Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

“More Than a Store”

submitted by Carole Trone; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Maldonados 6 12 2019  “More than a store. It is a gathering place,” was how Joe Maldonado summarized the special role of Luna’s Groceries in its first year of operations. Luna’s Groceries is the result of the inspiration, research and hard work of Joe and wife/business partner Mariam Maldonado, longtime residents of Madison’s Allied/Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood. As of last fall, they are owners of the only full-service grocery store in this diverse, working class neighborhood.

They love this neighborhood but recognized how residents have struggled to find nearby affordable and healthy food since the area’s only grocery store closed in 2009. Joe and Mariam both recounted rich childhood experiences of daily visits to the local store in their respective upbringings in Milwaukee and the Dominican Republic. Joe explained how “food deserts”—defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the lack of convenient access to nutritious fruits, vegetables, meats and grains—hit low-income communities of color particularly hard.

Luna’s Groceries was preceded by a year of research into national, regional and local data on troubling patterns of food deserts located in low-income neighborhoods with correspondingly high numbers of chronic health problems. The Allied/Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood was one of ten identified food deserts in Madison, further challenged by its location squeezed into a growing and massive road and highway interchange on Madison’s southwest side.

Nine months after opening, Luna’s is on target to exceed sales projections. Perhaps more importantly, Luna’s has become the answer to isolation, with an unexpected booming social media engagement, monthly cooking classes, demand for hot specialty foods, and a bi-monthly “Coffee at Luna’s” interview-format gathering on education, health and social issues that affect community members. With Luna’s Groceries, Madison residents can feed body and soul.

Opening Doors to Great Futures

submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

IMG_0047Michael Johnson, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, delivered on his promise to share “The Ten Characteristics of Successful Non Profit Leadership” with the Rotary Club audience on June 5th.  He was profiled in last week’s Rotary News and as Rotarians and guests learned, he lives his commitment to improving conditions for young people through his own successful leadership of a major non profit organization.  Sharing statistics of the impact of non profit organizations and position in the U.S. economy, Johnson had some eye-opening information for us.  But he focused on the challenge of keeping the current situation in focus and emphasized the challenges of adequate employment and educational opportunities.

Johnson pointed out the success of the AVID-TOPS program and drew attention to a soon to be released evaluation of records of students from this program as they proceed through graduation from high schools and enter colleges.  The records demonstrate the value of these programs supported by donors and service to the community when there is adequate support.

Those 10 characteristics of effective non profit leadership are:

  • Board and Executive Alignment
  • Passion for the Organization’s Mission
  • Empowering Team and Volunteers to Execute w/purpose
  • Keeping up with Trends w/ Effective Communications
  • Attracting & Recruiting A Diverse Workforce
  • Showing Confidence and Humility
  • Having A Positive Attitude & Long Term Vision
  • Being Persistent & Financially Astute
  • Inspire Others to Achieve Greatness
  • Accountability, Transparency & Fundraising

Johnson also emphasized the need for a non profit board to meet regularly, review the performance of the CEO, empower teams and assure staff proper training in communication, planning, and the need for a diversified workforce.  And, many in the audience could measure themselves against these characteristics in their work in non profit organizations whether as staff or as volunteers.  The board and executive leadership of the Rotary Club of Madison is, in my opinion, a great example of what Michael Johnson advocates!

Housing Stability

submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Mike Engelberger

Marah Curtis 5 15 2019

Marah Curtis (left) pictured here with Club President-Elect Stacy Nemeth

Marah Curtis, assistant professor at the UW School of Social Work, addressed the Club on May 15th on the current state of knowledge on addressing homelessness nationally and statewide.  She began by emphasizing that housing exists on a continuum from those who have consistent, stable housing to those who are homeless.  Most of the homeless experienced poor housing conditions before becoming homeless.  Professor Curtis noted that concern about homelessness involves the related issues of labor market success, health and education – not just shelter alone.

In Madison, low income rentals are very hard to obtain for those with poor credit, records of  incarceration or inconsistent earnings.  There are four approaches to addressing homelessness: Usual Case: Subsidy; Community Based Rapid Relocation and project Based Transitional Housing.  A major HUD study indicated that subsidy provides not only housing but lower rates of psychological duress, domestic abuse and number of schools attended by children.

“Housing First” is the most wide-spread program in the world to deal with homelessness and is used in Madison.  Studies of the program show that in 11 of 12 widely varied areas using the program, it produced greater housing than other approaches but results differ as to whether the program had a beneficial impact on amount of drug and alcohol abuse and other problems.  There was no indication that these problems were any worse than with other efforts to address homelessness.  Professor Curtis concluded her remarks by answering a number of questions from members focusing on the situation in Madison.

Her talk left members with much food for thought as well as specific information on one of the major issues of our time.

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

Governor Tony Evers — At the Heart of It

submitted by Ellie Schatz; photo by Mike Engelberger

Gov Tony Evers 5 1 19Being a past Rotarian when he was a private citizen, Governor Tony Evers opened with some personal observations. First, he applauded the audience for their civic mindedness and stressed the importance we play as role models for our young people. Second, he talked about the small private liabilities of being in a major public position. For instance, he asked how do you sell a car? It took him and his wife over a month to figure that out. In summary of his private life, he said, “I try to figure it out; not worry; keep steady.”

The Governor focused on questions of the budget in his formal presentation. His budget/funding goals include:

  1. The Transportation System. Wisconsin ranks low, somewhere between #48 and #50. Transportation issues include biking, walking, and mass transit.

 

  1. Health Care. He has a plan to infuse 1.6 million dollars to invest in, among other things, good baby and mom care, opioid treatment, and the health of children suffering from lead poisoning. As an aside he mentioned that frustrations include answering questions such as, “why spend all that money on those kids” (who are eating lead paint from their walls)?!

 

  1. Education, which is underfunded to the point of threatening the stature of the UW-Madison. Frustrations here include having to explain why professors are an important resource and why kids with disabilities or who speak English as a second language deserve a financial commitment.

 

  1. Criminal Justice Reform. Wisconsin has too many people sentenced to prison for non-violent crimes. We need urban area programs to help them rather than focusing on sentencing.

 

Some of these issues were elaborated during the Q & A. For instance, regarding education he was asked about in-state tuition for dreamers. He replied, “I think we’ll win that argument…. In-state tuition (and driver’s permits) are important – a no brainer.”

When asked about steps to stop abuses of minorities in school and housing, he emphasized the importance of conversations at the local and state levels. As he visited schools and communities in the past two weeks, he asked personnel and students if they thought racism was worse now than ever before. The answer was an unfortunate, resounding, “Yes!” The Governor emphasizes that we must acknowledge the problem, examine what is in our hearts, look at what we can do as individuals as well as groups, and accept our civic responsibilities for making a difference.

So, Governor, you were anything but dull today. From your heart and our hearts, we acknowledge the problems and resolve to move forward with respect and good will.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.  Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.

The Rise and Decline of US Global Power

–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Alfred McCoy 4 24 2019

In an insightful and concerning presentation, UW history professor Alfred McCoy outlined some of the history and future direction of the world’s geopolitics and presented a somber view of the future of US global influence.  Since the early 1900’s, the US has steadily built up its international preeminence and paid special attention to the “Eurasian” axis, which consists of Asia and Europe, and more recently, Africa.  Due to actions begun in the late seventies and guided by Zbigniew Brzenski, National Security Advisor during the Carter Administration, the US made Eurasia the central area of concentration in order to establish and maintain its global primacy.  President Obama furthered that effort, but in the last two years, the Trump administration has reversed course on three main pillars of US primacy:  NATO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and relations with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.  This entire problem might be further exacerbated by a trade war with China.

Additional signs suggest this concern is well founded.  By 2030, projections indicate India and China will grow their Gross Domestic Products considerably more than the US, and China will become the world’s largest economy.   Moreover, China now files more patents than the US, has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, and does substantially better in its science and math education programs.  As most of us can observe at UW, the majority of technical PhD candidates are foreign born, and therefore likely to return to their home countries with their acquired knowledge.

Furthermore, China has become extremely proactive in attempting to widen its influence throughout Eurasia in a variety of ways.  This effort might be epitomized by their ongoing $1.3 trillion Belt and Road program, which cuts right through the heart of Eurasia.  In addition, they have become aggressive in taking over ports in Italy, Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and in the conversion of sand islands to military bases in the South China Sea.  Given these developments, as well as concerns regarding current US foreign policy, Professor McCoy projects that US hegemony will substantially decline by 2030.  The eclipse of US influence should give us all pause for thought, and for those interested in learning more about this critical issue, please see Professor McCoy’s recent book, In the Shadow of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.

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

 

 

   

“A 55 Year Old Start Up”

submitted by Linda Baldwin’ photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Joel Plant 4 10 2019

From left: Joel Plant, Herb Frank, Renee Frank and Club President Jason Beren

That’s how Joel Plant, Frank Productions CEO, describes their company.  Indeed, Herb and Sylvia (who The Sylvee is named for) Frank came to Madison in 1964 to manage operations for the Capitol and Majestic theaters.  And the rest is history…now Frank Productions booked 214 shows in 148 cities in North America in 2018, with plans for more than 1800 shows this year across the nation.

Here in Madison, the Frank family, including patriarch Herb, sons, Fred and Larry, daughter-in-law Marla and granddaughter Renee all work in the family business with a staff of 55 overseen by Plant.  Their mission statement is “Connecting artists with fans and helping them have fun!”  With their recent merger with the Majestic Theatre, acquisition of the High Noon Saloon and the opening of The Sylvee, Frank Productions will reach even more fans.  Frank Productions also owns facilities in Columbia, Missouri, Nashville, Tennesee, and books 15 more exclusive venues in North America.

The brand new Sylvee is a state of the art venue with a capacity of 2500 and seating for 150.   Situated right in the middle of Madison’s burgeoning Capitol East neighborhood, The Sylvee is right where the action is, and, in the first six months, they sold 70,000 tickets to 53 shows and 34 special events, averaging 1700 patrons a show.  And poured 167 thousand ounces of Spotted Cow!  Plant joked “and it wasn’t even our best seller.”

Frank Productions take pride in their relations with the neighborhood and law enforcement.  “We want to make sure that our business doesn’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood and community.”  While some in Madison have had concerns about other venues suffering with Frank’s expansion, Plant says all indications are that other venues are doing better as well.  And he notes that their presence has had a positive economic impact on the restaurants and other businesses in the area.

What’s next…do more shows…sell more tickets and beer!

Madison Youth Arts Center Coming in 2020

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

MYAC Presenters 4 3 2019

Madison is blessed with many amazing performance spaces, but 20 youth performing arts organizations don’t have affordable and appropriate places to practice.  That was the problem that motivated leaders of the Children’s Theater of Madison (CTM), Madison Youth Choirs (MYC), and many others to find a cooperative solution.

Their answer is the Madison Youth Arts Center, a 65,000 square foot $35 million facility that will break ground in May and open in the fall of 2020 at the intersection of East Mifflin and North Ingersoll.

The handsome four-story facility will provide a central and permanent location featuring rehearsal classrooms, dance studios, production and costume shops, a community room, office space, and a 400-seat theater.  The facility will allow up to 25,000 school-age youth—including many from Madison’s minority communities—to participate in the performing arts every year, a substantial increase over the number now served.

The Madison Youth Arts Center was made possible by a $20 million gift from Pleasant Rowland.  “I can’t think of a gift I could give that would impact more than this in the arts and for young people,” said Rowland.  A capital campaign is underway to raise the rest of the money including a special endowment fund that will cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

The four leaders who gave a spirited and tightly scripted summary of the new facility were: Allen Ebert, CTM executive director; Roseann Sheridan, CTM artistic director; Lynn Hembel, MYC managing director; and Michael Ross, MYC artistic/executive director.

The Center is a part of a larger proposal for the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue by Stone House Development that will include an 11-story building featuring apartments, commercial space, and a parking ramp.

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