Milwaukee Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - By LARRY SAN­DLER

How come all of Fourth Street wasn’t re­named in Vel Phillips’ honor?

It sounds like a Wikipedia move: Try­ing to win an ar­gu­ment by writ­ing the en­cy­clo­pe­dia en­try on the topic. But a lo­cal his­to­rian and a for­mer mayor be­lieve that’s what free­way ad­vo­cate James Casey Jr. at­tempted in a more schol­arly en­deavor, the En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Milwaukee.

The en­cy­clo­pe­dia is a UW-Milwaukee project to present the his­tory of this area’s peo­ple, places and in­sti­tu­tions. By early Septem­ber, 400 of a planned 700-plus en­tries had been posted on­line. The web­site is ex­pected to be fully func­tional in 2019, with a print ver­sion later, says co-ed­i­tor Margo An­der­son.

Most en­tries take a just-the-facts ap­proach. How­ever, Casey’s “Free­ways” item, posted in Jan­uary 2016, was es­sen­tially an es­say, ar­gu­ing that a few de­ceit­ful politi­cians thwarted the ma­jor­ity’s will by block­ing com­ple­tion of a re­gional free­way sys­tem vot­ers backed in ref­er­en­dums. He mourned the un­fin­ished Park Free­way from the West Side to the lake­front (partly built, later razed), Sta­dium Free­way from the North Side to I-894 (partly built, partly re­placed by Miller Park Way), and Lake Free­way from the East Side to Cu­dahy (partly built as the Hoan Bridge, partly re­placed by the Lake Park­way).

By con­trast, sources such as John Gurda’s The Mak­ing of Milwaukee por­tray re­sis­tance by folks who didn’t want their neigh­bor­hoods bull­dozed. Casey didn’t men­tion them and barely noted the free­ways’ neg­a­tive im­pact, omit­ting the raz­ing of the Bronzeville dis­trict and Blessed Vir­gin of Pom­peii Church in the Third Ward.

Gurda, who helped pick en­cy­clo­pe­dia en­try top­ics, says Casey “crossed the line from schol­ar­ship into ad­vo­cacy.” For­mer Mayor John Norquist, who bat­tled free­way growth in the Leg­is­la­ture and City Hall, calls Casey’s en­try “bi­ased and in­sult­ing to those who op­posed free­way ex­pan­sion.”

Casey, a lawyer now liv­ing in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area, says, “It’s not like I wanted to slant the facts of what went on,” but adds, “I felt the facts were not be­ing ac­cu­rately re­ported” in his­tory books and news­pa­pers.

Re­tired re­gional plan­ner Kurt Bauer, who helped plan the free­ways, says Casey’s en­try is ac­cu­rate, but “I don’t see any facts on the op­po­site side.”

That side may still have its day. Af­ter Milwaukee Mag­a­zine raised ques­tions, the en­try van­ished. Coed­i­tor Amanda Seligman says ed­i­tors are ask­ing Casey to “in­clude more in­for­ma­tion about the ef­fects of free­way con­struc­tion on res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods and op­po­si­tion to free­ways,” be­cause those facts “would be help­ful to our read­ers.”

The Mar­quette In­ter­change, the crown jewel of Milwaukee’s free­way sys­tem

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