With the consistent heavy rains, the flood threats are not over. Please make sure you have your sandbags in place and that you are prepared for flash flooding. We had a dry stretch, but that has been followed by days of rain, sometimes heavy. In this update, I will cover flood legislative updates, a change in jail construction plans, and a substantial investment in the arts.
On Thursday October 4th, the County Board passed a flooding resolution to convene a technical study group to model different lake levels versus different potential storm events. As a result of the work of this study group, a task force will be convened to make specific policy recommendations that could potentially include petitioning the Wisconsin DNR for lower lake levels. The important part of this resolution is that we will strive to get our lakes to their seasonal minimums and keep them there until the County Board acts on the recommendations. Here is the specific language:
“Dane County will continue to implement any tools that may be available to lower lake levels to DNR designated minimum levels as soon as possible and work to maintain lakes at that level until the County Board acts on recommendations from the task force.”
The full resolution, which includes specific language that the task force will be compliant with open meeting laws, can be found here:
This resolution is a collaboration between the County Board, feedback from the community, and in particular was moved forward by the Lakes and Watershed Commission chair Pam Porter. We successfully passed this legislation due to this collaborative team effort.
Flood Community Education Forum
I want to send a big thanks to Lynn Lee and Amanda White for organizing a community education forum on flooding. We had Ken Potter from the University of Wisconsin, John Reimer from Dane County Land and Water, Jo Jo O’Brien from the City of Madison and Renee Lauber moderated the panel. The complete video can be found here (my remarks start at the 1:06:20 mark):
We had audience members from a variety of neighborhoods all across the city and county, and there was a number of insightful questions about short term and long term flooding concerns. If you missed the meeting, please see the city channel recording at the link above. The forum provided a good background for the complex issue we have to solve going forward.
At the meeting, I also covered a number of budget initiatives that were proposed by County Executive Joe Parisi, including 9 million dollars for land acquisition to acquire land that can help absorb storm water. The budget also included funds to identify and resolve pinch points that restrict water flow, as well as funds for sediment removal and aquatic plant harvesting. There are also investments in public safety to update our 911 system and purchase aquatic watercraft to assist in emergency rescues if necessary. Full details can be found here:
Jail Construction Updates
The jail construction project hit an unfortunate challenge. Architects and Engineers determined that the existing public safety building did not have the structural integrity to support additional floors being built on top of it. I was opposed to the jail construction project during my campaign and have voted against bonding for different aspects of the project. I felt our money could better be invested in other initiatives to understand and lower our jail population. However, I was also concerned about the scale of the project. Attempting to construct additional jail floors on top of an existing building in a condensed urban area is a very ambitious plan that I felt could have construction and budget challenges. The sheriff wrote to the county board with a plan to build the jail adjacent to the public safety building:
“It appears the same program requirements for the Jail Consolidation Project, i.e. reduction in Solitary Confinement, increased medical and mental health space, and PREA compliance, can be met by siting the new construction adjacent to the PSB, as opposed to on top of it. The adjacent location, currently PSB parking lot, may even prove more suitable as a site for providing a facility that is safe, code-compliant and current with national standards and practices.”
There is a jail oversight committee that is overseeing this project, and there will be regular check-ins with the County Board. I will make sure to keep you up to date on what we learn going forward.
ICE in our community
ICE showed up unannounced and uninvited into our community and had been wreaking havoc for an extended period. It was encouraging to see local officials, community leaders, and individuals standing up to their tactics, and it is heartbreaking to see families torn apart in our own backyard. The only way to reform this rogue federal agency is to vote out the people who are enabling them.
If you are looking for how you can help, you can consider a donation to the Dane County Immigrant Assistance Fund:
Cultural Affairs Commission Grants
One of the most rewarding commissions that I serve on is the Cultural Affairs Commission. Twice a year, we evaluate a series of grant applications and then we give away money to supports arts in the community. We are funding over $100,000 worth of projects in this current grant cycle ranging from visual arts, dance, music, arts education, and theatre. Arts not only enrich our lives personally, they also are a real economic driver in our community. Equally important, the projects we funded reach all corners in Dane County, and we strive to support programming that will reach all neighbors in our community. I will be providing a complete list of projects that we funded in my next update.
I also want to invite you to the Dane Arts Buy Local event at Yahara Bay Distillers on October 12th and 13th. Twenty-eight artists and two non-profits serving artists with disabilities will be selling their art in a festive atmosphere. Reservations are required. To register, please visit www.dablmarket.com/2018.
Dane Arts Buy Local (DABL) is an event that brings businesses in direct contact with Dane County artists in an effort to help businesses purchase original art for their offices and/or gifts for clients. This is the fourth DABL market, and based on its success has expanded now to two days and moved out of Madison to a larger venue. I hope to see you all there!