Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

“Madison is an Outlier,” says Eileen Harrington, Chair of Madison’s Taskforce on Government Structure

Eileen Harrington, who spent her career in public service, recently served as Chair of Madison’s Taskforce on Government Structure (“TFOGS”). At the Rotary podium on October 21, she pointed out Madison’s city government needs restructuring. For example, fewer Madison residents are represented by local government compared to cities like Minneapolis and Austin.

She opened the program by asking, “What would it cost to have a full-time Common Council so that our city can thrive when we have excluded so many people?  We need all hands on deck.”

Harrington, who grew up in Madison, retired from the Senior Executive Service of the United States Government at the end of 2012 after a distinguished twenty-eight year career protecting American consumers and leading change and programs in two different federal agencies.  From 2010 through 2012 she served as Executive Director of the Federal Trade Commission, the senior career staff position at the FTC.  Before that, she served as Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

In 2004, she was awarded a Service to America Medal for her work creating the National Do Not Call Law and Registry. This is the same medal Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, recently received.

Madison’s Taskforce on Government Structure (seven residents and four alders) spent two years working together holding more than 90 meetings and making 42 recommendations.

Harrington said recommendations include the following:  alderpersons should serve full time, the number of alders be reduced from 20 to 10 and that they serve four years instead of two years.

Currently, the Madison Common Council is a city council that consists of 20 alderpersons elected from 20 wards who serve two-year terms.

Another issue with the current structure is the disjointed source of information. Harrington explained, there are 102 boards, committees and commissions connected to Madison government but no one place to find information.

She ended the program by saying, “We need more full-time engagement on city boards, commissions and committees.”    She also noted that there’s a lack of diversity in Madison’s city government and that is especially true with economic diversity.

Our thanks to Eileen Harrington for her presentation this week and to Sharyn Alden for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Ethical Leaders in Government – What Can We Do?

This week’s presentation was by Lee Rasch, the Executive Director of LeaderEthics Wisconsin, a non-profit that promotes ethical leadership in elected officials and develops ideas and programs that enable individuals and groups to support achieving that goal. 

As we all are fully aware, America’s political divide has become a chasm in recent years, and digital media has played a critical role in developing and exacerbating the problem.  To counteract that trend, Rasch’s group emphasizes that ethical leadership involves truthfulness, transparency and a dedication to unification of the populace, not polarization. 

While most of us are often nonplussed when asked what each of us can do individually, he provided several examples of practical actions Rotarians can take to address this growing societal problem.   Some of these suggestions were: 1) make personal efforts to promote government transparency; 2) identify misinformation whenever it arises and follow websites that identify and rate media for factual accuracy and bias; 3) support those individuals who do ethical work, regardless of their political affiliation; 4) learn about and support organizations that are committed to ethical contributions to society (e.g. Rotary); 5) reach out to and support ethical next-generation leaders; and 6) most importantly, vote for candidates that will provide ethical leadership and let them know you expect them to meet that expectation. 

Given the fractionated state of our nation, we all have much to do in order to get us on a course leading to ethical leadership in government, but Rasch emphasized the time to start is now.  Hopefully, every Downtown Rotarian will begin by voting in the upcoming election and starting individual efforts that will lead to a more ethical and unified government for our country.

Our thanks to Lee Rasch for speaking to our club this week and to Linn Roth for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

We apologize for the technical difficulties experienced during this week’s speaker presentation when we were testing the use of Skype.  We realize now that the internet can be too unpredictable, so we will use a pre-recorded video for any future speaker who is unable to appear at our livestreamed meeting. 

A Launching Pad for Young People to Do Great Things in the World

Chris McIntosh opened the October 7 Rotary program with a question. “What do you think of when you think of the Badgers?”

You may imagine sitting in the stands watching football at Camp Randall, but there’s a lot more to it when it comes to Badger athletics.

Each year, the UW-Madison Department of Intercollegiate Athletics makes available the opportunity for approximately 800 student-athletes to obtain a world-class education while competing on a grand athletic stage.

Chris McIntosh was named Deputy Athletic Director in July 2017. He oversees daily operations of the department, student‐athlete recruitment, business development, human resources, and strategic planning.

McIntosh was a consensus All‐America offensive tackle and Outland Trophy finalist for the Badgers in 1999. He captained Wisconsin’s back‐to‐back Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions in 1998 and 1999 and started 50 straight games during his college career. He was a first‐round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 and played in Seattle for three seasons.

He emphasized that UW-Madison athletes gain far more than lasting memories and trophies; they have numerous opportunities ahead due to their world-class education. 

Athletes receive support from several organizations like W-Club which includes UW-Wisconsin alumni around the country. Interestingly, 63 percent of Badger athletes settle in the Upper Midwest after graduation.

Where does the revenue come from for the UW athletics?  McIntosh said the sport of football, including filling the stands at Camp Randall on seven Saturdays a year is an important cog in the wheel. But this year there have been revenue shortfalls given the widespread impact of Covid-19.

Eight hundred young people in 23 sports are developing life skills that can take them far. The mentoring and support they receive at the UW during these formative years is crucial to their success. Much of that support comes from relationship building.

McIntosh showcased several athletes’ stories and how UW-Madison was a launching pad for their doing great things in the world.

By and large UW athletes recognize their exceptional educational opportunities. That shows in the 3.2.46 GPA earned by the vast majority of UW-Madison athletes.

Looking back on their athletic experiences at the UW-Madison, McIntosh said, “These young people discover they are capable of far more than what they thought was possible.—all because of football.”

Our thanks to Chris McIntosh for speaking to our club this week and to Sharyn Alden for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Call for November 3 Referenda

This week, Rotarians heard from new Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins that there is a critical need to pass referenda on the November 3 ballot. Board Chair Gloria Reyes was also in attendance. 

There are two referenda questions. The first seeks $33 million for operations such as full day 4K education; language classes, arts/music/science, and strategic equity projects.

The second questions seeks $317 million to replace aging facilities. This equates to $50/year for every $100,000 in home value. Overall, the referenda totals $350 million over all years.

If the referenda fails, Jenkins says they will continue to work with reciprocal accountability to seek the resources needed for the job.    

Jenkins said, “We look to collaborate with One City School and others.  We have reciprocal accountability, and we will build on those relationships.”  He reported over 100 MMSD science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students are collaborating with Madison College and also looking at skilled trade and other pathways.  “Children are interested in many programs, he said.  “We want to give them the skillsets they need to have a choice of what they want to do in the future.”

Community collaboration plans from food distribution to college planning were also shared.

When asked if he would build on plans of the previous administration or make his own plans, Jenkins said he has read existing plans, will build on them and quoted Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better.”

Before coming back to MMSD, Jenkins previously served as Superintendent of Robbinsdale School District; prior to that served as Chief Academic Officer for the Atlanta Public School System. He earned his PhD and MS degrees from UW-Madison. He holds a BS degree from Mississippi Valley State.

If you would like to learn more about the referenda, visit:

Our thanks to MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins for speaking to our club this week.  We also thank Valerie Renk for preparing this review article, and, if you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Keeping Dane County Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week’s presentation by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Rotarian Charles Tubbs, Director of Dane County Emergency Management, was not philosophical, but it was profound.  Many club members have limited contact with or personal need for the services our speakers described.  But in this period of colliding glaciers—the things that keep Charles Tubbs up at night—the scale and complexity of work performed by Dane County–is staggering.

Dane County responded to the pandemic mid-March, when it issued the first stay-at-home orders in the state and moved 80% of its staff to virtual work.

The County is addressing especially the negative impact of the crises on shortages of funds for rent and food, and for small businesses and unemployment:  partnering with Second Harvest Bank and local farmers, spending $6 million to-date and an additional $1 million per month; using $11 million in grant funds for the “Dane Buy Local” initiative; $3.5 million for grants up to $15,000 to licensed child care providers; and earmarking $10 million for tenant rent coverage.

Alliant Energy Center now houses a 400-bed reserve field hospital, which also stockpiles personal protective equipment, administers about 2,000 Covid-19 tests daily, and follows up positive tests with contact tracing.

Charles Tubbs puts in seven-day weeks on more functions than can be contained here:  Conference calls of up to 450 people daily with parallel agencies and policy sources; staying in touch with 61 county units of government; keeping social media up to date; housing the homeless; and on-the-ground work with United Way. 

Tubbs says three things keep him awake at night:  threats such as active shooters, civil unrest, and cyber-attacks; severe weather and climate change; and the pandemic . . . to which one could add, the need for sustained federal financial support.

Dane County’s work is sometimes unsung, but it is critical to the fabric of Dane County’s society.

Our thanks to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and to Charles Tubbs for their presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

Pivoting for Change and Adaptation

In the Q&A following Chazen Director Amy Gilman’s presentation, she was asked if pandemic adjustments have had any benefits.   She replied that as the continuum suddenly ended, stillness enabled the Chazen—actually, all of us—to pivot from thoughts about how to return to normalcy and about how the museum can be more intentional about the future fulfillment of its mission.

The Chazen, a UW-Madison museum, has turned its attention to digital/virtual communication, foregoing written communication; alignment of resources (and possible shortages of tax income) with programs; expanding attention to donor communications; creating virtual programming; development of collections; the rejuvenation of the original Chazen facility to more reflect change over time; and applying the measures of diversity and inclusiveness to all elements of its work.  In particular, she recommended to us Parkland: Birth of a Movement by David Cullen.

Two programs are illustrative:  First, virtual tours are in development in support of the UW Art History program, which was accustomed to using the museum’s galleries as part of its activities.  And the Chazen asked 100 Black Men of Madison what is needed by those whom they serve and that the museum could provide.  The result was 1,400 complete kits for two “making art” projects, complete with instructions, examples and necessary supplies . . . part of a significant museum pivot.

Extensive and significant responses to questions followed.  Several focused on the Alliance of American Museums’ forecast that 30% of the nation’s museums—not just art, and usually smaller and more fragile—might fold.  Gilman provided professionally accepted ethical standards for care of collections including their disposition to other museums with shared missions or use of funds from sales of collections for the care and growth of collections rather than for operations.

This was a thoughtful, introspective and constructive presentation informed by a continuing history of service to a variety of audiences—and complete with an invitation to virtual services now and to return to visits when possible.

Our thanks to Amy Gilman for her presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: