Alder David Ahrens
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Ahrens’ Updates
Budget, Trees and Playgrounds
Hope you are having a horrifying Halloween. However, no ghosts could be as frightening or bizarre as the last days of the interminable presidential campaign or to consider something truly terrifying-- what might come after Election Day. Although what the federal government does or doesn't do has a profound effect on our city, it usually takes a year or two to feel the difference. And so for now, let's look beyond it.
Budget Time! After two months of budget review, we are slowly coming to its end.
And it is time for you to have your say. You can discuss any item in the capital budget (a number of items listed below) or operating budget.
A special meeting of the Council will be held on:
Monday, Nov. 14 at 5:30 PM
Note Location: Monona Terrace
There are numerous sources to review documents. The most comprehensive is this site: http://www.cityofmadison.com/finance/budget/2017/
The budget topics in which there are substantial differences between the Mayor and the Council or between members of the Council are:
Midtown Police Station: This $7 million project was approved last year but was delayed by the Mayor and was not in the budget this year. The police station on the Westside is too small for its staff dealing with growing population and a major increase in serious crime. In addition to approving the construction, the Council will also have to approve about ten new positions to start staffing it. I support building the new police station and adding new police officer positions.
Southeast Fire Station: There are almost as many good reasons for a new fire station in the southeast corner of the city as there are for a new police station. Particularly, residents in that area have to wait longer for fire and EMS service. The station would cost about as much as a police station which includes the expensive fire trucks. At this time, though, I'm not going to support it. We would have to add at least a dozen new fire fighters and officers to the roster. The new firefighters along with the new police officers would take up most of the new budget spending for this year and certainly for next. Also, the cost of the fire station will add appreciably to our debt. I think we can postpone it for a year or perhaps two.
Public Market: This $15 million food market would be constructed at First St. and Johnson. Last year, I passed an amendment that the project could not go forward unless we had guarantees of two-thirds funding from the federal government and foundations. To date, we've received no indication of outside support but the Mayor wants the project to go forward anyway.
This is a very big space – about three times the size of Pinney Library- that will require on-going subsidies both for operations and debt payments. (Historical note: When the Monona Terrace was proposed, the Mayor said it would require subsidies for only one or two years. This year, like most, it will require $4-5 million to stay open.)
While many people have expressed interest and enthusiasm for the project, we don't know how many people have the funds, time or skill to be a full-time vendor at a market. At best this will require at least $1 million of city revenue per year. More will be needed if there are fewer vendors than needed.
Clearly, there is no need for a new market for "boutique foods" in the area. Festival Foods is one mile east on East Wash, Jenifer St Market is less than half a mile south and the new Willy St Market is now on Sherman Ave. And in case anyone has forgotten, we also have the largest Farmers Market in the nation on the Square for six month each year. I think it's unconscionable to pay for a unneeded Public Market while opposing a police station.
Capitol East Garage: The Mayor also proposes to build and operate a 600-space, $16 million parking garage on a toxic-contaminated site owned by MGE at Main and Livingston St. Unlike other city-owned parking ramps, this one would be built for new American Family and other offices. It would also serve, in the evening, for the 2,500 customers of a music concert venue.
The problem is that the parking garage will lose at least $1 million per year. Either taxpayers will pay for it through more borrowing or users of city parking ramps will pay through much fees higher parking ramps.
Why the ongoing losses? Too little revenue. While the city charges between $160-$240 per month for a space in the downtown ramps, we plan to charge only $56 per month for parking in the Capitol East. To make matters worse, we have agreed to freeze those rates for five years which could result in higher losses. All in all, I think having taxpayers and other parking users pay for very inexpensive parking for American Family is very inequitable. I will move to remove funding for this project.
Protecting our Tree Canopy: Throughout the summer we are protected from the heat and sunlight by the tree canopy that shades the street and our homes. Many of the streets are completely shaded by trees that extend their branches and meet the tree branches from the opposite side. The trees also provide a home for wildlife, absorb the carbon dioxide and generally improve our lives.
Trees have no lobbyists and no influence in "corridors of power." We have to speak up when they are threatened because if they are lost they cannot be restored for decades, if at all.
I mention this because the city is continuing its program of installing sidewalks and little green terraces on streets that now have substantial tree canopies. If the sidewalk project is approved, most of the tree canopy will be lost, perhaps forever. The next site is planned for Dean and Allis Ave. But the long-term plan is to do more than 200 miles of streets.
This plan is going forward despite the advent of the Emerald Ash Borer which will kill tens of thousands of trees.
In response to this plan, I have introduced legislation that will give the affected residents the right to vote on whether they want to have sidewalks/ terraces- even if that means a substantial loss of trees. (This would not apply on major thoroughfares and bus routes where there are greater numbers of pedestrians.)
Playground Workshop: There will be a workshop to plan the future playground reconstruction at Lake Edge and Brigham Parks.
6:00 pm, Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Whitehorse Middle School - Library Media Center
218 Schenk Street
Questions and comments regarding this workshop should be directed to Sarah Lerner, Landscape Architect, at email@example.com or (608) 261-4281.
That's all for now folks!
Have a great Halloween and keep in mind that in eight days it will be over.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 334-1156.
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