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
District 15: April 2015 Blog
District 15: April News/Blog
Tony Robinson Shooting:
This month has been a tragic time for some and a difficult time for all as Madison joins much of the US in wrestling with our repressed heritage of race relations. The myth of a post-racial America following Obama's election has been shattered and perhaps forgotten in the wake of Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and how many others?
Given the strong impact of these deaths, there was a national recognition of the irrefutable fact of race-based (that is white on black) killings. (This has been a revelation to many and certainly the media who had forgotten about 3,000 lynchings in the first half of the last century.)
Perhaps the impact of the other killings- particularly Eric Garner (NY)- led many to quickly conclude that the shooting of Robinson by a white police officer was "race-based." That is, it was quickly adopted as a "fact" that Robinson was shot by a white officer because he was African-American. At the end of the investigation that may prove to be correct but there is no publicly known evidence at this time that is the case or that the Police Dept. has engaged in such a pattern of racial crimes.
I have taken the rather unpopular view that the shooting indicates our (that is the City and not just the police) inability to deal with mentally ill individuals at a time of "acting out", "severe disturbance", etc. All six individuals killed in police officer shootings in the last four years were mentally ill, either chronically or temporarily due to chemical intoxication. Because of our reflex of racial accounting, it should be noted that four were white and two were black.
The Mayor has frequently said that Robinson and perhaps others did not heed the police officers' order to stop and instead threatened, attacked or simply proceeded and as a result were stunned, hit with "bean bags" or shot. The problem with this analysis is the assumption that the person receiving the order understands what is being said, what behavior is demanded and the repercussions of not obeying the order. A severely mentally ill or drug intoxicated person often does not understand any of the above.
In the last year, the new Chief has appointed five new mental health specialists. These are police officers with strong educational and professional backgrounds in mental health. This is a good start but it is not enough. We cannot expect the five officers to be everywhere 24/7. More training of all officers is necessary as well as a review of policies regarding use of force.
Currently, there is very limited "civilian" review of departmental policies and procedures. I think every organization can benefit from periodic outside review. It is indeed a tragedy that it often takes an event such as the death of Tony Robinson to spur this examination.
Garver Feed Mill Committee Recommendation:
After months of discussion and review of proposals for the rehab of the Garver Feed Mill, a city committee chose the proposal of a developer (Baum Co.) who intends to build a food production facility for small manufacturers and up to 40 "micro-lodges" located in what is now parkland.
This proposal won near unanimous support of residents on the north and west side of Garver. However, residents on the other sides of Garver/Olbrich were nearly silent in their response.
Those on the south and east sides of Olbrich are in the 15th District. I was the sole dissenter ('No" vote) on the committee in their choice of the Baum proposal. I supported a proposal to build an assisted living center of over 150 housing units. In addition, the center would have 20 units for individuals with dementia and a day-care center operating 16 hours per day both for the staff and the community. (This proposal will be negotiated with the city if the talks with Baum are not successful.)
In my view, this proposal by a group called Alternative Continuum of Care, responds to an important community need- affordable elder care. The greatest increase in age in Dane County is not among children or 20-30 years old but those 75 and above and particularly those 85 years old and above. There are not enough social agencies or institutions that provide the assistance necessary to help elders and disabled accomplish tasks of daily living. This assistance keeps vulnerable, elderly individuals out of more expensive, "medicalizing" and total institutions.
When I compared the need for this service for a growing portion of our community with the need for additional space for food processing and a boutique hotel, the choice was evident. The City is investing nearly $2 million in this project. As such, I think it should be invested in meeting fundamental needs- not a project that can be constructed anywhere in the city.
The recommendations of the panel will now go before the Parks and Landmarks Commission as well as the full City Council. I hope there will be additional input from other sectors of the city as the process moves forward.
Uber v. Taxis v. The State:
Last night, the Common Council had a three-hour discussion on the regulation of TNCs (Transportation Network Companies), that is, taxis that are called with a smart phone. Despite the discussion and the final vote, the decision will be moot.
Once again, the state legislature has decided that local units of government should not have the right to decide what is best for our own community. Since the beginning of Walker's administration there has been an onslaught of attacks that, through a process called "preemption", strip city and county governments of their ability to govern as they see fit.
Most notably, in 2011 they decided that cities could not collectively bargain with employees despite the fact that the cities said that they wanted to retain that right.
Each time these bills are proposed, the argument is made that if cities are allowed to decide what is best for their citizens it will result in a "patchwork" of rules and regulations that will confuse businesses. Following this argument a little further, wouldn't this be an equally valid argument to abolish state government as well?
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments at 334-1156 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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