Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Brandon: Behold the New Madison Economy!

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Mike Engelberger

Zach Brandon 4 18 2018Zach Brandon, President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, wants civic leaders to see a great new future for Madison.  Today’s perception is that Madison is a place of government and education and not a very good place for business.  But that is not the Madison that is evolving before our eyes, he asserted in a spirited talk.

In 1948, Life carried a cover story with a question: Is Madison the best place to live in the country?  Since then dozens of magazines have trumpeted Madison’s superlatives.  But in the last twenty years national writers have been touting a new surprising set of superlative metrics, a place that is among the top cities in the country measured in economic momentum, confidence about the future, percentage of tech workers, educational attainment, millennials in high tech positions and overall innovation.  These are the qualities of the future workforce, which we ignore at our great peril.

“How can we best nurture this exciting new future for this special city?” Brandon asked.  Only if we find better ways to recruit our future work force, he replied.   To find out how to do this, the Chamber hired Brainjuice, a London company that specializes in effective recruiting campaigns.  Their 500-person national survey produced some surprising and critically important findings.

Workers in Madison’s new economy consciously seek something special—a city where their experience is more important than possessions, a city where natural beauty abounds, a city that crackles with spirit, life of the mind, cutting edge knowledge, justice and equity.  This is the city our discerning future workers seek, Brandon emphasized.

Armed with this template, the Chamber is creating new communication tools using drones and state-of-the art video techniques to give prospective new economy workers a vivid and compelling image of the city.

What a privilege to hear this new vision!

Madison Public Market Coming in 2020

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

Trey Sprinkman & Amanda White 4 11 2018Two Rotarians, Trey Sprinkman and Amanda White, are part of the effort to create a public market in Madison, and they reported to us today at the Alliant Energy Center. In addition, nine vendors were available prior to the meeting to provide free samples of the goods they might have available at the new market. These vendors remained after the meeting to show and sell their goods (including dog treats made from Wisconsin trout!).

The new Madison Public Market, which will be located at First Street and East Washington Avenue, seeks to replicate public markets that exist in many cities in America and elsewhere. It will open in 2020 after groundbreaking next year. The project will be financed with $8.5 million in contributions from the city, $2.5 million in tax credits, and perhaps $4 million in contributions from the community. A major fund-raising effort has been launched. When the Market is opened, it is expected that thirty-five new businesses will be launched in the first year and that the Market will attract 500,000 visitors every year, with sales of from $16 million to $20 million annually. One hundred and eighty businesses already have expressed an interest in participating.

The market will celebrate local cultures and the local economy. It will make available food that is to be found nowhere else in the city. Unlike the farmers’ markets, it will be indoors and year round. Its 30,000 square feet will become a hot place in town. It’s the “next big project” in Madison. After three years of city support, the Public Market will be self-sustaining. It will be a driver of entrepreneurial development and diversity: 83 percent of the workers will be people of color, 60 percent will be women, 33 percent will be first-generation immigrants. There will be a hybrid of old established businesses and new ones. Trey and Amanda encouraged members to join in the effort to create this Madison Public Market. Their brochure invited people to visit their website, www.madisonpublicmarket.org, to learn how they can support this “next big project.”

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

Greg Reinhard on Baseball in the Midwest

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mike Engelberger

Greg Reinhard 4 4 18Greg Reinhard provided us with an entertaining and informative presentation on the current status and future prospects of baseball in Wisconsin and the Midwest.  He is a former professional player who played for the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.  He now owns, with a business partner, the GRB Academy in Windsor.   The baseball academy develops players who seek to play at the collegiate and professional level.

Greg described how in the past, Wisconsin was more or less a backwater for baseball players in the college and professional ranks due to several factors such as climate, limited number of coaches who could develop skills, and the larger emphasis on football due to the Badgers and the Packers.  Greg, who grew up in Marinette, obviously overcame these issues but now is devoted to making a difference for youth today.  He pointed out that nationally there has been a 9% decrease in youths’ participation in all sports between 2009 and 2014.  He feels many factors contribute to this among which are declining community and school spending, distraction of technology and changing interests.

However, over the past several years, colleges and professional sports have shown increased interest in Wisconsin’s baseball players.  GRB Academy, in its short history, has worked with 191 players now on collegiate teams and 2 that were drafted out of high school into the pros.  Greg and his business partner stress that when they begin to work with a participant, they ask him and his parents, “You’re good enough to play post-high school, do you plan for a collegiate career or a pro career?”  They then work with the player toward that goal.

The presentation reflected Greg’s refreshing, balanced approach to youth and sports in their lives.

A History Lesson on The Cap Times

submitted by Andrea Kaminski

NICHOLS_ZWEIFEL_2_6268274 (1)On March 28 John Nichols (left) and Dave Zweifel (right) shared with Rotarians wisdom and tales from their new book, The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper’s Century Long Fight for Justice and for Peace. Nichols noted that as the Madison newspaper celebrates its centennial, it is still committed to the principles on which it was founded by William T. Evjue: promoting world peace, exposing discrimination and calling out corruption. Nichols noted that many newspapers don’t last 100 years, especially those that take such bold stands.

While The Capital Times is committed to these principles, it has a strict “firewall” between the reporting and editorial writing.  Evjue believed that journalism’s duty is to print the truth and the facts, but also to recognize that there is injustice and to call it out. The paper’s slogan since 1929 has been: “Let the people have the truth and the freedom to discuss it and all will go well.”

Zweifel said that Evjue quit his job with Wisconsin State Journal and launched The Capital Times when the State Journal “turned against him” in the build-up to World War I. He opposed the push to go to war, and that was enough to be labeled un-American and a traitor at that time. The Chamber of Commerce told its members not to advertise in the new paper and threatened to boycott businesses that did. The boycott cut the number of ads in The Capital Times from 46 in its first edition to none in the second edition. To fund his newspaper, Evjue started selling shares in The Capital Times to individuals, farmers in particular. The advertisers soon returned.

Nichols explained that Evjue did not want to edit or publish a mainstream newspaper. He believed the paper would not be totally truthful if it is trying to impress other journalists. He believed The Capital Times should remain independent in order to live up to its high standards for itself.

Nichols and Zweifel told a few illustrative and amusing stories from their book. For example, the Ku Klux Klan was quite popular in parts of Madison in 1920, and neither the Democratic nor Republican party would admit that the movement was based on racism. Evjue sent reporters to a KKK rally and called out the Klan for what it was.

Another tale recounts the story of a cub reporter from West Virginia — John Patrick Hunter — who was sent out to “get a story” shortly after he was hired. He walked out of the newsroom and happened to see a copy of the Bill of Rights. He copied a few lines from that, added some choice parts of the Declaration of Independence, and went out and asked people to sign it. This was in the McCarthy Era, and the first 111 people he asked refused to sign it, saying it was too radical. The story he wrote was a hit. Other newspapers lined up for permission to run it, and President Harry Truman mentioned it in a speech to make the point that people had become afraid to uphold our own American values. Nichols asserted that Hunter could easily have won a Pulitzer Prize for the story, but explained that Evjue didn’t allow Hunter to enter it because he feared the recognition by other journalists would compromise the newspaper’s independence.

Other stories in the book include the antics of reporter Cedric Parker, who would go to great lengths to get a story. One time, with a little deception, he got members of Nazi Bund to provide their names and addresses to him voluntarily at one of their organizational meetings. He once shot a photo of the owner of a Hurley gambling business standing in front of an illegal slot machine. Another time he hid the body of a drowned boater under a Lake Mendota pier to ensure The Capital Times would be first to run the story.

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week.  You can watch the video here.

 

 

Reflections on Changes in Wisconsin Government

submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Donna Beestman

Todd Berry 3 7 2018.

Guest speaker Todd Berry (left) with Rotarian Steve Goldberg

Todd Berry, retired head of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, reflected on the changes he’s seen in Wisconsin government over the past 40 years.

The observable changes Berry noted are toward more short-term thinking, ideological polarization, gridlock and incivility.

The “old” was characterized by “citizen legislators,” who most likely had spent some time in business, other professions or parenting. The “new” legislator has likely selected a career path toward politics: a political science degree, internship and party activity.

Wisconsin is one of about a dozen states, and perhaps the smallest, with a full-time, professional legislature. These career politicians have a tendency to have their eye on their next election, rather than long-term strategy, bipartisan cooperation or the average voter. They are more beholden to party leaders who control committee appointments, influence allocation of special-interest campaign donations and otherwise affect the political fate of legislators.

Redistricting and Wisconsin’s primary election structure also tend to make a politician focus on special-interest voters at the expense of the average voter who likely doesn’t vote in the primary anyway. Making partisan primaries into all-candidate, cross-party primaries would be a step toward giving voters a broader, less predictable choice, said Berry.  In a recent year, fully half the legislators elected faced little or no real opposition.

In order to attract more non-career legislators, Berry threw out the “crazy” idea of tripling the size of the legislature. This would mean smaller districts, and less susceptibility to special influence funding. Technology could enable part-time legislators to communicate and vote without having to spend lengthy time in Madison, away from their constituents.

An audience member asked: Might the incoming generation of millennials resist the trend toward excessive party-boss influence? Unfortunately, noted Berry, while the average age of legislators dipped in the 70s and 80s, it has been increasing in recent years.

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

From Washington to Wisconsin

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Mike Engelberger

Jo Handelsman 2 21 2018During the February 21 Rotary meeting, we heard from Dr. Jo Handelsman. She spoke to us about her time serving in President Obama’s administration as the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in Washington D.C. and her return to Madison to become the Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW-Madison. In Washington D.C., her area included the following:

  • Office of Science & Technology Policy
  • Science Division
  • Levers for Change
  • Initiatives, most notably the “Precision Medicine Initiative”

She advised President Obama about science, which he is passionate about; managed science and technology in crises, the Ebola and Zika crises occurred in her 8 years in D.C.; managed her budget; scanned for gaps and opportunities; championed new ideas; increased visibility of science and technology; led committees/task forces (26 agencies were on the Ebola task force!); and recommended candidates for the Presidential Medals for Science and Technology.

Dr. Handelsman stated how fortunate she was to work for and with John Holdren, OSTP Director, and President Obama, given both of them digest information quickly and are able to articulate it in summary form extremely well. She also shared that diversity in the agency was extremely important for better outcomes.

The levers utilized to accomplish advancements included:

  • Executive orders
  • National monuments
  • Proclamations
  • Presidential Messages
  • Presidential Speeches
  • Event Commitments
  • Federal Agencies
  • Formation of Commissions
  • Compelling Arguments + Stature of White House

Regarding the Precision Medicine Initiative: the 21st Cures legislation contained $4.8 billion for this initiative, had bipartisan support and passed both houses in Dec. 2016.

Now at the WI Institute for Discovery (WID), she is able to continue many things she worked on in the White House.  WID is currently experimenting with new ways to catalyze interdisciplinary research; generate new research collaborations across campus; and build connections with the State of WI. It is exciting to put the word out to the entire campus to obtain ideas and input on particular issues – it elevates creativity and collaboration!

WID has a “Small World Initiative” course, which is a fusion of research and education to crowdsource antibiotic research in the hopes of discovering more antibiotics. Across the world, 10K students are taking this course and providing research to solve global problems.  This includes collecting soil samples in support of developing new antibiotics. Dr. Handelsman encourages us all to visit the WID.

Our thanks to Dr. Jo Handelslman for her presentation and to Mary Borland for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

18th Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium Held Feb. 16 at Monona Terrace:  Learning the “Right Way to React”

Submitted by Carole Trone; photos by Margaret Murphy

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“Oh, I like your pin!” exclaimed Sun Prairie High School student Thomas Collins. Thomas had interrupted his own polite response to my question about why he had signed up for this year’s Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium. Thomas and more than 200 other fellow high school juniors from 23 area high schools gathered on Friday, February 16, 2018, for the 18th Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium, underwritten by the Madison Rotary Foundation. Thomas and fellow classmate Jacob Monforte readily confirmed that Rotary was a familiar organization to them as they rattled off different community events that they had participated in. The Ethics Symposium, however, drew their particular interest. They jumped at the chance to sign up because it was important to them to learn “the right way to react.” Conversations with many other students that day confirmed that these young people were seeking guidance. No strangers to difficult situations, Friday’s gathering of students from across the Madison area embraced the opportunity to learn more about ethics and from each other.

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This year’s Rotary Ethics Symposium chair was Dave Scher, who coordinated the day’s program with the help of 20 fellow Rotarians and the Rotary office staff. For the planning committee, this day was the culmination of months of discussions about the most effective ways to share the Rotary ethical framework through scenarios that were ethically complex and would resonate with high school students. The thoughtful planning paid off. Members of the Edgewood College Theatre Group started the morning by acting out three different ethical dilemmas: 1) a group classroom project where one student slacked off; 2) a dilemma about whether a sports team should kneel during the national anthem; and 3) reporting a felony conviction on a college application form. Many different students shared their responses and judgments to follow-up questions skillfully posed by members of the Edgewood College Theatre Group. Notably, not every comment uniformly confirmed the same judgments, but every comment was met with respect by the large group of peers. Unconditional respect was one of several discussion ground rules outlined in the program and stressed by the Rotary facilitators, and students readily complied.

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Students buzzed with conversation as they left this large gathering and regrouped for the next three sessions. For the remainder of the morning, students gathered in smaller groups of about 18-20 students for about 55 minutes per session to explore and discuss three different dilemmas: 1) a sexting scenario; 2) a student-teacher equality ratio policy; and 3) the ethics of taxing soda and sugary drinks. Students worked through the dimensions of each dilemma by applying the Rotary framework for Ethical Decision-Making:

     Recognize an Ethical Issue
     Obtain Information about the situation
     Test Alternative Actions
     Act Consistently
     Reflect on your Decision After Acting
     Yield on your Ethical Judgments

The planning committee strategically assigned students to specific sessions in order to connect as many different students from different schools as possible. “Mixing it up” proved to bring one of the most valued dimensions of the day. Megan Andrews of Middleton High School shared that this was her second year of participating because of scheduling conflict for a junior who was unable to attend last year. Megan sought out the chance to attend this year because she found the mix of other ideas from other students to be so insightful. Other students I talked to also felt that the new connection to students from other schools was a highlight of the day. These students craved the chance to learn more about other schools and students who were so close and yet completely unknown to them. One Monona Grove High School student marveled that it was the Symposium that actually connected her to a rich conversation with a La Follette student, “and we’re just down the road from each other!”

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Building stronger relationships in our community is at the core of Rotary and so it’s not surprising that the Ethics Symposium has attracted many faithful Rotarian volunteers over the years. Rotary member Karla Thennes laughed when I asked her why she volunteered. “Well, last year a member of my Porchlight board suggested that I participate, but after that first year I didn’t need any nudging. The kids are amazing! I don’t remember being challenged like this when I was in school. The students who gather here are leaders—you see a real overlap between the students here at the Symposium and the students who are awarded Rotary scholarships.”

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Fellow Rotarian Stacy Nemeth agreed. Stacy has volunteered for at least the past eight years of the Symposium, adding that “it’s my favorite Rotarian day of the year.” Stacy has chaired the committee in the past and served this year as a session facilitator with Karla. It’s a big time commitment on a weekday, but with rewards that are so much greater. “You hear so many negatives about today’s youth but then you come here and realize that we’re all going to be fine with these students in charge.” Stacy also observed that it’s a one-day event that returns so much throughout Dane County. “These students go back to their schools with this new knowledge and they share it with their classmates. It’s such a valuable and unique contribution that Rotary brings to the schools.”

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Lunchtime conversations confirmed Stacy’s point. Students from several participating high schools noted that they had no opportunities to have these kinds of discussions in their busy school lives. They valued the time to reflect and also the time to talk and learn from each other. Rotarian Michelle McGrath’s post-lunch invitation for students to share what they learned readily confirmed how much students gained from the day. Dozens of students shared comments like, “I learned that there’s a lot more to consider than your gut,” and “Sometimes what is easy to do is not always right.” With cell phones in remarkably little use at any point during the day, it was clear that students were hungry for this kind of engagement.

For more photos, visit our club’s Facebook page.

Also, Neil Heinen featured our Ethics Symposium during his February 16th editorial on Channel 3000.  Click to watch it.