Flipping the script Prosecutors focused on crime prevention are just one way the new effort to revitalize Milwaukee’s near west side is so unique. Organized like never before, the near west side stretches from Marquette’s campus west to Miller Valley.
It’s hard to find someone who’s benefitted more from Marquette’s social innovation and entrepreneurship programs than Melissa Tashjian. The founder of Compost Crusader, a commercial compost business repurposing food waste from restaurants, grocers and schools, Tashjian has participated in three programs and each has helped her business grow.
“I applied for the Good Money Challenge because I thought it would bring my business to the next level. For two months, I worked with my mentor, who helped me with financial basics like how to price my service. Plus, with the $7,000 second-place prize, I was able to purchase compostable bags, upgrade my truck and refit our dumpsters.”
Tashjian’s next step was to apply to the Boost program, which she says helped her learn how to run a successful business. “I sat for five hours with one of the mentors going through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Thanks to Boost, I changed my pricing structure, I learned how to market myself better and I feel more comfortable running the business,” she says.
Finally, Tashjian contacted the Law School’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, which helped her draft a contract and write her executive order. “I am not sure where my business would be without these programs. Trying to be the master of everything when you are the master of none is just too hard. Their help took my company to the next level. It was a huge confidence booster and reaffirmed that I am not doing this alone,” she says.
3 Inside a storefront in the Mid City Shopping Center about 20 blocks northwest of campus, the city’s top prosecutor, District Attorney John Chisholm, Arts ’86, stands before an 8-foot-wide wall map of Milwaukee’s near west side. He points out the locations of the “Big 5” — Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, MillerCoors, the Potawatomi Business Development Corp. and Marquette.
“These anchors, along with the residents and our office, represent a unique opportunity here,” says Chisholm. In referring to the main parties behind an ambitious effort to revitalize and sustain Milwaukee’s near west side, it’s significant that Chisholm mentions his own office. By trade, prosecutors work in a reactionary, often adversarial, manner. But Chisholm and his newest community prosecution unit are turning that idea on its head. How so? With support from the area’s new umbrella organization, the Near West Side Partners, Chisholm’s team is focusing on problem-solving rather than reacting, says Chris Ladwig, an assistant district attorney who adapted a model that proved itself in other parts of the city in leading the creation of the new unit, the city’s first based in a neighborhood rather than a police district. “We’ve done over 500 strategic interventions in this area,” Ladwig says. “We use environmental design surveys in addition to face-to-face interviews with business leaders, property owners and residents to help us solve problems before they result in crimes.” Chisholm and Ladwig wouldn’t be sitting across a conference table in the unit’s new base in the shopping center on 35th Street if it weren’t for a CEO’s symposium in October 2014 convened by Marquette President Michael R. Lovell and hosted by Keith Wandell, then-CEO of HarleyDavidson. Top executives of five anchor organizations and key neighborhood partners all accepted the invitation, and the discussion yielded a commitment that
extends beyond reducing crime to realizing a broader vision for the area as a thriving place to live, work and play. The five anchor institutions helped launch the Near West Side Partners and are underwriting its $1 million, three-year PARC initiative, which stands for Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime. While also leading development initiatives, including the recruitment of a grocery store (a personal priority of Lovell), PARC is making possible the community prosecution unit and an expanded role for the anti-crime organizing group Safe & Sound. The two partners share office space with the Milwaukee Police Department in the new shopping center “waypoint,” where residents are encouraged to access resources. Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking under director Patrick Kennelly is serving as PARC’s principal investigator, leading a data gathering and analysis effort that spans academic areas such as political science, history and the College of Business Administration, dovetailing nicely with the work of the community prosecution unit. The Center for Peacemaking is gathering data on the positive and negative activity in the area, including, crime, economic spending, commercial and residential vacancies, and more. Much of the “non-traditional data” being tabulated through the center, says Kennelly, is civic engagement. Locations where neighbors gather, where children attend after-school programs and where other positive things happen are plotted on maps with conventional markers such as acts of crime and new business openings. This information is shared with the initiative partners to determine where to deploy resources, says Kennelly, who adds with pride, “the university is using its knowledge to help create change in its own backyard.” EDGAR MENDEZ