Category Archives: Weekly Rotary Guest Speaker

Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor

   Ruben Anthony addressed our March 31, 2021, meeting on the subject of “Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor.”  He has been the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison since 2015.

   The National Urban League was founded in 1910 and now has 92 affiliates throughout the US with the Madison chapter beginning 50 years ago in 1968. It has been a champion for the poor and the unemployed as a longstanding resource for people of color that helps to rebuild their lives and give them a second chance.

   Ruben believes home ownership is the key to generational wealth, but, in Madison, only 10% of African Americans own their own home compared to 48% nationally.  He detailed how the Urban League actively works toward assisting those individuals into owning their own homes.

   The League was inspired by the Sherman Phoenix project in Milwaukee to promote and support African American small businesses in Madison.  Thus, it is working to develop the Park Street Corridor on Madison’s south side by trying to establish a Black business hub.  It has been aided by an initial $100,000 grant from Dane County followed by a $2,000,000 grant to acquire property and $400,000 in loans from American Family Insurance.

   The project is at the corner of Hughes Place and South Park Street.  Its first phase establishes core businesses, and the second phase will develop multi-family affordable housing.  It is planned to initially have 15 to 20 businesses and additional government offices with the latter on long-term leases to provide more financial stability for the project.

   We all can help this project by referring anyone we know who is looking for a business location or a place to start a new business.  Low cost capital, in-kind contributions and philanthropic support are of course very much welcomed.

   Our thanks to Ruben Anthony for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:  https://youtu.be/O4pO-f0JeUk.

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:  https://youtu.be/YB626jHUsdk.

HAMILTON: An American Musical

Sarah Marty 2 26 2020“Hamilton: The Musical is the biggest tour of a Broadway show to hit the road in years, maybe decades,” Sarah Marty, Producing Artistic Director of Four Seasons Theatre in Madison, told Rotarians on Wednesday, February 26. “Hamilton represents an entire industry, with ripple effects that go far beyond the lights of Broadway,” she said, adding that it had surpassed the reach of any other Broadway musical, including the phenomenal popularity of Oklahoma following its 1943 debut.

Locally, Madison’s Overture Center sold over 53,000 tickets to Hamilton, and Marty cited an estimated additional economic impact of $37.36 per person beyond the ticket price.  Both nationally and locally, Hamilton was hugely popular, inspiring people to stand in line for hours for tickets.  There are currently six productions of Hamilton touring all around the country, bringing in millions of dollars every week.

Beyond the economic impact of its huge success, though, Marty points to Hamilton’s other ripple effects, including increases in actors, producers and audiences of color.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton.  When Miranda picked up the hefty Chernow book in an airport and then read it, he immediately thought, “This is a hip-hop story,” calling an early version of the piece The Hamilton Mix Tape.  The elaborate musical production that eventually resulted is so complex that fans have put together a website at Genius.com to provide footnotes and links to all the many facts alluded to in the musical.

Marty cited the end of Hamilton as pointing to the importance of the work:  It causes us to think about “who lives, who dies, and who tells your story.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video on our club’s YouTube Channel here.

Democracy Found

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

HO7A3865Sara Eskrich, Executive Director of Democracy Found, spoke to us this week. She has herself been in electoral politics, as a Madison alder, and she is concerned that policy decisions are often stymied by politics. There is an inability to get anything done, even when a large percentage of the electorate favors a particular policy. Elected officeholders believe that there is no connection between acting in the public interest and getting reelected. One of the major problems lies in the two-party system today, which, in business terms is a duopoly, able to eliminate third-party and independent competition. This is done through legislation that makes it very hard to offer substantial money to independent candidates. This makes it extremely important for officeholders to ask themselves not whether a policy is good but rather whether support for that policy will lead to opposition in their partisan primary. Another practice that hinders effective governance is plurality voting, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes is the winner, even if the vote total is less than a majority.

Ms. Eskrich’s preferred solution to this situation is two-fold: a top-four primary election and non-partisan-ranked choice voting in the general election. This will allow voters to vote for candidates they really prefer, even if they are not from the major parties. Officeholders will now be beholden to larger constituencies, rather than just their partisans. Democracy Found is working on the state level to get this system adopted.  She feels it is not a silver bullet, but it will make a difference.

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

 

Wisconsin’s Dairy Revolution

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Margaret Murphy

Dan Smith 9 18 2019Everything in Wisconsin’s dairy industry has changed!”  That was the keynote hit by Daniel Smith, the president and CEO of the Cooperative Network, in a clear and well-organized talk to the club on Wednesday.

You must understand the scale and depth of change in the last 40 years—1978 to 2018—he began.  The number of dairy farms dropped from 47,000 to 8800.  The size of the average dairy herd increased from 36 to 140.  Milk production soared from 11,735 to 23,725 pounds at the same time the number of cows dropped from 1.8 to 1.2 million.  (Some cows are producing 200 pounds of milk per day!)  And all of this occurred at a time when milk prices fluctuated by 75%.

These changes were driven by advancements in technology, genetics and nutrition, changes in the cost of credit, farm consolidation, specialization, and access to international markets.

What have we gained from this revolution?  Smith asked.  We Americans enjoy the lowest cost of food in the world, the most productive farms, and a consistent, safe, and dependable supply of food—all of which freed up millions to pursue non-farm occupations.

What have we lost?  His answers included 40,000 farm families, thousands of farm-related businesses, family-focused husbandry, and a sense of who we are as a nation.

The transformation of Wisconsin’s dairy industry has been fueled by a five-year slump in prices, rapidly increasing infrastructure and equipment costs, intense global competition, and an aging farm population.  (Today, the average age of a dairy farmer is 58.)

Looking ahead, Smith warned that highly mechanized, vertically integrated agriculture was already evident in poultry, hogs, and grain and that dairy farming was rapidly moving in this direction.

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

What Does Madison’s Transportation Future Look Like?

submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Neil Fauerbach

Tom Lynch 8 14 2019   Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation for the City of Madison, began his presentation by acknowledging the significant contribution of 13-year Director of Metro Transit, Chuck Kamp, for his energy and foresight in bringing the system into the future.  Mr. Lynch then shared important aspects of Madison’s transportation system and its future.

First there is the need to prepare the city and county for 2050 with a projected population of one million people that will require doubling downtown parking to 20,000 spaces and two additional traffic lanes in each direction on East Washington Avenue.

The director then explained the direction the department is taking in developing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).  BRT is defined by buses being no more than 15 minutes apart, off-board payment and the use of dedicated bus lanes with their own traffic signals to avoid congestion.  Light Rail (LR) is no longer being considered because of the significantly greater cost.  Fifteen miles of LR in Madison would cost one billion dollars while BRT will cost $128 million.  Twenty larger cities have chosen BRT over LR.

Tom stressed the benefit of BRT based on numerous studies of other cities using that system.  Every dollar spent on RBT produces four dollars of investment by corporations and boosts employment for a half a mile around each bus stop.

His department anticipates construction for Madison’s BRT to begin in 2022 and to be complete in 2024.  The challenge will be dealing with current inadequacies in the bus barn and stagnant funding from the state.

He concluded his presentation by challenging those present to make use of the two free bus tickets Metro Transit was providing after our meeting and take a ride in the next two months with the idea that those who do so will become supporters for the bus rapid transit concept.

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