Harnessing the Power of the Internet to Accelerate the Renaissance of Historic Cities
Here are some highlights of this experiment as of 2006:
Ted Seaver Street
This project began in 1999 when I set out to get a street named after my recently deceased best friend, Ted Seaver, who “stopped the freeways” in Milwaukee and played an enormous role in organizing rainbow coalitions around community development issues from the 1970s through the 1990s. I used this “bached” e-mails to create the image of an organization, i.e. Friends of Ted Seaver, which never met in person but inspired the political leaders to designate Ted Seaver St. where the freeway stopped, and Ted Seaver Lane, where Ted had created the Milwaukee County Sailing Center, to democratize the sport of sailing.
Milwaukee Preservation Alliance(MPA)
My next project was to advance the cause of historic preservation, building upon the lessons learned in the Seaver Street Project.
When the city peremptorily “fired” the director of historic preservation he asked me to help mobilize the preservationists and gave me 5 or 10 names and e-mail addresses. E-mails to those brought names and e-mail addresses to more, and resulted in a gathering of about 25 at a marvelous bed and breakfast, most of whom gave me their names and e-mail addresses. From that emerged e-mail connections and meetings at sacred places and in about 6 months the emergence of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance(MPA), which has played the major role in preservation contestation these past years, including the most likely successful saving of the Soldiers Home and the Pabst Brewery complex.
Bay View Renaissance
When I moved to Bay View, Milwaukee in 2002, I was committed to accelerating its renewal via internet empowerment. I had witnessed not only my own vastly enhanced organizational productivity via internet tools, but also the use of e-mail networks by the heavy lifters of the Riverwest renaissance, the most successful integrating neighborhood of Milwaukee. Shawn Smart and Tess Reiss had by 2002 an e-mail network in Riverwest of 100 to 200 households, which dramatically enhanced Riverwest’s capacity to promote and defend its interests.
I sought out Bill Sell, “the luckiest man in Bay View,” an ex-priest widely respected and active in sustainable development matters, especially mass transit and biking. I told him about the Riverwest e-mail network and he launched a yahoo group, i.e. Bay_View_Matters,” which grew to 100 in 6 months, crystallized into a neighborhood association led by about 5 dynamic young women, now has about 500 households, and continues to serve as a community agora of enormous consequence.
Urban Agriculture, Dismantling Racism, and the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com, an On Line Magazine and Movement Resource
With the arrival of James Carlson and Bucketworks, the power of “wiki” open source communities and everyone as web master fired my work. Wiki web sites allow on-line collaborations of much greater power and subtlety than e-mail networks or yahoo groups, so we launched the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com.
While the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com has been of great use to a variety of causes, perhaps promoting urban agriculture and the community food movement has been its greatest accomplishment to date. Will Allen’s Growing Power is now becoming a household word among Milwaukee’s activist communities, which receive broadcasts about tours and projects once or twice a month, and who were treated to a front page story of Will by the alternative weekly, whose reporters and publishers often elaborate Renaissance copy into hard copy stories.
MilwaukeeRenaissance.com plays a large role in the dismantling racism movement, especially the St. Patrick’s All City Gathering of Visionaries and Activists.
A Community “Leaves of Grass”
There are now about 10 or 20 regular or episodic contributors to MilwaukeeRenaissance.com and too many projects to list.
Here is one effort to systematize the movements supported.
Here is our “front page.”
I hope to establish connections with other people experimenting with or researching this wondrous resource for the movements of our time.