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4th QuarterDecember 2014
In This Issue
Forum's top five
Interactive culture & entertainment funding website
What is the Milwaukee K-12 school system?
City & County budget briefs
Annual public schools report
Milwaukee County's future at the County Grounds
President's Message
Rob photo

As 2014 came to a close, the Forum was busy planning a robust research agenda for the next year.  Per our recently adopted strategic plan, our three priority areas will be economic development, education, and local government finance (in no particular order).  We will concentrate on research topics within those areas that are directly relevant to important decisions facing local government and school district policymakers.


The following highlights some of the key components of our 2015 research agenda:


Read on... 

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2015 Public Policy Forum Annual Meeting

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
The Wisconsin Club
900 W. Wisconsin Ave.
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Forum's top five research findings of 2014

The temperatures have plummeted, the NFL playoffs are upon us, and our credit cards are tapped from holiday shopping - that means it's time once again to unveil the Forum 's top five research findings from the previous year. 


The 2013 list included findings on the demographics of Milwaukee Parental Choice Program schools, the finances of the County's Behavioral Health Division, the promise of consolidating fire departments in Milwaukee County's South Shore, and the challenges of extending bus service to suburban job centers. The 2014 list comes from a completely different set of research areas.  Here's the list in chronological order:

Article 4
Interactive culture and entertainment funding website to debut early in 2015 

Marquette University Law School and the Forum have partnered to develop an interactive website that will allow citizens to review the needs of the region's cultural and entertainment assets and grapple for themselves with the type of financing package that should be assembled (if any) to meet those needs.


"We have had a great deal of community-wide discussion during the past year about the challenges facing the Milwaukee County-owned cultural institutions and parks, as well as the financial struggles of private cultural organizations like the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the need for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks," says Forum President Rob Henken.  "The new website is designed to further that discussion by allowing citizens to contemplate the range and scope of our cultural and entertainment needs and what it might take in terms of new public funding options to address them."


Article 5

What is the Milwaukee K-12 school system? 

Over the past few decades, Milwaukee has developed a national reputation as a petri dish for education policies and reforms. From the introduction of school choice in 1990 to the more recent expansion of charter schools, from the turnaround model to school restructuring, there have been few reform ideas that have passed by Milwaukee.  Now, after decades of experimentation, do we have a clear sense of what the current K-12 education landscape looks like in Milwaukee?


The Forum addressed this question in a pair of reports released in early December.  


Read on...

Article  6

City and County budget briefs cite similar challenges

The Forum's annual analyses of the proposed Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee budgets - released in mid-October - found that leaders of both governments had done an effective job of crafting strategies to address immediate budget challenges without slashing services or placing too heavy a burden on taxpayers.  Both reports warn, however, that the ability to use similar strategies in future years may be limited.    


The Forum's city budget brief cited the use of modest property tax and fee increases, draws from  reserves, and concerted efforts to hold the line on departmental expenditures as primary budget-balancing tools.  Yet, the budget brief also noted "the seemingly unsustainable nature of the City's overall fiscal structure" and suggested that consideration of more comprehensive long-range solutions may be required.


Read on...

Article 6
Annual public schools report frames the region's education challenges

The Forum's annual analysis of data from southeast Wisconsin's public school districts - released in early October - finds that academic achievement for the region as a whole continues to lag that of the state, in large measure because of the challenges faced by the region's largest urban districts.  Throughout the region, however, there are also plentiful examples of success and progress.  


"There are dozens of high-performing districts within the region, as evidenced by the fact that 60 out of 92 are exceeding or significantly exceeding expectations on district report cards," says Forum Senior Researcher Joe Yeado.


Read on...


Article 2

Milwaukee County's future at the County Grounds

The Forum's annual October Viewpoint luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Wauwatosa - held in conjunction with the Milwaukee Regional Research Forum on October 27 - explored the existing governance structure and public service provision at the Milwaukee County Grounds, including whether the County should continue to own and occupy space there.  Panelists included Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele; Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley; Guy Mascari, Director of Development at the Milwaukee County Research Park; and Dr. John Raymond, President and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin.  The panel was moderated by Forum President Rob Henken.   


Photos from the Viewpoint luncheon - which was sponsored by Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. - can be viewed here.

In the News
Forum in the news 
The Forum was frequently featured in different media outlets in the 4th quarter of 2014. 
On the Streets
Forum on the streets 
Forum staff were busy disseminating research and sharing their policy insights with government and civic entities in the 4th quarter of 2014.