When Florenzo Cribbs wanted to start a program teaching kids about hip-hop, he thought the perfect place for it would be his neighborhood center, the Boys and Girls Club Allied Family Center, 4619 Jenewein Rd.
Cribbs uses hip-hop to teach life skills, just as others use golf to teach poor kids values through the "First Tee" program. "The focus is going to be around change," he says of the program, which started last week. "The basis of change is oneself. It's on you."
The center didn't share Cribbs' enthusiasm. "I wasn't offered any use of the space," Cribbs says. "They're not really interested in programs that are not a part of their curriculum."
Cribbs took his program to a different center, Neighborhood House on South Mills Street, where it was "received with open arms." But he's still sore about being turned away by the Boys and Girls Club, which he notes also gets city money to serve as a community center.
According to the city, the Boys and Girls Club in Allied - the building is actually located in Fitchburg, but its parking lot is in Madison - got $117,000 in funding this year, including $73,640 of federal Community Development Block Grant funding. Neighborhood House got $91,778, including $35,924 of CDBG funds.
Mary Burke, board president and interim director of Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, says the club has its own programming for youth and generally wants the community space to be used for adult programming. Also, it prefers "one-off" events, rather than long-term series that "will tie up the room and limit the activity for other purposes."
Ald. Brian Solomon, whose district includes Allied, says the Boys and Girls Club is a great organization, but he sees conflict between what the community needs and the club offers. "There is a need for a community center in Allied," he says. "But nobody's going to build one because there is a Boys and Girls Club there. That idea can't even get off the ground."
Solomon thinks that the neighborhood must clearly define what it needs and that the club must keep an open mind about what it is willing to provide. "They don't exist in a vacuum," he says. "Their presence has an impact on a community's needs."
Cribbs is meeting next week with the club's new executive director, Michael Johnson, who starts Feb. 15. "If they're getting these funds for being a community center, then they need to do some of the things that community centers do," Cribbs says. "And we need to hold them accountable for it."
Madison is currently drafting a five-year cultural plan, designed to "seek ways to enhance Madison's role as a center of creativity and innovation."
To this end, the city is doing the usual surveys and focus groups. But it's also asking citizens to take the lead on gathering information by holding informal get-togethers, says Karin Wolf, the city's arts program administrator.
This could take the form of a dinner party where people meet to talk it over or an "MC shouting out to an audience at the High Noon, 'Where was the last place you saw live music in Madison?'" Wolf says.
"I know it's asking a lot to have people do this on their own," Wolf says. "This tool will be most useful if it's a grassroots assessment. We're trying to find creative ways to get into all sorts of communities."
The city will gather input over the next couple months. For more information, see www.cityofmadison.com/MAC/culturalPlan/index.cfm.
Eeny, meeny, miny, vote
Based on their responses to a questionnaire from the League of Women Voters, it's a little tough to distinguish between the three candidates in the only primary race for the Dane County Board. But certain buzzwords do emerge, making it easier to classify the candidates.
The Dist. 19 seat - which covers parts of Sun Prairie and the towns of Bristol, Windsor and Burke - is currently held by Jeff Kostelic, who is not running for reelection. Three candidates are on the Feb. 16 primary ballot, which will narrow the field to two.
The candidates are: Bill Clausius, a former Sun Prairie councilman and member of the Dane County Regional Planning Commission; Marc Gofstein, a member of the Dane County CDBG Commission, who works as a youth group leader and served as a legislative aide in California; and Steve Schwartzer, who runs an insurance business.
All three cite public safety as a prime concern. But asked what the county's new Regional Transit Authority should accomplish, Clausius says, "a robust transportation system helps attract new employers to Dane County and will create new jobs." Gofstein says, "it will be able to create multiple, cost-effective public transit solutions."
Taking a more conservative line, Schwartzer favors "a cost-effective alternative to commuter rail" and work toward "the implementation and completion of a greatly needed North Beltline."