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
Gun Violence, Traffic Calming, Vote!! - D15 Update 8/10/20
Gun Violence Continues - While this incident near Garner Park on Tuesday night received significant attention from the media, there were several more incidents of guns being fired from cars including this incident along Milwaukee Street on Friday night and this incident off of Walbridge and continuing along Thompson on Sunday.
With over 350 shell casings recovered in the last month and 11 people struck by bullets resulting in one fatality, this has been one of the worst months for gunfire in Madison's history.
I have heard a lot of frustrated residents asking what is being done. Some point their fingers at the police or the mayor or the common council and demand to know what others are doing to fix this problem. Some individuals are using the situation as a political tool to make the case for increased police funding, as if this gun violence were the result of insufficient police funding or that more funding will somehow make it go away.
We live in a nation that would not have come into existence without a heavy reliance on guns; in a nation that prioritizes the right of people to purchase and carry guns above the rights of people to be safe from gun violence; in a nation that has criminalized drugs and created a 'war' against them that has contributed greatly to an increase in gun violence; in a nation that tolerates such an enormous gap between those that have a lot and those that have very little. The problem with gun violence in our community in this moment of time cannot be taken out of that context and we will continue to struggle as a community without real reform at the state and national levels.
While it's reasonable to expect that those that you have voted for have a major role to play, the truth is that there are many complicated systems in place that make 'fixing' this problem extraordinarily difficult. There are layers of city, county, state, and federal jurisdiction that all need fixing in order to make meaningful progress in addressing the root causes of this condition.
Here are brief summaries of the authority and responsibility of various city officials:
- Madison Common Council: The Common Council in Madison is made up of the mayor and 20 alders. The Common Council has broad responsibility to "have 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, and may carry out its powers by license, regulation, suppression, borrowing of money, tax levy, appropriation, fine, imprisonment, confiscation, and other necessary or convenient means." In practical terms, the Common Council uses its taxing authority to raise money, its budget authority to allocate how that money is spent, and the power of ordinances to make city laws.
- Mayor: In addition to being a member of the Common Council, the mayor's primary responsibility is to "be the chief executive officer" for the city, to make sure "that all city officers and employees discharge their duties", and to "take care that city ordinances and state laws are observed and enforced". While the Common Council can enact new laws or shift the allocation of resources, the responsibility for ensuring that laws are observed and enforced is primarily the responsibility of the mayor. That's a big order in a time like this and I don't envy that responsibility. Here is a statement released by the mayor last week.
- Chief of Police: In Wisconsin, the chief of police is a city official that is hired by the Police & Fire Commission. "The chief of police shall have command of the police force of the city...The chief shall obey all lawful written orders of the mayor or common council..." Police officers are charged with arresting "every person found in the city engaged in any disturbance of the peace or violating any law of the state or ordinance of the city". Within the context of local and national Black Lives Matter protests, it's a particularly difficult time to carry out this responsibility. Our officers are being stretched thin trying to respond to situations caused by the frequent protests as well as the ongoing calls for service. The calls for police reform have many feeling defensive and unappreciated in what is (especially now) a very difficult job.
I don't have any easy answers to offer District 15 residents, but I'm confident that pointing fingers and casting blame is not going to get us very far. We have some incredibly deep issues to work through as a community and things may get more difficult before they get better. Each of us is going to need to dig deep to figure out what we can do to contribute to building a safe and supportive community for each other -- it's a fantasy to believe that others are going to solve these problems on our behalf.
Tuesday's Common Council Meeting - I received questions from several constituents about an item that called for money for a Downtown Recovery program. This article by Kailea Saplan gives some good background to the issue and raises some of the complications with the proposal and the process. This has been a disappointing legislative item that has highlighted how much our systems are set up to support and protect those that already have power and influence. If we're serious about reckoning with the demands for freedom and justice for communities that continue to be left out, we are going to need to shift our business as usual approach.
- Other updates:
- Olbrich Botanical Gardens Learning Center Addition Earns LEED© Platinum Certification
- Madison Water Utility finds trace amounts of "forever chemicals" in all city wells
- The survey for feedback on a proposed off-leash dog exercise area for O.B Sherry or Eastmorland Park can be found here. The survey will be open until September 26th.
- BoneYard Dog Park & Brews Neighborhood Meeting - Join Steven Ritzer and Jeff Kuhl at 6pm on Monday, August 10 to hear about their proposal for a new dog park/bar in the Burke Heights neighborhood. The proposal will be in front of the Alcohol License Review Committee and Plan Commission for approvals in the future.
- Meeting ID: 882 1871 0656
- Passcode: 55555
- Phone: 1-312-626-6799
- Finance Committee - Monday's Finance Committee looks to be a very long one including:
- Amending the 2020 Adopted Capital Budget of the Economic Development Division to appropriate $750,000 for a Small Business Equity and Recovery Program (SBER).
- Police Reform - Items 20. Adopting the Final Report of the Alder Workgroup to Develop Logistics & Operational Details for Madison Police Department Independent Civilian Oversight. 21. An Ordinance creating Sections 5.19 and 5.20 of the Madison General Ordinances establishing the Office of the Independent Police Monitor and the Police Civilian Oversight Board.
- 2021 Budget - 2020 Operating Budget: 2nd Quarter Projection Analysis & 2021 Operating Budget: Agency Request Overview
- Tuesday's Election - Whether you've already got a completed absentee ballot that needs to be turned in or haven't registered yet, you can find info about making sure your vote counts below:
Spaanem & Turner Traffic Calming - At the previous Transportation Commission meeting, staff was asked to prepare a more comprehensive proposal to address dangerous speeding through this part of the Glendale neighborhood. Staff will present on their recommendation at this week's meeting on Wednesday.
Board of Park Commissioners - The Board of Parks will also meet on Wednesday and will here an informational presentation about the work and recommendations from the Golf Task Force. The item will likely be in front of the Board in September for formal action.
- Policing & Criminal Justice System Reform:
- Police and Fire Commission - Among other agenda items, the commission will hear feedback related to their search for a new police chief.
- Public Safety Review Committee - PSRC also has a very long agenda with many public safety related items.
- Equal Opportunities Commission - EOC will review the proposals for a new Independent Police Auditor and Civilian Oversight Board.
- Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee - Work continues for a recommendation around body-worn cameras for police in Madison.
Other city meetings: There are a number of other city meetings of possible interest this week: https://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/meeting-schedule
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