Friday, December 19, 2008

An Ode to the Dells
What Wisconsinite can't admit a fondness for our tackiest neighbor, Wisconsin Dells? When I was working at the United Nations in 2002, I visited the Korean embassy. Turns out the South Korean ambassador to the United Nations had worked in the Dells one summer as a teenager. What a way to be remembered!

And my least favorite place in Wisconsin, and perhaps in the entire country:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Live in Riverwest?

Facing a housing crunch on the East Side, many University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee ventured west of the river to seek affordable housing. They found much more than just cheap rent: a well-developed sense of community, a diverse, culturally refreshing neighborhood, and an acceptance for people of all types keep students on the opposite riverbank.

“I think that Riverwest is unique from other neighborhoods in Milwaukee in that it is incredibly diverse,” said Barbara Castonguay, senior in the College of Letters and Sciences. “While we all live in the same neighborhood, a lot of us have completely different cultural backgrounds. Students that live in Riverwest certainly seem to share a love of the arts…and tend toward the philosophical, which seems to be a departure from the East Side neighborhoods.”

“I live here because it is affordable, you get more space for your money, and we have a lot of artistic people in Riverwest,” she said.

“Riverwest is kind of a paradox because it’s cheap but awesome,” said Carrie Stehman, who is majoring in Social Work and Women’s Studies. “Did you know there’s a school for handicapped kids over on the river? And a Quaker church! There’s also a sex toy store, and The Queer Zine Archive Project is housed in Riverwest. Remember when the plane crashed in Riverwest?”

“I like that the pilot was drunk. In Riverwest, your block is a cohesive group of people,” said Andy Sharlein, Riverwest resident and recent graduate of the Milwaukee School of Art and Design. “It seems more like a working-class neighborhood.”

“My perception overall was that for the amount of money they were asking, the houses were nicer in Riverwest than the East Side,” Stehman added. “It just seems quieter. Plus, you can walk to all the parks and to all the shows. And my landlord is in the Love Monkeys! What’s not to like about that?”

“My landlord was a slumlord!” Sharlein responded. He noted that cheap rent sometimes means sacrifices in other areas, but that it was a singular experience over all the years he lived in Riverwest.

Alex Wagner, senior, echoed their statements. “It is significantly cheaper over here and it's not as loud. Being 23…I am really over the whole stumbling around in loud drunken mobs thing, and that never happens on Fratney St. As far as the residents, it reminds me of how a campus atmosphere should be. The established neighbors are cool and most of the students are respectful so it seems to work out pretty well.”

“All of the festivals that are worthwhile are in Riverwest: Locust Street Days, Center Street Days, the Beer Run, and Rocker Box, which is kind of like if Harley Fest was cool. The best underground music happens in Riverwest. There’s nothing like that on the East Side,” said Chris Barnes, a recent UWM alumnus.

Some students originally ended up in Riverwest as an escape, but stayed because of the artsy vibe.

“I grew up in an awful place in Iowa, and wanted to get out. I had friends in Milwaukee who found a place on Holton Street for us to live in. That was about six and half years ago; now I am on my fifth place in Riverwest,” said sophomore Ben Clark. “The racial diversity, arts, music, politics, basement shows, bars, eateries, and economics keep me here. Its more diverse than [other] neighborhoods, and the residents probably have a stronger sense of pride in the community.”

“It's worth noting as well that the Riverwest community is decidedly less consumer-driven than other communities,” said Castonguay. “Those that live here live a bare-bones existence by choice.”

UWM alumna Claire Weber teaches eighth grade at Messmer Preperatory School in Riverwest. She lived in the neighborhood during her time at UWM. “It was fun being around artists and musicians and in a diverse community,” she said. “There were always people around.”

Women’s Studies major Lauren Otte envies those students who live in Riverwest. She is currently living in Shorewood, but misses the sense of community Riverwest has. “The rent is really cheap, and it’s one of the more diverse neighborhoods in the city,” she said. “People who live in Riverwest have a community—they help each other out.

“I don’t really know [first-hand why the neighborhood is so cool] because I don’t live here,” Otte said. “Thanks for rubbing it in.”
# # # #
Published in the UWM Post Dec. 1

Monday, December 1, 2008

Voter Apathy

With the election approaching, students have been exposed to political messages on both sides of the spectrum. Have the continued messages inspired the student body to vote in the 2008 election?
“I haven’t seen much [political action] on campus. I’m kind of surprised there’s not more going on,” said Eric Rabe
“I haven’t heard a lot about it,” agreed Adam Snarski.
“In general, the student attitude on this campus is nowhere near involved as I would like it to be,” said Aaron Jeske. “There is probably a core group of a few hundred students who are actively involved in the political process. This, considering that the UWM student population of over 27,000, is a little disheartening. That being said, I'm sure a greater percentage of students have opinions and will express them at the polls; it’s just that they don't express them openly by joining political groups or attending political speakers.”
Some feel students are divided into very distinct groups: those who participate, and those who don’t care.
“People are either very into it or are completely oblivious,” said Nick Earle.
“Students have their ideas of which candidate they would choose, but when it comes to actually getting involved, well, I think a lot of the problem is that they don’t have time for extra-curriculars,” said Jaelei Yang of the Multicultural Student Coalition. “Some people are just shy, like me. I like to be behind the scenes, doing the organizing work.”
Tables for voter registration were set up in prominent locations throughout the fall semester, and didn’t escape notice.
“I think [the overall attitude has] been positive,” said Niles Neimuth. “I think there’s been a big push for voter registration.”
“Personally, I feel like UWM students are very excited about this election; no matter who they are voting for,” said Amileah Stribling, Vice President of the UWM American Indian Student Association. “Everyone I've spoken with has very strong feelings about the candidates and the issues at hand. This is the first time I will get to cast my vote in a presidential election so I'm pretty revved-up about it!”
Stribling said the Student Vote Coalition registered 3,000 students to vote, nearly reaching their goal of 4,000.
“I'm positive UWM students will do their part in this election,” said Tyler Kristopeit, Chairman of the College Republicans. “In 2004, the polling location at Sandburg Dorms had the highest turnout of any polling place in the City of Milwaukee. The enthusiasm for this election has certainly surpassed that of 2004.”
“I have seen a lot of energy devoted to selections. As always, there is going to be apathy, but I know a large number of students are energized about this election - and that's exciting to see.” Kristopeit said.
Not everyone remains as optimistic as Kristopeit.
“It would be nice to get a big turnout,” said Kyle Duerstein. “I think people are just too apathetic.”
# # # #
Published in the UWM Post Nov 3