Alder Samba Baldeh
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Baldeh’s Blog
Budget and other D17 Updates
Dear Neighbors -
I hope this finds you and your family safe and well in these difficult times.
There really is nothing as important as the upcoming election. I hope and trust that you will- if you haven't done so already- visit your polling station on Nov.3rd with a Photo ID (and mask). Early voting will continue to be available until Saturday, Oct 31st at the times and locations listed here
2021 City Budget:
The annual city budget was introduced last month and will be reviewed by the Council and committees through November. You can read the Mayor's summary of the operating budget here.
Some of the highlights are:
- The Mayor's budget proposed postponing design and construction of the Reindahl Imagination Center until 2023 and 2024. I sponsored an amendment which was adopted by the Finance Committee to move back to 2021 and 2022.
- The property tax levy will increase by 1.4%.
- The increases in costs are largely financed by drawing down $9 million from the reserve fund.
- The budget does not anticipate additional funds from the state or federal government for costs related to COVID-19.
Sheltering the Homeless:
Reindahl Park: When the Covid-19 crisis began the City closed the night shelters because of the risk of contagion in the enclosed space. The Mayor issued an Emergency Order that opened certain city parks, to camping for the homeless. When the Order was issued in April, we didn't know the length or the scope of the pandemic.
The transfer of the homeless from the City's shelter to the parks was contrary to many ordinances that prohibit camping in the City's parks. There are no grounds for camping and as a result much of the natural landscape will be ruined for years to come.
The most significant problem stemming from the camping has been a series of crimes- including a homicide- at the site. Unlike the shelters, there is little supervision and as a result the encampment has eliminated much of the use of the park by other community residents. This has been the problem in virtually all of the parks where these encampments have been established.
My response: As the situation in the parks, particularly Reindahl became increasingly unsustainable and as the weather became worse (and unlikely to get better), I wrote a resolution to end the encampments and for the city- and county- to find alternatives for these people. This proposal was rejected by two city committees that complained that there is no alternative to the campgrounds. The parks and the out-door should never be an option for our most vulnerable population, homeless should not be seen as normal. These are Americans who in many cases serve this country in the military. They are veterans and in some cases in this situation not because of their own fault.
My view is that:
1. The County has a role and fiscal responsibility.
2. As long as the homeless are placed out of the public eye in the parks, no alternative will be found.
Men's Shelter: At the beginning of this week, the construction of a men's shelter was announced at the current location of Play Haven on East Towne Blvd. By Wednesday, the plan had been shelved when the seller found another buyer.
Although I agreed to sponsor the move to buy the property, I had a mixed view of the project. I thought that the project was likely to be quite large and allow for more than 100 men at a time. This would require a significant amount of funding for supervision and maintenance. Looking at two earlier projects, the city has challenges in this regard.
On the positive side, the site was not near homes but is close to East Wash bus lines. Also, as I've noted before, we need an alternative to camping in the parks or in the Warner Park Shelter.
The city will continue to look for a site for a large men's shelter. Even if one is quickly purchased, it would require major reconstruction that will take until 2022 to complete.
Crime on East. Wash:
Given the high volume of traffic on E. Washington Ave, there has always been law enforcement problems. There have been a series of problems at some of the hotels that have been particularly alarming. In addition to a homicide, there have been shootings, drug sales and probable cases of human trafficking.
We have also seen (and heard) the late-night car and motorcycle racers going up and down E. Washington and Hwy 51. The noise goes on past midnight that is very disturbing. For motorists who happen to be on the road and suddenly surrounded by cars going 60+ mph, any crash would be deadly.
While a City Staff Team headed by the mayor's office is working with MPD, Madison Police for the Eastern District have been stretched thin and are unable to assign patrols for this specific area all the time. I have had many meetings with the business owners and some hotel managers & owners and have urged them to pool their resources and hire patrols that can walk through the properties on a continuous basis. They now meet regularly, which is very helpful in minimizing crimes by Hayes Rd. and the far end of East Wash.
Although there have been no significant known instances where the problems occurring in the hotel area have directly affected the surrounding residential communities, these are serious problems that will affect all of the businesses which will in turn have an adverse effect on all of the communities.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about city policies or programs. I can be reached at email@example.com.
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