Anyone who has lived in this city for a significant length of time, say two or three decades, realizes that the pace of change in its cultural and economic structure has accelerated greatly. No longer the bucolic "Athens of the Midwest" (apologies to Athens, Ohio, among others) of days of yore, Madison would seem to be ideally suited to parlay its considerable assets into a 21st-century blossoming.
But sometimes reality intervenes in the march to idyllic success. New opportunities bring new challenges - often unforeseen and resistant to solution. Such a situation is what the city now finds itself facing on two fronts, public education and economic development, as reported in our pages this week.
Contributor Amy Barrilleaux chronicles one of them in "Madison's Racial Divide." The chasm between Madison's minorities, primarily African Americans and Latinos, and the majority white population, is highlighted in the aftermath of successful candidate Sarah Manski's surprising abandonment of the school board race after the primary. Students of color make up an ever-growing proportion of Madison schoolchildren. Their performance, continuously referred to as the "achievement gap," has brought racial tensions to the fore following Manski's defection.
On another flank, Madison's high-tech development has hiccupped with the collapse of the long-percolating BioLink project. You'd think Madison and Dane County, given the rise in biotech startups, would have a hard-wired success in the offing, but you would be wrong. The federally backed project has been abandoned. Former Isthmus editor Marc Eisen asks around to find out why in the latest installment of his series, The New Madison Economy. What he finds out is not an encouraging tale, but it is a telling one. You've always got to keep an eye out for potholes on that highway to success.