When Eric explained his goal to apply the data lens, my first thought was “Dammit, that’s so good why didn’t I think of that?”
At our next lunch however, it was time to get to business. Data is great, but data without purpose is like window shopping on Ebay: ain’t nothing good is gonna come of it. Charles from GIS, who had joined us for our occasional trip to our amazingly authentic and spicy local Thai buffet, discussed some very cool work he was doing looking into intersection safety around the city. While we briefly went down that path, Eric had recently read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and the multiple potential data-based questions about low-income rental evictions described were intriguing to both of us.
But first, we had to do a gut-check: does our community also have an eviction problem? Per the 2015 Census data, Milwaukee has 25,000 rental units, and issued 174 evictions. Matthew Desmond reports a much higher rate than the census shows. Was our situation comparable? We had our first task – to gather the census data on eviction, and to compare it to the information we could assemble on the ground.