Category Archives: Uncategorized

Economic Outlook 2019

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Valerie Renk

Steven Rick 2 13 2019While 2019 is just starting, economists are already looking at their crystal balls. Steven Rick, CUNA Mutual Group Chief Economist started his Feb 13 Rotary speech with a “five-minute Federal Reserve Board Meeting.”   Rick asked, “What is the economy’s most important price?”  It’s money, measured by interest rates.  The Federal Reserve (Fed) is targeting 2% interest.  They also want labor fully employed and capital resources fully employed.

The Fed has five critical measures:

  1. First, we are hitting their two percent inflation (interest) goal. The 2019 forecast is slightly above this and will drive interest rates.
  2. Second, the unemployment rate goal is 5%; actual is 4%. This is one of the tightest labor markets in history, hindering economic growth. Rick expects this to rise again by 2020 and hinted at a slight recession a year and half out.
  3. The third measure is the economic output gap. The Fed’s goal is no gap. Actual is 2%. This is GDP output vs. federal funds rate.
  4. The fourth measure is Feds Funds Interest rate (overnight bank loan rate) which has a goal of 3% and actual of 2.4%.
  5. Fifth is the 10-Year Treasury Rate. That goal is 4% with actual of 2.75%. This means what you earn at your financial institution for savings and CDs will rise.

Rick said four things cause recessions: financial imbalances or excesses; external shock such as war; high inflation; and high inventories.

Home prices are rising 6% while incomes increase 3%. This could lead to another housing bubble.  “But this time is different because there is not excessive demand due to low inventory,” Rick said.

Rick shared a quote:  “Stability leads to instability. The longer things are stable, the more unstable they will be when the crisis hits.”

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

Good news…you can do something to prevent Alzheimer’s…And it’s never too late

submitted by Linda Baldwin; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

nate chin 1 16 2019   We learned from Dr. Nathaniel Chin that lifestyle factors have a great deal to do with forestalling or preventing cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).   And positive change takes place no matter your age… if you do physical exercise, eat better foods, lower stress in your life and sleep better.

Dr. Chin is the Director of Medical Services for Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.   He reminds us that thinking changes normally as we age.  We learn at a slower rate; our recall is slower and more challenging and we have less cognitive flexibility.  So those senior moments are pretty normal.

In some, normal aging gives way to mild cognitive impairment and then to dementia due to AD or other diseases.  Through research, there’s been a shift in the definition of AD.  It had been diagnosed through clinical symptoms, but now changes in the brain (biological differences) create the condition of AD.  Tangles and plaques begin to form in the brain…sometimes without symptoms.

Research is now looking at modifiable risk factors that may impact the course of the disease.  So, if you exercise regularly, modify your diet to be healthier, reduce stress, sleep well, engage in social activity; in all engaging in a healthier lifestyle…the trajectory from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease may be slowed and potentially halted regardless of genetic predictors.

Good news…better living through science.

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

Joe Parisi: Update on Dane County

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

joe parisi 1 9 2019   Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive since 2011, shared information with downtown Rotarians about area lake cleanups; mental health assistance in our schools and an update on airport expansion.

To address algae growth in our lakes due to too many nutrients flowing into them, partnerships have been formed to address run off at their sources. In urban areas, this means creating more retention ponds and in rural areas, partnering with local farmers to plan buffer strips and to utilize manure digesters. These digesters remove about 60% of the phosphorus which leads to algae bloom. Then with the use of nutrient concentration systems, the remaining 40% of phosphorus is removed!

In addition, centuries old streams contain high phosphorus levels in their muck. Two years ago, the County began a 4 year $12M project to “suck the muck/phosphorus” out of streams. This is proving to be a highly successful project and we have another 33 miles of stream to go.

As we are starting to experience warmer and wetter winters and will likely see more frequent high impact rains according to climate change experts, the County is using software to analyze which “choke points’ along the waterways are moving too slow so they can be opened up. For example, they are looking to remove a lot of muck between lakes Monona and Waubesa and to utilize weed cutters more to help keep the water moving so it doesn’t back up.

With increasing population growth, lands to protect are being identified and will be purchased to keep them available to absorb rain and more wetlands may be purchased for water storage.

The County is investing millions of dollars to increase energy and renewables in county buildings. With MG&E, the county is building a 41 acre solar farm near the airport. We are “walking the walk” and when doing good for the environment we are also doing good for the bottom line”, stated Parisi. We all need to consider climate change action plans.

Regarding mental health services, which is a big part of the county’s budget, partnering with schools is a large initiative. Building Bridges is a school-based mental health program that is a collaboration with Catholic Charities. Some area schools now have mental health professional staff available to meet with young people instead of engaging with law enforcement. Issues are being identified early and students are getting the help they need.  In 2019, an 11th school district is being funded.

Our airport is growing!  2018 brought 5 new destinations bringing the total of non-stop destinations to 19. Terminal modernization is being planned to include larger spaces, new seating and more dining.

In closing, Parisi stated the goal is to not rest until all county residents have access to all we have to offer.

“Onward, Upward, and Forward!”

submitted by Carole Trone

Jennifer Uphoff GrayFounding artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray of Madison’s Forward Theater Company attributes their growth and success to the strong community involvement, much like the Rotarians gathered to hear about Forward Theater’s first decade. This has been a successful span, but their success was by no means a given in the early days. Gray noted the precarious economic climate in their founding days and how it confirmed their abiding commitment to a sustainable financial model for the theater and especially for the artists they employ.

“Mission-driven growth” for Forward has focused on four key priorities: support for local artists; arts advocacy; audience engagement; and community impact. Ninety-five percent of the hundred staff hired each season are from south central Wisconsin and are paid at least a living wage, inspiring standards for the broader theater community. This core priority strengthens the community and also the artists’ personal investment in it. These ambitious goals have a solid business model behind it, with a growing annual budget that has always operated in the black. Forward Theater incorporates multiple strategies to encourage dialogue, and their post-performance talkbacks have proven to be a favorite part of the audience experience. Finally, Forward Theater has woven multiple partnerships with area organizations around key themes in their plays. This has deepened the engagement among audiences and community members through collaborative outreach events, author talks, and even fundraising.

Gray promised more growth and partnerships to come as Forward Theater surges into its second decade of successful productions: “Onward, Upward, and Forward!”

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

Human Genome Editing

submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Mike Engelberger

Alta Charo 12 5 2018The recent claim by Chinese scientist  He Jianjui that he successfully altered the DNA of twin girls to build up the twins’ HIV resistance served as a backdrop of the Rotary Club of Madison’s weekly meeting, whose guest speaker Dr. Alta Charo, a UW-Madison professor of law and bioethics, offered as a broad outline of ethical considerations concerning Human Genome Editing.

Jianjui’s actions have drawn wide condemnation by the medical, ethical, and research community as there are allegations that his work lacked an ethical compass that according to Charo at this point in time should be guided by the thought that “other than prevention or treatment” human genome editing “should not proceed.”

Genome editing, according to Dr. Charo, is best explained by “adding, deleting, inactivating, or making targeted alterations” of DNA. Genome editing is acceptable practice in research laboratories. Somatic gene therapy, in which therapeutic DNA is integrated in the genome, is a process used to treat disease that is highly regulated. “Somatic gene therapy should only be employed for treatment and prevention but not for enhancement,” said Dr. Charo. Gene therapy cancer vaccines are being developed , but among the most common uses today of somatic gene therapy are to treat cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hemophilia and AIDS.

If human genome editing is pursued for purposes of enhancement, there are obviously significant risks. Among the medical concerns rising to the very top is the potential of newly introduced genes not interacting with the existing gene structure. Dr. Charo characterized the ethical concerns revolving around the idea that human mankind may be closer to “making a step toward designer babies.” Other ethical concerns in Jianjui’s work is “the lack of consent by the affected person” and circumventing the traditional medical peer review process, instead publicizing his work directly with popular media sources. In summarizing Jianjui’s work, Dr. Charo said “two edited baby girls have been born.”

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

Let’s Embrace Inclusivity!

submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Maria White 11 28 18.Our Rotary speaker on November 28 opened by introducing herself with her full Latina name, including her given name, her Confirmation name, her father’s last name and her mother’s last name. Then she mentioned that she married a guy named Bill White and became Maria White. Born in Havana, Cuba, White is a new member of the Toledo, Ohio, Rotary Club. She is so new, in fact, that she hasn’t even attended one of their meetings yet. It was our luck to have her speak to our club. That’s certainly worthy of a make-up in Toledo!

White is the founder and CEO of a consulting firm called Inclusity, and she has worked with more than a dozen Fortune 500 CEOs and a myriad of senior leaders, managers and supervisors throughout North America and Europe to help them successfully increase diversity in their organizations. She congratulated our Rotary club for embracing a business model to increase inclusivity in our membership.

White walked us through an evolution of inclusivity work over the decades, beginning with the seemingly homogeneous society in the 1950s. Common themes were those of the “company man” and employment for life. Women were more likely to go into specific professions that did not create the kind of leadership that was recognized and rewarded. In largely white male-dominated workplaces the mantra was, “Work hard and you’ll get ahead.” Some of the intended outcomes of this culture were realized, including outstanding productivity. However there was also the unintended consequence that women, people of color and LGBT people were excluded and their potential to contribute to society was not realized.

Homogeneity gave way in the 1970s to a period focused on assimilation. Common themes were affirmative action and increased representation of women and people of color in organizations. The intention was to increase visible diversity without changing the culture. It was the time of “dress for success” in which women were encouraged to wear suits similar to men’s suits – except certainly not with pants! The success formula was, “Be like us. Work hard and you’ll get ahead.”

“That kind of assimilation causes you to give up on yourself and breeds resentment,” White said. “They wanted me to be like them.” This was very frustrating for White, and she didn’t realize until much later that the intentions of her superiors were to help her to “fit in” and be successful. The unintended consequence was that many workers decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t, and they left. The result is a brain drain.

This eventually led to an emphasis on diversity, with themes of celebrating differences (as opposed to assimilation) and creating opportunities. Employers offered what White referred to as “Fun, Food and Flags” events. The intention was to achieve numerical diversity targets. The unintended consequence of this approach is that some majority workers feel discriminated against, while women and minority workers feel exhausted from having to work harder to attain the same recognition.

In the long run, what we need is not just diversity but inclusivity, said White. That requires that we all – whether we are in the majority or not – understand that we are part of diversity. The guiding themes of inclusivity are a focus on maximum productivity, an acceptance of intentional inclusion and an awareness of unintentional exclusion.

Under the inclusivity model, all you need is decision-making that is based on shared values along with behavioral standards which define the organizational culture, she said. As an example of a shared set of guiding principles, she pointed no further than to Rotary’s own four-way test.

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

“How Are You Going to See Our Children?”

submitted by Ellsworth Brown; photo by Neil Fauerbach

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Judge Everett Mitchell pictured here with his mentor, Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, who received our club’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at this week’s Rotary meeting.

Imagine the combined power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, connected by an unrelenting mission to lift up children who stand alone.  Now imagine the twenty-minute Rotary program this produced in reflection of and response to the career challenge that Judge Everett Mitchell was given via the question above, by the day’s Manfred E. Swarsensky award winner Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana, on the occasion of his installation as Circuit Court Judge in 2016.

But we didn’t have to imagine this.  It came to life with driven speed, intensity and the best desperation to help us understand how incapable the child welfare system, often following inevitably into the juvenile justice system and ultimately the criminal justice system, are to the task of repairing damaged lives, providing help and hope to those who enter these systems with no experience, no point of reference, no one to hear, no hand to hold, no ability to move beyond a closed loop.

Using poignant examples, Judge Mitchell spoke movingly of the power of restorative justice.  His source of language and guidance in court is Trauma and Healing Guide Resource, which speaks directly to the need for courts and the public to speak to a child’s future more than the past.  The absence of and critical need for mental health treatment was a frequent theme, as was the need to keep dreams alive as a replacement for the damages done to children, giving them voices.

The Judge spoke of the Court in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, to open an Office of Youth Engagement.  He spoke of the need to raise the bar of the justice system’s practices, which are not yet equal to the focus on trauma.

The best expression of Judge Mitchell’s commitment to the power of his vision and the role of the Court was his closing word:  “I am not just their judge, I am their reflection.”  His life, once his nightmare, turned into his dream:  power of a preacher and the authority of a judge, bent to a consuming mission.