Alder Grant Foster
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Foster’s Updates
3 Important Items on Tonight's CC Agenda - D15 Update 3/31/20
Safer at Home Continues
Today marks one week since the Secretary of Department of Health Services for Wiscosin issued the Safer at Home order and many of us have been self-isolating at home for non-essential activities for over two weeks. The current order is in effect until April 24th, but may likely need to be extended. New cases are expected to continue to climb locally and nationally over the next several weeks as the infection spreads quickly, including by individuals that are not showing any symptoms. Please continue to limit your contact with others to the bare minimum and be smart when you do need to go out. Many of our friends, family, and neighbors still need to put themselves at risk in order to maintain our critical infrastructure and services and we need to protect them by keeping our distance and avoid all non-essential contact. You can find the latest City of Madison COVID updates at https://www.cityofmadison.com/health-safety/coronavirus.
Common Council Meeting Tonight
This evening we will hold our first virtual meeting as a Madison Common Council. A lot of work has been put into creating a system that will allow us to conduct our business and that will allow for public comment and participation. We did a trial run yesterday that went relatively smoothly, but we will likely run into some challenges during tonight's meeting. Lessons learned here should allow us to extend similar capabilities to host other public meetings in the future as we work to keep the public engaged in our decision making during these challenging circumstances. You can find the details on how to participate in the meeting at: https://cityofmadison.com/clerk/meeting-schedule/common-council-86. This includes options for watching the meeting, as well as an opportunity to register to provide public comment over the phone. There is a lot of important business on the agenda including three items of particular interest to District 15 residents:
In case you missed it, you can get more background in this previous blog post. Tonight the Common Council is being asked to overturn the Plan Commission's decision that denied permits for the proposed project. In its decision, the Plan Commission found that the proposed use was not compatible with the adopted Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan. I share the Plan Commission's concerns.
On Monday of last week, Mayor Rhodes-Conway declared a state of emergency for the City of Madison. This proclamation includes the 'general authority to order, by ordinance or resolution, whatever is necessary and expedient for the health, safety, welfare and good order of the city in the emergency'. The authority to declare such an emergency is afforded to the Common Council in Wisconsin Statute and Madison General Ordinance. The mayor may also issue the declaration if the 'Common Council is unable to meet with promptness'. A mayoral proclamation of emergency is 'subject to ratification, alteration or repeal by the Common Council as soon as the Common Council can meet'. This is the item that will be on our agenda this evening.
In addition to the declaration of the state of emergency, the mayor's proclamation also asserts the authority for the mayor to 'issue orders to suspend the operation of, amend, create, or adopt city policies or ordinances, and suspend enforcement actions...in order to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.' This proposed mayoral authority would 'continue for sixty (60) days after the Director of Public Health Madison and Dane County and the Governor of Wisconsin determine to end the emergency actions they have taken or will take to combat the coronavirus pandemic'.
The common council will need to determine at our meeting tonight whether we agree to give this unprecedented power to the mayor for the foreseeable future. While I am supportive of doing whatever is needed to respond quickly and effectively to this public health emergency, I am concerned that this proposed change to our democratic processes would reduce public participation and oversight and that it undermines the foundational principles of our local system of government.
Under Wisconsin law, it is the common council that is tasked with the duty of having 'the management and control of the city property, finances, highways, navigable waters, and the public service, and shall have power to act for the government and good order of the city, for its commercial benefit, and for the health, safety, and welfare of the public'. The mayor shares that policy making responsibility as a member of the common council, but does not have the power to act unilaterally and without public oversight. As the chief executive officer for the city, the mayor is tasked with taking 'care that city ordinances and state laws are observed and enforced and that all city officers and employees discharge their duties'. The respective powers and duties of the common council and of the mayor are not changed during a state of emergency and I believe that this proposed change in authority is unwise and not needed. Instead, the common council will need to step up and do whatever is needed to fulfill our responsibility to continue to represent the people of Madison through this crisis. Public participation in our decision making during this time of emergency is more important than ever and we should not eliminate the opportunity for our community to weigh in on the important decisions in front of us. We are stronger together and we should not expect that any single individual will pull us through this difficult time.
On September 17th of last year, the council passed Resolution 19-00588, Responding to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Air National Guard F-35A Operational Beddown. That resolution stated that the 'Madison Common Council requests that the Air National Guard reconsiders the selection of Truax Field as a preferred location until and unless the findings of the EIS are shown to misrepresent the significant environmental impacts to those living, working, and visiting the north and east sides of Madison'
In February of this year the Final EIS was published, and reaffirmed the expected significant and disproportionate negative impacts to many of our communities on the north and east sides of Madison. Based on those findings, tonight's resolution, Responding to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Air National Guard F-35A Operational Beddown, states that 'the Madison Common Council opposes the selection of Truax Field in Madison, WI as a preferred location for the 5th Operational Beddown and requests that the Secretary of the US Air Force not move forward with a beddown of F-35A jets at Truax Field, and to remove Truax Field from future consideration'. I am a cosponsor of this resolution and oppose the selection of Truax Field for the F-35A beddown.
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