I was pleased to see Todd Milewski's recent story in The Capital Times Construction industry sees jobs surge in Madison area.
He points out that nearly two in five construction jobs added in the State of Wisconsin between June of 2012 and June of 2013 were in the Madison area. In addition to the new construction adding to the tax base of the city, these are family supporting jobs.
City staff is conducting a survey to better understand food buying habits in Madison and to gauge community interest and preferences for the Madison Public Market. The survey can be completed online at the link below. We’ll also be conducting some in-person “intercept surveys” at branch libraries over the next couple weeks to reach folks who are less likely to access the survey online. This survey is one of several outreach efforts we will be making during the next few months to engage the community about the project.
I am really excited about our progress toward making the Madison Pubic Market a reality. Over the last several months, we’ve held community meetings, talked with numerous project stakeholders, and met with dozens of prospective public market vendors. The level of interest and enthusiasm has been extraordinary and momentum for creating a Public Market is building.
This online survey is yet another way to reach people and we need your input to help shape the vision. With your help, the Public Market will become a special place in Madison provides more healthy food choices, supports our region’s farmers, creates jobs, and grows businesses. Moreover, with thoughtful planning, the Public Market will become a place that adds to Madison’s existing food traditions like our beloved farmers markets, and will build on Madison’s growing reputation as a city that values and takes pride in the connections between the food on our plates, the strength of our economy, and the health of our community.
Last week over 60 firefighters responded to the brutal fire on Atlas Ave. When firefighters arrived at 6:30am, the temperature was -12 degrees. Crews struggled with low water pressure, uncertain footing and other challenges posed by the freezing weather.
Around 10:00am, I approached a firefighter and said to him, with all sincerity, "I bet you love your job." He responded, with all sincerity, "It's not a job."
It is this type of employee engagement, when fire fighters are so fully involved in and passionate about their work, that they help to make Madison a great place to live, learn, work and play.
Last week while attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting I was asked to be a guest on National Public Radio's Here and Now. I was joined by Carmel, Indiana Mayor Jim Brainard and we talked about our ideas for a partnership between the federal government and municipalities. We discussed the importance of public investment in infrastructure, the digital divide, mass transit, education and other issues. Although he is a Republican Mayor and I am not, we agreed on quite a few issues. You can read the transcript or listen on line here:
29th Annual City of Madison and Dane County
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance
Monday, January 20
Freedom Songs 5:00 p.m. Program 6:00 p.m.
It is exciting that the keynote speaker for the 29th Annual City of Madison and Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance is Ambassador, Pastor, Civil Rights Activist, Former Mayor, and Former Congressman Andrew Young. I hope you join me at the Capitol Theater in the Overture Center for what is certainly going to be an inspiring, educational, and motivational talk.
The appearance of Ambassador Young is especially significant in Madison as we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the Equal Opportunities Ordinance in December 2013 marking one of the key accomplishments locally of the Civil Rights movement in providing protections in employment and housing. The City signed into law these protections a year before the Federal government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Ambassador Young is an American politician, diplomat, activist, and pastor from Georgia. His friendship and work with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. were instrumental in shaping the Civil Rights movement. He helped to draft both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He served as the Mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman, and the U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Ambassador Young has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Springarn Medal. He has written numerous books detailing the civil rights movement and his journey through life.
The opportunity to hear Ambassador Young may well be a once in a lifetime opportunity. While we all acknowledge we have made great strides in the area of civil rights, we also know we need have much work yet to do. Reverend King and Reverend Young lit the torch of equality and justice many years ago. It is our responsibility to keep that torch burning.
The theme for this year’s celebration “A Continuing Legacy: Jobs, Justice, Freedom” is relevant given the Race to Equity report released this last year.
There are of course a number of opportunities to honor the legacy of Dr. King. On Friday, January 17, there is a Free Community Dinner at Gordon Commons. On Saturday, January 18, Women in Focus are holding the I Have a Dream Scholarship Ball at the Marriott Madison West. On Sunday, January 19, you can attend the Urban League Youth Recognition Breakfast at Edgewood High School at 7:45 a.m. and the MLK Ecumenical Church Service at 4:00 p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. In addition to the evening celebration on Monday the 20, it is Youth Day of Service at Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
Details on all of the events can be found at facebook.com/KingCoalition.
Liveability.com is a well known website that features America's Best Places. Madison is often ranked, and in fact is #5 on their Best Places to Live list. I am sharing the recent Liveability.com blog posted after a discussion I had with Matt Carmichael from the organization.
Madison, WI Mayor Paul Soglin has a unique perspective on an unusual city. In 2011 he was elected for his third stint as mayor, having served in the 1970s and then again from 1989 to 1997. “It’s called recidivism,” he told me. Most mayors come in, enact some changes and then aren’t in office to see if they truly worked and made their cities better places. Soglin can see first hand how decisions he made decades ago are paying off. For the most part, he sounds rightly pleased. Madison, No. 5 on our Top 100 Best Places to Live, has a lot to boast about. But Soglin is far from resting on his town’s laurels. He convened a task force to make specific recommendations about how the city can do better in next year’s rankings. There are four slots ahead of him, and he wants to move up. The city itself keeps things challenging because the population is always shifting. It’s rare to have a city with a large minority population that’s nearly equal parts African-American, Asian and Hispanic – and each of these segments are growing. Soglin’s drive to improve isn’t surprising for a mayor whose only regret from his time(s) in office is this: “In my previous tenures I had a 20-year view, which is far longer than most elected politicians. I should have had a 40-year view.”
As we were preparing the write-up for Madison’s Best Places to Live feature, we spoke at length with Mayor Soglin. Here are some highlights. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Livability: How do you balance growth with the needs of existing residents and Madison’s agrarian roots?
Soglin: We look to Seattle. Seattle has done a good job of addressing the challenge. Are we making decisions based on distributing resources in an equitable fashion?
As an example, there are a series of subdivisions in the southeast corner of the city referred to as Owl Creek. If we’d used an equity lens and if we’d properly done the analysis when these subdivisions were first proposed, the question should have been asked ‘What kind of public transit do we have for this large area?’ and the answer would have been ‘None.’ In turn, the subdivision should never have been approved, or there should have been a public transit plan for the area. We should not have had a situation where we went a decade with no public transit to the neighborhood. It meant that if high school students missed the bus immediately after the school let out, they had over a 2.5-mile hike to get home after extracurricular activities. It means it’s impossible to hold a job and live in that area unless you have an automobile.
Livability: What have you seen change in Madison over the course of your various tenures?
Soglin: In the 1970s the downtown area of Madison was virtually all baby boomer students or retirees, and they were all low-income. If the objective is to get middle-class families downtown, how do you do it? You’re not going to get them to move downtown next to a bunch of students and retirees. Step one: Let’s get economic diversity among the 20-year-olds and the 70-year-olds. Then let’s get diversity in terms of age. Then we can start talking about getting families. That’s the path we’re going down and it’s working. The Census data for 2020 in downtown Madison will be far different than 2010 – partially due to [residential housing] construction begun in 2012. The big test for us will be over the next decade. Will these 25-to-35-year-olds stay in the city and raise families here? At the same time, can we provide an economy that has an equity component to it. In the 1990s the Madison economy was able to match skills and jobs. At that time, the Wal-Mart model was not so prevalent. In the service industries a livable wage at a 40-hour-a-week job was attainable. Mom and dad could come to Madison, find employment and provide a sustainable household. Now the families that are arriving – particularly since the recession began – are finding minimum wage jobs for 20 hours a week with no benefits.
Livability: One of the issues that has brought you back to office again and again is poverty, especially among children. What’s going on?
Soglin: Madison’s demographics have changed significantly even since the 2010 Census. Close to 54 percent of our school children are minorities. How does a comfortable city like Madison see such significant growth in poverty rates in the public schools? The answer is in-migration. And the question is ‘What’s going on in Chicago?’. I don’t like anecdotes, but I think this one makes the point. Last year I was in a third grade class in Madison doing a reading program and I was asked if I wanted to pose with students for a picture with a giant cut-out of one of the Green Bay Packers. Someone asked if I was a Packers fan and I said ‘No, I was born in Chicago, I’m a Bears fan’ and half of the students started jumping up and down and clapping and saying ‘me too, me too.’ Every time a public housing project comes down in Chicago, a significant number of the residents leave the metropolitan area.
Livability: How do you build an economy that works for everyone?
Soglin: You don’t go out there chasing and recruiting companies to leave another city and come to yours. What you do is exactly the notion of what [Livability.com is] trying to evaluate. You build a great place and they will come.
A year ago, on Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old and six teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The crime horrified the nation and the world.
Within a week of the shooting, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns sent a letter urging President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to pass legislation closing loopholes in the national background check system.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and I are members of that group. We are also advocating for limiting the availability of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines and to making gun trafficking a federal crime. I joined Mayor Barrett on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn show this week. You can listen here.
I respect the wishes of the Sandy Hook victims' family members in their efforts to mark this tragic anniversary in private. It is a day however, when we can all renew our resolve to stem this horrific violence in our world.
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.