Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:12AM
Once a year, Chicago remembers that Milwaukee exists.
This is when Summerfest, the excellent lakefront Milwaukee music festival, rolls around, beginning this year on Wednesday. Chicago area residents by the thousands flock north, like migrant birds with a music jones.
But wait. We are not being fair. Forgive us for our condescension to all things Midwestern outside of Chicago. It’s an old habit.
Truth is, the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan regions are deeply entangled in each other’s business, to the point where it’s hard to say where one region begins and the other leaves off. An important study released in March by a Paris-based economics group makes just that point, in fact, identifying the entire southern rim of Lake Michigan, from Milwaukee to Chicago to Northwest Indiana, as a single metropolis — and don’t be fooled by state lines and turf wars.
The study, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes 32 leading nations as members, also says this Midwestern megalopolis would be much more of an economic powerhouse, far greater than the sum of its parts, if it developed closer economic, transportation, academic and green-technology ties.
Not that this is likely to happen soon.
“Any astronaut looking down from space at night would spot a solid band of bright light wrapped around the southern end of Lake Michigan,” writes Richard C. Longworth, of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “Down here on the ground, it’s not one big region but three states, 21 counties, dozens of towns and a couple thousand townships, school districts and other jurisdictions and taxing bodies, all out for themselves, with little regard for the other state, town or jurisdiction next door.”
As a possible start to greater cooperation, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Law School at Marquette University are sponsoring a July 17 conference at Marquette on the topic of “Milwaukee’s Future in the Chicago Megacity.” Most of the scheduled participants hail from north of the border, but one particularly prominent Chicagoan — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — also is expected to attend.
Let’s see what they come up with.
In the meantime, you can check out Chicago — you know, the band — at Summerfest.