News & Updates | 2nd Quarter 2019

By Therese Schneider

President’s message

The Forum’s recently released final installment of our five-part series of reports on Milwaukee’s local government infrastructure caps nearly three years of painstaking data collection, interviews, analysis, writing, and editing. There’s no question the time and effort was worth it. Infrastructure financing woes deeply impact metro Milwaukee’s economy and quality of life, and they are not being adequately addressed by local and state policymakers… continue reading

Innovative projects and local government leaders honored at 27th annual Salute event

More than 430 people packed the Grand Ballroom at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee for our 27th Annual Salute to Local Government on June 25, which featured Governor Tony Evers as keynote speaker. Our awards recognized governments for strong financial management, innovation, partnership and cooperation, as well as individuals in the public sector for excellence and lifetime achievement. Did you miss the event or want to watch the awardees’ video vignettes again? Watch the videos here. (Thanks again to Milwaukee PBS for producing the vignettes!) And, check out photos here. Congrats to all of this year’s winners!

Viewpoint Luncheon recap

Our Viewpoint Luncheon on May 21 drew more than 100 people to hear our take on the education components of the proposed state budget, and listen to a panel of education experts and leaders. Check out our event recap that includes WisconsinEye’s video of the entire event as well as photos and media coverage. Many thanks to our sponsors–the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and von Briesen & Roper–for helping to make this event a success!

Senior center report launches needed debate

Young at Heart, the Forum’s April report exploring the role of senior centers in Milwaukee County, has precipitated an important community-wide discussion on the centers’ future. The five county-owned centers are highly valued by the several thousand older adults who frequent them each year, making this a difficult conversation. Some center supporters have criticized our research, saying it was designed to set the stage for the centers’ closure. While this was not our intent and urge anyone concerned about it to read our report, we welcome the debate and embrace scrutiny of our findings. We also stick with our overriding premise: the need for and cost of future facility repairs should compel policymakers to look at other models and objectively examine whether alternative infrastructure or programs might better serve older adults and their ability to live independently in the community.

Forum facilitates conversation on Hispanic upward mobility

On June 5, we participated in an event at Bader Philanthropies on how to increase Hispanic representation in high-wage occupations in metro Milwaukee. Our recent Upward Mobility report identified persistent educational attainment and wage gaps between the region’s growing Hispanic population and its general population. At the event, we presented our findings from Upward Mobility and facilitated a discussion with UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone, Milwaukee Area Technical College President Vicki Martin, Milwaukee Public Schools Compliance Manager Regina Flores, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Talent Initiatives Director Rebecca Deschane; focusing on their organizations’ roles in closing the gaps.

The event was organized by Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, which commissioned our research, and attended by roughly 75 civic leaders and community members.

Coming soon… new research!

Tax Increment Financing in Milwaukee: This report delves into how TIF funds have been used to help finance the Milwaukee streetcar and compares the city’s approach to those used for other streetcar systems around the country.

Municipal DataTool: A standby for local leaders, the Municipal DataTool (formerly MunicipalFacts) provides crucial data on city and village taxes, property values, spending, population, and more. This year, we’ll publish our data and analysis as a free interactive, web-based tool that allows users to generate their own comparative reports and extends to all 601 cities and villages in the state.

State Finances: We will continue our timely analysis of issues emerging from state budget deliberations. Upcoming briefs and reports will include a look at the state’s capital budget and its support of affordable child care.

Fire and EMS Service Sharing: Our ongoing work on service sharing will include reports on sharing and consolidation opportunities in southern Milwaukee County and the greater Racine area that hold potential to save money and improve fire and ambulance services.

New faces at the Forum

We’re excited to introduce our newest team members: one communications director, two data and research analysts, and three summer interns. Welcome to the Forum!

Mark Sommerhauser is our Communications Director and is based in our Madison office. Before joining the Forum, Mark worked from 2015 to 2019 as a Capitol reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, where he covered the state budget, state agencies, transportation issues, and state and federal politics.


Robyn Di Giacinto is a Data & Research Analyst and is based in our Milwaukee office. She integrates data visualizations and multimedia in our research publications. She recently graduated with a master’s in digital communication strategies from Marquette University.


Ari Brown is a Data & Research Analyst and is based in our Madison office. He acquires, manages, analyzes, and visualizes public policy data for our research. He recently graduated with a master’s in public affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison.


Will Henkes is our graduate summer intern based in the Madison office. He is currently pursuing a master’s in public affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison.


Chris Paul is an undergraduate summer intern and is based in our Milwaukee office. He is currently pursuing degrees in political science and public administration at UW-La Crosse.


Ian de Wet is an undergraduate summer intern and is based in our Madison office. He is currently pursuing degrees in political science, economics, and music at UW-Madison.


Our summer interns are generously supported by: