GLUEsters everywhere are settling back into their Sunday routines, but we hope many of them have an extra spring in their step, reinvigorated after some intense learning and new friendship forming–this despite the intellectual rigors we put ourselves through for almost three full days in the name of mega-regional collaboration.

We’ll be leaving this blog up for a few months so that conference participants can reference the activities and speaker bios herein.  But we won’t continue posting here; all reports, afterthoughts, photos and the like that were inspired by the conference will be over at regular GLUEspace.

Remember, as you’re going through your conference notes and blogging, twittering, or flickr-ing, please tag your posts with #gluecon09.  And both OGs (original GLUEsters) and the new class should please contact me about sharing any of your conference reflections, videos, photos, etc., as posts to GLUEspace.

We had a wonderful time in Milwaukee and can’t wait for GLUE Conference 2010 in…

Stay tuned, and thanks again to our speakers and our participants.


We arrived yesterday and the city looks fantastic.  I noticed almost immediately that there is no longer any scaffolding on City Hall, a pleasant and architecturally striking surprise.  Speaking of City Hall, GLUE received a warm welcome from Common Council President Willie Hines, who will be delivering the conference’s kickoff speech this evening.

From President Hines’s statement to the press:

“The Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE), a national network of concerned citizens who are committed to revitalizing cities all along the Great Lakes – e.g. Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and others – will host its national conference in Milwaukee this year, starting tomorrow (Thursday, March 12) evening.

“Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr., who has long helped Milwaukee to be an urban pioneer in economic development, Great Lakes protection and sustainable planning, will deliver the conference’s opening address tomorrow evening at Sprecher Brewery.

“Abby Wilson and Sarah Szurpicki, the Pittsburgh and Detroit natives, respectively, who founded GLUE, noticed that their home cities faced many of the same challenges. They further realized that former “Rust Belt” cities surrounding the Great Lakes encountered similar problems, including population decline, the subsequent loss of tax base, racial segregation, inadequate public transportation and under-performing schools. The Brookings Institution, along with a number of foundations, has underwritten GLUE’s efforts to address these problems via its region-wide public policy network.

“’It’s a pleasure and an honor to have urban leaders from around the nation come to Milwaukee this weekend,’ said President Hines. ‘We feel fortunate to have Abby, Sarah and the entire GLUE team in town to discuss the common challenges and successes that post-industrial cities around the Great Lakes are experiencing. I anticipate a lot of lively discussion and some fresh ideas that will help move Milwaukee forward.’”


In just a few hours, GLUE ’09 begins.   We’ll keep you posted!

If you are a Milwaukeean and would still like to join us, we are here! Conference registration starts today at noon at the InterContinental Hotel.

It is too late to register formally, or to join us for dinner, but it is not too late to show up for any of the sessions at the InterContinental.  

An updated agenda is available here

Further questions?  Email or

GLUE’s members express close to unanimous support for better public transit in their cities, so we’ve tried to create a few different agenda activities to empower both national and local initiatives on transit.  First of all, on Friday over lunch, we’ll be hearing from Kristin Purdy, the Regional Organizer for the Midwest for the Transportation for America Campaign.  Kristin will talk about the federal transportation bill, up for reauthorization this year, and what the T4America Campaign is doing to make better public transit possible through federal policy.  She’ll also ask for help from GLUEsters at the local level.

Then, over dinner on Thursday, Dave Wetzel, President of the Land Labour Campaign (U.K.) will give a talk entitled, Using Land Value to Create Sustainable Communities: How Implementation of Rail Can Be Funded Without Raising Taxes.  From Dave:

The current crisis sweeping the world’s banking and business activities arises from too much easy bank credit being used to purchase buildings as assets which appeared to only appreciate in value.

Although we think of these assets as homes, in fact the bricks and mortar, the wooden floorboards and the tiles on the roof of a house do not escalate in value. It is the site on which buildings stand, i.e. the land, that increases in value over the rate of inflation. Add in speculation i.e. land not purchased for use but acquired for its future increase in value and often actually kept out of use – and you have the fuel for economic disaster.

Happily, there is an alternative that not only corrects the speculative bubble, avoids booms and slumps and ensures full employment but provides a treasure of wealth that can pay for essential services and reduce harmful taxes on wages, production and trade.

By taxing the annual value of land we can utilise wealth that nobody creates by their labour but is created by the actions of the whole community.

When invested in needed infrastructure and services, the surrounding land values increase, adding to the Annual Land Value Tax receipts without causing inflationary pressures or creating a bubble which is bound to burst.

Following Dave’s talk, we’ll hear some updates on the transit possibilites in Milwaukee, and then we’ll break into workshops to plan local strategies for improving public transit, using both the national update from Kristin and the local strategies from Dave.  All over beer, of course.

(Note, full conference participants are registered to attend this dinner.  But if you live in Milwaukee and can’t attend the whole conference, please consider joining us for this dinner.  You can find more details about ticket prices and registration here.)

Our final site visit is designed for those interested in visual arts, artists’ roles in the community, how to support artists, and of course, where there are artists… there’s building reuse!  We’ll go on a walking tour on an area of the Third and Fifth Wards that is an old warehouse district, and is now home to much of Milwaukee’s arts and design community.  Stops include:

  • The Portrait Society (on view: Men in Suits, by photographer Nicholas Grider).
  • Tory Folliard Gallery (on view: two Wisconsin artists, Bill Reid and Jan Serr, opening that night with an artists’ reception!).
  • Katie Gingrass Gallery (on view: As I See It – oil paintings by mostly Wisconsin artsts); we’ll get a brief talk with one of those local artists.
  • Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, located in the 1920s Milwaukee Terminal Building, is the fasting growing art and design school in the U.S.  We’ll meet MIAD’s Director of Galleries, Mark Lawson.

We’ll wrap things up at The Arts Building, which houses artists’ studios, galleries, and Vital Source Magazine, the free arts and culture guide to Milwaukee.  Amy Elliott, Vital Source’s managing editor, has both put together our tour and will be serving as our personal tour guide (even amidst planning for the magazine’s website re-launch).  Thanks Amy!

NEW on 3/3: We are please to announce that GLUE has opened up two of our conference events to locals who are unable to attend the entire conference.  Tickets to the dinners being hosted on Thursday, 3/12, and Friday, 3/13, are now available.

Thursday: We will be enjoying locally-sourced food (vegan options available) catered by Papineau & Co. at the Sprecher Brewery in Glendale, at 6:00.  After enjoying appetizers and mingling, we’ll hear from Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines, on the Importance of Local Government, and from Carol Coletta, CEO of CEOs for Cities, who will speak on the role of young leaders in our cities.  After dinner, we’ll receive a tour of the brewery.  One beer is provided with dinner.  Tickets are $45, or $140 for four.

Friday: We are hosting a transportation-themed dinner at Trocadero, beginning at 7:00.  Please join us to hear Dave Wetzel’s talk: Using Land Value to Build Sustainable Communities: How Implementation of Rail Can Be Funded Without Raising Taxes. Following Dave’s speech, participate in a workshop to design local strategies to advocate for transit.  Cash bar.  Tickets are $30, or $100 for four.

You can register for each of these events here.  Your registration is complete once you make a donation (in the amount of the tickets you are purchasing) to GLUE here.

For the sustainably inclined, the second site visit option will be a tour of the Menomonee Valley, conducted by the Executive Director of the Menomonee Valley Partners, Laura Bray.

Menomonee Valley, in addition to its mellifluous name, boasts an incredible brownfields renovation story.  The valley, located along the Menomonee River, was long a host to heavy industry and a contributor to river pollution.  As industry faded away, the Valley became an essential wasteland, where the costs of locating had too high a cleanup cost.

In 1998, the City adopted a Land Use Plan, and renewal efforts have been led by the Menomonee Valley Business Association, a Menomonee Valley Business District, and the Menomonee Valley Partners, which brings all of the interest groups (government, private, citizen, non-profit) together.

As I understand the vision for the Valley, it will still feature manufacturing business that provide family-supporting wages; business who locate there receive various types of assistance to design sustainably.  Many of the natural processes of the Valley are being restored, accessibility to the jobs there is being increased, and new companies are still arriving.  It’s a model for sustainable development that we should all take back home.

Lots more info is available on the MVP website (I recommend downloading the June 16, 2006 MVP Brochure here).

Thanks to Laura for putting this site visit together.

I just posted this additional text to the “register” page.  Please read if you haven’t already registered:

Update: As of Monday, February 23, GLUE has only five travel scholarships remaining, which will be awarded to participants from Buffalo, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or Indianapolis ONLY.

Milwaukee residents should continue registering.  So should conference participants who don’t require a travel scholarship.

We have begun a waiting list for participants, dependent on the procurement of additional funding (we’re trying!).  If you would like to join the waiting list, please register as usual, and, when asked, indicate the percentage of your costs that you need reimbursed.  We will keep you posted as to your position on the waiting list, and the availability of additional scholarships.

With the generous assistance of the Claus Dunkelberg, of the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Water Council, GLUE is planning one of its site visits on Friday afternoon to the amazing Great Lakes Water Institute.  The Water Institute is the largest freshwater research facility on the Great Lakes.

Milwaukee is the home to a growing cluster of businesses based on freshwater research and technology, which could represent one of the industries forming the backbone of our elusive new economy.  It is a great opportunity to check out a major hub of Milwaukee’s coordinated activity around this developing industry.  According to the Water Committee:

The Milwaukee Region is uniquely positioned to take the lead in this incredibly important industry. Over 120 water-related companies locate operations here, including five of the 11 largest water firms in the world.  By aligning and linking these companies with academic institutions and extensive research facilities and providing resources, support and connections to talent and outside markets, the Water Council is dedicated to creating a new regional economic engine with global potential.

(Note to conference participants: this is one of 3-4 site visits from which you will select one to attend during the conference.  You’ll get an email in about a week, and after the remaining site visits have been announced, asking for your selection.)

With a focus on flavor and locally sourced foods Papineau & Company is working with GLUE to put together a “hopping” evening at Sprecher Brewery to kick off our conference on Thursday night.  There’ll be loads of gourmet appetizers, a light dinner, and–following our speakers Carol Coletta and Alderman Hines–entertainment like karaoke, Guitar Hero (really), and a brewery tour.

We couldn’t come to Milwaukee without sampling the brews — and some elements of our dinner will probably have been grown or raised at Growing Power, which we’ll have toured earlier in the day.  It’s all coming together…


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