Vol. 5    No. 16
AUGUST 12, 2010

The Capital City Hues
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Jonathan Gramling
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Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
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    I felt I was a witness to a somewhat historic occasion last Tuesday, August 10. As a part of the 2011 city
of Madison budget process, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz held one of his preliminary budget hearings — a
vehicle for him to provide the public with some general information about the budget and the budgetary
process as well as find out what is on the public’s mind — at the Urban League building on S. Park Street.
    I can’t remember a time — and I stand to be corrected — when a city budget hearing was held on S. Park
Street in a building owned by an African American organization. And what was truly awesome about it was
that it was the most diverse budget hearing that I have ever witnessed. There were African Americans,
Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians and Euro-Americans there to testify or to listen to what the
mayor had on his mind.
    Who was also present were youth from the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. For the past several
months, it seems that I have seen youth from the Boys & Girls Club in their blue t-shirts at many community
functions, from 100 Black Men’s Golf Outing to this budget hearing, reflecting the activist philosophy of the
club’s new executive director, Michael Johnson. At the end of the budget hearing, after a little coaxing, one
of the youth got up to speak. That opened the flood gates as more students began to tell the mayor what was
on their minds. It sure looked like democracy in action to me.
    As South Madison has one of the most diverse populations in the city and has more than its fair share of
poor folks living there, it was no surprise that most of the comments from the community speakers
concerned the city’s Community Services and Community Development Block Grant programs. It is
primarily though these funds that Madison’s neighborhood centers and non-profit organizations receive
funding for the vital economic development, housing social, educational, senior, youth development and
day care services. The South Madison area is still dependent upon many of these services and so these
services were on the minds of those who testified.
    The mayor has stated on the record that he plans to at least keep the funding for these two funds at 2010
funding levels. For many non-profit leaders, I’m sure that commitment may give them some relief. But within
the context of stable overall funding, I am getting the sense that there is a push afoot for some redistribution
of the funds to reflect changing needs.
    Back in 1982 when I first joined the Urban League staff, the social service and non-profit sector was in
its infancy, driven by idealistic — for the most part Euro-American — leaders who came of age in the 1960s
and early 1970s. Most of the staff and leadership of these organizations — with the exception of the Urban
League, Centro Hispano and United Refugee Services — were Euro-American serving an increasingly client
of color population.
    Through the years, that client population has continued to become more diverse, but it wasn’t until
perhaps the past 10 years that these agencies have brought on increasing numbers of staff of color and
those who are bi-lingual. It is only in the last few years that Madison has witnessed more than just a handful
of executive directors of color leading these organizations.
    I get the sense that there is a new leadership and a new generation of color coming to the fore that are
pushing to be a part of the solution as it relates to the many inequities that communities of color experience.
And as part of that solution, they want the corresponding resources to get the job done.
    In some ways, the human service and non-profit delivery system that is funded by the Office of
Community Services and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program has been a somewhat
closed system in which the same players received the same or increased funding each year regardless of
their performance with especially communities of color. Again it was a system led by this idealistic group of
leaders who are also part of the Baby Boom generation. As the baton is passed from one generation to
another, I feel that there will be a demand that these agencies be effective within the communities of color
or that they step aside. This shift could be reflected in the current round of Community Services/CDBG
funding or maybe it will be reflected in the process two years from now. Nonetheless, I feel the vibrations in
the ground. That shift is coming.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                        Budget Happenings
Summertime Celebrations
Madison celebrations heat up
during August
AFRICA
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2010