I hope your new year is off to a great start, and that you are making progress towards any new year’s resolutions you might have. One of my resolutions is not only to keep you informed so you can get involved in government, but to work towards our shared goals of affordable housing, fighting climate change, racial justice in our criminal justice system, and clean lakes and water.
In this update I will cover progress we are making on all of these issues. It is going to be bitter cold this next week, so please stay safe, stay warm, and try to help those around you who might need it. This is a long update as there is so much going on!
Lake Levels Task Force
As we reflect on 2018, it was punctuated for me by the historic and catastrophic flooding. As a newly elected official, it was the first big challenge that I faced as your supervisor, and I made it my top priority to inform the community of a rapidly changing and fluid situation while simultaneously working on policy changes. I am happy that our new policy is to manage lakes at their seasonal state allowed minimums rather than medians. That is an immediate and necessary policy change.
As part of the resolution that brought about lake level policy changes, a technical advisory committee has formed, and I am proud to be appointed to that committee. We need to examine lake level policy in our entire watershed, as the urgency of climate change is already upon us. I look forward to reviewing the research produced over the last few months for our committee so we can develop policy changes rooted in scientific conclusions. Our first meeting is on February 4th, and I will keep you informed of our progress and encourage you to participate.
Affordable Housing on Fair Oaks
As part of the 2018 awards for the Affordable Housing Development fund, the county awarded funding of $403,200 to Stone House Development for the proposed Fair Oaks Apartments, to be constructed at 134 South Fair Oaks Avenue in the City of Madison. The proposed development will have a total of 80 units, 68 of which will be income-restricted to those earning 30-60% of area median income. Of the 68 affordable units, 16 will be targeted to veterans and homeless families in need of supportive services.
I was proud to sponsor this resolution, and happy that it continues investments in affordable housing right here in our district.
City of Madison Fleet Tour
I was excited to tour a City of Madison Fleet garage with Superintendent Mahanth Joishy. I saw first-hand the hybrid and electric vehicles, biodiesel fuels, and anti-idling and GPS technology that are both saving money and fighting climate change. I met the team of dedicated technicians who, along with their high school apprentices, keep hundreds of different types of vehicles in tip-top shape. I look forward to helping build strong city and county partnerships, so we can achieve our shared goals of a world-class green fleet of vehicles.
A few efforts I want to highlight are the ambulance anti-idling and the youth apprentice programs. When an ambulance responds to an emergency, the paramedics need to quickly leave the vehicle. In older ambulances, the life-saving electronics were powered by the engine. With the new ambulances that are being phased in, the medical equipment can run off a battery and the engine will automatically shut off after idling for a certain amount of time. This helps improve air quality and save fuel.
I was also really impressed by the youth apprentice program. Youth from high schools in the area learn hands-on while fixing hundreds of different types of fleet vehicles. This program pays a good wage, provides valuable education, and prepares the next generation for these critical municipal jobs. I hope to expand these types of programs at the county level.
Criminal History Expungement
I introduced a resolution in support of Expungement Reform in Wisconsin. An estimated 1.4 million people in Wisconsin have criminal records. Wisconsin has some of the most restrictive expungement laws, which means it is very difficult to seal cases from public view. This hinders a person's reintegration into society by adding barriers to housing and employment.
Currently expungement is limited by age (25 years old) and charge classification, and an expungement determination has to be made at sentencing. In addition, there is no provision to expunge non-convictions.
As we battle the alarming racial disparities we have in the Criminal Justice system, expungement is one great strategy to do so. Implementation is critical as well. We must notify those eligible for expungement, and fund clinics to assist those who are eligible. Please see the video link to hear my floor speech introducing the resolution. Please stay tuned, as I have invited State Rep. Evan Goyke to address the Public, Protection and Judiciary committee to give us details of his efforts at the state level for expungement reform.
We are about to enter an unreal dose of winter reality. Please be careful and protect yourself and those around you when you go outside. Here is a detailed story with locations where people can go to stay warm:
If you have the capacity to make a donation to one of the local shelters, like The Beacon, please do so. I am very happy to hear that the City of Madison will be having warming buses available at transfer points, so people can wait on a bus instead of out in the elements. Public libraries are also open and offer a place to stay warm. Please keep an eye on children and pets too. Our dog Atwood shivers and hides whenever he thinks we are going to take him out. Also, I know a lot of you are working hard right now to get the word out about Spring Elections. We all admire your grit and toughness knocking doors in the winter, but please take the frigid temps into account and don’t risk your health in the cold. We need you all around in April!
One of my most proud moments thus far in 2019 and probably for the whole year is when my daughter recited the pledge of allegiance with leaders of GSAFE at the inauguration of our 46th governor Tony Evers. When I recited the pledge at my swearing in to county board, I thought of the first time my parents said the pledge as they became citizens. I felt an enormous amount of pride to see these future leaders of Wisconsin ushering in a new administration who will us accomplish many of our county’s goals.
The next two public manure storage meetings will be on January 30th at Windsor Village Hall, 4084 Mueller Road, DeForest, WI at 7:00. The next meeting will be at the Deer Creek Sportsman Club, 8475 Miller Road, Verona, WI on February 12th at 7:00.
I am very happy that we approved $500,000 for additional bike trails through the Partners for Recreation and Conservation (PARC) grant program. These are for the CamRock/Glacial Drumlin Trail Connector, Main Street Community Trail, Wolf Hollow Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge, and Blackhawk Path Extension. Full details are here. We are still working to connect the Glacial Drumlin Trail and Capital City trail.
Even though it doesn’t feel like it, our beloved community festivals are right around the corner. Here are the dates that the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center recently posted: