Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

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.


“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.


WI Supreme Court Candidate Judge Brian Hagedorn

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Mark Moody

Hagedorn 3 27 2019

Judge Brian Hagedorn with Steve Walters

On Wednesday, March 27, Steve Walters, Senior Producer at WisconsinEye, moderated a Question and Answer session with Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn, a Court of Appeals judge who serves in the court’s Waukesha-based District II. While both Supreme Court candidates were invited to speak, Judge Lisa Neubauer had another commitment and declined Rotary’s invitation. Per our policy on inviting candidates to speak (see our March 8 newsletter for the policy), a person from Neubauer’s campaign was invited to attend and distribute campaign materials in the back of the room.

Rotary members were invited prior to the program to submit questions for Judge Hagedorn, and these were passed on to Walters for consideration. In addition to providing an opening and closing statement, Hagedorn responded to the following questions, including some that referred to his comments at a recent Milwaukee Press Club forum:

  1. You quoted Alexander Hamilton who said the judiciary should be the “least dangerous” branch of government, and then you said, “That’s not really where we are at nowadays.” Please explain what you meant by that.
  2. In several forums you have asked Judge Neubauer to cite specific examples where your personal beliefs influenced an opinion you wrote. At one event she said you “acted on your beliefs” by starting a school with a code or mission statement that discriminates. You have said there has been a “lot of misreporting” on the school, so please set the record straight.
  3. Given your blog statements on same-sex marriage and bestiality when you were a law school student, how you would convince members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters to vote for you?
  4. Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 60.03 governs the behavior of all Wisconsin judges and requires a judge to avoid the appearance of impropriety at all times, whether on the bench or off, as well as the appearance of impropriety as judged from the standpoint of a reasonable person. Given your previous statements about marriage equality and Planned Parenthood, can those appearing before you on any case involving either of those groups see you as impartial?
  5. You have said of your opponent, “I don’t have a problem with people having any kind of political background coming onto the court [but] she (Neubauer) has far more political background than I do.” Please explain what you meant by that.
  6. About your time working for Governor Walker, you have said, “I didn’t do politics. I did law. I was his lawyer. I didn’t make any decisions.” But you participated in the drafting of Act 10, restricting the role of public unions, as well as Act 2, making it more difficult to sue nursing homes for negligence or malpractice. If matters related to either of these or other laws you had a part in drafting were to come before the court, would you recuse yourself?
  7. Do you consider these cases to be settled law: Roe v. Wade, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, and the Washington, DC, case affirming individual gun ownership as a 2nd Amendment right?
  8. How would you approach the constitutional question of “first impression”?
  9. If ethical complaints are filed against a Supreme Court justice, and all or most of the justices recuse themselves from the matter, what should happen to that complaint?
  10. You have said that one of the biggest challenges for the courts is fighting the opioid crisis. Explain how the Supreme Court can address that problem.

To hear Hagedorn’s answers in his own words, and to find other candidate interviews, go to Wisconsin Eye’s coverage on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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

Leading for Equity

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mark Moody

Photo7AAt the March 20th meeting, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Dr. Jen Cheatham explained her approach to “Leading for Equity,” the title of her presentation.

As she explained, she was not going to provide us with her usual update on the Madison Schools.  Instead, she wanted to share her personal leadership story on how she has become a stronger leader in education, particularly in the area of equity.  Dr. Cheatham said that her presentation was related to MMSD’s new strategic plan or framework which emphasizes a renewed approach to racial and gender equity.  Copies of the plan were available to Rotarians after the presentation.

In her personal story, Supt. Cheatham spoke of her childhood growing up in greater Chicago and her subsequent years as a classroom teacher at the high school and middle school levels.  From this, she chose to enter graduate school at Harvard because of her new interest in effecting instructional programs on a larger basis than an individual classroom.

There, her mentor of color helped her to see how her being a product of a white middle class upbringing could be used to power greater, larger and better programs that could address and improve on disparities in racial equity.

Last year she listened to over a thousand individuals of color: students, educators, community members and parents.  An example of one of the things she learned from the parents was that they wanted less emphasis on remediation of underachievers and more investment in students learning in a different, more accepting atmosphere of instruction.  This could lead to students feeling better about themselves and their abilities resulting in higher achievement levels.

It is this and other insights that are incorporated into the new Strategic Framework of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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

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.

Culinary Arts at The Edgewater

submitted by Kathy Blumreich; photos by Charles McLimans

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On Monday evening, March 11th, nearly 30 Rotarians and guests gathered in the Wine Room at The Edgewater for an event organized by the Culinary Arts Fellowship.  The Wine Room is an intimate venue on level 7 of The Edgewater right next door to Auggie’s Bar.  The room’s large windows allowed guests to enjoy the later sunset after “Springing forward” the day before.

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(Photo 1: Loretta Himmelsbach & Kathy Blumreich; Photo 2: Helen Sarakinos; Photo 3: Charles McLimans & Richard Merrion)

As the group gathered, we enjoyed a wonderfully presented assortment of local cheeses including jam, marcona almonds and house-made lavash. Following the social hour, the group enjoyed the 2nd course with a choice of Smoked Corn Chowder topped with fried shitake mushrooms or Organic Greens with lemon vinaigrette garnished with tomato and radish slices.


From left: Paul & Sharon Hoffmann & Bob & Angie Garrison

The 3rd Course was a choice of Crispy Skin Chicken or Braised Beef Short Ribs both served with rosemary mashed red potatoes and roasted baby carrots. A delicious dessert of Blueberry Buckle served with vanilla bean ice cream completed the meal.

Thank you to Lynne Sexten for graciously organizing a very enjoyable evening. The Culinary Arts Fellowship group is planning several more events this year and hope others will join us.