Bootstrap New Urbanism: Design, Race, and Redevelopment in Milwaukee by Joseph A. Rodriguez

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Milwaukee's post-industrial changes were already well underway at the time of this book's writing, and civic leaders were grappling with the historical transition from an industrial city to a post-industrial one. The author, Joseph Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee, eloquently states the thesis of this book at the end of its introduction: "Bootstrap New Urbanism offers a similar critique [as books by prior mayors of Milwaukee (including Wealth of Cities)] by suggesting the city's successful implementation of diverse urban design strategies is underappreciated by many of its own leaders as well as by outsiders."

It is this underappreciation that Rodriquez emphasizes throughout his work. His primary investigative techniques of discourse and historical analysis reveal a progression of historical urbanism (as described by Orum, 1995), and a repetition of the rhetoric of polarization (racial, suburban versus urban, manufacturing versus entertainment). While many take this book to be a repudiation of New Urbanism, or "boosterism," or "self-help" emphasis, or urban policy efforts, the text of this book is more nuanced and grounded in experience.

I take from this book a renewed appreciation for the repetitive rhetoric swirling around the history and discourse of the issues facing Milwaukee. I read with fascination the controversy over parking in downtown from decades ago (p. 80) which, in many ways, continues in the same form as today. I think the accomplishment of Rodriguez is to document these repetitive discourse patterns. Next, he focuses on the urban design strategies that deserve more attention and appreciation. I've lived in Milwaukee for more than 25 years now, and I have grown tired of the often circular, repetitive arguments and thinking about Milwaukee's history, present time, and future potential. I hope that Rodriguez's work can continue to shed light on what has led us to where we are today and how change can happen.

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2022-08-03 · · Terms © December Communications, Inc.