Madison Alder, District 13
Vote for one
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? I am a Madison native who has a graduate degree in Public Policy from Stanford University. I have spent four of the last five years serving as the president of a Madison neighborhood association, currently in my second year as the president of the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood Association. Through this work I have become familiar with the concerns of my neighbors and the city processes in place for addressing them, and established a reputation as a leader who listens first and seeks collaborative solutions that honor as many perspectives as possible.
2. How would you plan to prepare Madison for predicted consequences of climate change? August 20, 2018 showed us that the effects of climate change are already here and it is time for us to adapt. While this may have technically been a “100-year event” by today’s standards, events like this will become increasingly common in the coming years. Therefore, we need to update our design standards for water management, and invest in updating existing infrastructure to meet those standards. City Engineering already has identified several priority projects; my first focus would be on providing sufficient funding to get these projects completed in a timely fashion.
3. Are any changes needed in Madison’s public transit system, especially for people with disabilities? In order to reduce congestion on our roads, we need to take our public transit system to the next level, increasing frequency and the number of express routes so that using public transit is the best transportation option for more of our residents. Increasing frequency is also an important improvement for users with disabilities: with only two wheelchair slots per bus, right now some disabled riders can be left waiting for the next bus, introducing a significant delay in their commute. I am also interested in finding ways to make paratransit more convenient and affordable.
4. What other important issue faces Madison, and what could the Madison City Council do to address it? Madison is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis: average rent is now more than a first-year teacher can afford, Lutheran Social Services is no longer resettling refugees due to a lack of affordable housing stock, and more and more people are simply living on the streets. The City Council should recommit to another 1000 affordable units over the next five years, and increase annual funding of the Affordable Housing Fund from $4.5 million to $6 million to keep up with the rising costs of construction.
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? As an insurance professional, I must understand, evaluate and balance the perspectives of multiple parties - the agency, carrier, and client. Each has different interests. My personality is optimistic, adaptable, and diplomatic, so I do well managing these situations and will bring the same approach to representing my community. I served three years as a Transportation Commissioner for the Village of Oak Park, Illinois from 2011 to 2014 and with non-profit organizations like the Jewish Federation of Madison and Children's Theater of Madison since arriving here.
2. How would you plan to prepare Madison for predicted consequences of climate change? Madison must have a disaster preparedness and recovery plan, as extreme weather events like this past summer's flooding will continue to hit our community. The crucial elements involved should include preserving our lakes and other natural resources, protecting property, and strengthening our infrastructure. I would advocate for the creation of incentive programs for Madison's citizens to move toward use of sustainable energy sources and alternative modes of transportation, preferably through "Business + Government, not Business vs. Government" partnerships.
3. Are any changes needed in Madison’s public transit system, especially for people with disabilities? The growth of Madison's population must be matched by the necessary expansion, in terms of geographic reach and frequency/convenience, of the public transit system. For people with disabilities, I would advocate that Madison go beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide more than the legally required support for riders unable to use fixed-route options. The cost vs. benefit to this is very strong, and systemwide upgrades for people with disabilities should be addressed along with managing our community's ongoing growth.
4. What other important issue faces Madison, and what could the Madison City Council do to address it? The number one issue I am focused on is responsible management of our city's rapid growth. Increasing population and density in Madison are not issues, they are inevitabilities. City Council must balance the interests of all constituents to create solutions that support this, making decisions that do the greatest possible good in support of goals like building affordable housing, creating more equality within our society, improving public education, upgrading real estate stock, and creating infrastructure to support the next stage of our community's growth.
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? From age 14-25 I was self-employed. I personally know what it means to make a payroll, manage finances and stretch a dollar. In my current role, I work with financial advisors and business area owners to spot trends and most efficiently use resources. In my spare time I volunteer at my church as the Board of Stewardship director. I believe that Madison’s public debt will be the largest and most difficult problem our city will face. I believe that my experience will bring a much needed perspective and skill set to the table on the city council to handle it.
2. How would you plan to prepare Madison for predicted consequences of climate change? Unfortunately, there is no current consensus on what exactly the consequences of climate change would look like in order to write effective city policy. Does climate change mean higher average temperatures or lower average temperatures? Does it mean preparing for more precipitation or less? Does it mean longer more temperate seasons, or shorter harsher seasons? You can interpret the consequences very differently depending on which study you look at. I would argue that addressing urban sprawl and disappearing wetlands through city planning and design would more effectively address the specific growing issues of runoff and rising water levels.
3. Are any changes needed in Madison’s public transit system, especially for people with disabilities? As bus ridership continues to decline (-16.2% between 2014-2017), we need to rethink the operating model as a whole. How can we preserve this vital service for those who need it most, without bankrupting the city? It no longer makes sense to run 60 person capacity diesel buses costing $300-600,000 each half empty. It is not good for the environment, it is inefficient, and is it costly. We should prioritize disabled services with an individualized taxi service approach, and transition to smaller capacity vehicles based on route ridership levels . This can provide for flexibility as needs change over time.
4. What other important issue faces Madison, and what could the Madison City Council do to address it? Madison is broke. The City has racked up $677 million in debt.
Now that we are in a rising interest rate environment, the city will no longer be able to continue refinancing debt at low interest rates. This burden will be placed directly on residents through higher property taxes and reduced public services.
Debt service has increased from 10% ($20 million) in 2008, to 15% ($47 million) in 2018. It is projected to skyrocket to 20% of budget by 2023. We must refocus our priorities to provide quality core public services, and set firm bonding limits.
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? I started my own business promoting concerts in the early 1990’s. In the years since, I’ve organized over 2500 events in Madison, working with artists of all sorts and programming for diverse audiences. My business helped build community in Madison and raised tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profits. I have experience navigating big egos, learning from others and finding common ground. Having spent the last 25 years bringing people together around music, I’m running for city council to bring people together around the ideas that will make Madison a place where everyone can thrive.
2. How would you plan to prepare Madison for predicted consequences of climate change? Climate change is a planetary 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, we should do energy retrofits of all city properties and extend the same to residents, funding the latter with a new Small Cap TIF Fund.
3. Are any changes needed in Madison’s public transit system, especially for people with disabilities? We’re on an isthmus and moving people through a tight space is no easy task. Federal funding favors highway construction over 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. It’s an equity issue when those in low-income areas of our city are poorly served. We need to restore funding to para-transit services to make it easier for our disabled friends and family members to use the bus.
4. What other important issue faces Madison, and what could the Madison City Council do to address it? Twenty years ago, I participated in the study circles on race. Two decades later we’re still talking. All that talk has not changed the fact that Madison remains a tale of two cities. Will our equity issues continue to hold us back or will we move forward, not just with more talk, but real action? As a member of city council, I will work to expand affordable housing, pursue policies that create family-supporting jobs, and push for public-private partnerships committed to eliminating racial disparities in our schools and criminal-justice system. It’s time to translate this moral imperative into moral action.