What Will Madison Look Like in 2050?

–submitted by Mary Helen Becker; photo by Karl Wellensiek

mayor-paul-soglin-2-8-17Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin, serving his 20th year as mayor, made his 26th appearance at our club. Here to discuss what Madison might be like in 2050, he gave a few facts about Madison in 1950: a population of 96,000; about 95% white; occupied an area of approximately 33 sq. miles. Today we have a substantially more diverse population and occupy about 80 sq. miles. By 2050 Madison will probably be a city occupying about 103 sq. miles. In 1950, the major employer was Oscar Mayer. Today the largest employers are UW Health, Epic, the UW Hospital, and American Family Insurance. Madison is one of 5 U.S. cities considered a bicycling community which is rare among metropolitan areas not in the south, but that is growing. It is also the 3rd coldest — after the Twin Cities and Anchorage, Alaska. Epic has created an atmosphere hospitable to tech companies and entrepreneurial businesses. As household numbers decline, we need more units; 1,000 new units per year barely keeps us even.

In 1950, there were about 108 days with the lakes frozen enough for ice fishing. Today, there are about 68 such days. Whether man-made or not, climate change is real.  An important environmental issue is water supply. Salt continues to affect the water resources. We need someone to figure out how to take used salt from water softeners and make it available for street use.

A politically sensitive issue is the subject of the book, The Politics of Resentment, in which Madison and Milwaukee are called the M&Ms by some other parts of the state. Between 2001 and 2015, Dane County has seen a 15% growth in number of jobs, while the rest of the state has a 3% increase. We need to find a way that is not offensive to reach out to the rest of the state.

In 1950, high school student studied civics and had access to classes in industrial arts. In 2015, they do not. Madison College is ready to prepare students for society, but the high school students are not ready. Madison is working on BRT — bus rapid transit.  Affordable housing is increasing in the community; 193 homeless veterans have found housing; by the end of this year, there should be no more homeless veterans.

Our community is making progress, but much remains to be done. We will have to wait and see what Madison is like in 2050!

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

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