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Edgerton still believes downtown living, economic success are connected

EDGERTON

For more than a decade, Dan Rinehart has been a local dynamo when it comes to building apartments and townhouses in Edgerton.

The real estate developer relocated his taxidermy business to Edgerton around 2001. Then he started changing the look and feel of the city’s downtown.

His most ambitious move was a multi-stage conversion of three vacant tobacco warehouses into mid-to-upscale apartments. He also opened a townhouse on Main Street last year and is currently building another apartment complex on Lawton Street.

Those five projects have created 82 new residential units and have earned about $1.7 million in city incentives. They fit squarely with Edgerton’s goal to get more people living downtown, which civic leaders believe will keep local businesses healthy.

So it was unusual when the council denied Rinehart’s $430,000 request last month for an eight-unit apartment project on Henry Street. Rinehart did not counter with another offer, and the idea died, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said.

Flanigan couldn’t recall another time when a proposed downtown development fell through because the city council rejected an incentive request.

Developers and council members have certainly negotiated the terms of past incentives. Since 2003, Edgerton has awarded 14 of those within the borders of a downtown tax increment financing district, which was created to draw development downtown, Flanigan said.

But the demise of Rinehart’s project, which would have cost $1.3 million total, does not mean the city has become more selective. Instead, Edgerton must keep building on recent economic success downtown, she said.

“I don’t think this project tells us that (we’re being more selective),” Flanigan said. “I think this project stands on its own merits. The cost-benefit analysis, the council felt the incentive was too much for what we were getting out of it. I don’t think this is a bellwether of, ‘Oh, we’re changing direction.’”

Flanigan called increasing downtown housing a “proven strategy” for a healthy local economy. The city included that philosophy in its 2000 downtown master plan.

Edgerton’s list of city-incentivized projects reflects that thinking. Ten of the 14 developments include the creation of at least one new residential unit, according to information provided by the city.

The projects vary in size and scope.

Swifthaven, an assisted living center on Henry Street, added 50 units for senior citizens and opened in 2005. The city provided $700,000 to Swifthaven’s developers to renovate a historic building and construct an additional facility.

Flanigan said the project fulfilled a need for transitional senior living.

It was Edgerton’s second-most lucrative incentive behind $978,000 in city dollars for Fulton Square, which opened in 2009. Located on West Fulton Street in the heart of downtown, the mixed-use building includes 17,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 26 condominium units above.

Fulton Square was an example of Edgerton trying to modernize its downtown while remaining true to the area’s history, Flanigan said. The building includes underground parking and additional surface parking tucked behind, and its architecture blends neatly with older facades across the street.

Providing parking was important for Fulton Square because it made visiting downtown more convenient for surrounding-area residents, she said.

Retail’s role

Old, historic downtowns such as Edgerton’s were built long before cars became common. Tightly packed storefronts along several blocks made the most sense in that era.

While the post-World War II retail economy led to a boom of strip malls with sprawling parking lots, that model is also becoming obsolete as consumers increasingly shop online.

Figuring out how to spark downtown vibrancy and fill vacant spaces as the retail economy changes is a question Flanigan grapples with frequently.

“Do we build in retail at this point?” she said. “That’s a question a lot of people are going to wrestle with because if you look at 10 years ago, well, yeah, of course. It’s a highway frontage; you build retail.

“But I don’t know what the answer is now. We continue to assess the market, talk with developers, because do you need more retail square footage when (people) shop online?”

Still, getting more people living downtown remains the prevailing wisdom, no matter what retail’s future is.

Edgerton Chamber of Commerce President Jay Grafft said there’s clearly more foot traffic downtown compared to years ago. That’s a good sign, he said.

“I think having increased density and foot traffic downtown would benefit all businesses because people are more inclined to walk someplace that takes them a minute or two than drive somewhere that takes them 10 minutes,” Grafft said.

He and Flanigan noted that while brick-and-mortar retail could wilt in the future, the downtown has shifted to more service-based businesses such as restaurants and tax preparation companies.

People who come downtown to do their taxes might notice a quirky shop worth revisiting another time, Grafft said.

Rinehart said downtown business owners have told him the new apartments have helped their revenues.

Untapped opportunity

Rinehart has aggressively pursued residential projects because he’s seen strong demand for his mid-to-upscale apartments, especially among people who work in Madison. Edgerton offers a quieter, less-expensive alternative than the state capital, he said.

Edgerton is no longer a center for manufacturing jobs like it once was. Rinehart said its transition to a bedroom community for Madison and Janesville is just a change rather than a negative.

But the city still has its share of empty storefronts. There are “no silver bullets” when it comes to filling those, Flanigan said.

The city tries to be proactive about prepping vacant land, such as finishing an environmental study of a 4-acre parcel on Lawton Street. It also has poured money into a façade reinvestment program to beautify the downtown, she said.

Flanigan suggested business owners could consider collaborating to form a business improvement district, as Janesville has done. This move would raise taxes on those businesses, but it could incentivize additional future developments, she said.

Rinehart sees remaining storefront vacancies as a positive and an indicator Edgerton has unfulfilled potential.

“When you see vacant storefronts, that never looks good,” he said. “However, if you believe you tapped into something that makes the community grow, that tells you … there’s room to support more growth in the community.

“Edgerton has the capacity to bring in new storefront businesses. The square footage is there for businesses to eventually move in to meet the demand of the new residents.”


395 women, all relieved to finally take control of the narrative

LOS ANGELES

Last week, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced that it was reviewing five investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct against filmmaker James Toback.

Coincidentally, it was the first week in more than three months that I hadn’t heard from a woman alleging that Toback had harassed her—or worse.

Why this is noteworthy requires a little back story.

Shortly after accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged sexual harassment broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker, a filmmaker friend contacted me, saying he had spoken to an actress who had been similarly harassed by writer-director Toback. I spoke to her the next day, but she was afraid to be publicly identified. I also contacted five women who had named Toback on Twitter, using the #MeToo hashtag. Within days, I had spoken with 38 women whose stories we corroborated, 31 of whom were willing to go on the record. (Toback denied the allegations.)

Minutes after the investigation was published, other women began emailing and phoning me with similar stories, many putting “call me No. 39” in the email subject line.

Since that initial story ran in late October, 357 women have contacted me about Toback, sharing stories of the writer-director approaching them on the streets of Manhattan and Los Angeles, on trains and airplanes. In most of these accounts, he told them that he wanted to cast them in a movie, which often led to a range of unwanted sexual advances and actions. (Toback has also denied all the subsequent allegations on multiple occasions.)

I’ve spoken with or emailed every woman who reached out. Most of the 395 women offered highly detailed accounts and some shared physical evidence—journal entries, photographs of plane tickets, receipts, scraps of paper with Toback’s writing.

Some were matter-of-fact, some were triumphant, some were still ashamed, some were angry—and many remain so, since many incidents involving Toback, occurring over the course of four decades, fall outside the statute of limitations. Nearly all of them expressed some measure of relief. After years of being told to keep quiet, accept things as they are (or find a new line of work), these women decided it was time to break their silence, seize control of the narrative and let their voices be heard.

And, for many, speaking out is just the opening salvo in what they hope will be systemic change in every workplace, not just the entertainment industry.

As awards season gets underway, their narrative has become our narrative. Toback and Weinstein were not alone in their behavior. Since October, dozens of high-profile men—politicians, judges, media and entertainment figures—have been accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape. Reputations were destroyed; many lost their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement became #TIMESUP. Last Monday, more than 300 powerful Hollywood women, including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington, established an initiative to fight sexual harassment that includes a legal defense fund, a gender parity push and a request that all women walking the red carpet at Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony wear black.

The personal became political, and, because it’s Hollywood, well-publicized.

For the women united by their encounters with Toback, these movements are welcome and a long time coming.

“There’s long been a need to create a way for women in all workplaces to report harassment,” said filmmaker Ambika Leigh, who says she encountered rampant harassment early in her acting career, including an incident with Toback. “Because right now, even with all that’s happened in recent weeks, there’s still a lot of fear and uncertainty.”

Many of the women who contacted me about Toback said that dredging up these memories left them feeling vulnerable but that the process was cathartic. And seeing other women declare their truth has empowered others to do the same.

“Courage begets courage,” said actress Dani Alvarado, who said she had a series of encounters with Toback in 2011. “After years of feeling like there would never be any repercussions, it’s been amazing to see the pendulum swing in a different direction.”

“When you have 38 women saying the same thing, suddenly you feel like what happened to you actually means something,” noted Kandiss Edmundson, who said she met Toback in 2001 when she was an aspiring actress. “It proves a pattern, which makes me feel like my story is valid. It’s real. No one can talk me out of the pain of it or downplay it or make me feel stupid or responsible or naive.”

“Shame keeps you silent,” added singer-actress Christine Hudman, who, like the others, said she had an encounter with Toback that was framed as an audition but turned sexual. “I’m not quite sure how to articulate what he took from me that day but by saying this, I feel that I’m taking something back.”

(The Los Angeles Times reviewed evidence supporting the accounts of the women mentioned in this story, interviewing relatives and friends and examining records contemporaneous with the incidents.)

Many women began working on that process years before publicly talking about their encounters with Toback. Miranda Calderon says she used Toback’s crude come-ons as inspiration to write a 2012 short film, “Alegra & Jim,” in which she plays a young actress trying to figure out the difference between artistic exploration and sexual harassment.

“I wanted to look at the responsibility that men in power have in that kind of situation and the emphasis that art places on boundary-breaking and how that’s sometimes used to prey on women,” Calderon said. “I don’t think creative people should be immune from ethical conduct.

“Making my own work was in some way an antidote to the powerlessness and neediness that actors often feel, that young women often feel,” she added.

Alvarado premiered her short film about industry sexual harassment, “Lost Beneath the Stars,” based in part on an encounter with Toback, at the Warsaw Film Festival in October. The day after she returned to Los Angeles from Poland, the Toback story broke in the L.A. Times. The timing, she said, was “shocking and absurd.”

Alvarado wrote the movie with her actress friend Claire Bermingham as a form of release and expression, and she says a small part of her hoped Toback would see it.

“It was so wonderfully ironic that he said he wanted to write a role for me and I ended up writing a role for him,” Alvarado said. “To use his words, words he apparently spoke to so many other women, I hope I ‘captured his essence.’ ”

Lori Seliger wrote and produced a play, “James You’re Sweet,” that was performed at New York’s Tribeca Lab in 1992. Tamar Kummel titled her 2005 play “The Seduction,” and dedicated it to Toback. (“I find it quite a statement about being an actor, that it never occurred to me to call the police (after her incident with Toback),” she said.) Actress and comedian Inna Swinton wrote and performed what she calls her Toback-inspired play, “The Part,” in New York in 2003.

“By owning the story and rewriting it as a comedy, it helped me deal with what happened,” Swinton said. “That was my way of processing a situation that I remembered being so sad, that this man was out there preying on women’s dreams.”

Most women didn’t use an artistic outlet to process what happened to them. Many said they hadn’t spoken of their encounters with Toback since they occurred years earlier. Some hadn’t told their longtime spouses until after the story ran. The trauma of the experiences ran too deep.

“It was the one secret I never shared about myself with my husband or anyone else,” said Sarah MacKay, who was an aspiring actress studying musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York when she met Toback in 2004, adding that, because she blamed herself, she felt too much anger and shame to talk about what happened to her. Hearing others do so changed that.

“I started to feel an overwhelming sense of relief, validation and encouragement in knowing I wasn’t alone,” MacKay said. “And, for the first time ever, feeling that it wasn’t my fault that I’d been assaulted.”

“Things I had previously kept to myself, weathered like some sick rite of passage, I started to share in this new public conversation about sexual harassment,” said Amy Korb, who, like so many other women, said she had an audition experience with Toback turn sexual. “The worst part about it is that it almost—almost—felt normal. Now I understand my dreams are what made me vulnerable.”

Several women related encounters with Toback that happened when they were underage. Jaime Lyn Beatty said she met him at a Tribeca Film Festival screening of “The Outsider,” a documentary about Toback and the making of his 2004 film “When Will I Be Loved.” She approached him afterward, expressing an interest in acting. He invited her to dinner, during which he probed Beatty with questions that were sexual in nature. She was 16.

“At the time, I just normalized it, like, ‘This is just another Hollywood eccentric,’ ” said Beatty, who became an actress. “I don’t think I really processed what happened until just recently, when the climate changed and I realized that what I had kept private as a singular experience was in fact a very universal experience shared by a sisterhood of women.”

Women accusing other men—Weinstein, producer Brett Ratner, actor Dustin Hoffman—voiced similar feelings in op-ed pieces, on social media and in private messages to each other. “Women found me through Twitter, Facebook and mutual friends to share their Hoffman stories,” Anna Graham Hunter wrote in an L.A. Times piece about the aftermath of her initial essay accusing the actor of harassment.

The women bound by shared experiences with Toback and others have created private groups on Facebook and Twitter, places they can form friendships, share stories and provide one another with emotional support.

“It started with this one perpetrator but it has widened to become a place to discuss this problem on a much wider scale,” Leigh said. “To speak about these awful experiences is healing.

“What’s even more healing is the sense that people are finally listening.”


Wall Street's love of tax cuts drove Dow to 25,000 mark

WASHINGTON

Wall Street sure loves the tax bill, even if polls show most Americans don’t.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged past 25,000 Thursday, a strong signal of investor enthusiasm for President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut. The milestone comes less than a year after the Dow topped 20,000.

“We broke a very, very big barrier,” Trump said Thursday at the White House. “Every time you see that number go up on Wall Street it means jobs, it means success, it means 401(k)s that are flourishing.”

The Dow jumped an additional 220 points Friday after the government reported that employers added 148,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained a low 4.1 percent. Investors celebrated the modest job gains because they made it less likely that the Federal Reserve will step up its pace of interest rate increases. Higher rates can depress share prices as some investors shift money away from stocks to bonds.

It’s easy to see why investors like the tax overhaul: Businesses will benefit from a steep cut in the corporate tax rate. They’ll also be able to fully deduct the cost of major purchases from their taxable income, reducing the amount they owe. And companies with large stockpiles of cash overseas can bring the money back to the United States at new, lower rates.

All told, Wall Street analysts estimate the tax package should boost earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by roughly 8 percent this year. That’s much more generous than the average tax cut of 1.6 percent that middle-class families will receive, according to the Tax Policy Center.

“All else being equal, this should go straight to the bottom line,” said David Joy, chief market strategist for Ameriprise Financial, a financial services company based in Minneapolis. Improved corporate profits contributed to the market’s gains last year.

The public has been less enthusiastic about the tax law. A Monmouth University poll last month found that nearly half of Americans disapproved of it, with only 26 percent in support.

Still, some workers have seen a benefit: So far, dozens of companies have announced bonuses and higher minimum wages as a result of the tax cut. AT&T, Comcast, Bank of America and American Airlines have all pledged to pay $1,000 bonuses to their employees.

Investors also appear less concerned than many politicians about how the additional profits will be used. The Trump administration says it expects companies will plow much of the extra profit back into their businesses, purchasing more software, machinery, and other equipment. Those investments will make workers more productive and provide a key boost to the economy’s long-run growth. They should also boost wages and salaries for employees.

Opponents of the tax law respond that companies are more likely to pass the windfall on to shareholders in the form of higher dividend payments and share buybacks, which raise the price of those shares still in investors’ hands. Previous cuts in corporate tax rates, in the U.S. and overseas, haven’t always led to higher wages.

For Wall Street, it’s all good, at least in the short run. Most analysts take the view that either way, companies and the economy will benefit. Whether businesses pass most of the extra money to workers or to shareholders, consumer spending should increase and lift economic growth.

Trump has repeatedly made highly optimistic claims about the impact of his tax cuts and other policies on the economy, speculating that they would lead to annual growth of 4 percent or higher.

Last month, the Treasury Department estimated that the economy will expand at a 2.9 percent annual rate for the next decade.

Private economists, as well as the Federal Reserve, forecast a more modest impact. Most expect growth will be closer to 2.5 percent in 2018 and slower than that in subsequent years.

Some companies and sectors will likely benefit more than others, particularly if they derive most of their income from the United States. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that large banks will see their earnings rise by 13 percent as a result of the corporate rate cut. Wells Fargo will likely see the biggest gain, at 18 percent.

Analysts at Stifel, an investment bank, project that some restaurant chains could see earnings boosts of 20 percent or more, including Chipotle, Wingstop and Domino’s Pizza.

The legislation’s corporate tax cut is not necessarily as dramatic as it seems, because most corporations don’t end up paying the full 35 percent rate. Barclays estimates that the “effective” tax rate—what companies actually pay—will drop from 26 percent to 20.1 percent.

Joy and other analysts think that most of the money brought back from other countries will go to shareholders, rather than investment.

Opinions differ, however, when it comes to the additional profits that result from the tax cut. Many economists expect that most of those dollars will also be passed on to shareholders.

Glenn Hubbard, an economist at Columbia Business School and former top economist for President George W. Bush, says the corporate tax cut will eventually benefit workers through higher pay. That will also boost the economy and most businesses by lifting spending.

“Any way you slice it, it’s good for companies,” Hubbard said.

Since November, investors’ anticipation of a tax cut has pushed markets higher, said Keith Parker, an analyst at UBS.

Still, the market’s outsize return benefits only a narrow slice of the population. According to research by Edward Wolff, an economist at New York University, just 10 percent of the population owns 84 percent of the stock market’s value.

“That benefit won’t accrue to everybody, certainly,” Joy said.


glance

local • 3A, 6A

Health care report is on tap

The Janesville School District’s health care plan is “significantly richer” than the average government plan, according to a consultant’s report. But the same report showed that plan users have fewer prescription and medical claims per member than other systems. The Janesville School Board will review a report at its Tuesday meeting from Cottingham & Butler, the district’s health care consulting firm.

Reuter leaves a strong legacy

Mike Reuter took over the Rock County Historical Society as executive director in July 2012. In that time he has changed its culture. Reuter, who announced in December he would be leaving to become executive director of Worldwide Foundation at World Council of Credit Unions in Madison, has helped more than double the historical society’s budget from $200,000 when he started to $530,000. Staff has doubled. But the historical society will have to find a new leader to carry on Reuter’s work.

Jays may upgrade bleachers

The Rock Aqua Jays hope to draw a bigger audience and keep spectators safer by replacing decades-old bleachers this summer, but the water-ski show team will need the city’s help.Traxler Park has six 10-row and three 20-row bleacher sets on the Rock River. The team wants to replace the two oldest 10-row sets with a single 20-row set, said Tim Cullen, Rock Aqua Jays vice president. The team hopes to raise $20,000 by May for the new bleachers. Pending city council approval, the city intends to kick in up to $45,000 to fully fund the project, said Maggie Darr, management information specialist.

state • 2A, 6A

Dairy workforce is changing

America’s dairyland is undergoing a bit of a revolution, and it has nothing to do with the words on Wisconsin’s license plate or even the size of farms. Increasingly, the people caring for the cows—monitoring their health and managing the herd—are women, according to agriculture educators in west-central Wisconsin.

sports • 1B-3B

New Pack GM expected today

Central in the Green Bay Packers’ search for a new general manager was whether the franchise would continue Hall of Famer Ron Wolf’s scouting lineage, or break into a new direction. Team president/CEO Mark Murphy ultimately decided to stick with what has proven to work in Green Bay. Sources confirmed Sunday that Brian Gutekunst, a longtime scout originally hired by Wolf, will replace Ted Thompson as the team’s next general manager. The team is expected to announce Gutekunst as their next general manager today.

nation/world • 6B-7B

No more insurgents: Trump

President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s done campaigning for insurgents challenging incumbent Republican members of Congress. Trump told reporters after meeting GOP House and Senate leaders at Camp David on Saturday that he’s planning a robust schedule of campaigning for the 2018 midterm elections and that includes involvement in the Republican primaries. He’ll campaign for incumbents, he said, and “anybody that has my kind of thinking.”