Vol. 5    No. 15
JULY 29, 2010

The Capital City Hues
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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

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Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
Heidi Pascual, Jessica Pharm,
Laura Salinger, Jessica Strong, &
Martinez White

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     Back in the day when I worked at the Urban League, one of the hardest things to measure was the impact
of prevention programs. We worked to ensure that something didn’t happen. But how do you show that
something that would have happened, didn’t happen because of your efforts. The measure is the absence of
something and not necessarily something you can see with your own two eyes.
     In some very real ways, President Barack Obama’s $778 billion stimulus plan passed in February 2009 is
a prevention plan. Its purpose was to keep the U.S. economy from sliding very abruptly into the Second Great
Depression. Lately, some conservative talking heads have been deeming the Obama stimulus a failure and
characterize it as just the same old deficit spending that will prove to be harmful to the economy in the long
run. They make it sound as if the stimulus plan hasn’t had an impact and that the money was just wasted.
It has only been a couple of years since we started to slide into the Great Recession and only about a year
since states and municipalities and private companies began to spend the stimulus funds in earnest. It’s
difficult to gauge what the stimulus money prevented, but the Obama administration has tried to gauge the
impact in terms of the number of jobs saved or created. In Wisconsin, as of March 31, they estimate that
49,000 jobs have been created or saved in Wisconsin and that $3.4 billion has been committed to the state. If
that is so, then it is hard to discern where those jobs are and what the impact has been even in a place like
Madison. It’s not as if the stimulus projects jump up and down and shout out ‘I am a stimulus project.’ But
stimulus money is all over the Madison area keeping Madison’s unemployment rate to about 5.1 percent.
     There are the large construction projects going on right now on University Avenue and I-94 just east of
Madison. There is $529 million worth of construction projects that will be completed probably by the end of
2011. That’s a lot of money being pumped into the local economy. And due to the fact stimulus funds can’t be
used to replace local funds, this means that more construction jobs than ever before have been open to
people of color during the Great Recession than there have been during other past recessions.
     But the stimulus is affecting us in other, less visible ways as well. The University of Wisconsin-Madison
has been awarded over $144 million in research grants. While these grants are in a number of different areas,
some of the significant ones are researching biomass and other alternative fuels. Hopefully this research will
greatly aid Wisconsin’s economy in the future.
     Madison Gas and Electric received a stimulus grant to set up electric recharging stations in two additional
locations in the Madison area. The presence of these stations could possibly spur the sale of electric cars in
the Madison area and gear us up for a greener future. That’s not a bad outcome.
     The Madison Metropolitan School District has benefitted from the stimulus. Its allocation of stimulus funds
is approximately $16 million that supported 30.56 FTE positions in the 2009-2010 budget and 39.65 in the 2010-
2011 budget. This funding went to a number of instructional and capital areas including the district’s Title I and
homeless programs and the purchase of food service equipment.
     Non-profits have also been impacted by the federal stimulus. The Community Action Coalition received
$274,000 for emergency food programs and Project Home received $10 million for weatherization of low-
income homes. And there have been others as well including Freedom, Inc., the Boys & Girls Club of Dane
County, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a number of other non-profits that have
received stimulus funds for various activities. And other non-profits have been included in larger grants
written by UW-Madison and other entities.
     And of course, none of this measures up to other stimulus funds that were received by the state of
Wisconsin for various initiatives that have been handed down to municipalities and school districts.
There is a whole lot that is going on due to Obama’s stimulus plan. Once one looks at the totality of the funding,
one can’t help but believe that the Obama stimulus is having a positive impact on our local economy. Things
would be much worse and many more people out of work without it. It is hardly wasted money. It is money that
is being spent right here.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                       In support of the Stimulus