Plans for a new Church’s Chicken on North Ave. scuttled

As discussed on this blog in late July, the Journal Sentinel’s resident grump Patrick McIlheran went on about how a local community activist had the gall to stand up and object to yet another fast food restaurant being planned for the center of the poorest part of Milwaukee’s African-American neighborhood.

As it turns out, plans to put in a grease-filled fast food joint have been withdrawn. As Tom Daykin wrote for the Journal Sentinel, “It’s the end of a high-profile battle between activists promoting better eating habits in a community with high rates of obesity-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, vs. a business hoping to fatten its bottom line. Neighborhood residents and others said Church’s would have fed unhealthy eating habits and discouraged other types of businesses from investing in an area that has seen new homes and other developments in recent years.”

There is a real question and a genuine debate that can be had as to the value of having yet another fast food joint in a very poor area, as it would be a place that would provide some jobs, but at the same time, they would be very low-paying jobs with high turnover and minimal worker satisfaction. And it would do absolutely nothing to help deal with the effects of a poor diet that is based in eating such foods. And the vast majority of the money made at the fried chicken place would go to the company’s coffers, not the pockets of its workers, leaving little real value in the end.

I for one think that a large set of community gardens would help in many ways: the local resident could grow some of their own food, thereby saving them money, and it would be infinitely healthier than even the most low-fat product to make its way down a fast food assembly line. The gardens would give people a piece of pride in their neighborhood, and beautify it in ways that few restaurants can dream of. Get enough gardens going, and soon you’d have the basis for a small fresh food market, or even a shared food growing program that would directly benefit the people in the neighborhood.

So far, Paddy Mac has little to say on this. But if he does muster the courage to do so, remember that it came down to the city council’s decision to attach a condition to the zoing permit that would require Midwest Hospitality, the company seeking to open the fast food joint, “to seek a permit renewal after one year.” [jsonline.] The people, speaking through their city representatives, were listened to, and the city council made it unsavory enough for Midwest Hospitality to open there. In my opinion, in having to decide between having the few lousy jobs the fast food stand would create, or giving the people another false choice of bad food, no great moral or strategic victory was accomplished the city council had to decide between whether or not it would be viable to make a few lousy jobs through the fast food stand, which would also give the people another (false) choice of bad food options.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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