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Milwaukee Marathon Accused Of Avoiding Black Neighborhoods

Chris Ponteri, the owner of a small Wisconsin race management company, is—or at least was—interested in creating a spring marathon in Milwaukee next April. His proposed route meanders along the lake, through the city, and among some of its parks.

"It doesn't come through the African-American community at all," Alderman Willie Wade, vice chair of the Public Works Committee, objected on Wednesday morning, where Ponteri was applying for a special events permit. "There is no excuse for that. You can't keep cutting African Americans out of the decisions. We need to be at the table when the decision is made."


Whoa, whoa, whoa. Pump the brakes, Willie.

Below you can see the rough proposed route, as reported by the local Journal Sentinel:

And here is Alderman Wade's 7th District (in red) next to the proposed route (in blue).


The marathon's path doesn't go through Wade's constituents' neighborhood, for good reason: There aren't a lot of parks there, and parks keep a race's costs down.

The Badgerland Striders, another race management company, puts on 17 running events in Wisconsin every year, including the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in the fall, and registration manager Pauline Shoemaker says many take place in city parks.


"To go through communities costs money. We pick bike baths so they don't have to be paying for streets," she says, adding, "If it's in the park, you get permission from the park, and that's it."

According to an officer in the District 7 police station, the whole of the district has only five parks, and just one, Lincoln, is of significant size (approx. 3 square miles). Even then, the park straddles the easternmost boundary between it and District 6, and it's farther north than the course currently traces.


Wade charged that "European-Americans make all these decisions without talking to African-Americans." However, the JS reported that later that day, when Ponteri called Wade's office to set up a meeting, he "was told by a person in the alderman's office that he would not meet with Ponteri."

Ponteri did pledge to modify his marathon's proposed course to include more of the city's communities, though he did not specify how, nor did he return repeated requests for comment.


The committee "took no action" on Ponteri's request for a permit on Wednesday, but the matter remains unresolved in more than just the use of city property.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

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