Wisconsin Lawmaker Would Like To See Changes To The State’s School Voucher Program, Residents Help Solve Food Desert, The Value Of Space Exploration

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Ambitious programs to travel to other planets in the solar system can be exciting, but also expensive. Critics sometimes say the money is better spent solving problems on Earth. We talk with an aerospace engineer who thinks that the romance of space brings tangible, economic benefits. We also hear from a state representative about his reservations on voucher schools, and new legislation that would affect them. The vibrant Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee was long considered a food desert, but a new supermarket will open soon. Find out how residents came together to help make it happen.

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  • Citizen Effort To Attract Supermarket To Walker's Point Pays Off

    For years, residents of the Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee have pushed for a supermarket in their community, and next month, a new grocery store will open its doors. One of the residents involved in the effort is with us to talk about the importance of fresh food to urban areas and how people can take action to make change in their community.

  • Milwaukee Neighborhood Successfully Rallies For Grocery Store

    Walker’s Point has trendy eateries. Bustling bars and nightclubs. Industrial headquarters. A growing number of housing developments. A diverse range of residents.

    But the Milwaukee neighborhood is a food desert — it has no supermarket, only tiny corner stores. That was a problem for residents, some of whom don’t own cars.

    “If you were to go to a grocery store, it was a journey,” said Victor Ray, former president of the Walker’s Point Neighborhood Association. “You could not walk, you could not ride your bike.”

    That will change next month when Cermak Fresh Market opens its doors in the neighborhood.

    Though a supermarket seems like a neighborhood essential, it wasn’t easy to attract one to Walker’s Point, Ray said. Residents have been organizing for years.

    “The problem was that a lot of the mainline grocery stores that I talked to … said that there wasn’t enough residents around for them to be profitable,” Ray said. “Well, I disagreed with that. I wrote letters, I called supermarkets, I drove them around to different places in our area.”

    This isn’t just an issue in Walker’s Point. Parts of Milwaukee’s north and west sides are also known food deserts.

    That has prompted creative solutions, such as mobile produce markets, which stop at neighborhoods such as Clarke Square, Amani and McGovern Park, offering fresh produce at lower prices.

    Across the United States, tens of millions of Americans live without close access to fresh foods.

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many of those areas are low-income. Studies have shown links between living in these food deserts and an increased risk of developing serious health problems like diabetes.

    Former First Lady Michelle Obama made tackling the national food desert problem part of her “Let’s Move” campaign in 2011. But there hasn’t been drastic change since then.

    In Walker’s Point, the lack of a supermarket inhibited the neighborhood’s livability. Corner stores often sell produce at much higher prices, which can be unaffordable to those on a budget.

    One trick to attracting a store was to shift perspective, Ray said. Walker’s Point is still an industrial neighborhood, home to several businesses. Bringing in a supermarket would not only serve those who live there, but also people who work in the neighborhood, as well.

    “We needed something to be able to sustain life in Walker’s Point,” Ray said. “And a supermarket was key to doing that.”

  • Aerospace Expert Says Funding Space Exploration Brings Hope, Many Benefits

    Space exploration can be awe-inspiring, but expensive. An aerospace engineer is with us to share why he thinks money spent on the most ambitious projects is worth it. He says that the romance of space brings people into scientific careers and creates practical benefits for people all around the world.

  • Apollo Engineer: Space Exploration Is Worth The Cost

    There are people who think the tens of billions of dollars NASA spends annually on space exploration could be better spent eradicating problems on Earth such as poverty and disease. But others think spending that money is a far cry from a waste, and even go as far as to say it’s an investment that ultimately benefits all of humankind.

    The latter is thought, in part, because space exploration results in “spinoff” inventions that benefit everyone, said Earle Kyle, an aerospace engineer and physicist whose designs have flown on Apollo’s manned Moon missions, Skylab — America’s first space station — and more.

    Medical improvements including new dialysis techniques to treat kidney failure, new solar energy technologies and digital chips in smartphones are technologies that are corollaries of space exploration, said Kyle, one of the few African-American engineers that helped design Apollo spaceships that flew men to the Moon.

    Outside of NASA, private companies and individuals who see the benefit of space exploration are working to expand the exploration and the technology used to do it in ways that will benefit those on Earth.

    Co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen’s company, Stratolaunch Systems, has been building the largest plane in the world in the hopes of minimizing the cost and inefficiencies of conventional space travel. The company would use the plane’s technology to help increase cell phone coverage in poor countries, Kyle said.

    The belly of the plane will carry rockets to about 35,000 feet and then “air launch” rockets carrying satellites into orbit. This method of launching rockets is cheaper and more efficient than conventional vertical rocket launches and will create “more opportunities for commercial, philanthropic and governmental organizations to collect rich and actionable data and drive advancements in science, research, and technology from space,” according to Stratolaunch’s website.

    Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, made history Saturday by launching a used spacecraft bringing supplies to the International Space Station. Reusing spacecraft is an innovation that could decrease the cost of space travel over time, Kyle said.

    Kyle isn’t concerned the trend towards increased privatization in the space industry will make it a rich man’s pursuit. There are some private space travel companies considering doing raffles to allow individuals to go to space for little or no cost, he said said.

    “I’m all for everybody that has the wherewithal or the guts or the spirit or the passion to make this happen. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

    Kyle also sees space exploration a force of hope and inspiration for humans, a way of broadening our perspective in a big way.

    “It was once said that when the Apollo astronauts first looked back on that blue marble floating in the blackness of space, (they said), ‘If we could bring these warring leaders of the world up into space and let them see our small, fragile planet, it would do a lot towards world peace,’” Kyle said.

    “Yes, space costs a lot of money. But it does lead to great new technologies with wide-ranging potential,” Kyle previously wrote. “It’s an inspiration to …(those) who will eventually help mankind grow up and walk among the stars. It’s also a lot cheaper than war.”

  • Wisconsin Lawmaker Would Like To See Changes To The State's School Voucher Program

    School voucher programs have been a contentious issue pitting school-choice proponents against supporters of public schools. We’ll speak with a lawmaker that thinks that school voucher programs do more harm than good.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Dean Knetter Producer
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Victor Ray Guest
  • Earle Kyle Guest
  • Jonathan Brostoff Guest
  • Veronica Rueckert Interviewer

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