastrophe rarely strikes. For example, Milwaukee could sell the claim that it is (or was) America’s most progressive city -- where sewer socialism left a legacy of the three most important assets most businesses consider in location decisions: infrastructure, workforce and quality of life.

Ironically, the mayor of Madison announces on his web site that he wants Wisconsin’s capital to be the most progressive city in America. Actually, Milwaukee’s mayor is much better positioned to make that claim. In national magazines, perhaps we should be touting the positive assets that emerged from a progressive tradition just as boldly as we underscore virtue of being disaster free.

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