It’s Not About Safety
March 3, 2010 12:14 PM
It's not every day that the city takes the county to court. In fact, in my almost seven years as mayor it has happened only once. Because this is such an unusual and significant issue for Madison taxpayers and for the region, I want to spend some time explaining the city's position.
On February 19, a Dane County Circuit Court Judge ruled that Madison was probably right when it argued that the County Executive didn't have unilateral authority to change dispatching practices so that the Madison Police Department - paid for by Madison taxpayers - would be responsible for dispatching parking calls out of the county's regional dispatch center.
Judge Juan Colas issued a temporary injunction stopping the Executive from going forward with her plan until the case could be fully argued before him. Our City Attorney is set to file his legal briefs on the case this Friday.
The County Executive tried to make the case that dispatchers were spending too much time on nonemergency calls and that somehow charging Madison for some of those calls would make a difference.
So, the first and most fundamental point I want to make is that this is not about public safety. The proof for that comes from the County Executive herself. She has said that she will continue to allow the regional dispatch center to dispatch Madison parking calls if the city would only pay her $33,000.
Nothing would change for that payment.
No dispatchers would be added because of it.
The dispatch center would continue to dispatch calls exactly as they have before the payment was made.
So, if it was true that this had something to do with public safety, then why would the county continue to dispatch all calls just as they have for past 22 years even after Madison paid it $33,000?
And if charging Madison taxpayers for the dispatch of certain calls in the city was somehow going to improve public safety, then why has virtually every police chief in the county, including Madison Chief Noble Wray, opposed the Exec's unilateral move?
The real issue is cost shifting from the county back to the cities, villages and towns whose residents already pay for this service in their county tax bills. The real issue is double taxation. That's why this move wasn't just opposed by Madison, but by virtually every other municipal leader in the county.
And it's not just unfair to taxpayers. The move has broader implications for the rolling back of regionalism. I'll write about that tomorrow.