City of

District 15

Alder David Ahrens

Alder David Ahrens

Alder David Ahrens

Contact Information

Home Address:

4117 Major Ave.
Madison , WI 53716

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Alder Ahrens’ Updates

Wheel taxes? Floods? August Primary.

June 27, 2018 4:39 PM


City Wheel Tax:  The Mayor has proposed a city vehicles fee of $17 for 2019. This is in addition to the $28 per vehicle fee of Dane County and which is also in addition to the $75 taxed by the state. (Total=$120)

The Mayor's argument is three-fold. First, that the cost of owning a car in Wisconsin is low in terms of gas tax and registration fees. Second, that the city will have a deficit in 2019 of about $4 million. And third, that the city needs more funds for street repair.

Given other tax burdens, it is a benefit that the state taxes on vehicles are exactly mid-point when compared to other states. Other states may have lower property or sales taxes.  I don't think that it is the obligation of the city to turn a tax benefit into a tax inequity.

Second, there is potential for a deficit because of the proposed spending.  To take a favorite example, the proposed budget will likely include $6-$7 million for a Public Market and millions more to build shops at the Garver Mill. Without these two items, we'd have a substantial budget surplus!

Third, although the "wheel tax" is ostensibly for transportation funds, it is clear from other Mayoral comments that it will simply replace other tax dollars and then the funds that were in the transportation fund will be used for other projects such as the Market. This is basically what happened when the city instituted a "Forestry Fee."

My objection is that a wheel tax, like the property tax, is highly regressive. That is, poor people pay a greater share of their income in taxes than wealthy people. For example, a household with an income of $36,000/year owning a house valued at $200,000 pays 13% of their (gross) income in property taxes. A household with the city average income of $62,411 living in the average valued house of $269,377 pays 10% of their income in taxes. A household with an income of $154,000/year living in a house valued at $354,000 per year pays 2% of their income in taxes.

The proposed wheel tax will only deepen this inequity. Also, I can say with near-certainty that it will not stay at $17 for very long.

More Trouble at Judge Doyle Square: After about ten years and millions spent on consultants and staff time, the Judge Doyle Square (JDS) project has once again grounded upon a rocky shore. In this version (we're up to Part III ), the city has been sued by the primary developer for the project, Beitler Co. of Chicago. The basis of the suit is complicated. The way these things play out, we'll likely sue them and then they'll sue the city again, etc. In any case, the whole process is incredibly expensive. Just to get started on the response, the city hired an "outside counsel" for $50,000.

Even if the lawsuits get resolved, it seems hard to imagine that we'll then re-engage with this outfit to build $140 million worth of hotels and apartments over the next few years. But who knows?

Meanwhile, the city has dug a hole SIX STORIES deep on Wilson St. If you haven't seen it, stop by and take a look. This $25 million parking garage is so deep based on the notion that there would be an eight-story building on top of it. All of the litigation would first have to be resolved. However, until then or until we find another developer (Part IV?) we may simply wind-up with a street-level concrete pad with parking spaces 100+ feet deep, at a cost of about $60,000 each.


Lakes Up/ Potential for Floods: A wet spring and summer has caused water levels in our lakes to rise.  Lake levels have been stable over the last few days but are expected to rise with additional precipitation. 

The lake levels as of Monday morning are at 847.07 on Lake Monona and 851.09 on Lake Mendota. (See the chart below for reference). This means there is approximately 8 inches on Lake Monona before we reach the 100-year flood elevation and less than two feet on Lake Mendota before we reach the 100-year flood elevation.

Lake Current Level (feet) 100-year flood level (feet)
Mendota 851 853
Monona 847 848
Waubesa 845 847
Kegonsa 843 845

There are many areas in the City that drain to Lake Monona and Starkweather Creek which have ground elevations only 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation.     With lake levels high, especially Lake Monona, the underground storm sewer system is not going to be efficient because the system is currently inundated with the water from the lake.  During heavy rain, water will drain away slower causing flooding and standing water in areas.   

Residents that are in low lying areas or areas prone to flooding may want to be prepared to protect their property from water damage with sandbags.  The City provides free sand and ready to fill sandbags for Madison residents.   Residents are advised to bring their own shovel to assist with loading sand into the bags.   This link provides additional information including a map of sandbag locations


Lake Edge Construction Starts Next Week:  The construction project on Lake Edge Blvd, Davidson and the cross streets of Hegg, Major and Drexel will begin next week, July 2nd. This is a full reconstruction project which will replace the sewer and water mains as well as the street. Curbs and gutters will be installed as well. This project will take about four months to complete. Although residents will have access to their driveways most of the time, do not expect to be able to use the affected streets for your regular travel. Note: It is likely that the same kind of project will get underway next summer for Drexel, Maher and Dempsey Rd.


Absentee ballots for the August Primary will be in the mail by Thursday, June 28.  Voting absentee in a partisan primary requires some extra caution because a crossover vote can invalidate the entire ballot. For this election, you may vote for candidates in only one political party of your choice.  Wisconsin has run its fall primary elections this way since the early 1900s. 

To mark your ballot:

1.  Choose one party in the party preference section at the top of your ballot.

2.  Find that party's section on the ballot.

3.  Select the individual candidates of your choice within that party.

If you do not mark a party preference on your ballot

Voting in more than one political party will invalidate your entire ballot.  If you vote in more than one political party, nothing on your ballot will count. For example, you cannot vote in the Democratic primary for Governor and the Republican primary for US Senate.
Make sure you vote in only one political party.  If you vote within only one political party, your votes will count.  You may only vote for one candidate per office.

If you do mark a party preference on your ballot

Make sure you select individual candidates, too.  If you do not vote for any candidates, no votes on your ballot will count.  Marking a party preference does not tally any votes.  It just tells the tabulator where to count votes on your ballot.

Only the votes in your party of preference will count.  If you mistakenly vote for candidates in other parties, the tabulator will ignore those other parties but your ballot will not be completely invalidated.

The easiest way to request an absentee ballot is by selecting "Vote Absentee" at the top of the webpage In-person absentee voting is available in the City Clerk's Office now, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Voting at the libraries and Streets East will be July 30 – August 11.


Congratulations to Schenk Elementary School: The Schenk School community was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a "Welcoming School". You can learn more about the educational program that gained this recognition at


Police/Community Academy: The Madison Police Department's Community Outreach and Resource Education team is now accepting applications for the Madison Police Community Academy.

The academy runs between September 12th and November 7th, each Wednesday, from 6 pm until 9 pm. An application is attached to this email, and there are still many spots available!

Interested? Contact Officer Emily Samson at

Hope your summer is going well.

If you have any questions or concerns on city policies and programs, please feel free to contact me at or at 334-1156.

David Ahrens




Tags: wheel tax

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