Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on Wednesday offered a grim picture of minority unemployment and poverty in the city and Dane County and called upon the private sector to do more to create and support jobs.

Soglin said the city is recovering from the recession in many ways but that Madison is among the worst cities in the nation when it comes to economic gaps between African-Americans and Latinos and whites.

The mayor said he’s working with others on a jobs plan that will be ready in coming months, but he also called upon employers to increase their work force by 1, 2 or 3 percent. It’s also critical to support jobs with housing, education and training, quality child care, health care and transportation, he said.

“We have to create jobs, and the private sector can do it,” Soglin said after his speech to the Rotary Club of Madison at the Inn on the Park hotel Downtown. “And they’re going to have to do more than create jobs.”

Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc., later said she was pleased that Soglin challenged the private sector to step forward, especially in the five areas the mayor said are critical to support employment.

Ald. Mark Clear, 19th District, who is considering a mayoral bid in 2015 and was one of several city council members to attend the luncheon, praised the mayor for using his “bully pulpit” to encourage private sector action.

The luncheon speech was billed as a follow-up to Soglin’s state of the city address to the same group in late January, which focused on strengthening public education and encouraging a more dynamic, modern economy in the city.

The mayor on Wednesday offered data that show solid growth in the city for residential and commercial construction. But many aren’t participating in the recovery, he said, citing studies that show unemployment rising among blacks in Dane County at a level far higher than for whites.

A 2011 study, for example, found black poverty in the county had risen from 33 percent in 2006 to 54 percent in 2011, Soglin said. In the latter year, 8.7 percent of whites lived in poverty. That same year, the black unemployment rate was 25.2 percent compared to 4.8 percent for whites, he said.

It will take both jobs and support for employees to bridge gaps, which is a challenge due to limited public resources, he said.

A YWCA program that provides rides to work for low-income people who have no other means of transportation, for example, faces a 75 percent reduction in state and federal funding of its roughly $400,000 budget at the end of the year, the mayor said.

YWCA chief executive officer Rachel Krinsky later said the nonprofit, the city and others are working to find a solution before Jan 1.


Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.