Jet Grind Radio Vs The City Of Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a city that not only boasts a brilliant name (although still not on a par with the small hamlet of Shitterton in Dorset, England), but it is also the largest settlement in the US state of Wisconsin. I have personally never been to either Wisconsin or Milwaukee (or the United States, for that matter), but I have no reason to doubt that they are lovely places to live, work and play. So lovely even, that once upon a time the city council decided to team up with an organisation called Keep America Beautiful in an effort to take down their common enemy. Was this common nemesis crime? Invading aliens? Zombies? No. Nothing as malevolent as those: it was a video game.
Milwaukee. Probably.
A video game that, at the time was set for imminent release on the Sega Dreamcast - Jet Grind/Set Radio. The story goes like this. Upon learning of the upcoming release of Sega's graffiti and rollerblading title, the Milwaukee Common Council passed a resolution petitioning Sega to cancel the release of the game, citing that the glamorisation of tagging walls and trying to evade cartoon cops would inevitably encourage the youth of the city to immediately rush out and start spraying every piece of street furniture and bus with the help of a neon curly arrow. As reported in the October 2000 issue of Dreamcast Magazine and on Spong.com in September 2000, Suzanne Brier of the Milwaukee Common Council warned that Jet Grind Radio would "...lionize taggers as creative artists."
There are 9 million bicycles in Tokyo-To.
Sega spokeswoman Gwendolyn Marker responded with a rather blunt: "Basically, we have no plans to stop publishing Jet Set Radio," further adding "It's a fantasy. It celebrates graffiti as art." Well said, Gwendolyn.

Now, I can totally see why the city's officials may have been a little concerned with a game like Jet Grind Radio being released, especially since the city of Milwaukee apparently had quite an issue with graffiti and urban art in the decade preceding the introduction of the Dreamcast - a reported $1million per year was spent clearing paint from the city's streets during the 1990s. As we all now know though, the game was released and no other cities followed Milwaukee's lead in trying to get Jet Grind Radio banned. I wanted to dig a little deeper into this story though, and so I set about trying to find the minutes and the actual meeting details where the Dreamcast was discussed at length inside the civic buildings of one of America's largest cities. Guess what? I found them!
Thor settled on a mahogany replacement.
After almost an hour of searching through the archived council meeting minutes of the Milwaukee Common Council, and wading through pages and pages of motions to get new roads opened and late night bar licenses issued (and a million other less interesting things), I finally came across what I was searching for. And here, for your 'enjoyment' are the full proceedings of that meeting:

Number
000632
Version
ORIGINAL
Reference

Sponsor
ALD. BREIER, SANCHEZ, PAWLINSKI, CAMERON-ROLLINS AND DONOVAN

Title
Resolution relating to "Jet Grind Radio," a new game produced by Sega of America. Inc.

Analysis
This resolution expresses the Common Council's dismay over the proposed production and distribution of the "Jet Grind Radio" game by Sega of America, Inc.  The resolution requests that Mr. Shoichiro Irimajiri, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Sega of America, Inc., cancel all production and distribution of the game.

Body
Whereas, Sega of America, Inc., is renowned around the world for its inventive and demanding action/adventure games; and

Whereas, Sega action/adventure games such as "Sonic Adventure" and "Super Magnetic Neo" provide challenging fun for players without denigrating law enforcement or glorifying graffiti vandalism and property damage; and

Whereas, Sega of America, Inc., has announced its intention to market a new game, "Jet Grind Radio," that treats graffiti vandalism as an art form and that glorifies successful evasion of law enforcement officers; and

Whereas, Graffiti vandalism is a worldwide urban plague, which frightens neighborhood residents, damages and destroys property and requires the expenditure of large sums of public money which could be better used for other projects; and

Whereas, The City of Milwaukee alone spends over $1 million a year to prevent and abate graffiti and to enforce the legal prohibitions against it; and

Whereas, The Sega web site describes "Jet Grind Radio" as a game featuring kids who are "unified and inspired to fight for their rights of expression, which includes graffiti art;" and

Whereas, The Sega web site directs the game players to "grab your spray cans and design your own piece on one of the immense walls" in the game's city, and further warns players that "the cops will be after you too, so you'll have to be quick;" and

Whereas, Such glorification of illegal graffiti vandalism in the imaginary world of Sega games will only encourage proliferation of this serious and costly problem in the real world which we all inhabit; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, By the Common Council of the City of Milwaukee, that the Common Council expresses its dismay over the proposed production and distribution of the "Jet Grind Radio" game by Sega of America, Inc.; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Common Council requests that Mr. Shoichiro Irimajiri, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Sega of America, Inc., give serious consideration to the increased graffiti vandalism that can be anticipated after widespread distribution of "Jet Grind Radio;" and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Common Council requests that Mr. Irimajiri direct that all proposed production and distribution of "Jet Grind Radio" be cancelled.
Drafter
00337-1
CW
7/18/00

Another page documents that the vote went in favour of the ban, with all 17 members of the committee voting 'Aye.'

How incredible is this? They actually tried to get Irimajiri to cancel Jet Grind Radio and the proof is all there in the minutes of the meeting that took place in early September 2000! It's also interesting to note that the two games they compare Jet Grind Radio to are Sonic Adventure and Super Magnetic Neo...
Officially safe for public consumption.
Further information on this matter is virtually impossible to find, and I can't ascertain whether this motion actually had any impact on the availability of Jet Grind Radio in the Milwaukee area. If you live in Milwaukee and had any trouble purchasing it back in 2000, please let us know in the comments section.

Also, if you so wish, you can read the original minutes of the meeting here

3 comments:

Robert Jones said...

Great piece of journalism Tom. I love that image of the out-of-touch, conservative councillors demonising the latest thing. Of all the things they could've been discussing. Real crime pales into insignificance when kids on rollerblades might - and that's a big might - tag the odd wall here or there!

Simon Early said...

I think Milwaukee City Council should be fined for gratuitous over-use of the word "whereas".

Simon Early said...

I think Milwaukee City Council should be fined for gratuitous over-use of the word "whereas".