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The Daily
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Overture Center set for transition with new management
Most employees staying with the arts center

On Jan. 1, as part of an agreement reached last December by the Madison Common Council, the Overture Center Foundation will officially take over management of the arts center.

Overture's board has yet to hire an executive director, but center spokesman Rob Chappell says one should be on board by early next year. Overture is considering one of five finalists, including the center's current director, Tom Carto.

When Overture was created, employees - many of whom had worked for the city-owned Civic Center - retained their status as city workers. Under the agreement reached a year ago, Overture employees had the option of becoming employees of the arts center or remaining city employees.

A majority of the roughly 50 full-time Overture employees, including all of the technical theater staff, are remaining with the arts center. Eleven people who held either janitorial, maintenance or administrative jobs opted to stay with the city, says Brad Wirtz, the city's human resource director.

When the deal was penned a year ago, some feared many Overture employees would stay with the city, forcing less senior employees to be bumped from their jobs. "It doesn't look like anybody is going to get bumped," Wirtz said last week. "It looks like we'll find places for all of them."

Fundraising for the center is on track to meet its $2.4 million goal by the end of June, with $1.4 million being raised so far.

Janet Piraino, Overture's vice president for advancement and former aide to former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, says she's confident the center will reach its fundraising goal. It expects to announce two six-figure donations - one from a corporation and one from an individual - after Jan. 1. "We've gotten a lot of amazing gifts, both big and small," Piraino says.

"Revenues are a little higher than we expected, and costs are a little lower," she adds.

Where did those jobs go?

The jobs that Wisconsin lost in November - 11,700 - have reminded everyone that Gov. Scott Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs in his first term in office.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state has added 16,300 jobs since Walker took office. It needs to add more than 233,000 for him to keep his promise. But Wisconsin has lost jobs every month since Walker's budget went into effect in late June, so the trend does not look good. Why is the state losing so many jobs?

Laura Dresser, a labor economist with the think tank Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS), says the state appears to have taken a hit recently on manufacturing jobs. The manufacturing companies in Wisconsin export products to Europe and Asia, which have both been hurt by the global recession, the meltdown of the euro, and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

"My read of the data is we had some manufacturing gains the first six months of the year. That has turned pretty hard," she says. "We're losing in manufacturing now, and we're not adding anything else. On top of that, we're losing public-sector jobs."

While Dresser stops short of blaming Walker for the losses, she adds that his first budget hasn't helped, with about 350,000 public-sector employees around the state facing an 8% decrease in income. "That means every community is dealing with less money," she says. "That makes it's harder to be a restaurant in a community where people have less money."

Dresser doesn't see things getting any better in 2012. "It looks like another year of limping along."

Zip Car now at UW

This fall, Madison quietly added a second car-sharing service when Zip Car opened an outlet on the UW campus.

One upshot is that Madison's established, homegrown car-share service, Community Car, has lost its free parking spaces on campus. John Ribolzi, vice president of Community Car, says the university earlier this year decided to bid out the right for campus car-sharing, which allows people to rent cars by the hour. Though Community Car bid to provide the service, Zip Car won out, presumably offering to pay the university more for the privilege of parking cars on campus and getting promoted on the university website.

According to Zip Car's website, the company has four cars currently on the UW campus.

Community Car moved its vehicles to off-campus sites near the UW, Ribolzi says.

"Competition is always a good thing," Ribolzi says of its new competitor. "It keeps us on our toes. Having Zip Car here will help grow the awareness of car-sharing in Madison."

Project Bubbles setback

In October, Isthmus reported on a new program, Project Bubbles, to help homeless people get their laundry done (see, 10/20/2011).

The program provided bus fare to a self-service laundry on Sherman Avenue, as well as laundry tokens to use the machine. But the laundry has ended its involvement with the program, starting Dec. 29.

Beginning Jan. 2, the service will be available at Affiliated Laundries Inc., 701 E. Johnson St., on Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. Volunteers will be onsite to help people do their laundry.

Bus tokens will not generally be given out for the service at this location, because it is more centrally located, according to Donna Asif, of the Madison Homelessness Initiative.

The group hopes to expand the days and hours of operation for this service.

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