News & Updates | 2nd Quarter 2024

By Jeffrey Schmidt

Incoming President’s Message


If you sum the long histories of the two organizations that combined to form the Wisconsin Policy Forum – the Public Policy Forum of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance of Madison – they total almost two centuries of service to our state. Yet despite the fact that the Forum began in 1913 and the Alliance in 1932, each organization has had only a handful of leaders. They represent an exceptional group, and it is daunting for me to join them as the Forum’s incoming president.  Continue reading…

Forum Research Informs Arts & Culture Discussions

While many know the Forum for our research on government budgets and education and economic policy, we also play an important role in debates about how best to support Milwaukee’s impressive array of arts and cultural institutions and organizations.

A decade ago, our back-to-back reports on the financial state of the metro region’s arts and culture sector (Pulling Back the Curtain and The Show Must Go On) led to the formation of a blue ribbon task force by area business leaders to consider regional public funding options. We followed that up with a report (How Much is Enough?) that explored the capacity of Greater Milwaukee’s philanthropic sector to sustain and expand its support for the arts.


In the past few months, we have again become a vital source of analysis on metro Milwaukee’s arts scene. Curtain Time, released in May and the subject of our recent Policy in a Pub (see coverage below), has generated prominent newspaper and radio coverage and continues to drive discussion among performing arts stakeholders.

In addition, our September 2022 report, A New Canvas, has taken on new importance. Last month, Milwaukee County leaders considered a report from their economic development director outlining options to sustain the county-owned Charles Allis and Villa Terrace art museums. The report prominently cited our research in discussing whether and how the county’s ownership of the two buildings and support of their operations should be continued. County Board leaders subsequently approved the issuance of a Request for Information to seek “creative solutions from potential parties” interested in operating or developing the two properties. Responses are due by July 15.

Forum events look at transportation, performing arts sector in metro Milwaukee

The second quarter of 2024 brought a pair of Forum events, tackling a couple of critical issues facing metro Milwaukee.

In May, our Viewpoint Luncheon focused on some of the region’s biggest pending transportation decisions, including how to rebuild or replace I-794 and the Stadium Freeway, and whether to pursue bus rapid transit and streetcar expansion. Our panel for this discussion included Bob Gutierrez, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Southeast Region Director; Donna Brown-Martin, Director, Milwaukee County Department of Transportation; Stephanie Hacker, Executive Director, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission; Dale Kooyenga, President, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce; and Kevin Muhs, City of Milwaukee Engineer. Thanks to Potawatomi Casino Hotel for sponsoring and hosting the event!


In June we held our popular Policy in a Pub, focusing on our recent report on the state of Milwaukee’s performing arts sector. Our guests were Kevin Giglinto, the CEO of the Marcus Performing Arts Center, and Greg Wesley, a senior vice president at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and board member of Black Arts MKE and the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Thanks to our event sponsor, Mueller Communications!


Upcoming Reports

Medicaid Expansion: Wisconsin is one of only 10 states that has not opted to use federal Affordable Care Act funding to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income adults without children. Compared with other non-expansion states, Wisconsin is also unusual in setting a higher income threshold for Medicaid eligibility while relying to a greater degree on state tax dollars to pay for the coverage. This study, supported by a group of funders including the American Cancer Society, will consider Wisconsin’s unique position among non-expansion states and provide potential options for policymakers.

ACRE Program Assessment: For 20 years, the Milwaukee-based Associate in Commercial Real Estate program (ACRE) has trained people of color for work in real estate development and related fields like construction management and property management. With support from the Zilber Family Foundation, Mandel Group, and Bader Philanthropies, this project seeks to understand how the program has contributed to the careers of its more than 300 graduates, what type of work they are doing now, and how alumni and stakeholders believe the program could be strengthened.  

Milwaukee Police Department Arrests: Last year, Forum research found that arrests and police-citizen contacts in the city of Milwaukee decreased considerably in recent years. Supported by the Greater Milwaukee Committee and the Argosy Foundation, this study will take a closer look at the reasons for these reductions in arrests and citizen contacts. It also will examine whether Milwaukee is unique among peer cities in seeing such reductions, what impacts this may be having on public safety and police-community relations, and what types of policy and procedural changes, if any, should be considered.

Milwaukee County EMS: The county EMS system already involves intergovernmental cooperation, with county-level oversight and coordination and municipal-level service provision. Due to human resources and financial challenges and a sentiment that service levels might be improved and efficiencies gained, county and fire department leaders are interested in exploring greater collaboration and even consolidation of certain service elements. Commissioned by Milwaukee County, this study will analyze the range of EMS service sharing options and their potential impacts.

A twofold ask for nominations for our Salute to Local Government awards


Our Salute to Local Government is Wisconsin’s premier celebration of public sector excellence. We recently began accepting award nominations for the 32nd annual Salute, which will take place Nov. 13 at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee.

Salute awards recognize local governments and school districts for innovative problem-solving, efforts to advance racial equity, intergovernmental cooperation, and public-private cooperation. We also honor individuals in the public sector for excellence and lifetime achievement. And last year, we added an award for innovation in state government (in partnership with the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs).

We appreciate all nomination submissions for these awards, but in recent years, some submissions have lacked key details requested in the nomination forms. That makes it difficult or impossible for our judges to compare the submission to others in that category.

This year, our Salute nominations ask is twofold: first, please do all you can to provide worthy submissions – either on your own, or by alerting others who might provide them. And if you do submit, please take the time to fully complete the nomination form so we can give your submission the consideration it deserves. Thanks in advance for all that you do to make the Salute a success!

Forum summer interns ready to contribute to data tools


The Forum is excited to welcome our summer 2024 interns, Courtney Blanford and Angie Bloechl, who started in June.

Courtney is a Ph.D. student at the UW-Madison School of Social Work, having previously earned a master’s degree in social work at North Carolina State University. She has research experience at the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, and professional experience teaching in Oklahoma as an AmeriCorps program volunteer, and as an intern at an opioid treatment program in North Carolina.

Angie is an undergraduate economics student at UW-Madison, also pursuing certificates in public policy and political science. This fall, she will begin work on a master’s degree in public affairs through the accelerated program at the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs. Last year, she interned at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, where she worked on victims’ rights issues.

Upcoming Event

Forum Friday: Wisconsin’s Housing Crisis and Potential Policy Solutions

July 26, 2024 | 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Zoom Webinar

Join us Friday, July 26, for our popular virtual event series, Forum Friday! This installment will focus on Wisconsin’s growing challenges in providing its residents with an adequate range of affordable housing options.

Working Together for a Better Wisconsin

For more than a century, the Forum and its predecessor organizations have produced impartial research and analysis that has generated greater understanding of complex policy issues and improved the quality of public policy decision-making in Wisconsin. In addition to maintaining your ongoing membership, we ask you to consider making a donation to further facilitate our ambitious research and program agenda. Please contact Alyssa Doman, our Membership and Operations Coordinator, at or by phone at (414) 435-1105 to discuss how your charitable gift can advance our shared goal of producing objective, independent research to address state and local issues throughout Wisconsin.

Thank You!

In these polarized times, we are especially grateful for the support of our members and sponsors. Thank you for reading our research, attending or tuning in for our events, participating in our committee meetings, and maintaining your membership with us. 

We are supported by hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, local governments, school districts, and individuals from across the state of Wisconsin. The following members provide particularly generous support that ensures Wisconsin will continue to benefit from having one of the nation’s most successful nonpartisan, independent public policy research organizations.

Pillars of Public Policy


Sentinels of Civil Conduct