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, Lake Edge Reconstruction, So many Leaves!
A brief review of the month:
The city budget has been, largely, finalized. The final vote is on November 13th. The record-setting budget requires the maximum increase in levy allowed by law (2.8%). The increase in the levy rate coupled with big increases in property assessments will mean substantial increases in taxes for many homeowners- not just for city services but for schools and the county as well.
The most troubling long-term trend is the explosion in debt-financed projects. Everything from library books to certain staff time to road building will now be financed through debt. As a result, the share of our revenue used for debt will increase from 14% (2015) to 18.6% (2024). That's an increase by one-third. As a result, in the next few years, one-fifth of our city tax dollars will be for debt payment rather than services. (6% of the federal budget is for debt interest.)
The interest payments will be larger due to the huge debts incurred by the Water Utility. The debt of the Water Utility (which is ostensibly a separate "enterprise") has resulted in the down-grading of the city's debt rating to Aaa-negative outlook.
The total budget of nearly $900 million is a record but perhaps not one worth celebrating.
Lake Edge Construction II:
The good news about the months-long street reconstruction in Lake Edge is that it is due to be over by Nov. 9th.
The (bad?) news is that the construction season will begin again either in May or July next year. The streets (blocks) undertaken will be:
- Maher Ave: 3900 & 4000
- Drexel Ave: 4000
- Davidson St: 400 & 500
- Park Ct: 500
- Lake Edge Blvd: 300 & 400
- Dempsey: 3900, 4000 and 4100
Also, most of Buckeye Rd. will, at different times, be closed to traffic for an extended period of time.
As we get closer to spring, there will be community meetings to inform us on the scope of the project, the cost to homeowners and conditions during construction.
The Judge Doyle Sq. Money Pit
The deal, the city approved the agreement with the Chicago developer to build a hotel and an apartment building downtown was supposed to cost the city nothing. They were going to pay for it all and not even ask for a TIF grant like all the other previous suitors. I voted for it!
That was two years ago. Since then, the city has paid $1.5 million in developer "fees" and another $11 million to build the top of the 6-story deep parking garage (costing $50 million). Additionally, the developer has sued the city and we spent about $100,000 defending against the suit (which they then dropped).
Last night, the Mayor proposed sending the developer another $600,000 that would in the words of a city consultant, "keep timelines in place." Meanwhile, the developer does not have a contractor or financing for the project. It will be difficult to meet timelines without money or a builder.
I'm happy to report that last night the Council blocked the payment. Although, I'm sure the Mayor will ask for reconsideration of the vote, the flow of funds from Madison taxpayers to the Chicago developer will, for now, be abated.
Open Meetings or Open Criticism?
Last month, I and other members of the Water Utility Board came under investigation by TWO MPD detectives for the suspected crime of having individual phone conversations about a proposal to place the Utility's General Manager on probation following revelations about a multi-million dollar debt.
Instead, the Mayor gave the GM a $6,000 raise and said that an investigation of the GM's performance was unnecessary. He did, however, jump at the chance of using the MPD to investigate our conversations. Following two sets of interviews (the detectives were very polite) the District Attorney decided not to prosecute. Apparently, his office has "bigger fish to fry" and that he can recognize a politically-motivated prosecution when he sees one.
It's worth noting, that the only other instance of a charge of violation of the Open Meetings Law by Council members was when I and other two other Council members proposed to curtail the Mayor's authority to appoint Council members to committees. A State Journal reporter wrote at that time, "I suspect Soglin wouldn't be too upset if none of the three was charged or cited. For him, the alleged open meetings violations were never about open meetings."
Metro Transit Survey
Madison Metro is dedicated to providing excellent service. In order to make sure we are providing good service for all, we need to know more about our riders, the trips they are taking and how our current service works for them. Information gathered is meant to provide a snapshot for staff to better understand our customers and their experience.
Surveys can also be printed and mailed to:
Attn: Passenger Survey
1245 E. Washington Ave. Suite 201
Madison, WI 53703
Parks and Playgrounds:
The City of Madison Parks Division is once again about to embark on the annual playground public input meeting process for the playground replacement projects that are included in the 2019 parks capital budget submission. The Parks Division will hold an initial playground workshop focusing on OB Sherry Park on November 12th at 6 PM at Emerson School.
The workshop will include a larger group discussion, then will break out into smaller sessions with staff to address design considerations related to the specific park's playground. Following the workshop, staff will schedule a separate playground meeting to finalize the playground design.
Street crews are now working 10-hour days to meet the demands of curbside yard waste piles are growing in size and number.
Residents who need curbside collection service for their leaves and yard waste are encouraged to use the Pickup Schedule map to learn when they should place yard waste to the curb. The Pickup Schedule map is available on the Streets Division's yard waste website, www.cityofmadison.com/yardwaste.
By using the map, residents can minimize the amount of time their yard waste material sits at the curb awaiting pickup. The map is updated at the end of each workday.
When placing yard waste out for collection, residents should never place the material directly in the street. When it rains on leaf piles in the street, the water carries nutrients like phosphorus into the storm drains. The nutrients lead to toxic algae blooms, murky water, and low oxygen levels in our lakes.
When placing leaves and yard waste out for collection, residents can pile it loose at the road edge or terrace. In order to prevent leaves from blowing into the street, residents may cover their pile with a tarp or they can bag them. Compostable paper bags are easier and faster for Streets Division crews to collect, but plastic bags can be used as well. Bags, either compostable or plastic, should be left open at the top so crews can identify the contents.
I hope you are enjoying our wonderful and dry Autumn weather.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns in regard to city policies and services. You can reach me email@example.com or at 334-1156.
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