Status of Affordable Housing in the Madison Region

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Kurt Paulsen 1 15 2020Kurt Paulsen, UW Associate Professor of Urban Planning, reviewed the issues regarding the workforce housing shortage in Dane County and its impact on the economy. Currently, Dane County’s population is increasing 1.3% a year, with job creation at 1.7%, and new housing units at 1.1%, so housing is not keeping up with population demand. In addition, rents are rising faster than income, so many are excluded from living in Madison. Presently, more than 100,000 workers live outside Dane County, which means that they have long commutes.

Affordability is another major issue. Affordability examines price to income ratio, which should be below 3. So for a $150,000 home, the household income should be over $50,000. In Dane County, affordability is a challenge since few new homes are in the middle income range. Rents are just barely affordable for middle-income workers. The large, new apartment buildings downtown were designed for the influx of high-salaried employees at companies such as EPIC. Too few new apartments have been built for lower-salary workers who can’t afford to live near where they work.

If builders were encouraged by federal or state programs to build affordable housing, it would reduce the burden, but it would take about 30 years to complete. Furthermore, it would not address the issue of African American ownership. Wisconsin has the 6th worst record in the United States for ownership by African Americans which is also reflected in the county and city.

To address the problem in Dane County, it is estimated that 53,000 to 59,000 new housing units should be built in the next 20 years. So greater Madison will either grow up or grow out. There will be more density in the central area and more neighborhoods in the suburbs. Smaller homes will help to keep down the costs of building, and mass transportation will relieve the congestion on the highways.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  You can watch the video here.

UW System President Ray Cross: The Importance of the UW System to the State of Wisconsin

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Valerie Renk

Ray Cross 1 8 2020UW System President Ray Cross gave an impassioned talk about the past and future of the UW System, and the role it has played in the development of the state and impact on the world.

With his impending retirement Cross spoke openly about the challenges the University System and state face together and the successful partnership the two have employed to create opportunities and real growth for both.  That partnership embodies the philosophy and values of the Wisconsin Idea in the truest sense.

He made the observation the people of Wisconsin often do not understand or appreciate the significant historical impact the University has on the economic and agricultural development of the state.  For context, Cross related how University faculty and research was critical to navigating difficult times from the mid-1800’s to today.  Without knowing where we have been and how we got to the present there is little appreciation for the foundation we have today.

With the rapidly growing over-65 demographic and the nearly flat growth of the working-age population, one of the most pressing challenges is to have adequate human resources to meet future employment needs.  The quality of a University of Wisconsin education attracts students from across the country and the world.  A huge opportunity for attracting a qualified and talented workforce is to create opportunity that retains UW graduates that are already here for an education.  While there are programs to attract people from Illinois and veterans, little is being done to retain UW educated talent with the result that only about 15% of the out-of-state graduates remain in the state after graduation.  He encouraged the UW and businesses to work more proactively to welcome and attract students to remain in the state.

Another challenge the University is positioned to have significant impact on is improving access to clean, fresh water.  This is important to quality of living issues as well as manufacturing, agriculture and recreation.  Almost every campus in the state has some program on water quality, management, or research.  From agricultural effluent to lead contamination to invasive aquatic species to pollution, the University has the locations, experts and laboratory resources to partner with local and state government and industry to solve problems that threaten future water resources.

His last challenge to consider was for us, as citizens of the state, to support deeper and stronger ties to the University.  At a time when the knowledge and expert resources of the University are needed most there is a skepticism, negativity and distrust toward academics, intellectuals and learning.  Problematically, the Internet allows access to great volumes of information but also has allowed citizens to cherry-pick what to believe.

With the outreach and engagement embodied in the Wisconsin Idea, the UW System remains positioned to help Wisconsin (and the world) navigate the challenges and create opportunities.  The UW and the people of Wisconsin need each other.  Continued support for the University will drive future capability to meet the challenges and create opportunity for citizens of Wisconsin and improve the human condition beyond state borders.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“Adversity — An Opportunity for Growth”

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Melvin Juette 12 11 19

Club President Andrea Kaminski pictured here with Melvin Juette

The presenter at our December 11 meeting is the Director of Dane Counties District Attorney’s Office of Deferred Prosecution, Melvin Juette.  He gave a very inspirational presentation starting with a brief history of his life from the time he was paralyzed by a gunshot wound at 16 on the south side of Chicago.  As he says, “My life went from earning respect by intimidating others to earning it by hard work.”

Wheelchair basketball inspired him and carried him to two gold medals in the Para-Olympics before moving to Dane County.  His story is about those who positively affected his life and helped him realize it’s ability that counts, not disability.

In 2008 he authored Wheelchair Warrior.  Melvin says, “I can control how I react to adversity.  Adversity is an opportunity for growth.”  He and his wife have been foster parents to 82 children, seven of whom they have adopted.  He uses his life experiences in his work with those who choose differed prosecution to help them realize that it’s not about blaming others but about using adversity to become a better person.

He used the story of his life to inspire us, and his life is truly inspirational.  Melvin can be proud of his life, and we can be proud to have him as a part of our community where he serves others.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Democracy Found

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A3865Sara Eskrich, Executive Director of Democracy Found, spoke to us this week. She has herself been in electoral politics, as a Madison alder, and she is concerned that policy decisions are often stymied by politics. There is an inability to get anything done, even when a large percentage of the electorate favors a particular policy. Elected officeholders believe that there is no connection between acting in the public interest and getting reelected. One of the major problems lies in the two-party system today, which, in business terms is a duopoly, able to eliminate third-party and independent competition. This is done through legislation that makes it very hard to offer substantial money to independent candidates. This makes it extremely important for officeholders to ask themselves not whether a policy is good but rather whether support for that policy will lead to opposition in their partisan primary. Another practice that hinders effective governance is plurality voting, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes is the winner, even if the vote total is less than a majority.

Ms. Eskrich’s preferred solution to this situation is two-fold: a top-four primary election and non-partisan-ranked choice voting in the general election. This will allow voters to vote for candidates they really prefer, even if they are not from the major parties. Officeholders will now be beholden to larger constituencies, rather than just their partisans. Democracy Found is working on the state level to get this system adopted.  She feels it is not a silver bullet, but it will make a difference.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

 

It’s All About Peace and Forgiveness

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

IMG_1431Dr. Masood Akhtar received our club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at this week’s meeting. Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is presented by the Madison Rotary Foundation to an agency of the recipient’s choice. Dr. Akhtar has chosen United Against Hate to receive this grant.  After presentation of his award, he took the stage to share information about the state-wide non-partisan movement he started called “We Are Many-United Against Hate.”

This is a group where people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular, can unite together to build an inclusive community. This movement is not about “us vs them.”  Dr. Akhtar stated that the success of this group is partnerships and cited examples of partnering with schools, especially the Baraboo High School and local media that supports this effort and shines a spotlight on it. Dr. Akhtar also thanked his wife and two children for their support and cooperation 24/7.

Dr. Akhtar is Muslim and shared that there are 10,000 Muslims in the Madison area and 40,000-50,000 Muslims in Wisconsin and that Muslims make up about 25% of the world’s population. After 9/11, the phrase “Islamic Terrorist” came to be, which implies that a religion is tied to terrorism and all in that religion are terrorists. When the phrase “go back home” is cited in America to non-white people, often by our politicians, it is very hurtful. We are all Americans as our constitution of the United States reads.

The United Against Hate movement is about education and non-partisan policies.  Part of the education is teaching others that Islam equals peace and dispelling myths about Islam all across Wisconsin. They teach us to react positively and not negatively and to dig into root causes and best practices within our communities. The movement includes a statewide advisory board representing various communities.

Dr. Akhtar would love to see Rotary start a chapter of the United Against Hate organization and take the movement to Rotary International. He cited these four things as a measure of success: be proactive; be strategic; be non-partisan; and act!

It’s all about peace and forgiveness.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War

submitted by Carole Trone

Bradley WernerRotarians were treated to excerpts of some of the most memorable hit songs of the 1960s while presenters Doug Bradley and Craig Werner explained the purpose behind their recent book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War. The title of their book comes from The Animals’ song, popularly known as the “national anthem” of Vietnam veterans. In fact, there is no such thing as THE Vietnam War experience.

Authors Werner and Bradley emphasized throughout their talk that we cannot do justice to this era without truly understanding the variety of experience and listening to the voices of those who served. Just fifteen to twenty percent of soldiers were officially designated as serving in combat roles, and so much of each individual soldier’s experience came down to when, where and what they did while serving in Vietnam. The strength of the book’s narrative comes from the more than 200 veterans who were interviewed, from every branch of service and at all rank levels and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Popular American music served to comfort these mostly young soldiers and remind them of the homes that they desperately wanted to return to. Different songs held sway for different kinds of soldiers. Depending on the stress of the day or the time back at camp, soldiers might take solace in different genres of popular songs and these, too, could become flashpoints among a military assembled from all walks of American life.

So while this group of Rotarians readily hummed along to the timeless music of Marvin Gaye or Peter, Paul, and Mary, presenters Werner and Bradley reminded listeners to understand the individual experiences of this shared cultural soundtrack.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

 

Madison College South Campus Doing Well Since Opening Doors in September 2019

submitted by Jessica Giesen; photo by Mike Engelberger

Jack Daniels 11 6 2019

Dr. Jack Daniels pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

On November 6, Madison College President Dr. Jack Daniels presented an inside look into the first 60 days that the Madison College Goodman South Campus has been open. The campus has achieved a great deal during its opening months.  Bringing access to higher education to where it is needed; the campus is successfully breaking down barriers that students have faced in trying to achieve higher education. The campus is open seven days per week and offers programming every single one of those days. Madison College’s Truax campus has posed significant barriers for many in the community due to its location – for community members who live in the south Madison corridor, it can take up to an hour and a half to reach the Truax campus using public transportation, which rules out higher education for many for transportation reasons alone. The Goodman campus offers access to those who did not have it before. Out of the 2,000 students currently enrolled at the Goodman campus, 600 of them are new students – students who have never been accessed higher education before. Achieving greater access is a tremendous win for the Goodman campus and will continue to be a top priority for the campus as it continues to grow.

Dr. Daniels also gave an insight into the building itself – which incorporates art and cultural influences from four of the most represented cultures in the south Madison corridor—African American, Latinx, Hmong and Native American. Custom and representative artwork from those cultures lines the hallways and artifacts donated by community members are displayed prominently throughout the campus. In addition to educational programs, the campus also offers services ranging from counseling to housing to recording expungement. Moving forward, the campus hopes to continue to develop its range of programming and community partnerships so that it can be a catalyst for economic development into the future.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.