Maxine Bryant wants to open a store where her neighbors can buy baby formula, diapers, toothpaste - and maybe groceries to tide them over when the food pantry is closed.
"I'm starting a Timebank on Allied," says Bryant, a neighborhood resident. "We'll be opening a store on Allied where people can shop."
About 750 residents already participate in Dane County Timebank. They volunteer at nonprofit groups or in their neighborhoods, earning "time dollars" that can be traded for goods and services. Allied would be the first neighborhood to have a physical store where Timebank members from Allied could shop.
Stephanie Rearick, director of the Dane County Timebank, recently accompanied some Allied residents, including Bryant, on a trip to St. Louis to see how one neighborhood ran a timebank store there. "It's a good way for people to get stuff they need, and earn it by helping out in their neighborhood," she says.
Several organizations, including DreamBikes and the Allied Wellness Center, have signed up with Allied's Timebank. So have about a dozen residents. Bryant thinks others will join after the store opens, perhaps this fall.
"I know once I can show people what you can buy with your time dollars, a lot more people will be interested," she says. "Maybe it'll even get some people motivated to go to work."
Dane County Timebank plans to meet with city officials on Aug. 20 to discuss potential sites. The store would be stocked with donated items, including toiletries, books, cleaning supplies, maybe even computers. Timebank members would staff the store and decide how much each item costs.
"It's really up to the neighborhood about how it's going to work," says Rearick.
If Allied's Timebank store is successful, similar operations could open in other neighborhoods, including Darbo-Worthington. Rearick believes the Timebank program could help people overcome the stigma of poverty by letting them "give something back, and be valued for the things they do, not just defined by their needs. It puts people on equal footing."
With friends like these...
In a six-way race, even the smallest endorsement counts. That's why it was apparently big news when Justin Sargent, one of a half-dozen Democrats vying to replace state Rep. Dave Travis, was endorsed by the local Painters & Allied Trades union. John Nichols devoted an entire column to it in The Capital Times.
If you've never heard of the Painters union, that's probably because the organization only has 2,400 members statewide, with about 350 in Madison. It's unclear how many actually live in Dist. 81, where Sargent is running. The district includes the north side of Madison, Waunakee (five union members) and the town of Westport (zero Painters).
Sargent, displaying a deftness at spin, touts the endorsement: "They're saying this person will be good for jobs, and will also protect the rights of working people."
The other candidates have secured bigger endorsements. Kelda Helen Roys, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, is backed by Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk and state Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison). Peng Her, a local businessman, is backed by former Madison school board member Bill Clingan.
"I've known him for years," says Clingan. "He's a person of integrity."
If elected, Her would be the first Hmong to serve in the Wisconsin Legislature. "It's important to get a state Assembly that reflects all of Wisconsin," says Clingan.
Sargent is also endorsed by Tia Nelson, daughter of the late Gov. Gaylord Nelson, and state Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit). "In a race like this, with six people," he says, "every endorsement matters."
In the money
But do endorsements matter as much as cold, hard cash? Eric Englund, the former head of an insurance company trade association, has raised the most in the race for Travis' seat in the latest cycle. The 60-year-old Middleton resident took in $32,000 between Jan. 1 and June 30.
"This is money from individuals, [not] from lobbyists, PACs or conduits," says Englund. "By the time you're old and feeble like me, you get a lot of friends."
Campaign finance reports filed last week show that, during this same period, Roys and Tim Kiefer, an assistant district attorney, each raised about $23,000. (In Kiefer's case, this includes a $10,000 loan.) Sargent raised just over $13,000, but has the most cash on hand: $41,000. The remaining two candidates are far behind: Her collected nearly $3,000, and Waunakee president John Laubmeier posted $2,400.
The candidates will square off in the Sept. 9 primary; no Republicans are running.
Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says candidates in competitive Assembly races often raise $100,000 each.
But this year, McCabe notes, local Democrats are competing with Barack Obama for campaign cash. "If donors already gave money to a presidential candidate, they may think twice about giving to an Assembly candidate," he says. "It's a hit to the bank account."
State may pave way for RTA
A special committee convened by the state Legislature to study Regional Transportation Authorities will meet for the first time next week. The group could propose legislation to allow communities to create RTAs, with independent taxing authority to fund roads, buses, rail and other transit.
"There's no better advertisement for regional transit than $4 gas," says Scott McDonell, Dane County Board chair and a member of the new committee.
Dane County must have a governing structure in place to receive federal aid for a commuter rail line. Last summer, local officials proposed creating an RTA, funded by a half-cent sales tax.
Committee member Delora Newton, representing the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says the committee's purpose is not to rubberstamp Dane County's RTA. "People need to understand that what the state proposes could be different," she says, adding that an RTA does not always mean rail. "A lot of areas have RTAs, and it's buses and highways."
The chamber has no official position on an RTA, but Newton says it won't back new taxes. "We would look at other levels of government to pitch in first, before local dollars are considered."
The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, being wildly optimistic or badly deluded (or both), is hosting "Getting to Purple," a series of three lectures in September about transcending the blue-red political dichotomy.
As part of this, the academy is joining with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and Wispolitics.com to sponsor a political cartoon contest. Entrants must submit their doodles by Aug. 18; finalists will be on display at the lectures and winners announced on Sept. 24.
Judges include Phil Hands, contributor to the Wisconsin State Journal, and Brian Strassburg, funnyman of Isthmus.
Political cartoons are "one of the ultimate expressions of First Amendment speech," says Eve Galanter, a consultant who thought up this part of the show. And for folks with an abundance of wit but no artistic talent, the academy also plans a caption contest.
For details, see WisconsinAcademy.org.