Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Milwaukee to Host Democratic Convention in 2020

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Pete Christianson

Alex Lasry 10 23 2019

Alex Lasry pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

This week, Alex Lasry, who led the bid for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Milwaukee, spoke to the Downtown Rotarians about his experience and what this bid can mean for Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. Alex was initially inspired to promote Milwaukee for the DNC bid after realizing that Milwaukee was never considered for the Amazon HQ2 location. He knew all that Milwaukee had to offer and believed that if we could bring people to the city and state, there would be positive downstream impacts for years to come.

The group hired the consultant who won the last two bids, submitted their RFP and did some grassroots work to highlight Milwaukee in Washington D.C. They made top three finalists (along with Miami and Houston), and then went on to raise double the amount of money for the convention than their competitors. Supporters from all political backgrounds came from all parts of the city, community and state to back the bid.

Alex’s main takeaway was that this is an opportunity not only for Milwaukee, but the entire State of Wisconsin. He believes that it is now our duty to develop opportunities and attractions to pull the 50,000 people coming to the convention over to Madison while they’re here. We can work together to provide venue space, attractions, lodging and more in effort to show off our community.

Alex believes that the measures for success are not around the DNC itself, but instead the impact the DNC has on the state’s economy years into the future. But in order to do that, we need to give people a reason to come back.

If you are interested in learning more, volunteering or registering a venue with the host committee, visit www.milwaukee2020.com.

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

  

Creating Meaningful Conversations About Immigration

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Margaret Murphy

Karen Menendez Coller 9 25 19Karen Menendez Coller, Centro Hispano of Dane County Executive Director, shared how recent policies affect the Latino community.

Dr. Coller started with an overview of the state’s Latino community.  Seven percent of the population is Latino, and 27 percent are foreign born.  One fourth are K-12 students, and 34 percent live in poverty.

Opportunity barriers:  segregation, poverty, language, mobility, single parent households, housing cost and education.

Coller shared three policies impacting Latinos and our economy she hopes Rotarians will talk about with their networks.

Drivers’ Licenses for all is the first policy Coller highlighted.  The bill has support from the business community as it will increase safety and bring needed employees, especially on dairies where half of workers are Latino. Coller shared the story of Mario, from Honduras.  He is now a herdsman in DeForest with a close bond to his employer family.  He needs a license to drive to the farm.

Public Charge laws are the second policy Coller is concerned with.  These laws are designed to make it harder for families who use government benefits 12 out of 36 months to get citizenship. Coller shared the story of Jennifer, a legal permanent resident originally from Colombia, now a certified doula.  Jennifer has used government services and just wants to improve her family’s life.

In-state tuition is the third policy Coller would like to offer deferred action students, i.e. those who are citizens but with undocumented parents.  They are forced to pay the $40,000-$45,000 out of state UW-Madison tuition rate despite graduating from a Wisconsin High School having citizenship. Coller shared the story of Gilberto, a dreamer working three jobs.

Coller urged Rotarians to vote and learn about the estimated ten percent of Wisconsinites who are undocumented.

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

Wisconsin’s Dairy Revolution

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Margaret Murphy

Dan Smith 9 18 2019Everything in Wisconsin’s dairy industry has changed!”  That was the keynote hit by Daniel Smith, the president and CEO of the Cooperative Network, in a clear and well-organized talk to the club on Wednesday.

You must understand the scale and depth of change in the last 40 years—1978 to 2018—he began.  The number of dairy farms dropped from 47,000 to 8800.  The size of the average dairy herd increased from 36 to 140.  Milk production soared from 11,735 to 23,725 pounds at the same time the number of cows dropped from 1.8 to 1.2 million.  (Some cows are producing 200 pounds of milk per day!)  And all of this occurred at a time when milk prices fluctuated by 75%.

These changes were driven by advancements in technology, genetics and nutrition, changes in the cost of credit, farm consolidation, specialization, and access to international markets.

What have we gained from this revolution?  Smith asked.  We Americans enjoy the lowest cost of food in the world, the most productive farms, and a consistent, safe, and dependable supply of food—all of which freed up millions to pursue non-farm occupations.

What have we lost?  His answers included 40,000 farm families, thousands of farm-related businesses, family-focused husbandry, and a sense of who we are as a nation.

The transformation of Wisconsin’s dairy industry has been fueled by a five-year slump in prices, rapidly increasing infrastructure and equipment costs, intense global competition, and an aging farm population.  (Today, the average age of a dairy farmer is 58.)

Looking ahead, Smith warned that highly mechanized, vertically integrated agriculture was already evident in poultry, hogs, and grain and that dairy farming was rapidly moving in this direction.

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

US Rep Mark Pocan Addresses Club

submitted by Jessika Kasten; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Mark Pocan 8 28 2019

From left: Club President Andrea Kaminski; UW Rep Mark Pocan and Mike May

Today, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan shared updates and insights from Washington D.C. Rep. Pocan began by giving some background on the Second Congressional District which is much larger than most assume, including Dane County as well as more rural counties surrounding Dane. This array of both metropolitan and rural areas greatly impacts Rep. Pocan’s areas of focus in Washington.

This fall, Rep. Pocan is hopeful to see movement in a few major areas: investment in infrastructure, prescription drug pricing (more generic drug equivalents) and gun violence prevention (background checks). He also anticipates that there will be a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would bide leaders some additional time (November/December) after the September 30 fiscal year end to develop an omnibus house appropriations bill and hopefully avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Pocan finished by answering some submitted questions from Rotarians, including:

Q: What opportunities to do you see for bipartisanship?

A: There are a few areas called out above where we could see movement ahead of the Presidential election cycle. The biggest threat to bipartisanship is gerrymandering, which creates non-competitive districts. Competitive districts would force candidates to speak with all of the district constituents, encouraging additional voices to be heard.

Q: How do you feel Medicare for All would work?

A: The U.S. is the only industrialized nation to not offer universal healthcare. He believes we should focus on the value of having healthcare for all first, and then dig into the how best to accomplish it. Healthcare is the number one concern of his electorate.

Q: Why hasn’t Congress started impeachment proceedings?

A: Congress has requested testimony from those involved, but invitations have been declined. They have now begun an impeachment investigation in order to compel witnesses to come forward and share their honest stories. After these testimonies, next steps will be developed.

We thank WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

A Good American Family

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo my Margaret Murphy

David Maraniss 8 21 19

David Maraniss pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

David Maraniss, Associate Editor of the The Washington Post and seasonal Madisonian, in his latest book, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, described the issues that his father faced as a result of becoming radicalized in the 1930s. To gain a better understanding of the history of his career, David visited the National Archives in D.C. in 2015. He found the transcript of a statement that his father, Elliott, wanted to read in an appearance before the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1952. The title of the article was “What it means to be an American.” For the first time, David understood how difficult life was for his father in the subsequent years. He said that, of his twelve books, it was the most difficult book to write.

Elliott was born in Brooklyn during the depth of the Depression. At this time, many “isms” were arising – communism, fascism, anarchism, etc. During this time, Elliott became radicalized. Later he entered the University of Michigan where he became an accomplished writer. In 1944, he enlisted in the Army for Officer Training, and upon completion, he was assigned to lead an all-black unit. From his experiences in this assignment, he gained insight into one of the most serious wrongs that still persists in our society.

Elliott’s journalist career was affected by his early history as a radical, causing him to be fired from several newspaper editorships. These included the Detroit Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a small paper in Iowa. During his work at the Iowa paper, he became a friend of William Evjue, editor of The Capital Times in Madison. Evjue invited Maraniss to join the staff in Madison, which he did in 1957.

David gave a brief thumbnail sketch of his latest book, which deals with how the lives of Elliott and his family dealt with all the many disruptions and problems affecting their collective and individual lives. Downtown Rotarians have been fortunate to have David as a summer Madisonian. This was his eight talk to Rotary.

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

What Does Madison’s Transportation Future Look Like?

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Tom Lynch 8 14 2019   Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation for the City of Madison, began his presentation by acknowledging the significant contribution of 13-year Director of Metro Transit, Chuck Kamp, for his energy and foresight in bringing the system into the future.  Mr. Lynch then shared important aspects of Madison’s transportation system and its future.

First there is the need to prepare the city and county for 2050 with a projected population of one million people that will require doubling downtown parking to 20,000 spaces and two additional traffic lanes in each direction on East Washington Avenue.

The director then explained the direction the department is taking in developing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).  BRT is defined by buses being no more than 15 minutes apart, off-board payment and the use of dedicated bus lanes with their own traffic signals to avoid congestion.  Light Rail (LR) is no longer being considered because of the significantly greater cost.  Fifteen miles of LR in Madison would cost one billion dollars while BRT will cost $128 million.  Twenty larger cities have chosen BRT over LR.

Tom stressed the benefit of BRT based on numerous studies of other cities using that system.  Every dollar spent on RBT produces four dollars of investment by corporations and boosts employment for a half a mile around each bus stop.

His department anticipates construction for Madison’s BRT to begin in 2022 and to be complete in 2024.  The challenge will be dealing with current inadequacies in the bus barn and stagnant funding from the state.

He concluded his presentation by challenging those present to make use of the two free bus tickets Metro Transit was providing after our meeting and take a ride in the next two months with the idea that those who do so will become supporters for the bus rapid transit concept.

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

Wisconsin Gay and Lesbian History Revealed in a New Book

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff

Dick WagnerWho knew about early Wisconsin’s gay history?  Really, no one.  But now, thanks to Richard Wagner, this story is out of the closet with his new, scholarly, and extensively illustrated book, We’ve Been Here All Along (Wisconsin Historical Society Press).

In a surprise-filled presentation Wagner summarized Wisconsin’s remarkable story from 1895 to 1969.  During most of these years, being gay in Wisconsin was downright dangerous.  Gays were almost universally regarded as criminals or suffering from organic illness or a psychiatric disorder, and this interpretation was upheld by the police, the courts, and even universities.  Men convicted of sodomy were routinely sent to prison or an insane asylum.

Not until the 1930s and 1940s did a few academics begin to view homosexuals as a legitimate subject for research.  For example, a UW professor interviewed prisoners at Waupun who had been convicted of sodomy and from this experience came a series of books and articles that softened society’s harsh caricatures.

Wagner noted that Madison gays and lesbians played significant activist roles by forming social clubs, creating gay bars, and forming organizations such as the Homophile League.

Curiously, Wisconsin society lavished a more benign interpretation upon lesbians describing them as “domestic friends.”   In 1962 when the UW-Madison launched a purge of homosexuals, lesbians escaped, thanks to Dean of Women Margaret Peterson, who was a lesbian.

Wagner began collecting documents for his book 40 years ago but did not begin to write it until 2008.  A second volume, Coming Out, Moving Forward, covering the period from 1969 to the present will be published by the Wisconsin Historical Press in 2020.

Our thanks also to Wisconsin Eye for videotaping our meeting this week and to the Wisconsin Historical Society Press for selling copies of Wagner’s book.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.