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
Despite the arrival of summer, there is no slow-down in city business. Controversies related to the Police Dept. continue, roads are ripped up but then improved- at least for a while. The parks are bright green but alas, the lake is starting to smell.
In June there were three openings of new city projects in our area: two residences and a park shelter.
Rethke Apartments: The city opened a 60-unit apartment house for homeless single adults with 17 of the units set aside for veterans. This will be their permanent home probably for years to come. The building will have maintenance staff and a large staff that will assist the residents in their adjustment to having a permanent home after many years of homelessness. The house is located just off E. Wash. next to the Aloha Inn. This is the first city project focused on providing housing for the homeless. Another apartment house for homeless families is being planned for the West Towne area.
Lake Edge Park Shelter: We cut the ribbon on a new park shelter at Lake Edge Park (between Maher and Dempsey Rd, south of Cottage Grove Rd)! We also ate all of the food in stock in the food cart that came to the opening. Very modern design with new picnic tables, bathrooms, etc. This is will be the new prototype for future city park shelters.
About 75 neighbors came to celebrate the opening and thank the many folks who worked to make this happen. Of special note was the work of Jackie DeWalt and Angela Jenkins, past and current presidents of the Neighborhood Association.
Pinney Lane Apartments: The first phase of the Royster Corners project was completed with the opening of the Pinney Lane Apartments. These beautiful homes are sponsored by Movin' Out, a local agency that provides homes for people with disabilities. The project was constructed by Stonehouse Developers that has built many of the best multi-housing developments in our city.
Sunset Music Series: The Sunset Music Series organized by Eastmorland'er Nate Baker and friends is back. On the front lawn of the East Side Club on Monona Dr. the series creates a unique and beautiful venue for music on a Thursday evening from 6-9 PM. This is the most family-friendly event I've seen in a very long time. (It's hard to pay attention to the music with all those cute 2 year olds stumbling around.)
Baker and friends have generously shared the proceeds of the concernts with neighborhood organizations. Rolling Meadows Neighborhood Association hosted the event on June 16th, Lake Edge on June 30th and so on.
There are always a number of food carts offering their wares and the associations sell beer. Admission is $5 per person. You can find more information on performers, time, food, etc. for the upcoming dates of July 14 and 28th at https://www.facebook.com/TheSunsetMusicSeries/.
Spanish Language Pre-School at Moravian Church: While the School District provides a limited number of places for four year old Spanish speaking children, they are few in number and located in only four sites in the city. These classes are only for the morning or afternoon and are not practical for most working families.
In response to this need, the Lakeview Moravian Community Church (3565 Tulane Ave) has established the first full-day pre-school for Spanish speaking children. The school will be administered and taught by two teachers who had been with Madison schools. It will be located in the basement of the church which had been used for its Sunday Schools.
This is a privately operated program that needs funding to add fire alarms and refurbish the basement. You can find more about the project and make a donation at https://www.gofundme.com/eljardininfantil
A Treatment Pond for Starkweather Creek? The city is considering building a facility to treat phosphorus rich storm water at an existing quarry pond on the Voight property (north of Milwaukee St. and east of Starkweather Creek. The treatment would allow for removal of up to 90% of the phosphorus and other sediment and return cleaner water to the creek.
There will be an informational meeting on the proposed project on Thursday, July 21st at 6 PM in the Atrium Room of Olbrich Gardens.
Madison Police Dept. Issues: I voted in favor of the additional funding for the external study of the Madison Police Department. Initially, I did not support the increase in funding and came to the Council meeting with the intention of arguing that the amount be significantly reduced. But I listened to the speakers, including the chair of the committee, former Police Captain Yudice, now head of school security, and Deputy Mayor (and Police Lt.) Reyes. They supported a study despite the fact that the cost of a full review would be at least $400,000.
I also listened to a wide range of speakers who supported a study and those who opposed it. I heard the VP of MGE, an African-American woman (and hardly a radical) say that she didn't know whether she would call the police if there was a problem concerning her teenage sons. Other speakers- black, Hispanic and white- voiced similar concerns.
During the three hours of discussion at the meeting, Chief Koval did not say that he opposed the study. He said that he was opposed the cost of it (although it didn't come from the PD budget). Since then he has said that he supports a departmental review but thinks this would not be a good time to start one.
The study will be a comprehensive review and will not focus only on one or two issues, such as training or "use of force." It is not an investigation, a "witch-hunt" or anything of that kind. This evaluation should not be viewed as an "insult" or an attack on the officers or the Chief of our excellent department. Program evaluations are a "good government practice," and should be used not only when there are problems but also when things are going well.
This evaluation however, coming on the heels of Tony Robinson's death and the controversial arrest at East Towne, has been construed by some as a test of support for the department. Some have attempted to portray City Council support of a departmental evaluation as a sign of a lack of support for the police or worse, a lack of appreciation of the work that is done every day by the men and women of the MPD. From my perspective, this is far from the truth and I believe most members of the City Council would agree.
Last year at the time of the incident, I was one of two members of the Council that refused to sign a letter critical of the department. I have also opposed over $2,000,000 in wasteful consultant studies in just the last two years because there were no committees to review the work of these consultants or ensure that departments would implement their findings.
In contrast, this study has been commissioned by a committee that meets twice each month and that is responsible for reviewing the work of the consultants and ensuring that its recommendations are carefully considered and not simply shelved. Also, because of the high cost of funding the study, it is our expectation that the consultants will be very experienced experts in law enforcement operations such as former police commissioners and Justice Dept. officials.
From my knowledge of the committee overseeing this project, I expect that they will find some areas where the department can improve. I also expect that they will find that this is one of the best police departments in the nation. Although it is one of the best, there is still room for improvement.
The city spends over $67,000,000 each year on the department. The Chief has said he will request 10 additional officers each year for the next four years. That's an additional $1.2 million each year. Next year, the city will build a new $14 million police station. All of this means that in four years the city will spend about 1/3 of its budget on police services. Because of state levy limits, it will "crowd out" other city services that many others believe to be essential.
Most people think our police are doing a great job; some people think they are OK and others think they are doing a poor job. While public sentiment is a very important factor in police work, it is not the only issue; neither is the popularity- or the lack of it- of the police Chief.
I hope that the results of the evaluation will lead many of the opponents and "doubters" to appreciate the quality of the department. This is the most important factor in the success of a department that is committed to "community policing."
The Police Department is a large, complex and very expensive operation. However, despite the importance of the department to the well-being of the city, it has never been comprehensively reviewed by an outside agency. I think this study will give the city as a whole the confidence that we are getting the best service for our dollars.
You can reach me at email@example.com or at 334 1156.
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