Accessibility for Everyone in Downtown Madison

   The speaker at our April 7th meeting was Jason Beloungy, Executive Director of Access to Independence, which is one of eight such organizations in Wisconsin.  It serves Columbia, Dane, Dodge and Green counties.  Today he spoke of the collaboration between his organization, the Downtown Madison’s Beyond Compliance Task Force, and the City of Madison’s Disability Rights Commission.

   The goal of this alliance is a fully inclusive and accessible downtown which includes entrances to buildings and within their interiors such as restrooms as well as the accessibility to outdoor events and parking opportunities.  Achievements of the last three years began with conducting a survey of persons facing barriers to accessibility that help prioritize the group’s efforts.  From this, two separate guides have been developed.

   The first was for streetory which involved entrances to buildings and the way to provide the best accesses to and within outdoor dining areas.  The second guide developed is for festivals and outdoor events.  The current project centers on “Well Built Conferences” which addresses designs and best practices for buildings.

   Jason feels that individuals and organizations can help by getting directly involved with the Disability Rights Commission; getting input from those with disabilities; hiring people with disabilities; and by promoting accessibility and inclusion.

   Our thanks to Jason Beloungy for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/IGFkTbDrKD8.    

Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor

   Ruben Anthony addressed our March 31, 2021, meeting on the subject of “Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor.”  He has been the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison since 2015.

   The National Urban League was founded in 1910 and now has 92 affiliates throughout the US with the Madison chapter beginning 50 years ago in 1968. It has been a champion for the poor and the unemployed as a longstanding resource for people of color that helps to rebuild their lives and give them a second chance.

   Ruben believes home ownership is the key to generational wealth, but, in Madison, only 10% of African Americans own their own home compared to 48% nationally.  He detailed how the Urban League actively works toward assisting those individuals into owning their own homes.

   The League was inspired by the Sherman Phoenix project in Milwaukee to promote and support African American small businesses in Madison.  Thus, it is working to develop the Park Street Corridor on Madison’s south side by trying to establish a Black business hub.  It has been aided by an initial $100,000 grant from Dane County followed by a $2,000,000 grant to acquire property and $400,000 in loans from American Family Insurance.

   The project is at the corner of Hughes Place and South Park Street.  Its first phase establishes core businesses, and the second phase will develop multi-family affordable housing.  It is planned to initially have 15 to 20 businesses and additional government offices with the latter on long-term leases to provide more financial stability for the project.

   We all can help this project by referring anyone we know who is looking for a business location or a place to start a new business.  Low cost capital, in-kind contributions and philanthropic support are of course very much welcomed.

   Our thanks to Ruben Anthony for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/O4pO-f0JeUk.

“How Can We Make Madison More Vivid?”

Zach Brandon made an inspiring presentation at our March 24th meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison.  As the president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and past Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, he is well qualified to speak to us about Madison’s present and future in his titled address, “There is Light in the Darkness.”  He structured his presentation around the intervening years since his prior Rotary presentation in 2018 which was his third.

The year 2019, as he showed, was full of positive indicators with Madison having the largest percentage of millennials moving to a new city, leading city in increased percentage of high digital skills positions and high stability in those jobs.  2020 began with more positive signs of Madison as a tech growth center in the Nation.  But then, covid-19 struck, and all conversation and attention stopped which muted the story of Madison.

Then the issue became, “How can we make Madison more vivid?”  Zach feels a part of that is to target the work force of the future in terms of gender, diversity and equity.  As he says, the data suggests the wind is still at our back, especially when national surveys consistently predict Madison to make the fastest recovery from the covid-19 down turn.

He concluded that Madison’s goal should be developing and attracting top quality workers to the right mix of jobs in the Madison economy.

If you did not attend the presentation and would like to feel good about your community, please view his presentation on our Rotary Club’s YouTube Channel.

Our thanks to Zach Brandon for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/Fp1PFHlnaSQ.

Getting to Know Candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

This week’s program was a debate between the candidates running for Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the general election on April 6: Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly

Each candidate had 4 minutes for introductory statements.  Kerr says she is committed to statewide plan for getting our student back in the classroom; the promotion of the trades; focus on high-quality instruction; addressing inequity and achievement gaps; and wanting DPI to be a thought leader in the industry.  Underly says she is committed to high-quality pre-school and early childhood education; committed to safely transitioning schools back to face to face learning; promoting the trades; and addressing inequities in schools.

Following opening remarks, candidates were each asked to respond to four questions:  Q1: We elect this position every 4 years, but we don’t know a lot about the position. What is the role of the Superintendent and name one policy you’d change that doesn’t need approval of legislature or governor? Q2: Pandemic exposed disparities re: access to technology. What can you do remedy this?  Q3: Wisconsin is spending less per pupil than in the past? Do we need to reverse?  Q4:  This is a nonpartisan position, but it has become partisan. What is it about your candidacy that attracts specific groups?

In closing, each candidate had three minutes for final statements. Underly included in her closing that she believes all kids should have access to highest quality public education. Every child should have access to great foundation, and we have a collective responsibility to a public education. She feels that we’re leaving too many kids behind. Kids deserve great buildings, technology, teachers, healthy meals, healthcare and affordable internet access. She wants to solve the problem of inequity.  Kerr says she believes she is an advocate for all kids and doesn’t believe education is one size fits all. She wants DPI to become a learning community and believes we can’t stop until all the children are doing well. She feels she’s uniquely prepared due to her experience in all sectors of education. She does not believe that teachers need to be vaccinated prior to returning full time.

Members can view the full 30-minute debate to hear their full responses, including their responses to the Q&A section.    

Our thanks to the candidates for appearing this week and to Jessika Kasten for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/IzT_-lqlxwE.

The 2020 Election’s Effect on US Foreign Policy

   Professor Pevehouse then went on to outline some of the largest foreign policy facing us now:

Jon PevehouseThis week, UW-Madison Professor Jon Pevehouse provided an analysis of the Trump Administration’s major foreign policy initiatives and how the outcome of this past November’s election is affecting American foreign policy going forward. The Professor started by commenting on the two overarching differences between the present administration and the last: 1) Staffing: President Trump understaffed diplomatic roles and left many gaps, signaling our priorities. President Biden has since ramped up diplomatic staffing; and 2) Stability: Under the last administration, foreign policy could change with a tweet. Under the current administration, that will not be the case, which will lend itself to increased foreign trust.

   Professor Pevehouse then went on to outline some of the largest foreign policy facing us now:

  • China – Tensions between the U.S. and China are higher than they have been in some time, due to the self-proclaimed Trade War that President Trump imposed. Currently, we are part of Phase 1 Deal, as China agreed to buy certain supplies from America. They have not kept their part of the bargain to date, so President Biden needs to consider next steps. He will likely try to work with other countries to get help, rather than go it alone. Other issues around China include security in the South China Sea and Human Rights violations.
  • Middle East – There has been much back and forth regarding our involvement with the Iran Nuclear Deal over the past administrations, and Prof. Pevehouse sees this continuing into the future, since incentives to reach an agreement going forward simply aren’t there for Iran.
  • Europe – Although it would seem natural that America and the EU would have better relations than we did under the Trump Administration, it likely won’t be lockstep immediately. The EU and China have a deal that allows them a leg up on investing in China, which they’d need to give up if they wanted to work closer with the U.S. again. Hopefully over time, this will improve.
  • COVID-19 – The World Trade Association is trying to find middle ground regarding importing and exporting vaccine, as they hope to balance intellectual property and access. They are currently looking at licensing the vaccine to other countries so they can be manufactured locally.

   The presentation today really illustrated the connectedness of the world and helped to illustrate the different perspective of the respective administrations.

   Our thanks to Prof. Jon Pevehouse for his presentation this week and to Jessika Kasten for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/aXgm9YdoHe8.

 

Jim Fleming: A Familiar Voice on WPR

Jim FlemingAt this week’s Downtown Rotary meeting, the iconic Jim Fleming reflected on his career at WPR that spanned over five decades. Although Jim may not look familiar, his voice is instantly recognizable as long time host of programs such as, “Chapter A Day” and “To the Best of Our Knowledge.” Jim came to Madison with his family in 1964, when his dad, Robben Fleming, accepted a Provost position at the University of Wisconsin. His mother, a violinist, helped to shape and instill his love for music from a very young age.

WHA, which later became WPR, began on campus in 1912 and is one of the oldest radio stations in the country. Since its inception, many things at WPR have changed, but it’s devotion to the Wisconsin Idea has always remained steadfast. WPR believed that the boundaries of the University were the boundaries of the state and for many years, they aired UW lectures to give access, exposure and opportunities to those in more rural areas of Wisconsin.

In 1967, The Corporation of Public Broadcast Act spurred national public TV, as well as national public radio. WHA was proud to help shape NPR by providing many staff to help it launch, including their initial program director and music director. In the mid-1970s, one of the biggest changes occurred at WPR when they moved from a single service carrier to a two services carrier. The split separated out the Ideas Network (talk services) & Music & News Service, into the framework that remains today.

When looking forward, Jim feels that the generosity, dedication and loyalty of listeners and business donors will continue to help them survive. Generally about 75% of operating funds comes from these two sources. Going forward, Jim also feels that WPR must remain committed to honoring diversity in it’s book selections, and admits there is still much work to be done on this front. Although they have made advances in sharing stories from a woman’s point of view, they must continue to look for additional voices that ring true. As anticipated, Jim is a big believer in the power of story, and encourages all leaders to consider storytelling as a tool whenever they need to be persuasive. Telling people the why and why it matters is crucial to a compelling argument.

Our thanks to Jim Fleming for his presentation this week and to Jessika Kasten for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/S3_nx0_i7Ic.