By Brenda Konkel and Mary Anglim — Progressive Dane’s Elections Committee interviewed eight County Board candidates and one MMSD Board candidate on Jan. 10, and will recommend endorsing them at the GMM on Jan. 27, 6:30pm on the third floor of the Central Branch library. A few more interviews and recommendations are still pending.
County Board candidates were asked for their take on the most important policy and budget issues, a vehicle registration fee and referendum to raise the levy, which jail task force recommendations are most important and how they will help implementation, how to make the talk about equity into reality, how to increase transparency in county government, how we can best support them and how they see themselves supporting the party. Here are brief summaries of their answers.
Adam Brabender, District 1
He is interested in working on a disability issues, homeless issues (wet shelter, more transitional housing programs like Tellurian for homelessness, AODA and mental health) and campaign finance. It’s a good start with having a day shelter, but that is the tip of the iceburg. Interested in transfer of development rights programs to protect farmland. Supports livable wages for human services workers. Concerned about dental care for those on Medicaid. Supports vehicle registration fee and referendum to raise the levy. Sees a need to shift budget priorities towards human services. Wants solitary confinement in jails to be ended as it overwhelmingly affects those with mental health issues. Is an advocate for mentally ill, the homeless and the poor. Thinks board members should work harder to keep constituents informed through reports, newsletters and social media. Would work toward compromise with the business community around homelessness. Wants to see more people with disabilities in office, feels they would be an asset and has plans to run for higher office, feels incumbent Supervisor Mary Kolar is just too conservative. His passion for politics shows through. He is happy several people are running and has talked to Rob "Dz" Franklin about endorsing each other if they don’t both make it through the Feb. 16 primary.
Rob “Dz” Franklin, District 1
Major issues he wants to work on are living wage jobs, compassionate solutions to downtown homelessness and having a countywide cultural inclusion plan to address racial disparities. Budget priorities are to address mental health component of homelessness and human services, to reduce the Sheriff’s budget. Supports a vehicle registration fee, but would like to see exceptions for those who cannot afford it. Supports referendum to lift levy caps. Jail priorities include alternative programming to incarceration, especially for crimes of poverty. On equity he wants a cultural inclusion plan to address educational, economic and social needs for those impacted by disparities to reduce crimes of poverty. On transparency he would like to see more representation by those that look like those they serve. In addition to his written answers, during the interview he expressed a passion for more small business programming. Feels we address social needs by bringing people from different backgrounds together; elected officials have to ask people for solutions and he wants to be a voice of people. In the haves and the have-nots, he is with the have nots and when dealing with people who may disagree, “I will stand on my truth and give it out and persuade them to change a little more.”
Heidi Wegleitner, District 2
Biggest issue is the racial inequality running in county government, impacting income, health and homelessness. We need to talk about class, too. We need to shift funding from high-cost interventions (Sheriff’s budget, psychiatric hospitalizations, taking kids out of homes) to supporting people where they live. Failing to change policies and systems perpetuates the problems, and prevention costs much less. We know what works and must prioritize efforts to target disparities. Supports a vehicle registration fee to go to transportation costs to free up money for human services; sees many transportation needs in human services. Supports referendum to raise the levy, to address our needs despite state-imposed austerity. The new Community Support Services program holds promise, with $3 million in state and federal funds for client directed services which align well with “housing first” practice. Need to make sure we aren’t jailing people because they are poor and can’t pay tickets. Need to end solitary confinement; we should not have sick people in jail and we should not be making them sick. The “war on drugs” is a disgusting strategy to increase racial disparities and segregation. Need to go beyond efforts to decriminalize marijuana to other drugs; this is a health care issue, not for the criminal justice system, which doesn’t work. Agrees with Brandi Grayson comments that to have an Office of Equity and Inclusion, with no new resources, and then to cut grassroots on-the-ground organizations like the Tenant Resource Center, shows that the office doesn’t mean much. We need to develop a really good equity tool to engage folks who are most impacted by decisions and expose decisions that are not equitable. Transparency issues remain, the budget process was better than before, but not perfect. Last term Heidi introduced an amendment to require written materials for agendas 24 hours in advance, but it wasn’t adopted. The future of the Alliant Energy Center and a poverty agenda will be important in the next two years.
Richard Kilmer, District 4
Main issues are more mental health services, more drug and alcohol treatment (AODA), homeless issues, protecting water quality of lakes, preserving farmland and natural areas, improving safety issues in the jail, treatment for non-violent offenders, jobs and training for minority populations with high unemployment rates, improve Alliant Energy Center and more public transportation across the county. Clean needles and access to Narcan are budget priorities along with access to AODA services as well as homelessness and looking at the Sheriff’s budget. Probably in favor of a vehicle registration fee; thinks a referendum on the levy is a hard sell in a county with high taxes. Supports prompt repair of safety hazards in the jail, wants diversion and to return people to the community sooner and expand mental health, housing, employment and similar services. Supports $15 living wage, see huge divides between poor and the wealthy. He has long looked to PD for endorsements to identify candidates with ideals similar to his.
Angelito Tenorio, District 5
Main issues include racial disparities (tackle institutional racism and issues in criminal justice system), affordable housing and homelessness (supports funding Tenant Resource Center) and sustainability (preserve and enhance lakes and waterways). Budget priorities are human services, people of Dane County need to be the number on priority. Supports vehicle registration fee, but would like it to be more progressive. Supports referendum. Data collection and aggregation on length of stay, mental health, alternatives to arrest and incarceration are his biggest concerns on jail reform. Need to eliminate solitary confinement, promote mental health, and have a culturally inclusive workforce. On equity we need to look to see how much the most vulnerable in the community trusts county government. All decisions need to be made through an equity lens. Need to create culturally aware and inclusive workforce and public spaces, and eliminate discrimination in employment, education, housing and healthcare. On transparency wants the county website to be more user friendly, more community outreach, a transparent campaign finance process and public input on essential decisions. Would hold listening sessions hand have updates for newspaper and post on his website. Recently held a very successful fundraiser, Filipino community is very supportive of him running. He is a sophomore at UW, interested in politics to address the macro issues and positively change more people’s lives. Voter ID will be a big issue for him, was well informed about what students need to do to vote. Will use social media and humor to captivate people to get the word out about serious issues.
John Hendrick, District 6
Biggest current concerns are income inequality and racial disparity, they related but different. $15 minimum wage shows difference between liberal and progressive, progressives try to figure out how to make it happen, liberals find ways to prevent it from happening. Equity lens is another issue or trend where everyone says it is embarrassing, but then don’t look at it on every vote. Jail laundry was going to take away Hispanic jobs and make black people do the work for free to save $200,000 in the budget. Has supported the vehicle registration fee that would raise $8 million for transportation costs with refunds for those who need it, but the best avenue is the levy cap referendum in November. There are also other ideas out there. If the levy cap is lifted, non-profits will be included in the $15 living wage. Hard to ensure jail recommendations are implemented; data is going to be important, it will expose the issues. Is worried Criminal Justice Council won’t coordinate their data. Concerned about lip service issues with equity. Need to make sure it is applied on the issues we work on, not just creating an office. We need to raise it on every issue. Transparency is better, but more needs to be done: the budget process before the County Executive introduces it and after the amendments are made at Personnel and Finance has a long way to go. Is optimistic that people see PD as the true progressives and with the presidential race, people are asking who are the true progressives.
Michele Ritt, District 18
Wants to concentrate of issues of poverty, which includes equity, homelessness and healthcare—if we address poverty a lot of things will take care of themselves. Wants to continue provide greenspace and protect the treasures we have in Dane County. Supports a vehicle registration fee, as long as there is a reimbursement for those who need it, but she needs to listen to her constituents on this issue. Supports a referendum to raise the levy and feels that surpluses in Human Services need to stay in Human Services. Feels departments need to be encouraged to shave costs and live more frugally. Data is the key to the jail task force recommendations; we need to stop talking and starting doing, and the public needs to help keep us accountable. Sees the need to keep people out of the jail system which starts early on in the schools, where we need to teach kids how to treat each other and address gender discrepancies and make sure kids grow up more empowered. Diversion programs help people keep jobs, their housing and keeps families unified and people with their support systems. Supports decriminalization of crimes of poverty that snowball and create more problems. On equity, she feels we have to find ways to hold staff accountable in hiring and we need to lift up people in the community and put them in positions where they are involved in the county and truly address disparities. She is not satisfied with the level of transparency in county government and there are simple fixes with posting agendas and meeting notices, but we also need to find concrete things to get people more opportunities to have a voice. Meetings have to be in accessible places, where buses run, and homeless people need to be able to participate and still get a meal and get into shelter. Need to look at increasing per diems and not hold meetings during the day. “PD is where my soul is.”
Dorothy Krause, District 27
Her main issues are poverty, disparities, jail issues, housing and jobs. Wants PD to be more active in making changes at the state legislature because so much of what they do impacts the County Board; they have a stranglehold on us. Would like to be in on Mead and Hunt planning meetings about the jail to make sure the Board gets what it wants from the study. Supports a vehicle registration fee if we make sure we don’t impact people who can’t afford it. Wants to see more meetings video recorded and put on the website, perhaps with volunteers. Will use her campaign to help with voter ID issues and make sure no one gets turned away who wants to vote. Wants municipal clerks to be authorized to make voter ID cards and not force people to go to the DMV. Interested in having meetings with other elected officials in PD to see how we can work with each other on issues.
TJ Mertz, Madison Metropolitan School District Board
Since incumbents didn’t have to fill out the questionnaire and TJ has been so instrumental in helping us formulate the questions and understand the answers regarding School Board issues, we didn’t go through them one by one. He pointed out that there are issues with Board news coverage: big issues go unnoticed, while there are endless stories on expulsion. Budgetary issues are getting more serious; the Board has used the last of its revenue authority from the 2008 referendum and now is looking at cuts. Other issues of importance are achievement issues: 50 percent of low income students score below basic standards. Facilities planning, attendance areas, equity issues and special education recommendations will be big in the next year. Will they be inclusive or will they segregate? Transparency is a real problem in that some staff and board members are hostile to it. There are lots of meetings that are not open to the public and access to information isn’t equal. Remediation interventions, police in schools and parental notifications, and struggles with staff not implementing policies are issues that need to be brought up. Would like help from us getting the word out about School Board issues, but Board members struggle with the tight timeline from when they get information to when they need to vote. Would like to see less surveys and focus groups, and more of the people impacted sitting at the table when the decisions are made.