Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

Soglin vs. Rhodes-Conway

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photos by Mike Engelberger

Paul Soglin 3 13 2019    Satya Rhodes-Conway 3 13 2019

Abigail Becker from The Capital Times moderated the March 13th forum for the two mayoral candidates–incumbent Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway. In his opening remarks, Soglin pointed out that when he became mayor in 2011, race and poverty were critical issues in Madison. Madison was not a racist city, but the national legacy of economic disparity, a biased criminal justice system, and lack of leadership have created this problem. Under his leadership in the last eight years, African-American unemployment has been reduced four-fold and household income has increased appreciably. Rhodes-Conway, who served on the City Council for three terms, now chairs the UW-Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy. As mayor, her goals would include increasing affordable housing for residents at all levels of income. Another objective is to create a system that brings public transportation to more residents, by examining systems that work in other cities.

Regarding climate change, Paul indicated that most of the problem resides at the state and federal levels. Madison is one of many U.S. cities that stays focused on the Paris Accord. He is promoting the use of electric buses and solar power in cooperation with MG&E. Satya would promote the reduction of greenhouse gases by developing a better rapid transit system that would keep more cars off the road and by pushing for buildings that are more energy efficient.

In answer to the question on how to reduce debt service, Satya indicated that there is a need to improve the infrastructure and to distinguish between wants and needs, with the Judge Doyle Square an example of an unnecessary project. Paul suggested that from 2003 to 2011 the City Council failed to provide for infrastructure although the budget skyrocketed.

Satya addressed racial inequality by noting that housing is restricted and middle-class minorities have difficulty moving into white-only neighborhoods. She suggested that police should be held accountable for their actions. Paul believes that minority businesses must be promoted. He believes that the city must work with developers to build apartments that included minority accessibility. Regarding the work of the City Council, Soglin believes that the council is too large for a city of its size. Rhodes-Conway noted that the committee system demands lots of time from its members, often without substantive results.

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

Stories About Pioneers Who Settled in Wisconsin

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Mike Engelberger

Michael Stevens 3 6 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Michael Stevens and Rotarian Loretta Himmelsbach serving as our club’s speaker greeter this week

Instead of writing about Wisconsin history in the pioneer era (1830-1850) from the perspective of the famous or leaders of that time, Dr. Michael Stevens chose to document the practical and emotional side of everyday existence for ordinary people.  What did it feel like to those who lived in a new situation from the land to weather to language to food to culture?

While there were many things to be negative about such as Wisconsin weather extremes, an imbalance in the male to female ratio (8 men to 5 women), poor food and hardship on the journey, having to learn a new language (English), loss of cultural affiliation, unfamiliar surroundings, and loneliness; the overall impression was that the pioneer had a positive outlook and balanced the difficulties against the opportunities, diversity, freedom and future prosperity they envisioned.

The trade-offs from having to learn English, live in rough conditions and with rough people, and missing their home country are the freedom they enjoyed to map their future, work hard for income and wealth, and the natural beauty of Wisconsin.

One essay of the time expressed the following about the Wisconsin Character:  There is a freedom and independence of mind – people think for themselves; an awakening spirit of enterprise – people are open to new ways of doing things; people work hard – they invest their sweat equity; and a public spiritedness about Wisconsinites – people support roads, schools, churches and a friendly interest in the welfare of all.

Dr. Stevens drew insights into the attitudes, humor and outlook of the early pioneer and the similarities to today’s Wisconsin Character.  The essay writer above said of his time:  “The settler here finds, within the limits of his acquaintance, people from all the states and many foreign countries, and those too have been formerly been engaged with a variety of occupations different from his own, so he acquires a great variety of new ideas and becomes much more liberal in all his opinions and life.”  Even through the hardships and inconveniences of the time, the pioneer’s outlook is not so different from our present-day Wisconsin outlook.

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

Increasing Religious Literacy at UW-Madison

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Valerie Renk

Ulrich Rosenhagen 2 27 2019 Scale

Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen (left) pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Our guest speaker, Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen, is the Director of Religion and Global Citizenry at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 2012 and is an author and researcher.

The mission of The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry (CRGC) is to increase UW-Madison students’ religious literacy and their facility for communicating across boundaries of faith so that they may function effectively as citizens of a religiously diverse world. This is achieved via two programs: The Interfaith Fellows Programs and The Interdisciplinary Religious Group.

The Center was established in August of 2017 after the closing of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions in June of 2016. The Center hopes to grow to become the hub for discussion of religious pluralism on the UW-Madison Campus and the greater Madison community. The CRGC is closely collaborating with The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison in order to promote interreligious literacy and cooperation on campus. The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison is a Registered Student Organization under the Associated Students of Madison.

Students meet weekly for conversation and to organize campus events. An upcoming example of a campus event is on April 6-7, titled, ‘The Intersections of Interfaith,’ an interfaith conference that highlights intersectionality— the interconnectedness of our religious, spiritual or atheist identities with our social identities. Through a series of workshops, panels and speakers, conference participants will learn the tools of interfaith leadership and explore the way identity shapes and complicates interfaith dialogue and activism. Because interfaith dialogue brings our identities into close contact with the identities of others, thinking intersectionally is crucial.

After the 9/11 attacks there was more public attention on the relevance of religion and how better understanding of religions can help explain international conflicts and the passions fueling them.  Expertise on religious principles is needed for diplomacy and many believe that the United States is religious but ignorant on religions. We need to understand the deep emotions of religion, not only the cognitive aspects of religion.

During the Q&A segment, it was stated that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. This is referred to as the rise of the “nones”. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor. With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them.

Dr. Rosenhagen helped us better understand the importance of religious literacy to our world.

    If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video on our club’s YouTube Channel here.

 

Telling the Stories of Madison’s Earliest African American Residents

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Valerie Renk

Muriel Simms 2 20 2019

From left: Marci Henderson, Ron Luskin & Muriel Simms

Our speaker on Wednesday, amidst a snow storm, was Dr. Muriel Simms, the author of a new book, “Settlin’: Stories of Madison’s Early African American Families,” published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. The dedication to the book captures its essence: “To the African American families who settled in Madison in the 1800s and early 1900s. They showed strength, courage and pride as they made a better life for themselves and for others in the community.” And Dr. Simms’ talk illustrated this with the stories of people in the book.

Dr. Simms began by speaking about the importance of the oral tradition in the Black community, and oral histories done by Dr. Simms provide much of the content of her book. She also spoke of what motivated her to write the book. She was always interested in history, and she wondered about the ancestral Black families in Madison, including her parents: her mother joined her father here in 1925.

The talk featured stories and photographs of some of the people in the book in four broad categories: military, sports, volunteerism and “other.” Dr. Simms began with a newspaper article from the Wisconsin State Journal about the return of “Buck” Weaver from service during World War II. The headline referred to him as a “Beloved ‘Red Cap’ at the bus station.” He had been killed shortly before the end of the war. She mentioned Al Dockery, a star athlete at Madison Central High; Lois McKnight, a music teacher who volunteered wherever a musician was needed; and Velma Hamilton, one of Madison’s greatest citizens. There were important Black civic groups such as the Utopia Club, the Wisconsin State Federation of Colored Women, and the National Association for the Protection of Colored Women, and the NAACP (Velma Hamilton was the first president of the Madison branch in 1943). Dr. Simms discovered many of these organizations in the issues of the Wisconsin Weekly Blade, the first Black newspaper in Wisconsin, founded in 1916 by J. Anthony Josey, who declared in his mission statement his belief that “the Negro has in his own hands his destiny.”

It was a great talk. If you missed it because of the snow, get a copy of the book and read it.

Economic Outlook 2019

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Valerie Renk

Steven Rick 2 13 2019While 2019 is just starting, economists are already looking at their crystal balls. Steven Rick, CUNA Mutual Group Chief Economist started his Feb 13 Rotary speech with a “five-minute Federal Reserve Board Meeting.”   Rick asked, “What is the economy’s most important price?”  It’s money, measured by interest rates.  The Federal Reserve (Fed) is targeting 2% interest.  They also want labor fully employed and capital resources fully employed.

The Fed has five critical measures:

  1. First, we are hitting their two percent inflation (interest) goal. The 2019 forecast is slightly above this and will drive interest rates.
  2. Second, the unemployment rate goal is 5%; actual is 4%. This is one of the tightest labor markets in history, hindering economic growth. Rick expects this to rise again by 2020 and hinted at a slight recession a year and half out.
  3. The third measure is the economic output gap. The Fed’s goal is no gap. Actual is 2%. This is GDP output vs. federal funds rate.
  4. The fourth measure is Feds Funds Interest rate (overnight bank loan rate) which has a goal of 3% and actual of 2.4%.
  5. Fifth is the 10-Year Treasury Rate. That goal is 4% with actual of 2.75%. This means what you earn at your financial institution for savings and CDs will rise.

Rick said four things cause recessions: financial imbalances or excesses; external shock such as war; high inflation; and high inventories.

Home prices are rising 6% while incomes increase 3%. This could lead to another housing bubble.  “But this time is different because there is not excessive demand due to low inventory,” Rick said.

Rick shared a quote:  “Stability leads to instability. The longer things are stable, the more unstable they will be when the crisis hits.”

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

Good news…you can do something to prevent Alzheimer’s…And it’s never too late

submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

nate chin 1 16 2019   We learned from Dr. Nathaniel Chin that lifestyle factors have a great deal to do with forestalling or preventing cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).   And positive change takes place no matter your age… if you do physical exercise, eat better foods, lower stress in your life and sleep better.

Dr. Chin is the Director of Medical Services for Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.   He reminds us that thinking changes normally as we age.  We learn at a slower rate; our recall is slower and more challenging and we have less cognitive flexibility.  So those senior moments are pretty normal.

In some, normal aging gives way to mild cognitive impairment and then to dementia due to AD or other diseases.  Through research, there’s been a shift in the definition of AD.  It had been diagnosed through clinical symptoms, but now changes in the brain (biological differences) create the condition of AD.  Tangles and plaques begin to form in the brain…sometimes without symptoms.

Research is now looking at modifiable risk factors that may impact the course of the disease.  So, if you exercise regularly, modify your diet to be healthier, reduce stress, sleep well, engage in social activity; in all engaging in a healthier lifestyle…the trajectory from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease may be slowed and potentially halted regardless of genetic predictors.

Good news…better living through science.

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

Joe Parisi: Update on Dane County

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

joe parisi 1 9 2019   Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive since 2011, shared information with downtown Rotarians about area lake cleanups; mental health assistance in our schools and an update on airport expansion.

To address algae growth in our lakes due to too many nutrients flowing into them, partnerships have been formed to address run off at their sources. In urban areas, this means creating more retention ponds and in rural areas, partnering with local farmers to plan buffer strips and to utilize manure digesters. These digesters remove about 60% of the phosphorus which leads to algae bloom. Then with the use of nutrient concentration systems, the remaining 40% of phosphorus is removed!

In addition, centuries old streams contain high phosphorus levels in their muck. Two years ago, the County began a 4 year $12M project to “suck the muck/phosphorus” out of streams. This is proving to be a highly successful project and we have another 33 miles of stream to go.

As we are starting to experience warmer and wetter winters and will likely see more frequent high impact rains according to climate change experts, the County is using software to analyze which “choke points’ along the waterways are moving too slow so they can be opened up. For example, they are looking to remove a lot of muck between lakes Monona and Waubesa and to utilize weed cutters more to help keep the water moving so it doesn’t back up.

With increasing population growth, lands to protect are being identified and will be purchased to keep them available to absorb rain and more wetlands may be purchased for water storage.

The County is investing millions of dollars to increase energy and renewables in county buildings. With MG&E, the county is building a 41 acre solar farm near the airport. We are “walking the walk” and when doing good for the environment we are also doing good for the bottom line”, stated Parisi. We all need to consider climate change action plans.

Regarding mental health services, which is a big part of the county’s budget, partnering with schools is a large initiative. Building Bridges is a school-based mental health program that is a collaboration with Catholic Charities. Some area schools now have mental health professional staff available to meet with young people instead of engaging with law enforcement. Issues are being identified early and students are getting the help they need.  In 2019, an 11th school district is being funded.

Our airport is growing!  2018 brought 5 new destinations bringing the total of non-stop destinations to 19. Terminal modernization is being planned to include larger spaces, new seating and more dining.

In closing, Parisi stated the goal is to not rest until all county residents have access to all we have to offer.