Wednesday, July 12, 2006

East Side Overview

Having lived nearly 6 years in Milwaukee, I am firmly convinced that my East Side neighborhood is the finest in the city.

It is the most walkable, the most historically intact, the most charming, has the most active streets, and is one of the few places in town where you can get by without a car relatively easy (not that I've done the latter.)

It's also a safe neighborhood. Yes, we have some crime. My car's been broken into 3 times in the last two years (a result of parking it in a dark alley spot. We put up a motion sensor light and nobody's touched it since... knock on wood.) There have been hold-ups, rapes, even a murder a couple of years back. But those are outstanding incidents precisely because they are so rare. Our crime is generated by outsiders. The worst offenses from people living here are drunken college students knocking over your trash can late at night.

The East Side is certainly a haven for college students, and anyone who doesn't realize this and accept it right from the start is a goddamn fool. The city's largest university is located here, and thousands of students flood the neighborhood's prolific rental housing every fall. Far from being the detriment that some people make them out to be, these students are the lifeblood of this neighborhood. They give it the biggest portion of its pulse and vigor. They sustain its nightlife, they support the bars and restaurants and the two (three until recently) movie theaters, they bring life to the sidewalks and parks. Without them, the East Side would be as dull as Shorewood, the lovely but uninspiring well-to-do inner suburb to our north.

But certain residents, and in particular our Alderman Michael D'Amato, seem to view the student population as a nuisance at best, and perhaps an actual threat. I have heard more than once that D'Amato simply won't talk to students about their concerns. He has supported parking measures that range from the obnoxious to the Draconian, the most absurd of which is the requirement that cars on the street must be moved once every 24 hours. This rule is city-wide, actually, but nowhere is it more vigorously enforced than the East Side. When I lived a block away from campus, I had to make a daily trek past my parked car to wipe off the chalk marks which the city's fleet of parking checkers leave on tires to track vehicle movement.

But these are minor concerns in the grand scheme of things. The East Side is a wonderful place, and located less than a mile from the lakefront to boot. I can't imagine living anywhere else in this town.

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