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
December News: News from the neighborhoods, City Budget
District News: The 15th District is a strip of Madison's Eastside that runs from MATC to Pflaum Rd. It covers about 10 fairly distinct neighborhoods with about 13,000 residents.
These are some highlights, large and small, that were significant in those neighborhoods that took place in November:
• Demolition of old single family homes in Truax Homes began as the first step towards building 18 larger and more modern duplexes. Many additional, smaller units will be constructed next year.
• Installation of additional street lights on Walsh Ave were approved that should serve to reduce crime.
• Rosie's Bakery on Monona Dr had its official Grand Opening, with fresh baked bread, donuts and great coffee served every day.
• The underground infrastructure for the initial phase of Royster Corners is almost complete. This is ahead of schedule.
• Eastmorland Community Association held a lawn raking event for neighbors. About two dozen neighbors came with rakes and drop cloths and helped clear the lawns for dozens of grateful homeowners.
• A 60-unit "supported" apartment house for homeless adult individuals was approved for Rethke and E. Washington, (right off Hwy 30). While the neighborhood supported the overall concept, we expressed serious concerns that the builder provided NO parking spaces for residents. Nonetheless, the Plan Commission approved the permit for construction in 2015 and occupancy in 2016.
• Monona Ct, a four block road, was changed from two-way to one-way. The change in direction for the 12-feet wide street was the result of a petition drive by residents who felt it was much too narrow for two cars, school buses, bikes and pedestrians who frequented the street.
• A bus shelter was constructed on Monona Dr just in time to block the wind off of Lake Monona.
Budget Battles: While most of my colleagues on the Council viewed the recently passed budget as somewhere between "good" and "great", I gave it a "D". There were two main reasons:
1. It increases our borrowing for building (Capital) projects from 14% (which is already high) to 22% of the budget over the next six years. In the abstract, those numbers might not be meaningful. But as a practical matter it would have the same effects as if you had to take 8% of what you use to live on a day-to-day basis and use it to pay-off debt. However, those multi- million cuts would NOT come from police or fire or sanitation or even from road improvements and construction.. If we shut down the entire library or bus system, it would not cover the debt.. As I told my fellow-council members, we are on the verge of creating a new city, and not for the better.
I asked the Council to choose between things we absolutely must build and those we simply want? Must we build a Public Market ($9 million)? Must we build the most sophisticated Municipal Building ($30+million)? Do we need a new police station on the near Westside next year or can it perhaps wait for three more years? I proposed to eliminate, down-size or postpone a few of the major projects. These proposals,some co-authored by the Mayor, were rejected. I asked that the whole budget be reconsidered. That was rejected as well.
Overall, the budget increased our property taxes by a little more than 2%. This is about the rate of inflation. Hopefully, we will not have any budget-busting blizzards or extreme cold (like last year) that burst hundreds of water mains.
2. I thought it was unfair that the budget gave a 3% raise to the police and fire employees but only a 1.5% raise to other city employees.. I and a few other Alders and the Mayor moved to eliminate some"fat" from the $250 million and transfer the funds into an additional half of 1% percent raise. The amendment was defeated.
Why? All of the Council members said they respected the city employees, why did they vote against this small raise? (Only I and two other council members voted against a 50% pay raise for themselves!) They voted against a raise for city workers because of a dispute with the Mayor over issues of process not substance. As an editorial in the Capital Times said:
"In our view, Ahrens got it right when he said that the duty to resolve inconsistencies-especially- with regard to pay equity for all employees...should have taken precedence over frustrations about the mayor's approach and timing. Ahrens is often at odds with Soglin. But the alder recognized the need to put differences aside and finish the process in a way that addressed pay issues and made fiscally responsible tweaks. The council majority should have done the same."
Coming up this week at the Council:
Two important items will be coming up this week:
1. There will be a resolution to keep the negotiations on the city-financed downtown hotel going until May 1, 2015. The purpose of the resolution is to keep the issue OUT of the April election. By waiting until May 1st, certain politicians will be able to say, "I can't comment because the final report isn't in." I will offer a number of alternative proposals to overcome this transparent attempt to avoid public discussion.
2. The Mayor is proposing to give an EIGHT year contract with the Greater Madison Visitors and Convention Bureau. There is no increase in the actual work they need to do written in the contract but there is an increase in payment from the City from $2.1 million to $4.2 million- a doubling in pay. And we couldn't find the funds for a 2% pay increase?
I know some of these issues are controversial and may not be popular. I look forward to hearing from you about these and any other issues you believe are important. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 334-1156.
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