Alder Yannette Figueroa Cole
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Figueroa Cole’s Updates
Masks, Violence & Budget Topics
Today's update will be longer than usual, but I wanted to address a few of the things that have occupied my time as District 10 Alder.
But first and foremost, we are again in a critical time for COVID-19, please wear your mask, get vaccinated! Effective on Thursday, August 19, 2021, at 12:01 am, Public Health Madison & Dane County is issuing a Face Covering Emergency Order, which requires that everyone age 2 and older wear a face covering or mask when in any enclosed building where other people, except for members of the person's own household or living unit, could be present. This requirement applies to all of Dane County. "We still believe vaccines are our best tool to protect our community," said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. "But as cases continue to increase, requiring face coverings is an easily added layer of protection to further help keep people safe, including our youngest children not yet eligible to be vaccinated."
The last few months have brought a lot of hours of work and collaboration on many of the issues the city is facing. I have been assigned committees that are very engaged and in line with the things that inspired me to run for office; Finance, Housing Strategy, Food Council, Parks, County City Homeless Issues as well as TFOGS and the Violence Prevention Plan initiative. Because of the large number of emails received from District 10, about speeding and transit, I have made it a point to stay up to date on Transportation-related activities and meetings. Every topic or concern that has been addressed to me directly has required research and in some cases multiple meetings to navigate and/or negotiate resolutions. I have come out of those discussions with a greater appreciation for the working staff puts into everything they do.
When we talk about violence let us not forget how violence manifests itself throughout the entire city. Let's not undermine how important it is to have data-driven conversations that are centered on equity and inclusion. Numbers don't have feelings; numbers don't have fears or joys. Numbers put things into context and often can provide a visual of the bigger picture!
I have been working on multiple issues since April. Because of the concerns on auto theft committed mostly by youth, the past few weeks I have dedicated a large portion of my time trying to understand the Youth Justice System. After speaking with 2 MPD Captains, an Investigator, the Chief of Police, YWCA Restorative Justice & Dane County Youth Restorative Justice leads; the concept that the Justice System needs fixing has been reaffirmed.
However, I also learned that we have state statutes in place intended to protect youth and that these have a direct impact on our Justice System. For example; Stat. 938.20 (2)(ag) states: "a person taking a juvenile into custody shall make every effort to release the juvenile immediately to the juvenile's parent, guardian, legal custodian, or Indian custodian". This means the statute recognizes that in most cases the best interest of the child is to be back in familiar surroundings. For some, this may seem like a revolving door concept, but the statue provides room for multiple attempts for restoration and encourages the pursuit of matching programming for each situation.
For years we have filled our detention centers with youth offenders without offering restorative programs and ways to re-enter our communities in a productive and healthy way. Collectively we are responsible for the impact Lincoln Hill has had on our youth. The deadline to close down that detention facility has already expired. Where is the outrage on that? Your advocacy is needed to get that facility closed and to put those practices behind us. We need to continue to fund youth programming that provides employment and mentoring opportunities.
It is worth mentioning that I also picked on the shared frustration from law enforcement and justice systems personnel, who most of them stated that the charges of Operating a Motor Vehicle Without Owner's Consent (OMVWOC) (proper charge code instead of a cart theft) can be drastically reduced if we follow their advice and guidelines regarding securing our personal property. Nobody should be victimized, it is not something that can be minimized or brushed off, when we are victimized, it is important for us to gain our power back. Ways to do so are by taking control of prevention measurements and by participating in courts or restorative justice proceedings. Your voice in these settings helps you heal and contributes to generating empathy in others.
Numbers don't have feelings, but numbers tell stories that are data-driven unlike stories built on assumptions and on the perception of individuals that use fear-mongering to support their narratives. I will let the numbers speak for themselves. The following data was pulled from Dane County Juvenile Court annual reports.
The data in this chart shows referrals for the entire Dane County Area from 2011 to 2020:
Referrals do not indicate the number of incidents. For example, we may have one incident where a vehicle was stolen from a driveway by 3 teenagers and a 10-year-old. A referral may be issued for "OMVWOC" charges, 2 referrals may be issued for "OMVWOC-Passenger" charges and the 10-year-old may get a warning. In this example, one incident could have up to 4 referrals.
Referrals by Dane County area police departments 2019 & 2020
Dane County numbers by crimes based on referrals, not individual incidents:
Investing in our youth must be a priority in any budgetary discussions. Youth employment and mentoring opportunities will reduce crime in our community. Operation Fresh Start and Capital High, both offer alternative ways to earn a high school diploma while at the same time students acquired trade skills. Continuing to incarcerate our youth without proper supporting programming is not a feasible nor a humane solution, RISE is also a good example of available alternative services.
The moratorium was extended with some additional conditions, multiple agencies have partnered to ensure funding is expeditiously distributed. Along with 2 other alders we have spent months working with city staff and the mayor to develop processes to help the growing houseless population. The situation at Reindahl is very difficult from the humane perspective but also very complicated from the logistics side. To serve this community, we need to be able to provide multiple alternatives that are centered on their needs. For example, the city and the county have done a wonderful job providing for the needs of families experiencing house insecurity. The men's shelter has been delayed but the staff is working diligently on options for a location. But there are many reasons why people won't go to a shelter, some are due to serious mental health issues such as PTSD trauma & substance abuse, as well as to not having a place for families without children to stay together. In my 30 years in Madison, this is the first time this community has gotten the attention that is required to address the issues they have been facing. Demanding for people to go back into hiding, "out of sight out of mind" is not an option I would support.
An act of violence is not just the firing of a gun, the people living at Reindahl unhoused and without proper shelter during the passing of a tornado is an act of violence; allowing landlords to pray in the desperation of those seeking housing is an act of violence. It has been extremely frustrating to have the same people who demand more cops to be added to the budget speak in opposition to the shelter and demand for people to be removed from Reindahl Park.
Madison needs more housing; affordable and low-income housing are both needed. Let's work together to increase the housing stock in the city. Let's focus on the services needed to keep people housed and stable. Fight for better transit alternatives that provide access to resources. District 10 let's welcome and embrace new traditions into our already established communities.
Over the 4th of July, we had a murder in my own neighborhood at a gas station. I met with a family friend over the phone, spoke with the gas station owner, and collected police report data from all the 5 gas stations in the area. Had a meeting with other elected officials, the Mayor, Chief Barnes, and representatives of the Violence Prevention Plan. We came out of the meeting with multiple action items, and we are still in the process of completing those tasks, I will share this information as it becomes available.
After 25 years in this area, the sound of gunfire has sadly become a norm. A 23-year-old was murdered a few blocks from my own home, I was out of town but am certain the shots would not have disturbed my sleep. It bothers me to have become desensitized to the sound of guns being fired. The 17-year-old murdered at Randall is also a tragedy, and my heart goes out to both families. Both families will need community support and space to grieve their loved ones. We lost two young men to gun violence in or near our district, each one equally tragic and worthy of our attention. We can't continue to talk about enforcement, without talking about prevention and services to be provided in an equitable and just way.
Another recent act of violence is the people killed by cars in East Washington and a crash that resulted in the loss of yet another youth. But those incidents don't seem to equate with a loss of life due to guns. Their loss are as senseless and traumatic! Can we afford a cop to sit at every intersection? Can enforcement alone prevent speeding? The answer to both questions is simply "No"! Then why is it that when other alternatives are presented like Vision Zero, there is so much resistance? We cannot continue to look at safety from the single lens of enforcement. A healthy community is a safe community. Let's focus on the issues! By focusing on the issues first we can then determine what agencies and/or programs are in the position to provide effective services. To solve issues like road safety we must stop working on silos and fully embrace a collaborative approach across city agencies.
Finally, we literally have a new Chief in town! As a member of the finance committee, I have had multiple conversations with Chief Barnes about his budget. I have expressed the views shared here in each of those conversations. I have listened to his budget needs and his priorities for his department and the city. I will base budget decisions on our available funding (basic math) and by looking at violence from the lens of basic service needs. At this time I am still reviewing the proposed requests.
The mayor asked all agencies to include on their Operating Budget Requests a 5% cost reduction. The request was not only for MPD but for all the city agencies, please do not allow people to use this exercise to support their personal narratives.
From now until Nov 11, the primary focus of the Common Council will be on the budget. I have the privilege to be able to take a couple of weeks off from my job during this time which I would do, with the intent to focus on the budget process. I have already read a handful of requests and am looking forward to reviewing the rest. Please feel free to join me in this journey of learning more about each agency in the city, their funding need and efforts to make Madison a city that is safe, equitable and inclusive. If something of interest comes up, please feel free to send it my way, click here for access to the budget requests.
Have a great rest of your day!
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