Important issues that Tag is focusing on for

district 13

We know that there are many issues facing people in district 13, and if there is an issue that is important to you, send us an email! info@tagevers.com

To go directly to a specific topic, click on an issue below:

Climate change

Racial equity

Housing

Transportation

Lakes and urban greenspace

Edgewood

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change is an existential crisis, a crisis that knows no boundaries.  In the short term, facing the probability of more catastrophic flooding, we must work with other jurisdictions in the Yahara watershed to mitigate disasters before they happen. Lake level management and down-river waterflow require a better, more effective city-county relationship.  In the long term, to accelerate our transition to 100% renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions, as we pursue energy retrofits of all city buildings through the city’s Sustainability Plan, we should explore ways of extending the same to residents.  Back in 2001, Madison embarked on an ambitious plan to replace all our lead pipes.  It took more than a decade and cost nearly $20 million, but we became the first city in the nation to entirely remove this threat to public health.  Private residents paid half the cost of removing their portion of the pipe lines, with the other half subsidized by the city.  The city’s purchasing power with firms specializing in green infrastructure and energy retrofits should be harnessed in a similar fashion to create incentives for private residents, landlords, and local businesses  – we are already doing this to some extent with the MadiSun solar program.  Subsidizing green investments, along the lines of new Small Cap TIF fund and broader private sector participation, would incentivize residents, landlords, and small businesses to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint.

RACIAL EQUITY

Twenty years ago, I participated in the study circles on race. Lots of great
discussion, but very little action.  Just how little was made evident when the
Race to Equity report came out in 2013, followed shortly thereafter by Rev.
Alex Gee’s Justified Anger Coalition. Climate change is an existential crisis
because it calls into question life as we know it on Planet Earth. Racial equity
is our city’s definitional crisis, in that it tells us we’re not one city, but two, and
that we’ve failed to live up to our promise. Will our equity issues continue to
hold us back or will we move forward, not just with more talk, but real action?
Here are three avenues for change we can take as a city:
       Racial equity in Madison is due in part to segregated poverty. Families deserve
the ability to not worry about basic needs, so economic investments in affordable
housing, food access, transportation, and family-supporting jobs have to be a top
priority. These must be foundational pillars in Madison to help address its
economic racial disparities. Madison also is missing an opportunity to strengthen
its partnership with the County in taking these things on. This is a regional
problem within the county, so let’s treat it as such. There’s much to be gained
through a better coordination of efforts and resources. For example, we may be
able to do specific contracts in “bulk” for what would amount to a joint initiative
with outside partners, thereby lowering costs. By investing in housing, equitable
food access, transportation, and family-supporting wages, we secure families
and make all other initiatives more effective.
         If elected, I will work to launch an exploratory committee to create a baby bonds
initiative in Madison. Baby bonds are a fund for children born at 150% the poverty level and below. These kids would gain access to the fund as they turn 18 to spend on an investment for a business, a house, college tuition, etc. This could be done through public-partnerships, working with the state treasurer and local business leaders. A baby bonds initiative can go a long way toward closing the wealth gap, which is shown to also positively impact education achievement. By creating baby bonds for our most economically marginalized families, in a city where our poor are disproportionately Black and Brown, we would be leading the nation in addressing generational racial wealth disparities.                                                                                                           The city should launch an initiative to actively recruit a diverse workforce, through college job fairs in Wisconsin and elsewhere such as HBCU’s. Furthermore, the city should set up a partnership with UW-Madison to recruit interns from their Division of Diversity, Equity, Educational Achievement and a similar program with Madison College.  City contracts with outside agencies and businesses are another means of leveraging diverse hiring practices.                                                                                                            It’s time to translate this moral imperative into moral action.  It’s only by committing ourselves to what Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as “the fierce urgency of now” that we’ll break free from being a city that talks a good game on racial equity and become a city that lives up to its promise.

HOUSING:

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

We have a housing crisis in Madison.  Our vacancy rates are among the lowest in the country.  Living on or near the isthmus is increasingly out of reach.  By 2040, if estimates are correct, our city will become home to additional 70,000 residents, requiring 40,000 additional housing units. The city has built 1000 affordable units in the last five years, but we must accelerate the pace.  

There are limits to what we can do through the capital budget without raising property taxes. The city should call upon the private sector to augment the Affordable Housing Fund. Microsoft recently pledged $500 million to help Seattle deal with their affordable housing crisis. It’s not too soon for Epic to start a consortium of highly profitable local hi-tech businesses, the winners in our local economy, to address Madison’s affordable housing crisis. 

With our new State Treasurer, Sarah Godlewski, it appears we may be able to use the State Investment Fund to leverage the creation of financial instruments such as social impact bonds to build more affordable housing at all levels. These are “pay-for-success” models and could be combined with Investment Opportunity Zones in Madison. The city would need to protect against bad actors, but there is evidence we could find enlightened investors who have a stake in the health and vitality of our city. Another idea would be for MMSD to work with a non-profit developer like Commonwealth to build workforce housing on MMSD property. This is being done in places like Santa Clara County.

Infill development is preferable to greenfield development (i.e., sprawl) but it brings its own set of challenges. As we increase density we must pursue best practices to preserve and enhance the livability of our neighborhoods. I will insist on democratic processes with respect to planning.  Voice does not mean veto, but voice is definitive of democracy and outcomes improve when buy-in is sought early and often.

 

HOUSING FIRST

It has come to my attention my opponent has been misrepresenting my stance on the proposed Housing First project at 1202 S. Park St, which is currently on hold. 

 

What is housing first? Housing First means homeless individuals and families are housed first with their stories and lived experiences intact, without judgment and preconditions. You don’t need to get sober or have your mental health issues resolved to qualify. Everyone is in favor of it, even Ben Carson, because it works. But it hasn’t worked so well here in Madison.  We’ve stumbled. 

It’s imperative we house our most vulnerable residents while making sure we have the supportive services in place. It’s a moral victory to get people off the streets and housed, but if we don’t support these individuals and families with the necessary services, these victories may be short-lived. 

 

Although I believe there’s wisdom in considering mixed-income housing as a more stable option for homeless residents, the Housing first model is good and works. Nationally, the statistics show that Housing First projects work best when a quarter to half of the residents are transitioning from homelessness. Tree Lane and Rethkewere at 100%, with minimal social support, and problems ensued. Now the project at 1202 S. Park is on pause – the city has informed Heartland they will not support a conditional use to build on that site until a plan for services and staffing and the requisite funding is in place. 

 

This pause makes sense to me, as to me it seems 1202 S. Park St. is not the best location for our next Housing First project. The site is very small, located on one of our busiest streets, and there is absolutely no greenspace, a key component to healthy living. I believe we must put more thought into the design of these projects, to make sure they are built in good locations, to make sure we have the needed services, to make sure the building design itself is therapeutic

 

When I toured Tree Lane, I felt like I was in lock-up. Sufficient greenspace for gardens, soft contours, natural light, and other design features that contribute to a sense of home and place should not be considered luxuries but necessities. Lastly, Heartland has not proven to be a reliable partner to date. It may be time to partner up with local agencies like The Road Home as we move forward with more Housing First projects. It’s tremendously important we learn from our mistakes and more forward judiciously so that we can match the success of Housing First projects in other parts of the country.

 

It’s unfortunate my opponent has chosen this route, misrepresenting my positions. Being Alder is as much about character as it is policies. On the other hand, this was not unexpected given his shadow support for the stadium. To make it clear, I support Housing First, but I want to get it right, to not repeat our past mistakes going forward. Together we can house our homeless and build affordable housing for everyone.

TRANSPORTATION:

         We’re on an isthmus and moving people through a tight space is no easy task. Federal funding has favored highway construction over commuter light rail, and the state took away our ability to form a Regional Transit Authority. The good news is Bus Rapid Transit is coming, but full implementation is years away.  In the meantime, traffic congestion keeps getting worse. Use of transit alternatives such as Madison Metro and biking has plateaued, with access and ease of use being the primary culprits. It’s an equity issue when those in low-income areas of our city are poorly served by Madison Metro and our bike paths. We must wean ourselves from our addiction to oil, eschewing daily commutes with only one person in our automobiles. Neighborhood walkability is highly valued in District 13 and must be viewed as a primary determinant in development decision-making.

LAKES AND URBAN GREENSPACE:

               Madison is nothing without our lakes.  It’s our number one characteristic, this beautiful city surrounded by water.  But over the years, as our city has grown, our lakes are under assault. Non-point pollution due to agricultural runoff in the Yahara watershed contaminates our lakes and closes our beaches.  Just one pound of phosphorous can create 500 pounds of blue-green algal blooms. Road salt is another serious threat to our lakes, particularly Lake Wingra, which is largely spring fed and therefore does not recharge itself to the same degree as Mendota and Monona.  Our founding city planners, John Olin and John Nolen, were very intentional about creating urban greenspaces such as The Park and Pleasure Drive. Let us not forget the words of John Muir: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  As our city grows we must embrace a proactive approach to climate change that protects our lakes and natural resources.

Crime

Crime is an issue that’s getting discussed during this campaign. It’s true there’s been an uptick in property crime, impacting residents on the near west side. Most of these are crimes of opportunity. Unlocked doors leading to break-ins and car thefts. Being a victim of a theft is very unpleasant, about which I can speak from experience. But it’s important to remember we will never be able to arrest ourselves out of this problem. It’s not possible to have an officer on every corner, so our response must be pragmatic. Lock our doors and look out for our neighbors. And as we do so, let’s ponder the root causes of these crimes.                                                                                                                      My conversations with experts in the field tell me that when a kid gets in trouble with the law, the issue nearly always has to do with issues in the family. The child has likely dropped out or been kicked out of school. Parents are disengaged, and poverty may be entrenched. The family may not have secure housing, access to healthy food, or adequate transportation. And the family may be dealing with AODA issues, mental health issues, and various forms of trauma. That doesn’t excuse criminal behavior, but it does give important context.                                                                                                                                    Our criminal justice system is slowing transitioning to include various aspects of the restorative justice model. I’ve written about restorative justice several times, with articles published locally in the Isthmus, and nationally in The
Progressive and Yes! Magazine. Here’s a link to an article that was published back in 1998.                                                                                                                                                                      The answers are not simple. But it’s imperative we have informed conversations regarding the racial disparities in our schools, and the segregated and entrenched poverty impacting communities of color in our city. Otherwise, we risk responding out of fear and not out of wisdom, ignoring yet again the root causes of the problem.

EDGEWOOD – Why I Oppose the Stadium:

            Edgewood High School (EHS) is not a neighborhood school, rather it’s a school within a neighborhood.  Our neighborhood high school, West High, plays their games at Memorial.  Memorial, near the corner of Mineral Point and Gammon, is located in a commercial district, not at all like the area surrounding Edgewood.  The area surrounding Edgewood is a traditional residential neighborhood, with parkland and a treasure of a lake nearby for all to enjoy. The neighborhood very much wants to keep this jewel as it is without lights and loudspeakers.  In short, the stadium is not a good fit for this neighborhood given the proximity of homes within 100 feet of the field and nearby urban greenspace.

             As the controversy continues, we’ve learned two things.  First, Edgewood admitted they could continue playing their games at Middleton High School, despite stating earlier that they had lost their right to do so.  They could continue at Middleton, assuming the same manageable challenges familiar to West and East High.  Second, EHS admitted that crowd noise from their stadium would cause serious harm, but they haven’t yet realized that effective mitigation at this site would be impossible.

            Edgewood’s noise consultant wrote up a 23-page study on stadium noise and made models for how it would spread in the neighborhood with and without a wall.  However, they mistakenly based this study on a decades-old and outdated version of the city’s noise ordinance, with limits 10 dB higher than the current limit, and still concluded that their stadium would “occasionally” exceed them.  While I’m convinced this study low-balls the actual levels the neighborhood would experience, it is a powerful acknowledgment from Edgewood that the stadium would generate noise levels in nearby neighborhoods that would exceed the city’s limit.

             Yes, Donald Trump is not the only one calling for a wall.  Edgewood is proposing a wall to mitigate crowd noise, but one that will not adequately reduce crowd noise.  Sound engineers assert that the only way to mitigate noise with a wall is to ensure the wall exceeds the line of sight from the highest floor of nearby homes.  For homes along Monroe St, this would require a wall approximately 35-40 feet tall.  Edgewood’s wall would have to be taller than Trump’s wall.  The wall would result in a modest reduction of 5 – 10 decibels and yet crowd noise peaks would still exceed the city’s limits for noise pollution.

           There is no putting this genie back in the bottle.  Once you build a stadium you can’t unbuild it.  If this happens, the tranquility of the neighborhood will be gone forever.  Edgewood, the Goodman Foundation and the city should regroup and find another location for a sports complex, one that is not in the middle of a residential neighborhood.