Thursday, January 29, 2015

Governor’s budget proposal includes Confluence Project support

Gov. Scott Walker addressed a crowded room Jan. 28 when he announced the inclusion
of state funding for the Confluence Project during the Chippewa Valley Rally in Madison.

It was an honor yesterday for me to join other community and business leaders from the region for the Chippewa Valley Rally in Madison, where we had the opportunity to talk with our area legislators about economic, education, infrastructure and other issues important to our region.

The day was an important one for us to build and strengthen partnerships, with community leaders giving our lawmakers important feedback about the impact of our state’s laws, policies, regulations and economic initiatives.

A high point for the day was Governor Scott Walker’s announcement to our group that he will include $15 million in funding for the Confluence Project in his 2015-17 state budget proposal. Given the challenges of our next biennial budget, I am very pleased to see that support for the Confluence is being put forward by the governor to our legislators. (See today's Leader-Telegram coverage of the governor's announcement.)

As I’ve said many times, the Confluence Project is a shining example of how partnerships can result in great achievements that no single partner could accomplish on its own. Governor Walker’s announcement is an important step forward for UW-Eau Claire and our public and private partners on this important project for our university, community and region. It means that we are on a continued path to realizing a state-of-the-art arts center that will serve UW-Eau Claire, the Chippewa Valley and all of northwest Wisconsin.

This project is a game-changer for downtown Eau Claire, as demonstrated by the investments already made in the JAMF building and Haymarket Landing, and the reinvestment in the Lismore Hotel, Green Tree Inn, new apartments and other projects.

The Confluence Project community arts center will be a catalyst for continued economic development in the region and will provide the university and regional businesses a competitive advantage in terms of their ability to recruit and retain top talent — especially younger talent.

With the powerful combination of state money, local money and philanthropy, we will build something truly special for UW-Eau Claire and the community.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

King remembrance challenge: Continue work of community-building

On the evening of January 19, I joined millions of people around the country in paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Eau Claire’s evening program of remembrance brought together people from across the city, the university and faith communities to hear Dr. King’s words read by young and old alike. I was particularly pleased that my son Ben was selected to be one of the readers this year.

Dr. King’s words still have the power to grab our attention, demand that we look at uncomfortable truths and inspire us to continue the hard work of building true community. He spoke often about a “beloved community” (the theme of our evening program) — that community where people are able to bridge differences and work together for what they hold dear.

Creating that beloved community is not easy, and in Eau Claire we still have work to do. At my inauguration as chancellor of UW-Eau Claire, I asked our campus to be audacious in how we create our future. At the King remembrance, I challenged those present to be audacious as well, to come together to create a more inclusive and supportive community that, in Dr. King’s words, opens the “doors of opportunity” to all.

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” On January 19, we came together with light and with love to demonstrate that faculty, staff, students, civic leaders, people of faith and people of goodwill can look forward to audacious work and to keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision strong.

Thanks go to Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton for organizing the event, and for co-sponsors St. James the Greater Catholic Church and University Lutheran Church. Participants included students and faculty from Lakeshore and Putnam Heights elementary schools, Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School, DeLong Middle School and Memorial and North high schools.