MU Law School, Public Policy Forum partner for website to explore entertainment, cultural needs

MILWAUKEE -- Marquette Law School and the Public Policy Forum are partnering to launch an interactive website that encourages citizens to set their own cultural and entertainment priorities for Milwaukee – then decide how to pay for them.

The site, which can be accessed at, presents users with information about potential investments in cultural and entertainment assets and organizations, then allows them to prioritize the projects they see as most important and explore what potential financing package -- if any -- should be assembled to meet those needs. Users may then share their customized list of priorities and solutions within their social networks.

The website’s goal is to foster continued public discussion of regional cultural and entertainment needs in the wake of a year-long series of deliberations conducted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force in 2014.

“Asking Greater Milwaukee residents for their insights about the future of our cultural resources – our great parks, museums and fine arts institutions – is extremely important,” said Michael Lovell, President of Marquette University. “With this civic participation, the Public Policy Forum and Marquette Law School will work together through this website to raise awareness of our city’s cultural and entertainment needs, and position our city as a destination for generations to come.”

Marquette Law School and the Public Policy Forum consider community engagement and public policy education as central to their missions, and are partnering on the site to help facilitate and advance those discussions. Neither institution endorses any particular course of action or advocates for public funding.

“We see this as an opportunity not only to enhance public input into the future of our cultural and entertainment assets, but also to educate citizens about the intricacies of local government finance and the trade-offs involved in determining how to pay for valued public services,” said Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum. “Our intent is not to push for enhanced public funding, but rather to promote an even broader and better-informed public conversation about the types of quality-of-life amenities we wish to have in our community and what it might take to pay for them.”

Users of the website first will be presented with information about potential investments in cultural and entertainment assets and organizations. The information will be based on the Forum’s “Pulling Back the Curtain” and "The Show Must Go On?" reports, the MMAC task force’s discussions and other important community conversations.

Options will include investments in basic infrastructure repairs at County-owned cultural institutions and parks, capital improvements at those facilities, discretionary grant programs for privately owned cultural organizations and an expanded convention center. Reflecting the discussion that occurred during MMAC task force deliberations, users also will have the opportunity to consider the inclusion of transit improvements and repairs at school athletic facilities.

After formulating their package, users then will have the opportunity to consider several public funding options to pay for it, including sales, cigarette, beer and alcohol, hotel/motel, and rental car taxes. For each revenue option, various taxing amounts will be presented and users also will have the chance to consider Milwaukee County or multi-county options.

After the user has completed his or her financing package, the site will generate a web link that summarizes his or her results. Users can then share their link with others — and, hopefully, continue an important community conversation.

The website is an extension of Marquette University Law School’s public policy initiative, an ongoing series of events intended to position the Law School as a modern-day public square — a forum for thoughtful discussion of issues that are vital to Milwaukee, the region and beyond.

“Fostering a conversation about the future of our city’s cultural and entertainment assets is an example of the spirit of community engagement that lies at the heart of our mission at Marquette and the Law School,” said Matthew Parlow, the Law School’s associate dean for academic affairs. “The website represents a new vehicle for such discussions, one that harnesses the unique capabilities of interactive media to enhance the dialogue that has always driven our democracy.”