News & Updates | 3rd Quarter 2023

By Jeffrey Schmidt

President’s message


I wrote my first report on a local government budget for the Forum in October 2008. At the time, there was a great deal of acrimony between then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and the Board of Supervisors, which plunged discussion of even the most mundane fiscal issues into politics and hyperbole. Continue reading…

Justice system report spurs strong interest

Photo by Mike Gryniewicz (for Marquette University Law School)

The Forum’s recent report on the post-pandemic state of the Milwaukee County justice system, “Under Pressure,” has generated several requests from policymakers and community leaders to learn more.

In September, Forum President Rob Henken presented the research to the membership of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, an “On the Issues” event at Marquette University Law School (which also featured Milwaukee County Chief Judge Carl Ashley, District Attorney John Chisholm, Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, and other justice system leaders), and at a hearing of the Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee. He’s also scheduled in October to present it to the board of Milwaukee’s Downtown Business Improvement District.

As a result of this interest – as well as lingering questions raised by the report – we are planning a next phase of research on the county’s justice system to kick off early next year. Stay tuned for details on that project in a forthcoming newsletter!

Welcoming educators back to school with new analyses


Occasionally, we have the pleasure of previewing an upcoming report and hearing from members, “I’m so glad you are looking at that!”  

Such was the case with our teacher turnover report released in August, which tracked Wisconsin public school teachers’ moves between districts and out of the classroom from 2008-09 through 2022-23.  The research for this report was led by our 2022-23 Norman N. Gill graduate fellow, Maria Hamidu.

We also responded to burgeoning interest in dual enrollment courses with a Focus on the topic in July, and in August released our annual School DataTool summarizing key student, educator, and financial metrics for every Wisconsin school district.

Forum wins national award for effective communications


At this year’s national conference of the Governmental Research Association (GRA), the Forum received the “Best Digital Communication Award” for a communications tool we used for This Land is Our Land, our report on conservation funding in Wisconsin. The award specifically recognized the data interactive we published in March 2023 to share findings from the report.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is one of 21 members of the GRA, which is comprised of organizations and individuals engaged in public policy, governmental, and civic research throughout the United States. Forum Vice President and Research Director Jason Stein serves on the GRA’s Board of Directors.

Forum events look at Milwaukee sales taxes, teacher workforce 

The Forum’s third quarter brought the latest installments of two of our most popular event series: our Policy in a Pub and Forum Friday series.


At Milwaukee’s Merriment Social on Aug. 1, our Policy in a Pub event featured two very special guests: Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. The focus of discussion: what’s next for Milwaukee city and county following the state’s authorization – and subsequent local approval and enactment of — new local sales taxes.

Our Forum Friday virtual event was held Sept. 29: “Tackling Teacher Workforce Challenges in Wisconsin.” It featured interviews and audience Q&As with our state’s top K-12 administrator, State Superintendent Jill Underly. Other guests were Desiree Pointer Mace, Director of Graduate Programs and Professor of Education at Alverno College; and Laci Coppins Robbins, Executive Director of Urban Learning Collaborative.

Forum events are a critical way in which we facilitate thoughtful, nonpartisan policy discussions featuring a range of views. They also create opportunities for Forum supporters to gather, network, and gain insights on the most pressing public policy topics in Wisconsin. Stay tuned for more information soon on future Forum events!

Forum remembers Susan Hatch


The Forum mourns the loss of Susan Hatch, a longtime supporter and the first woman to chair our board, who passed away in July at 77.

In 1983, Susan founded Hatch Staffing Services. She led the company until her retirement and remained actively involved thereafter as owner. 

Susan served three years as the Forum’s board chair. This includes when we celebrated our 100th anniversary in 2013, when she led planning for our successful gala dinner event. 

Her leadership and support for our organization will be greatly missed.

Upcoming research

Small Business Supports in Milwaukee: In this report supported by the Zilber Family Foundation, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, and LISC Milwaukee, we analyze Milwaukee’s small business support “ecosystem” and seek to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for greater effectiveness. We seek to understand which groups are assisting small businesses in Milwaukee, how they could improve while avoiding duplication, and what we can learn from similar efforts in peer cities around the country.

Local Finance: After contributing extensive research to the debate over the new sales tax and pension changes approved for both Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee, we will also produce our annual updates on the proposed budgets for both local governments as well as the city of Madison. We will also produce separate reports looking at ways to address the financial challenges and capital projects backlog facing the Milwaukee County Parks, as well as options for cutting costs or improving service through greater collaboration in providing administrative support services between the city and county in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Police Department: The Forum will add to its growing portfolio of research into public safety and law enforcement issues with two reports in the upcoming quarter. The first is produced for the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission and will provide an annual update on the citizen complaints made in 2022 about the city fire and police departments and their staff. The next report will summarize the feedback and lessons learned from a series of listening sessions held in the city by the police department over the past year.

Innovation DataTool: For more than a decade, the Wisconsin Policy Forum has tracked the four-county Milwaukee metropolitan area’s performance on a broad range of metrics tied to innovation and economic growth. This includes producing written reports in 2010 and 2017 and an interactive tool since 2019. Our latest annual update to the tool will help business and elected leaders assess the region’s economic strengths, weaknesses, and progress in transitioning to a knowledge-based economy.

New faces at the Forum


Each fall, the Forum is delighted to welcome two new fellows to contribute to our research. This year they are our Norman Gill Fellow, Nick DeMarsh, and our Todd Berry fellow, Ava Gagner. Please join us in welcoming them to the Forum!

During their fellowship year, Ava will be completing her master’s degree in Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee; Nick will be completing his PhD in Urban and Regional Planning at UW-Madison. Nick’s research will focus on parking policy in Milwaukee. Ava will be analyzing supportive housing services and financing in Wisconsin and other states.

The fellowship positions are named in honor of Norman Gill and Todd Berry for their long-term commitment to improving government decision making and quality of life in our state. Norman Gill was executive director of the Milwaukee-based Citizens Government Research Bureau (later the Public Policy Forum) for over 40 years. Todd Berry spent more than 20 years leading our other predecessor organization, the former Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

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, 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 turbulent 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