Ken Opin, who was a leader in the effort to pass a referendum authorizing the construction of the Monona Terrace, and Connie Thompson, Executive Director of the Monona Terrace, spoke to us about history and reality. The original Frank Lloyd Wright plan was for a “Civic Center” of grand aspiration. For many years this plan languished and failed in two referendums. After the referendum calling for a less ambitious convention center passed 1992, newly elected mayor Paul Soglin, with the assistance of George Austin, and Roberta Gassman, began the planning and building of the Monona Terrace. Also involved were Rotarians Don Helfrecht, the late Wayne McGown, Fred Mohs, and Mary Lang Sollinger. Construction began in November 1995 and was completed in July 1997. Since it opened 25 years ago, the Monona Terrace has hosted 16,661 events with an economic impact of $697 million. Along with the Overture Center, it has revitalized downtown Madison.
Maier-Bascom Professor Dhavan Shah, Director of the Mass Communication Research Center at the UW-Madison proposed that modern digital and social media make it harder to compromise in politics. Our politics were developed in a different time, and modern technology actually degrades political debate. It is harming the ability to engage in reasoned deliberation. For instance, his research indicates that audiences react to dynamic style rather than substance. We live in “an attention economy.” Negativity gets the attention on social media. The angry and the bombastic get the online attention and this, in turn, is picked up by the larger media, amplifying it.
This week’s program featured 3 international projects. Our club’s International Committee Chair Gary Tree started the program by providing background information on the committee. Next up, Tammy Thayer, a member of our International Committee, described plans for our International Committee’s new signature project which is a prevention program to help tackle child trafficking in Uganda. The project partners include our club, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS), other international Rotary Clubs, and Hope for Justice (HFJ). Kathy Roberg from Madison West Towne-Middleton Rotary Club shared information about their club’s project in Haiti and several others that their club supports. Kevin Frost from Madison Breakfast Rotary shared details about their club sponsored project in Guatemala.
The March 23rd program was a panel discussion of “The Post Covid World” that consisted of Rotarian Jess Cavazos from Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce, Matt Gerding from FPC Live (Frank Productions) and Peggy Gunderson of Strategic Brand Marketing with Jason Ilstrup serving as emcee. After providing their organizations’ experience with the pandemic, there followed a discussion of how they were moving forward. Space does not allow a just description but in essence, they described changes reflecting heightened importance of relationships, changes in the use of various technologies, and increased optimism for the future.
At our March 16th meeting, Scott Smith, Vice President of Business and Regulatory Strategy for Madison Gas and Electric, informed us of MGE’s performance and commitment to reliability, changes in productivity to accomplish Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 and how the company assists home owners, landlords and corporations in using power more efficiently.
Among items mentioned was that in 2020 MGE was ranked number one among all American power companies both in fewest and shortest outages; achieving first or second in both categories since 2015. The company also provides E-vehicle owners with off peak charging facilities in their homes.
The program on March 9, 2022, was provided by Arjun Sanga, President of WiSys, a not-for-profit organization that supports undergraduate research at Wisconsin’s 12 regional universities. Mr. Sanga explained his organization’s four areas of concentration; to connect student researchers to grants, help market their research ideas, inspire students to achieve and to foster a culture of innovation.
He provided examples of recent student research projects such as one that worked to develop sensors for early warning of landslides. Students also compete with others at their schools and between schools in the system with regard to the quality and importance of their specific projects.