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
Violence Prevention, Homelessness, Municipal Golf - D15 Update 11/30/20
Last week I received a thoughtful email from a resident on E. Dean asking about the uptick in shots fired incidents this year. The resident acknowledged how difficult the situation must be to address, but wanted to know what is being done in the short and long term.
This is a serious issue for our district and for the city at large and mirrors a similar increase in gun violence across the country this summer. The increase has been especially frustrating given the overall reduction of crime that we've enjoyed locally over the last several years.
What's behind the increase in shots fired we've seen this year in Madison?
While there's no single factor or simple explanation, communities around the nation have seen an increase in gun violence and other crimes beginning this summer. Many experts point to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental, social, and economic health. For those interested in reading more about this, here are a few articles and reports:
- Homicides rise across US cities amid pandemic and economic crisis
- Doctors: COVID-19 pandemic stress causing increase in violent crimes
- Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Gun Violence and COVID-19: Colliding Public Health Crises,
But of course, even without the recent increase in incidents, gun violence was already a major concern and has ebbed and flowed in Madison for a number of years. Here again, it's not possible to point to just one cause or one solution, but this documentary from PBS Wisconsin helps to tell part of the story as it relates to the role that trauma plays in driving crime: Not Enough Apologies: Trauma Stories. This documentary features several Madison-area experts and helps put a face to the problems that are often just represented as statistics. In addition to trauma, broad issues like poverty, housing insecurity, addiction, and joblessness all contribute to crime and the easy access to firearms compounds these problems.
So what can we do about it?
In the short term, our city-level response is somewhat constrained. Our police department is charged with investigating crimes after they happen and making arrests and they have certainly taken this work seriously. This is very challenging work and often fails to come to conclusive results. Investigations can take months and in some cases span years before an offender can be postively identified and arrested. And while this work may lead to incarceration of some perpetrators of gun violence, it has little impact in reducing the incidents of shots fired in the short term. While it may seem like a logical reaction that 'more enforcement' is the way to reduce the number of shots fired, there is little hope that simply deploying more police officers can in any way prevent the incidents in the first place.
One approach that does show promise is in 'interrupting' the cycle of violence. Established programs in a number of cities have shown that this can have a meaningful impact and we can look to the Focused Interruption Coalition as a local example. You can read more about their approach here. While we have increased our financial support for this work at the city, building capacity takes time and expertise and we can't rely on this type of intervention alone to cure violence in Madison.
Longer term, our work to reduce poverty and to increase housing and job security as well as improving access to healthcare and education are the big investments that will have the most impact. While it can feel frustrating to talk about these long term solutions in response to something that feels very urgent in the short term, this is what's needed in order to actually prevent violence.
In addition, both the city and the county have increased our investment in Public Health resources to focus specifically on violence prevention. If you're interested in learning more about the violence prevention work being coordinated by Public Health Madison Dane County, you can watch this presentation from Aurielle Smith, Director – Policy, Planning & Evaluation Division.
But why not just get 'Tough on Crime' while we work on the long-term issues?
As I mentioned above, increasing law enforcement activity by police should not be expected to prevent violence. Unfortunately, politicians have often offered it up as a solution in order to tap into the fear that crime can produce. This is a long tradition with this tactic and it really hit its stride with Richard Nixon's 'War on Crime' and was exaggerated even more with Reagan's 'War on Drugs'. Bill Clinton tapped into the sentiment with his Crime Bill and 3 Strikes initiative, something he more recently acknowledged as a mistake; conceeding that it only made the problems worse. President Trump was quick to jump on board with the same rhetoric and 'Law & Order' was a key theme of his reelection campaign as well.
For those interested in the history of policing and incarceration and its impact on racial disparity in our country, I'd strongly recommend viewing the 2016 feature film 13th. This extraordinary documentary provides one of the clearest histories of how policing and incarceration have been used disproportionately against people of color in this country and it demands that we confront the injustice and devastation it has caused. The calls to "defund the police" that have been heard loudly since the killing of George Floyd are a demand to stop this cycle. Turning to increased enforcement and incarceration will not solve the problem of violence in our community and will undoubtedly exaggerate the devastating impact that policing has had on people of color. For those interested in watching the film and joining in a local conversation about it, you can do so this coming Sunday as part of the 13th Film Viewing and Discussion: Part 1 event hosted by the Eastmorland Area Antiracism group.
Another email I received last week was about concern for those that have been living outside in encampments across the city. This is also a difficult and complicated issue and one that I have been focused on since this spring. City and county staff and leaders have been working hard to help provide resources for those that are currently unsheltered. The COVID pandemic has also compounded some of these challenges and we have responded in a number of ways.
Most recently, preparations are under way to convert the former Fleet building to a new temporary men's shelter. This will expand capacity and provide a better facility for men as compared to the current set up at Warner Park. Many families have been housed in hotel rooms since the beginning of the pandemic, but the recent efforts to use the former Karmenta site would be a big improvement on that front and potentially open up hotel rooms for homeless couples that are not allowed in the men or women's shelters as a couple. The Occupy Madison Village has been hard at work building new tiny shelters to house people at the former Wiggie's property. For those looking for ways to help, the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County has published some information on accepting donations for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
Milwaukee Street area rezoning and mapping
The Plan Commission recommended approval of a rezoning and mapping of the area covered under the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan. I introduced both of these changes after I discovered that the adoption of the plan several years ago did not include any changes to the zoning at the time. Failure to rezone these properties consistent with the plan recommendations allowed the recent use of one of the properties as a package delivery facility by Amazon. Many residents expressed frustration that such a use could occur that seemed contradictory to the adopted plan. A change in the zoning now would not change the current use, but it would prevent future uses of these properties that are inconsistent with the adopted plan. Both of these items are on Tueday's Common Council meeting, but will be referred to the January meeting for action.
Road construction updates:
There will be three street reconstruction projects in D15 in 2021 and they are at varying stages of design:
- Starkweather/Garver Path - The design for this project was approved as part of the Garver Path project last year. You can find the most up to date information on this project here.
- E. Dean/Allis - The first public meeting has been held and a second meeting is scheduled. You can find the most up to date information on this project here.
- Dempsey/Davies/Maher - The first public meeting is scheduled and a survey will be sent out shortly. You can find the most up to date information on this project here.
In addition to these projects there will be other road improvement projects related to traffic calming and pedestrian/bicycle improvements. I will share more info on these projects as it becomes available.
Other city updates:
- The survey on the Shared Streets Program, including the cycletrack that was installed this summer on Atwood closes on December 1st. Please take a minute to share your thoughts on this program to help shape it for the future.
- COVID-19 vaccine not likely to be available to the public until Spring 2021 or later
- Salt Route Reductions - The Streets Division will be removing several D15 streets from its salt routes in an attempt to reduce the use of salt. You can find the specific streets impacted in the link above.
- Madison Parks Calendar Photography Winners Announced
Inaugural meeting of the Police Civilian Oversight Board
The Police Civilian Oversight Board will be holding its first, organizational meeting on Monday. The purpose of this meeting is to elect a Chair and Vice Chair, and provide orientation materials to the Board. Find the Meeting Details Online Here
Municipal Golf Report & Financial Analysis at Finance Committee
The Task Force on Municipal Golf in Madison Parks completed its work and issued its Final Report this summer. Following introduction of the report to the Common Council it was referred to a number of committees for review including the Finance Committee. When the report was first reviewed by the Finance Committee, there were a number of questions about the financial impact of the recommendations included in the report and the committee asked for a financial analysis of the recommendations. The Finance Department has completed that analysis and it is available for review here. Following review by Finance Committee on Monday, the report recommendations will come back to the full Common Council. You can find links to register for the meeting here.
Last Common Council meeting of the year
There are many items of potential interest to D15 residents on Tuesday's Common Council agenda. I've highlighted some of those below. You can find a link to the full agenda as well as a link to register to speak at the meeting and a link to watch at the Clerk's website here. I really appreciate hearing from anyone with thoughts and opinions and questions on these items, so please do reach out via email if you have anything to share.
- 8 & 20 - Milwaukee Street Special Area Rezoning & Mapping - both of these items will be referred to January (see above).
- 7 - EV Ordinance - I am a cosponsor of this ordinance that will require including Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure in some new development projects.
- 42 - Starkweather Drive Assessment District - this is the first step in preparing for the Starkweather Drive reconstruction project scheduled for next year. I will share out more information about a public meeting once it has been scheduled.
- 49 - Referendum on Common Council - I have mentioned the TFOGS recommendation in the past that recommends moving to a smaller, full-time council. While I support the recommendation to acknowledge the alder role as a full-time one, I am concerned about the negative impact of reducing the size by half. I am cosponsor of a resolution that would put these questions on the spring ballot as an advisory referendum in order to hear more directly from residents on this matter.
- 69 - Lease & Purchase of 4502 Milwaukee - this resolution would amend the 2021 budget and appropriate $3M for the purchase of 4502 Milwaukee Street (former Karmenta).
- 72 - Options in Community Living, Inc - this is an amendment to the TIF loan agreement with Royster Corners that would allow Options in Community Living, Inc to purchase the first floor commercial space adjacent to the new library to use as their new headquarters. If this moves forward, we could see Options move into the currently vacant space in 2021.
- 76 - Ban on the Use of Face Surveillance Technology - I am a cosponsor of this ordinance that would prohibit the use of face surveillance by city departments. This technology poses significant issues to privacy and has the potential for very serious negative consequences.
- Items for Introduction (these items will be referred to committees and will be back at a future council meeting for action)
- 84 - Eliminate the City bicycle registration system - I am sponsoring this ordinance change to remove the requirement to register all bicycles in the City of Madison.
- 85 & 97 - Furlough - I am sponsoring an ordinance change and resolution to create a policy around use of furlough for city employees.
- 96 - Design and construction of USH 51 NB, from USH 151 to Pierstorff Street - This will begin the design work for a future road project on Hwy 51 north of Hwy 151.
Discussion of Whether MPD Should Adopt Body-Worn Cameras
The Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee will be discussing whether to recommend that MPD adopt body-worn cameras at their meeting on Thursday. Find the Meeting Details Online Here
Other City Meetings
There are a number of city meetings not highlighted in this update. You can find a full schedule of city meetings here.
Save the Date
- Dempsey/Davies/Maher Neighborhood Meeting #1 - December 14
- 4801 Buckeye Road - Demolition Permit - Demolish single-family residence to construct new single-family residence - December 14
- Salvation Army Family Shelter Meeting - December 15
- Freymiller's Alcohol Public Hearing - December 16
- E. Dean/Allis Neighborhood Meeting #2 - December 17
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