This past Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed before the sun was up to head to Milwaukee for Co-op Fest! We had an amazing time, and were so impressed with Riverwest and all the exciting things happening in this vibrant Milwaukee neighborhood.
Hosted by the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance, Co-op Fest is a one day conference that seeks to bring together co-op supporters from inside the Riverwest community and beyond. The theme for this year’s Co-op Fest, “Our. Cooperative. Communities.” and the website notes that this “reflects an emphasis towards our potential to reclaim our cooperative communities and sustain a responsible social legacy for future generations.”
The first Co-op Fest took place three years ago, and the event has grown larger every year. For this year’s Fest, they set up an outdoor tabling area, where participants are able to talk with Co-op representatives in between sessions. We loved learning about the New Barons’ Brewing Co-op, and are so excited for them to get up and running! (We also loved that they brought cookies baked with spent grains from their brews.)
While sadly we were only able to attend a few sessions, and had to leave before the event was over, we learned a lot and made some great connections. The sessions we participated in were engaging and lively, and session leaders were passionate and knowledgable. We were also happy to meet some other Chicagoans there, and see great potential for connection with other groups that share our interest in Co-ops.
Perhaps most importantly, events like this help to demonstrate how feasible Co-ops really are, and solidifies the idea that we are stronger together.
We are counting down the days until Co-op Fest 2017!
Last Friday, Comedian Bill Maher commented that America’s success during the post- WWII years was due to socialism in America. I could not agree more. America had the highest participation in labor unions along with an effective progressive tax system, we had a well-funded public education system and we invested in the infrastructure with the creation of the Interstate Highway system. One of the leaders of that time was Frank Zeidler, the last socialist mayor of any major American city.
Frank Zeidler was the mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1948 through 1960. During his tenure as mayor he more than doubled Milwaukee land mass and oversaw an explosion of Public and Private housing that coincided with the expansion of the city’s industrial economic output. Frank was also very fiscally conscious and kept the city out of debt for the majority of his time in office. With his transparent and fair leadership model, Zeidler was known as an honest politician who was guided by the common good of the citizens of Milwaukee.
This period of time was not an easy one, particularly for a Socialist. Zeidler’s term as mayor coincided with the red scare and the rise of McCarthyism. The suburban populations in most American metro areas were beginning to assert their power, often in ways that were detrimental to central city populations. Throughout these battles, which Zeidler mentions in his memoir “A Liberal in City Government,” Frank weathered the Storm. He is a shining example of how an American socialist can govern in a climate even less receptive to the concept of socialism than today. All of his achievements should be studied for the next platform we as socialist can put together to solve the problems we face today. And on that note, Frank Zeidler, I salute you!!