October 2002

The Free Life — Item One. An article about the Free Box in Garden Park (June, 2002) has sparked a lot of controversy in public and private. General rants against the concept have centered on the strong feeling that “nothing is really free!” Perhaps some light can be shed on this discussion by the teachings of Taiichi Ohno (1912-90), the father of the Toyota Production System. Ohno-sensei created a system designed to eliminate muda, the Japanese word for “waste,” “futility,” or “purposelessness.” He defined this waste as “any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value.” Unfortunately, this is a problem that infests Western productivity, the commercial culture, and the very mindset of the industrial age. It is so pervasive that a generous percentage of our country’s population can live off the waste generated by the rest of us. That’s where the food in the dumpsters comes from; the garbage in the alleys; the clothes in the Free Box. For more about this concept, dip into a book called Lean Thinking by Dr. James Womack and Prof. Daniel Jones (Simon and Schuster, 1996). The Free Life — Item Two. Clothes in the Free Box might be free, but maintenance comes from the sweat of our brows. Many have noted that the late summer rains have produced mildew and mold, wrack and ruin among some of the very nice items that had been placed in the Free Box. This is a general call for help from the neighborhood. Let’s take a few minutes as we walk by to look in the Box, and throw out anything that really needs to go. Real Free Box aficionados might dedicate a few bucks and a couple of hours to trundling some of the stuff over to Soapies for a wash and dry and fold party. Let’s not waste it…again.

…And then there was even less…In a story buried on page 6 of the Sept. 18 Journal Sentinel Metro Section, it was announced that Milwaukee will be receiving about $1 million less than anticipated in federal Community Development Block Grant funds in 2003. This cut was based on the 2000 census. At a meeting September 17, the Community Development Committee of the Milwaukee Common Council adopted a recommendation that the reduction be taken out of community organizing, public service, economic development, planning, youth services, housing, home-buyer counseling and other services. This comes on top of the nearly $2 million already taken from these groups. The recommendation leaves the allocation of funds for city programs to help with budget shortfalls intact. There were no public hearings on this proposal. How will this affect Riverwest? It’s unlikely that funding for work done by community organizer Jan Christensen and neighborhood planner Vince Bushell will exist next year. The RNA is exploring ways to continue to fund these important positions.

A man was beaten by four men in their late teens in an incident at Clarke and Bremen at 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 24. Patrons of the Bremen Cafe came to the man’s aid, calling the police and an ambulance. Recent problems reported in the area include a gun being fired on the 800 block of E. Clarke Street the night of Sept. 22. Residents should report any suspicious activities to the police. The non-emergency number is 933-4444. For emergencies or crimes in progress, call 911. (Note: 911 calls from a cell phone reach the County Sheriff’s Dept, and must be re-routed to the MPD. “Land line” calls go to the MPD.)

Center Street got a refreshing, albeit small, infusion of green in the form of the new grass between the sidewalks and the cement expanse of the street. Why is it that construction crews on Capitol Drive were taking grass out, and even some trees were falling on that street’s resurfacing project?

Welcome to the Riverwest Currents’ new editorial intern, Mary Wood, a senior journalism major at Marquette University. Unfortunately, she got a rude introduction to Riverwest last month when she attended her first staff business meeting on Center Street. When she went out to her car to go home, her back window had been broken and her CD player stolen from her car. Her car was parked directly under a street light on Center and Booth.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has awarded a $1.8 million grant to sustain 18 Community Learning Centers (CLCs) in Milwaukee that otherwise would have closed by Sept. 1.

A meeting to form a Bremen Street Block Club is planned for 7 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 16 at the Bremen Cafe, 901 E. Clarke St. Residents of Clarke, Bremen, Weil, and Fratney Streets, or anyone else interested, are all invited to attend. COA Riverwest Open House October 30: Riverwest kids, adults, and families are invited to the COA Riverwest open house at their Riverwest community center (the South building at 909 E. Garfield Ave). There will be food, entertainment, arts and crafts activities, open gym, contests, and kids may (if they choose) come in costume. It’s also a chance to check the place out and see the nationally accredited childcare center, after school and family center programs, the computer lab, and learn about adult education opportunities. 5:30-7:30 p.m..

Adult enrichment classes on cooking are being offered by Milwaukee Recreation this fall at the Riverside Community Center, 1615 E. Locust St. To sign up, call 906-4959.

We’ve Got Brains…Let’s Use Them Sustainable Living Discussion Group Will Meet at Urban Ecology Center What is “sustainable living?” How do we get there from here? What are the first steps we can take right here, right now? These are some questions that will be addressed in the Sustainable Living Discussion Group, meeting for eight consecutive Wednesdays beginning Oct. 2. The group will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Urban Ecology Center, 2808 N. Bartlett Ave., and will use a discussion guide from the Northwest Earth Institute titled Choices for Sustainable Living. Short readings for each week will cover topics like community, sustainable food sources, housing, transportation, and money. The group held its first informal meeting at an open house Sept. 18, but new members are welcome. The discussion guide is available at cost for $15 from Darrell Smith, 964-8505. To find out more about the Northwest Earth Institute, go to

If you have an activity or item of interest to report, please send email to Further Down Stream at or drop us a line at: Riverwest Currents 733 E. Clarke St. Milwaukee, WI 53212 414.265.7278 Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 9 – Octobeer 2002