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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Issue of the Week: The Next Event for the City of Milwaukee

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In 2003, the Shepherd Express decided that a world-class city like Milwaukee needed a world-class international film festival. With that in mind, it set up a nonprofit charitable corporation, Milwaukee's Future Foundation, to create and run the 11-day Milwaukee International Film Festival. After just the first year, everyone seemed to agree that the event was a great success. The nonprofit Milwaukee's Future Foundation ran the film festival for five years. When it was firmly established as a very popular and highly successful event, Chris Abele, then head of his family foundation, and who was not even a board member of the film festival, along with some of his followers decided that they wanted to control the event. When they failed to do so, they resorted to extraordinary means to gain control, and Abele got his wish to become the chair of the board.

The Milwaukee's Future Foundation, the Shepherd Express and its publisher, Louis Fortis, then sued Abele at the encouragement of many of those involved in the film festival and others in the nonprofit world. The goal of the suit was not to regain control of the festival, but to have their day in court and expose the role of Abele and his followers. The lawsuit went on for three years and survived attempts by the defendants to have it dismissed in summary judgment motions. Last week the Milwaukee's Future Foundation and the Shepherd Express got their day in court. Publisher Louis Fortis was on the witness stand for five hours and laid out the case. When the opposing counsel cross-examined him, it seemed to only strengthen the Milwaukee's Future Foundation's case. The suit was settled on the third day of trial, at the very strong encouragement of the judge, literally minutes before Abele had to get on the witness stand. Now that this film festival suit is behind them, the Milwaukee's Future Foundation and the Shepherd Express and its publisher, Louis Fortis, can begin to explore creating the next charitable event for Milwaukee.

Heroes of the Week
: Urban Ecology Center Volunteers

Oftentimes, city kids' only opportunity for outside recreation occurs at recess or on the play set at the local park. The Urban Ecology Center (UEC) is dedicated to fostering “ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.”

Founded by a group of concerned citizens who revitalized Riverside Park and began using it to teach students about nature and science, the UEC is now housed in an impressive facility at 1500 E. Park Place. There is a second location in Washington Park, and a Menomonee Valley site is in the works. In addition to providing outdoor science education for urban youth, the centers also protect and use public natural areas, making them safe, accessible and vibrant. Volunteers help to organize and staff the many programs available to youths, adults and families who might otherwise have little chance to interact with the natural world.

Readers looking for a fun and adventurous volunteer opportunity, or those seeking more information about the Urban Ecology Center, are encouraged to visit www.urbanecologycenter.org or call (414) 964-8505.