I was recently able to join WISC TV's Neil Heinen as he continues a series on Racial Disparity. We talked about our city's need to create choices in education and employment among other topics.
This is a conversation we all need to continue.
I was recently able to join WISC TV's Neil Heinen as he continues a series on Racial Disparity. We talked about our city's need to create choices in education and employment among other topics.
This is a conversation we all need to continue.
As families come together to enjoy Thanksgiving this week, we pause to consider the joy of our dinners with family and friends. Unfortunately too many families in Madison and across the country, are struggling, not able to put food on the table every morning, every afternoon and every night. A staggering 14%, or 44 million Americans are labeled as “food insecure.” Roughly half of all our children in the Madison Metropolitan School District are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
For many kids, on the weekends and during vacations, no school, no lunch.
A critical way to address hunger and health issues related to food consumption is through important investments focused on improving our local and regional food systems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to support these systems through over 20 different programs. In Wisconsin alone, 31 projects related to the local food system are funded through these USDA programs. However, these USDA programs cannot continue without comprehensive food and farm legislation. Constant deadlock within the U.S. Congress continues to hinder movement towards an expedited five-year bill.
The Farm Bill is critical if we are to combat hunger and food insecurity. A strong food and farm bill is essential to developing strong local and regional food systems that deliver fresher, healthier food to our tables. It also strengthens our local economies in terms of economic sustainability and job creation. The Farm Bill also reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. Over 45 million Americans depend on this assistance to maintain adequate diets. Congress should keep the Nutritional title within the Farm Bill and not make significant cuts to the program that would only burden those most in need.
Through the work of the Unites States Conference of Mayors Food Policy Taskforce, I will be fighting to strengthen our local and regional food systems so that we may all enjoy an adequate, healthy meal, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. I urge everyone, producer, distributor, grocer, consumer, and concerned citizen to contact members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation to push for a comprehensive, multiyear Food and Farm Bill.
We are beyond the speculation of who killed President Kennedy. No matter the motive, the consequences reverberate throughout the world to this day. The assassination of President Kennedy and the subsequent tragedies taking the lives of Malcolm X, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy deprived a generation of vibrant leadership committed to peace and justice.
President Kennedy was growing and evolving as a leader, continually learning. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, he began to question the intelligence information from the CIA and the notion that supporting undemocratic elements, both in and out of power in their respective countries was a wise diplomatic course.
As the Civil Rights Movement strengthened the President and his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy aggressively moved the federal government to end the institutionalized racism in the southern states that used dogs, fire hoses, beatings, and lynching as part of their public policy.
Fifty years ago I was taking a noon calculus class in Van Vleck Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus. The bell rang at 12:50 pm and I walked out along the south side of Bascom Hall, cut across the hill and headed past North Hall to the Memorial Union. I was all alone. Normally there would be thousands of students and faculty going to and from classes. Finally I saw one professor and asked, “Where are all the people?”
“Haven’t you heard? President Kennedy was shot; he may be dead.”
Cruelty, the lack of fairness, the betrayal of what this nation stood for raced through my mind. We had rules in this country. As a nation in the shadows of World War II we were now about to extend our justice and equality to all Americans. Now that mission was thwarted by another transgression – a transgression that would be repeated over, and over, and over.
The City of Madison, through the efforts of dedicated employees and elected officials, strives to deliver the highest quality services and provide a fair and orderly system of governance for our citizens and visitors. At the City of Madison we are always looking for ways to improve and better deliver on our mission.
With this in mind the City of Madison recently embarked on a new initiative aimed at building employee engagement and equity across all of the various City Departments and Divisions. The engagement and equity initiative is designed to create a culture where employees are fully involved in, and passionate about their work. As a result they go above and beyond their expected performance in an effort to support the mission of their department and the mission of the City as a whole. Higher levels of engagement have been proven to produce many positive outcomes such as better customer service, greater productivity, happier employees, and lower rates of absenteeism and turnover, to name a few. The engagement and equity initiative focuses on building trust, equipping employees, developing employees, and connecting to purpose. The model that we are delivering provides strategies and techniques that allow us to work on each of these areas at the individual employee level, in teams, and organizationally. We are very excited about this new initiative and its positive impact on our services to the community. It is through our most innovative, talented, and engaged employees that we are able to make the most significant improvements in support of our Vision of Madison as a safe and healthy place for all to live, learn, work, and play.
Implementation efforts have been proceeding rapidly thanks to the hard work and dedicated service of our City’s Culture and Engagement Team. The Team is made up of 40 of our most engaged City employees who have been spearheading both team and individual efforts within various departments. One of these initiatives was creation of the City website dedicated to the Employee Engagement and Equity program which is now available to all employees and members of the general public. You can check out the website at http://www.cityofmadison.com/employeenet/HR/engage/ . You will find several helpful resources including a progress report, the engagement and equity model, powerpoint presentations, team members, and HR Contacts.
In early June, Sadie Villagas a City of Madison employee, with the assistance of James Lofton, a homeless man, prevented a despondent woman from jumping to her death from the roof of Monona Terrace.
The Common Council honored both individuals later in June at a council meeting. We noted at the time that both of them put themselves in danger to save the life of another.
At the time, Mr. Lofton told us he was a veteran. He served two tours during Operation Desert Storm and one in Bosnia. Tom Conrad of Housing Operations made inquires with the federal Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH), about housing opportunities for Mr. Lofton. Thanks to Tom’s efforts and those of others, James now has an apartment and is enjoying life on the east side of Madison.
This is another example of the compassion and thoughtfulness of city of Madison employees and how their work can benefit those in need.
I am delighted for James who reports that he likes his apartment and his neighbors and is currently interviewing for a job. His thoughtful actions in June have paid off far more than he ever imagined. He remains humble and appreciative for the assistance he has received.
It is my understanding that the VASH program has assisted other homeless veterans in Madison; one is now a staff person with the program and another recently obtained an undergraduate degree and is considering pursuing a graduate degree. I thought it would be nice to share some good news and to celebrate James’ continued successes.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has completed its much awaited report Race to Equity:A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County. The report confirms we have a lot of challenges as we work to improve our community for everyone.
This study confirms that while Madison is a wonderful city for many of us, particularly white families, it's not that great of a place for families of color, specifically black. It shows that while white individuals here do better on measures of health, education and employment than others nationwide, black individuals here generally fare worse than their counterparts nationwide.
The local jobless rate in 2011 nationwide,for blacks was twice the rate for whites., However, in Dane County it was 25.2% for blacks and only 4.8% for whites. That is a disturbing statistic.
I was pleased to be able to attend the YWCA Racial Justice Summit today, to meet with Erica Nelson, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Project Director as well as hundreds of other committed people. I am confident many of those who attended will continue to partner with us as we work to address this problem.
We know we have work to do and although this report has some startling statistics, I am pleased that we have the data and we know our challenge.
I was pleased to be among the Madisonians who met today with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. She had the opportunity to learn more about what Madison, through the assistance of Sustain Dane, has done with the MPower program. It was really inspiring to listen to speakers like Kate Schachter of Union Cab Cooperative, John Mulcahey with UW Health and Ross Hansen of CUNA Mutual. Those business leaders have made great strides in increasing energy efficiency through MPower initiatives.
The MPower Business Champion Program is a one year, fully customizable program allowing businesses to take advantage of dozens of sustainability resources and experts in an effort to reduce waste and energy use, increase employee engagement, and create a healthy, vibrant workplace. Participating businesses are assisted as they develop and rollout a sustainability strategy that will enable them to achieve measurable results. http://www.mpoweringmadison.com/mchampions
Ross Hansen with CUNA Mutual talked about the number of employees who have started to bike to work as a result of their MPower involvement.
Sustain Dane, with leadership from Jessie Lerner and her staff, has overseen the MPower program with the EPA grant and funding from Madison Gas and Electric. As a result of the five-year program, over 240 MPower projects have been implemented for a total savings to businesses involved of $916,000.
It was great to hear Gina McCarthy talk about her impressions of Madison and of our new 'repurposed' library. We are doing a great job as we work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. As I told the many attendees who were at today's event, I felt lucky to be there but they were the people who did all the work.
On Saturday, September 21st, Madison will open its new Central Library, a symbol of our city's commitment to learning, creating, and thinking. This is not your mother's or father's library and it is not even your childhood library. This is your library of the future.
The Central Library includes traditional books and library services and also has welcoming spaces, innovative programming that showcases community expertise and new technologies that offer residents interactive and exciting new ways of learning, connecting, and sharing ideas with others. Space previously dedicated to books and periodicals are now occupied by computer stations, which no longer resemble call center cubicles but are real work areas.
As demographics change and technology rapidly advances, the role of public libraries is evolving. Modern libraries retain their traditional values but are also enhanced by the latest technological innovations. The new Central Library offers five times more public computers, Wi-Fi throughout the building, a fully equipped Media Lab and expert staff assistance. The Central Library is technologically advanced.
Libraries are serving as busy neighborhood community centers and the new Central Library is a shining example of the new role public libraries play in community building. The new library offers an abundance of meeting spaces and programs that invite residents to gather and share ideas and experiences. Meeting rooms are no longer focused just on the needs of a lecturer but provide the latest interactive technology for real group dynamics.
Engaged staff offer equitable access to tools which allow residents to learn and discover the information they need to lead healthy and engaged lives. The new Central Library also serves as a celebration of creative expression, showcasing art by local and national artists. Many of the features in the new library – from lighting to building materials to the very concept of a shared library collection – are environmentally sensitive and focus on sustainable use of shared resources.
I invite you to experience the new Central Library. And bring friends and family, they will thank you for offering up a new adventure.
Join us this weekend, September 21-22, 2013 at the Central Library's Grand opening festivities.
I hope that you have had a chance to stop in at the lobby of the City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd this week. From September 16-20, there is a display, called Remembering our Fallen. It honors the men and women from Wisconsin who have died in the War on Terror.
It is an incredibly compelling display and I urge everyone to spend some time looking at the faces of the young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. One cannot help but think of their families, the empty chairs at tables, the celebrations they will miss, and the people missing them. We owe those families a debt of gratitude as well.
The Dane County Council of the American Legion sponsors this traveling exhibition. That group is also holding a Remembrance Ceremony at the display on Friday September 20 at 11:00 a.m. I will be speaking along with County Executive Joe Parisi and Purple Heart Veteran Jason Johns. The ceremony will conclude with a reading of the names displayed on the memorial.
On Tuesday, September 17, 2013 the city of Madison held a competitive sale of debt to raise funds for capital projects and equipment. The winning bid of 2.16%, which will cost about $600,000 less than the highest bid of 2.33%, reflects current market conditions and the city’s Aaa bond rating.
In recent years, winning bids included a reoffering premium. When a bid includes a ‘premium’ it means the purchasers of the city’s debt are willing to pay cash upfront in order to receive higher interest payments from the city in future years.
The city placed a maximum price on the bonds. The goal was to obtain a targeted premium amount of $4 million, which was factored into my Executive Capital Budget. Prior to my taking office, the city was using this premium to help fund on-going operating costs . This violates a sound budgetary principle. Irregular revenue sources should only be used to fund programs that do not occur year after year.
It is my goal to use the $4 million in premium to fund capital projects-that will reduce the need for additional borrowing in the future. Hopefully, despite disagreements on this point in the past two budget years, the city council will agree. In 2011, when I came into office, the city was projected to spend 20% of its operating budget on debt. Prudent decisions, despite some tough budget disagreements with the city council, means that, if the council adopts the recommended capital and operating budgets, only 14% of our 2014 budget will be devoted to paying off debt.
In Madison, Wisconsin, chill out on a terrace by a lake
Story and Photos by ROBIN SOSLOWStory and Photos by ROBIN SOSLOW The Dallas Morning News
Published: 10 August 2013 10:29 AM
Updated: 10 August 2013 10:43 AM
MADISON, Wis. — For a refreshing summer escape, how about a place with five lakes whose names end in “aaahh”?
Madison basks on an isthmus between two glacial lakes named Monona and Mendota. Three smaller lakes — Wingra, Waubesa and Kegonsa — ensure proximity to sparkling currents and refreshing breezes.
With August highs staying in the 70s most days, the town’s distinctive terraces are perfect for enjoying these liquid assets and Madison’s other open-air pleasures: local music, craft brews, farm-to-table food and outdoor art.
Anytime deck party:
At the hour when Texans dash from air-conditioned office to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned home, couples and children are twirling on Memorial Union Terrace’s lakefront promenade. Everybody’s welcome at the University of Wisconsin’s sea of tables circled by bright yellow, orange and green chairs, each graced with a stamped-metal sunburst pattern.
Have a seat on the upper plaza, central terrace, half-moon balconies, promenade, the steps at water’s edge, even the gleaming dock that juts into Lake Mendota.
Or dance. Most evenings, Union Terrace presents live acts from singer-songwriters to jazz to jug bands. Local is the common thread; supporting community is the Madison way.
The Cajun Strangers, a Madison band that’s been called the best Cajun act outside of Louisiana, unreels two-steps, waltzes and zydeco via accordion, fiddle, rubboard, “t’fer” (a triangle bent from a cast-iron rake tine) and other instruments.
Monday is movie night. You can order small bites and pitchers of Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious. There’s even free Wi-Fi. But the terrace’s biggest draws are the cool breezes and lake views. This outdoor living room has been the place to socialize, unwind and watch boats bob on Lake Mendota since 1928. Sunburst chairs appeared on the terrace in the ’30s. Updated and manufactured locally, those cheerful chairs are so popular that the campus store sells them, as well as 4-inch miniature models.
An architect’s dream: Monona Terrace
A leisurely walk or quick bike ride east leads to Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Frank Lloyd Wright proposed the public venue back in 1938. In 1990, the city’s mayor resurrected Wright’s vision; the curvilinear lakeside building opened in 1997.
The free events enlivening the rooftop terrace are as distinctive as the architecture. Tai chi classes nurture vitality and tranquility; drum troupes, improv comedy and jugglers delight families. The rooftop stays cool even during popular Friday Dane Dances featuring live disco, funk, salsa and merengue.
Between events, you can picnic while watching paddleboarders float across Lake Monona and cyclists whiz along the hike-bike path far below. Stretch out on a grassy plot rimmed by flowers. By the fountain, trace the city skyline and its crown jewel, the Wisconsin Capitol.
Art above it all:
On State Street between the campus and Capitol Square, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art anchors the Overture Center for the Arts. Striking views on top of the Cesar Pelli-designed building include curious sculptures and the 1926 Orpheum Theatre’s landmark sign.
Circling the dome:
This gorgeous state Capitol is topped with the world’s largest granite dome, which is topped with a golden 15-foot female bronze sculpted by Daniel Chester French in 1920, which rocks a helmet topped by a badger. But of course; the badger is Wisconsin’s state animal.
Restored to its original 1917 splendor, the building’s majestic stonework, glass mosaics, murals (one in which a badger replaced a soldier) and amusing tales are compelling reasons to take a free 45-minute tour. (Great restrooms, too!) Top off the tour by climbing the spiral steps to the observation deck.
Go Saturday for 360-degree views of the bustling Dane County Farmers Market, the nation’s largest producer-only market. Summertime specialties include green Sweet Ann peas, ruby-red strawberries, golden maple syrup, blue potatoes and pink and yellow mushrooms.
Try to spot the buskers playing bagpipes and American Indian flutes. Track boats on the lakes; trace the skyline. Look up at the Capitol’s facade for huge sculpted classical figures busy symbolizing civic ideals.
Lush beer garden: Great Dane Pub
A few steps off Capitol Square, Victorian cream brick and Queen Anne pressed-brick walls of a former hotel enclose a fanciful courtyard with foliage growing two stories high. Here you can chill over a Great Dane craft brew — and, from the upper balcony, watch people chill on the patio far below.
Sip tip: With its chocolate and coffee tones, a Black Earth Porter covers several hedonist food groups. Salud!
The Capital City State Trail runs from downtown past lovely old bungalows, community gardens and funky sculptures to Lake Monona’s north shore. A gilded Thai pavilion marks Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 16 acres of beauty that sprouted from an attorney’s dream to create a free-admission community haven.
The charming Rose Tower looks out across a reflecting pool and sunken gardens to Lake Monona. From another angle, spot the secluded miniterrace with weeping wall, pool and meditation bench.
The sustainability-themed gardens showcase native Midwest-hardy plants. Those in the Thai Garden are cleverly pruned to resemble exotic species. Clipped tree art called mai dat displays a horticulture practice from the 13th century.
A Thai sala (pavilion) provides shelter from rain and heat. In the shade of the Olbrich sala, you’ll find serenity gazing at a divine pool and sculpted dolphins and elephants.
My secret garden
Purple inks the sky as I pedal through Mansion Hill near Capitol Square. An explosion of blooms frames a stone staircase, which leads to a brick path winding around green shrubs and pastel flowers.
A brass plaque reveals this little Victorian fantasyland as Period Garden Park. Lured to a bench, I sit a spell, refreshed by woodsy and floral fragrances, bird songs and breezes.
Robin Soslow is a Florida freelance writer.
When you go
American Airlines offers nonstops (about 2 hours, 15 minutes) between Dallas and Dane County Regional Airport (MSN), which is 15 minutes from downtown Madison.
It was an honor to visit the community garden at Brittingham Park and to meet with Alder Sue Ellingson, some of the gardeners and community organizers who worked hard to make this garden a reality.
I am so pleased that in its first year, although everyone is learning along the way, the garden seems to be a great success.
If you have a chance to stop by Brittingham Park, take a look at the great work that is being done.
These gardeners are not only growing food they're fostering community.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Join Madison Common Council members and me for the 2013 Community Budget meetings at locations throughout the City. The budget debates continue to be difficult as our needs grow, but our dollars do not keep up. Your feedback and input is crucial, and these meetings, as well as your on-line participation provide a great opportunity to not only learn how the decisions are made and how taxpayer dollars are spent, but also to have your concerns and comments considered for next year’s budget deliberations.
We are asking for everyone’s ideas and votes as they will help us develop the themes of this year's community budget conversations. I am pleased that we are also able to get ideas on line and accessible to people who might not be able to make it to any of the meetings.
The community budget conversations will take place this month as City officials and staff work to create a budget that represents and encompass the values of the residents of Madison. This year, ideas are also being collected through IdeaScale and through the Budget Conversation Events. I urge you to go on line to utilize this method of learning what others think, and to share your thoughts.
There are four sessions and residents are invited to attend as many as they wish.
Work / Invent & Create
May 9th, 2013 at 7pm
Madison Senior Center
Get Around / Build Opportunity for All
May 15th, 2013 at 7pm
Packers Community Center Room
Be Healthy & Safe / Live
May 23rd, 2013 at 7pm
Jefferson Middle School
Eat / Play & Enjoy
May 29th, 2013 at 7pm
The Villager Atrium Community Room
A reporter recently asked me how often I planned to meet with Madisons' new school Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham.
I do not know and frankly, I am wondering why it matters.
How often we meet will be driven by a number of yet to be determined factors. And more important than how often we meet, is the matter of improved performance for Madison school children.
It is the difference between outputs and outcomes. The number of miles of street we plow is an output, the measurement of the quality of the job is an outcome. The number of teenagers who attend a class on abstinence or receive condoms is an output, the number of teenage pregnancies is an outcome.
We need to focus on outcomes. We need to measure performance and ensure that educational attainment improves.
How often Superintendent Cheatham and I meet will be determined by the agenda, the role of our respective staffs, and other factors.
It is possible that we may find regular quarterly meetings too frequent, we may find that monthly meetings are not frequent enough. We don't know yet. But I do not plan to measure the success of the district's students by the number of meetings.