Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Status of Affordable Housing in the Madison Region

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Kurt Paulsen 1 15 2020Kurt Paulsen, UW Associate Professor of Urban Planning, reviewed the issues regarding the workforce housing shortage in Dane County and its impact on the economy. Currently, Dane County’s population is increasing 1.3% a year, with job creation at 1.7%, and new housing units at 1.1%, so housing is not keeping up with population demand. In addition, rents are rising faster than income, so many are excluded from living in Madison. Presently, more than 100,000 workers live outside Dane County, which means that they have long commutes.

Affordability is another major issue. Affordability examines price to income ratio, which should be below 3. So for a $150,000 home, the household income should be over $50,000. In Dane County, affordability is a challenge since few new homes are in the middle income range. Rents are just barely affordable for middle-income workers. The large, new apartment buildings downtown were designed for the influx of high-salaried employees at companies such as EPIC. Too few new apartments have been built for lower-salary workers who can’t afford to live near where they work.

If builders were encouraged by federal or state programs to build affordable housing, it would reduce the burden, but it would take about 30 years to complete. Furthermore, it would not address the issue of African American ownership. Wisconsin has the 6th worst record in the United States for ownership by African Americans which is also reflected in the county and city.

To address the problem in Dane County, it is estimated that 53,000 to 59,000 new housing units should be built in the next 20 years. So greater Madison will either grow up or grow out. There will be more density in the central area and more neighborhoods in the suburbs. Smaller homes will help to keep down the costs of building, and mass transportation will relieve the congestion on the highways.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  You can watch the video here.

UW System President Ray Cross: The Importance of the UW System to the State of Wisconsin

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Valerie Renk

Ray Cross 1 8 2020UW System President Ray Cross gave an impassioned talk about the past and future of the UW System, and the role it has played in the development of the state and impact on the world.

With his impending retirement Cross spoke openly about the challenges the University System and state face together and the successful partnership the two have employed to create opportunities and real growth for both.  That partnership embodies the philosophy and values of the Wisconsin Idea in the truest sense.

He made the observation the people of Wisconsin often do not understand or appreciate the significant historical impact the University has on the economic and agricultural development of the state.  For context, Cross related how University faculty and research was critical to navigating difficult times from the mid-1800’s to today.  Without knowing where we have been and how we got to the present there is little appreciation for the foundation we have today.

With the rapidly growing over-65 demographic and the nearly flat growth of the working-age population, one of the most pressing challenges is to have adequate human resources to meet future employment needs.  The quality of a University of Wisconsin education attracts students from across the country and the world.  A huge opportunity for attracting a qualified and talented workforce is to create opportunity that retains UW graduates that are already here for an education.  While there are programs to attract people from Illinois and veterans, little is being done to retain UW educated talent with the result that only about 15% of the out-of-state graduates remain in the state after graduation.  He encouraged the UW and businesses to work more proactively to welcome and attract students to remain in the state.

Another challenge the University is positioned to have significant impact on is improving access to clean, fresh water.  This is important to quality of living issues as well as manufacturing, agriculture and recreation.  Almost every campus in the state has some program on water quality, management, or research.  From agricultural effluent to lead contamination to invasive aquatic species to pollution, the University has the locations, experts and laboratory resources to partner with local and state government and industry to solve problems that threaten future water resources.

His last challenge to consider was for us, as citizens of the state, to support deeper and stronger ties to the University.  At a time when the knowledge and expert resources of the University are needed most there is a skepticism, negativity and distrust toward academics, intellectuals and learning.  Problematically, the Internet allows access to great volumes of information but also has allowed citizens to cherry-pick what to believe.

With the outreach and engagement embodied in the Wisconsin Idea, the UW System remains positioned to help Wisconsin (and the world) navigate the challenges and create opportunities.  The UW and the people of Wisconsin need each other.  Continued support for the University will drive future capability to meet the challenges and create opportunity for citizens of Wisconsin and improve the human condition beyond state borders.

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

It’s All About Peace and Forgiveness

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

IMG_1431Dr. Masood Akhtar received our club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at this week’s meeting. Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is presented by the Madison Rotary Foundation to an agency of the recipient’s choice. Dr. Akhtar has chosen United Against Hate to receive this grant.  After presentation of his award, he took the stage to share information about the state-wide non-partisan movement he started called “We Are Many-United Against Hate.”

This is a group where people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular, can unite together to build an inclusive community. This movement is not about “us vs them.”  Dr. Akhtar stated that the success of this group is partnerships and cited examples of partnering with schools, especially the Baraboo High School and local media that supports this effort and shines a spotlight on it. Dr. Akhtar also thanked his wife and two children for their support and cooperation 24/7.

Dr. Akhtar is Muslim and shared that there are 10,000 Muslims in the Madison area and 40,000-50,000 Muslims in Wisconsin and that Muslims make up about 25% of the world’s population. After 9/11, the phrase “Islamic Terrorist” came to be, which implies that a religion is tied to terrorism and all in that religion are terrorists. When the phrase “go back home” is cited in America to non-white people, often by our politicians, it is very hurtful. We are all Americans as our constitution of the United States reads.

The United Against Hate movement is about education and non-partisan policies.  Part of the education is teaching others that Islam equals peace and dispelling myths about Islam all across Wisconsin. They teach us to react positively and not negatively and to dig into root causes and best practices within our communities. The movement includes a statewide advisory board representing various communities.

Dr. Akhtar would love to see Rotary start a chapter of the United Against Hate organization and take the movement to Rotary International. He cited these four things as a measure of success: be proactive; be strategic; be non-partisan; and act!

It’s all about peace and forgiveness.

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

The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War

submitted by Carole Trone

Bradley WernerRotarians were treated to excerpts of some of the most memorable hit songs of the 1960s while presenters Doug Bradley and Craig Werner explained the purpose behind their recent book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War. The title of their book comes from The Animals’ song, popularly known as the “national anthem” of Vietnam veterans. In fact, there is no such thing as THE Vietnam War experience.

Authors Werner and Bradley emphasized throughout their talk that we cannot do justice to this era without truly understanding the variety of experience and listening to the voices of those who served. Just fifteen to twenty percent of soldiers were officially designated as serving in combat roles, and so much of each individual soldier’s experience came down to when, where and what they did while serving in Vietnam. The strength of the book’s narrative comes from the more than 200 veterans who were interviewed, from every branch of service and at all rank levels and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Popular American music served to comfort these mostly young soldiers and remind them of the homes that they desperately wanted to return to. Different songs held sway for different kinds of soldiers. Depending on the stress of the day or the time back at camp, soldiers might take solace in different genres of popular songs and these, too, could become flashpoints among a military assembled from all walks of American life.

So while this group of Rotarians readily hummed along to the timeless music of Marvin Gaye or Peter, Paul, and Mary, presenters Werner and Bradley reminded listeners to understand the individual experiences of this shared cultural soundtrack.

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

 

Madison College South Campus Doing Well Since Opening Doors in September 2019

submitted by Jessica Giesen; photo by Mike Engelberger

Jack Daniels 11 6 2019

Dr. Jack Daniels pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

On November 6, Madison College President Dr. Jack Daniels presented an inside look into the first 60 days that the Madison College Goodman South Campus has been open. The campus has achieved a great deal during its opening months.  Bringing access to higher education to where it is needed; the campus is successfully breaking down barriers that students have faced in trying to achieve higher education. The campus is open seven days per week and offers programming every single one of those days. Madison College’s Truax campus has posed significant barriers for many in the community due to its location – for community members who live in the south Madison corridor, it can take up to an hour and a half to reach the Truax campus using public transportation, which rules out higher education for many for transportation reasons alone. The Goodman campus offers access to those who did not have it before. Out of the 2,000 students currently enrolled at the Goodman campus, 600 of them are new students – students who have never been accessed higher education before. Achieving greater access is a tremendous win for the Goodman campus and will continue to be a top priority for the campus as it continues to grow.

Dr. Daniels also gave an insight into the building itself – which incorporates art and cultural influences from four of the most represented cultures in the south Madison corridor—African American, Latinx, Hmong and Native American. Custom and representative artwork from those cultures lines the hallways and artifacts donated by community members are displayed prominently throughout the campus. In addition to educational programs, the campus also offers services ranging from counseling to housing to recording expungement. Moving forward, the campus hopes to continue to develop its range of programming and community partnerships so that it can be a catalyst for economic development into the future.

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

KIVA-Madison Helping Area Entrepreneurs

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Pete Christianson

Pam Christenson 10 23 2019

Pam Christenson (left) pictured here with Rotarian Kristin Schmidt

On October 23, 2019, Pam Christenson, one of the organizers of KIVA Greater Madison, described how this program that lends money to low-income people operates.  KIVA, which means “Unity” in Swahili, is an international organization that practices crowdfunding, in which small amounts of money are raised from large numbers of people. Other websites that provide crowdfunding are GoFundMe and StartSomeGood.

Here is how KIVA works. A borrower applies for a loan. A review team determines whether the proposal is fundable, and if approved, the borrower is asked to raise the first round of money from friends and family. They must raise at least $25 from 20 people, at zero percent interest.  The loans must be paid back within a certain period of time. Additional loans may be requested through KIVA, and these may come from people and companies all over the world.

Pam gave several instances of loans that succeeded in helping local entrepreneurs get started.

A Tibetan woman living in Madison bought a food cart in which she sold Tibetan food. She applied for a loan in order to rent a store on East Johnson in order to open a restaurant. One young engineering student designed a device that would vaporize fluid as an alternative to giving eye drops. Another young man asked for funds to buy corn seed, which he would use to grow corn that would be made into tortilla shells.

In its first year, KIVA Greater Madison has made 237 loans. The majority have gone to women and people of color. World-wide, the payback rate has been 96.9 percent. Experience has shown that microloans have been a successful venture that has allowed hundreds of enterprising people to carve out a new existence. In 2006, Mohammad Yunis was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for demonstrating that credit is a fundamental human right.

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

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.