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Barbara Richards is a retired MPS Montessori teacher, environmental advocate and facilitator. She critiques the Democratic National Convention coming to Milwaukee in 2020 and proposes sustainable investments that could help those who need it most.
Recently, I went to an event — the UWM Alumni Association’s “Master Chats Series presents Milwaukee on the National Stage: What the 2020 Democratic National Convention Means to Our City and UWM.”
This panel discussion included representatives from the DNC organizing committee, UWM’s Department of Political Science and local community leaders.
Well, I heard what I feared I would hear. The four days will be a challenge, but if done well — and it WILL BE DONE WELL — it will bring more of the same: more massive conventions downtown.
The panel paid lip service to the disparity in our community, and as many from their vantage point believe, that better ways of doing business will impact the neighborhoods not a part of the downtown BOOM! Touted are the diverse contractors and workers for the Fiserv Forum and Northwestern Mutual Tower. Since those jobs are over, to keep those workers going with sustaining jobs, we would need to build more of the same. How can that be? In the world in which I live, that seems impossible.
The panel is wise so I suspect they heard that the latest reports of the International Panel on Climate Change and National Climate Assessment have given our individuals, governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations 10.5 years to radically change every aspect and every system of modern convenience/consumer culture. There are voices that say we need to act as if our house is on fire, because it is.
Here are some changes that seem both possible and resilient to me:
What if we could use the DNC to leverage a whole new fleet of electric buses for MCTS? Or build the newly approved Bus Rapid Transit service with sustained green jobs for installation and maintenance of charging stations? Or if we trained workers with skills to build the infrastructure needed for other non-automobile transportation, or even energy efficient affordable housing?
What if all 2,000 venues for events got all their supplies from wholesale suppliers that only source compostables or recyclables?
What if all the DNC and other local food venues sourced their foods from local urban agriculture and CSA farms? Let’s grow that capacity now to build a local resilient food system.
What if we thought about what jobs will remain in our city that can change the planet? What neighborhoods can we empower after the four days are over? What if we redefined growth to be growth in wisdom, friendship, relationship both to neighbor and the earth?
A question came from the panel to the audience: “Who wants to volunteer for the convention?” I did not raise my hand. I raise my hand to work toward “capturing the flag” for a resilient future that reaches the whole Milwaukee community, directly and without the trickle down promise.
A promised dream that will again be deferred, unless…