A Latino Downtown: Missed Opportunity

By Robert Miranda Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal

April 4, 2015

My recent commentary regarding the Forest Home Library addresses issues such as community involvement, bureaucratic indifference to community involvement, an alderman who throws the community under the bus and a Hispanic group with a history of going against the Hispanic community.

But I think the biggest issue that my commentary touches on is the fact that the Forest Home Library, had it been relocated to South Cesar E. Chavez Drive, would have been the corner stone to a Latino downtown in Milwaukee that Wisconsin could be proud of.

Indeed, the Cesar E. Chavez Library could have been the anchor to a thriving Latino downtown in Milwaukee.

Cesar E. Chavez Drive, with combination of successful retail stores, various attractions, restaurants and of course an inviting atmosphere, could have become a welcomed addition for Milwaukee.

A Latino downtown not only would help carry Milwaukee’s economy, but also significantly would contribute to the city’s identity. Imagine that! Milwaukee, with a national reputation of being the most segregated city in the country establishing a Latino downtown.

The library could have been a major factor for this to happen.

But as my series regarding the Forest Home Library will show, doing the right thing to uplift Milwaukee is not as important as playing politricks for some individuals in this city.

And this is important to point out, politricks that is. Because it becomes increasingly important as Milwaukee struggles to be economically competitive, and where national trends suggest that cities will play key roles in the global economy, creating mini downtowns in the community would contribute towards the city’s economic competitiveness.

When politricks is part of an Alderman’s agenda, it is the community that suffers. When politricks is part of a bureaucrats agenda, it is the community that suffers. When the community suffers, the city suffers.

A neighborhood downtown becomes a key element in attracting and retaining talented and creative community members to the neighborhood. This is an important part of a growing and prosperous Latino community.

South Cesar E. Chavez Drive has history, established neighborhoods, a unique music scene and cultural attributes — how could this area not be selected for the new library?

A Latino downtown becomes the historic heart of the community and the community’s social identity is linked to that historic center.

John Gurda, president of the Milwaukee Public Library Trustees understands this. The historic aspects of neighborhoods must be preserved. But sometimes historic aspects of the past must take a back seat to allowing new history to be built.

The Latino footprint in Milwaukee must be cemented; the relocation of the Forest Home Library could have help to make that happen.

Some will argue that the site on Mitchell street will achieve the same, I argue all one has to do is survey the community again and one will see that the community sees Cesar E. Chavez Drive as the Latino nerve center.

Preservation and rehabilitation are two tools that help recapture and celebrate the past. Vision and courage is what builds and drives us towards the future.

The city’s historic buildings will allow the city to tell its unique story, but building new structures tell the story of where the city is going.

A great opportunity to showcase the future of Milwaukee to the world was lost.

The placement of the Forest Home Library could have put Milwaukee on the map illustrating an economic model that builds neighborhoods which captures the attention and imagination of residents and visitors.

It’s unfortunate politricks got in the way of that.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on April 06, 2015

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