Resource Recovery Charge, Body-Worn Camera Pilot, Earth Dayposted
Hi Friends and Neighbors,
Spring is being unusually bashful. A year ago, all my dafodils were in full bloom. This year they've sprouted but the blossoms are decidedly tardy. Yes, I know warmer weather is slated for later this week, yet awaking to a smattering of snow this morning was a test of my patience. Grin and bear it, I tell myself. Spring, in all its glory, will soon be here.
Tuesday's Common Council meeting has a packed agenda, with two items of general interest worth noting.
Resource Recovery Charge
I've received several emails from D13 residents regarding the proposed Resource Recovery Charge. This new charge was proposed last year and adopted as part of our current 2022 budget to help close the gap between expenses and revenues. The adopted budget calls for $3M in annual revenues to be generated by the new special charge ($1.5M for the second half of this year) which is estimated to add $4.10/month (or roughly 13 to 14 cents a day) to the municipal services bill (aka your water bill). The charge will apply to all households that are eligible for curbside recycling collection and will be a flat fee so it will not discourage or reduce actual recycling by residents. The ordinance creating the new charge was recommended at Finance Committee last Monday and is on the council's agenda on Tuesday for adoption (item #93).
I'm not oblivious to concerns expressed that our property taxes and other fees continue to rise putting pressure on many, especially those with fixed incomes. I agree with those that would prefer to raise revenues in a more progressive manner so that the burden falls on those that can most afford it. For example, a city income tax, ideally more progressive in nature, would allow for sigificant property tax relief, but is something cities cannot adopt under current state statute.
Unfortunately, municipalities in Wisconsin are only allowed to levy a property tax and that tax is strictly limited by the state. This has essentially put the city in a 'fixed income' situation as well that has failed to keep up with rising costs and has been compounded by reduced state aid. This situation has been growing worse and worse over the last decade and we are on a collision course if changes don't happen at the state level. Meanwhile, Madison (like other municipalities) are forced to find revenues elsewhere, including the previously adopted Urban Forestry Special Charge, the unpopular Vehicle Registration Fee, and now a new Resource Recovery Special Charge.
Again, I understand the opposition to user fees that are not proportionate to income or wealth, the argument being that user fees tend to be regressive in nature. The reality is cities in Wisconsin have limited options given the levy limits and reductions in shared revenue courtesy of our GOP friends in the state legislature.
For those interested in learning more about these issues and the City's associated budget challenges, I encourage you to watch the recorded presentation from Finance committee's meeting last week. Here are links to the video and staff presentation.
If Council were to vote down the resource recovery charge, my colleagues and I would have to make up for the $1.5 million shortfall this year, as well as $3 million gap next year. Given the very limited options to raise revenue in the face of rising costs, cuts in services would have to be made.
If this charge is not approved and we need to make up the budget difference elsewhere, I would appreciate hearing from you regarding what City services you are willing to see reduced or eliminated. If you would like to provide comment on this or any other item in front of the Common Council on Tuesday, you can do so here.
In short, user fees are suboptimal, but we are faced with limited choices. I plan on voting in support of the ordinance change allowing the City to implement this fee.
Body Worn Camera Pilot
I've been working with Council President Abbas to update the resolution to implement a Body-Worn Camera Pilot. The original resolution which was referred in January did not address the recommendations included in the final report by the Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee, nor did it identify a responsible mechanism for paying for the operating costs of implementing the pilot. Moreover, the resolution did not specify details for measuring the actual costs of BWC utilizaton.
Over the weekend, I've been working to make additional changes to the resolution before Tuesday's Council meeting. The pilot should not be a matter of checking a box on the way to citywide implementation, but rather a means of generating data to inform policy-makers as to the actual costs and benefits. The final report of the Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee made it clear that BWCs are not a panacea and that there exists the very real possibility of unintended consequences. The model policy described in the report stipulates that "arrangements be made for a rigorous, randomized trial."
I find myself in the middle of this controversy. There are convincing arguments by people like Judge Everett Mitchell who claim that BWCs level the playing field, allowing for evidence that could exonerate the unjustly accused. Others make the claim that footage from BWCs will inherently favor law enforcement and thereby lead to increased prosecution for low-level offenses, particularly impacting over-policed marginalized groups.
It's evident to me that the final report of the Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee sets out a path forward to determine if BWCs are right for Madison, and that's by a "rigourous, randomized trial." That's what I'm pushing for, an objective experiment purposed to glean reliable data as to the actual costs and benefits of BWCs. I'm hopeful my colleagues on Council will see it that way and vote to approve these changes to the resolution to provide parameters and guidance for an effective Body-Worn Camera pilot.
Register for Public Comment here. (BWC Pilot is Agenda Item #114)
On to other news....
Celebrate Earth Day on Friday at the Learn to Rethink Trash event where you can explore how and why we've created so much trash. Rethink what we can do to create less. Dive into the science of trash to understand how landfills protect our environment by managing the waste our society creates. Step aboard the Trash Lab, a mobile exhibit designed to educate and motivate us to create less trash and rethink our relationship with waste.
And on Saturday, join your neighbors in the Earth Day Challenge 2022 to help clean up trash in our city parks.
Trans Joy & Ride Against Hate
Two events on Saturday celebrate and support our LGBTQ+ and trans communities. The Ride Against Hate starts at 10am at East High School and finishes at the Celebrate Trans Joy in Community in Olbrich Park.
Madison College's 2022 Annual Spring Pow Wow
Madison College's 2022 Annual Spring Pow Wow will be held on Saturday, April 23, at Redsten Gym, 1701 Wright Street. Doors open at 11am, and Grand Entries will be at 1pm and 7pm. Find more information here.
Sustainability Campus Proposal for Yahara Golf Course
Join Dane County staff, City staff and elected officials on Thursday, April 21, from 6:30pm-8:00pm for an opportunity to share your comments and questions about Dane County's proposal for a Sustainability Campus on a portion of the Yahara Hills Golf Course, located just to the south of the existing landfill at 6701 US Hwy 12/18. The virtual public outreach meeting will be held at the Village of McFarland Municipal Center located at 5915 Milwaukee St, McFarland. Register for the meeting here.
That's all for now. Take care and stay safe.