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District 19

Alder Keith Furman

Image of Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Contact Information

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

District 19 Blog

System Reform Efforts, Public Safety and Budget Update

August 3, 2020 12:51 PM

I wanted to provide an update on some important City issues during this incredibly challenging time in our community. As we grapple with a pandemic which is causing great upheaval to everyone's lives, Alders are challenged with doing our part to help with recovery, an extremely difficult financial situation for 2021, and an important and powerful call by residents to better address systemic inequalities and racism. I have spent the last few months doing my best to listen, learn, and react accordingly.

More people are paying attention to what is happening in our local government these days. I welcome this renewed interest. I continue to believe local government plays a huge role in people's everyday lives with all the different services the City is responsible for. Many of you likely already know this, but I'd like to share some key points of what the role of an Alder is:

  • Advocate for your district and your constituents in the City's governing process.
  • Serve on City committees as appointed
  • Communicate actively with constituents in multiple ways
  • Participate fully in the process of developing and approving the annual City Budget.
  • Communicate the needs and views of your constituents to City staff, committees and the Council.
  • Participate in the development and implementation of a Council Legislative Agenda.

Alders don't manage the day-to-day operations of the City (and that includes our public safety departments). We are able to pass legislation and make budget choices that impact City operations.

System Reform Efforts

In reaction to current events, I want to share some local governmental actions that are currently being worked on. This isn't intended to be an exhaustive list but will hopefully highlight some of the current efforts. If you have questions or comments about these items, please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail, phone (608-912-0000) or at upcoming open office hours (which I announce on my blog).

Alder Workgroup to Develop Logistics & Operational Details For MPD Independent Civilian Oversight

A group of Alders is working on the implementation of two key recommendations of the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee Final Report: An Independent Police Monitor and a Police Civilian Oversight Board. This report was the developed by a committee of dedicated residents who reviewed recommendations from an independent study of our police department that the Council commissioned a few years ago. The committee put in an incredible amount of work and gathered feedback from numerous individual and organizational stakeholders to develop the recommendations for moving forward.  The Alder Workgroup's [expected] last meeting is on Monday, August 3. Their recommendations will be introduced at a future council meeting. I will post details about when residents can share feedback on their implementation recommendations. I believe the Madison Police Department (MPD) is a progressive department with a difficult job. But there is room for improvement. It is important that all residents are able to trust our police department and right now that isn't the case. We must work toward that goal as a community. I believe the creation of an Independent Police Monitor and a Police Civilian Oversight Board is an important component to improving policing in Madison.

Police & Fire Commission

Established by State Law, the Police and Fire Commission is an independent [statutory] body that oversees the hiring, promotion, discipline, and terminations of police and fire personnel in the City of Madison. They are currently conducting a search for a new Police Chief.

Learn more:

Upcoming meetings:

Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee

This committee was established to develop recommendations related to body-worn cameras. I am looking forward to reading and considering their recommendations. In the past, I was a fan of body-worn cameras. The cost to implement and maintain body-worn cameras could be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. However, there have been several studies and clear examples that body-worn cameras don't stop bad actions. The officer who killed George Floyd was wearing body cameras. That evidence and the fact this would be a costly endeavor at a time when we are facing budget shortfalls makes me less convinced that this is prudent course of action right now.

Upcoming meetings:

Non-Lethal Options for MPD

There are two pieces of legislation related to MPD's use of non-lethal weapons and both will be up for discussion at the following meetings:

It's expected both will be up for consideration/vote in September at a Common Council meeting.

I am a co-sponsor of legislation entitled: "Prohibiting the use of tear gas as of November 17, 2020 and requesting a study of alternatives by the Madison Police Department." [Legislation File #61265]. I'm supportive of this legislation because tear gas has been banned in war for almost a century by the UN Geneva Protocol of 1925, as well as by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. I don't believe MPD should be using this tool. We also need to understand the circumstances in which it has been used and hear how those situations will be handled in the future.

Another piece of legislation entitled: "Creating Section 5.17 of the Madison General Ordinances to prohibit the Madison Police Department from using tear gas, mace and impact projectile devices" [Legislation File #61250]. The original version of this legislation just proposed this prohibition in crowd control situations, but a new version changed it to all situations. I do not support this legislation. While I noted above that I support banning tear gas, I don't believe banning the additional items is smart policy. I recognize the value of officers having options besides guns in some situations. Nationally, we've seen some misuse of non-lethal weapons. It's incredibly important for the department to have good training and use of force policies to prevent unnecessary injuries. I think this legislation carries the possibility of unintended consequences that we need to better understand. It is my preference that the Independent Police Monitor and Police Civilian Oversight Board help provide important reviews of the use of these tools to better inform any policy decisions we may need to make.

Property from Defense Logistics Agency under the 1033 Program

Another piece of legislation being considered is entitled "Creating Section 5.18 of the Madison General Ordinances to prohibit the Madison Police Department from obtaining any property from the Defense Logistics Agency under the 1033 Program." [Legislation File #61252]

The National Defense Authorization Act, through its 1033 Program, allows law enforcement agencies to acquire military property for the cost of shipping. Primarily, MPD uses this program for items such night vision equipment, robotics, flashlights, respirator masks and first aid kits. This ordinance prohibits the Madison Police Department from obtaining any property from the Defense Logistics Agency under the 1033 Program. Over the past six years (2014-2019), the average annual value of items received was $160,138. MPD estimates the impact of a prohibition would be $25,000 in annual operating supply funds (i.e. respirator masks, medical tourniquets, etc.) and $100,000 in annual capital funds for larger equipment (i.e. robotics, optics/night vision, etc.).

I believe that police departments across the country have become militarized to an unacceptable extent that has implications throughout our criminal justice system. I also believe that as we battle COVID-19 and deal with incredibly challenging budget issues, it would be reckless for us to outright ban all 1033 acquisitions. I'm working on an amendment with colleagues that would line up with similar legislation that recently failed in the US Senate.

My amendment is a work in progress, but it's focused on prohibiting the department from obtaining tear gas, bayonets, grenade launchers, grenades, and explosives, armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, tracked combat vehicles, and weaponized drones. These aren't items the department has sought from the 1033 program any time recently or in some cases use at all, but I believe that codifying this restriction is a step toward ensuring our department does not become further militarized. I've spoken with Chief Wahl who is OK with this prohibition.

This legislation will be up for discussion at the following meetings:

It's expected to be up for consideration/vote in September at a Common Council meeting.

Prohibiting Carotid or Neck Restraints

"Creating Section 5.16 of the Madison General Ordinances to prohibit Madison Police Department employees from intentionally using carotid or neck restraints. [Legislation File #61431]"

According to MPD's use of non-deadly force standard operating procedure:

"The intentional continued restriction of the carotid neck arteries is not a trained MPD technique and is therefore prohibited, unless deadly force is justified."

I'm looking forward to learning more about MPD's position about this particular legislation, but I'm very much inclined to support it.

This legislation will be up for discussion at the Public Safety Review Committee (Lead Committee) (8/12/2020) and likely up for consideration/vote in September at a Common Council meeting.

Commercial Ownership Assistance Program

The Council passed legislation last month focused on the creation of a Commercial Ownership Assistance Program [Legislation File #60944].

The 2020 Adopted Capital Budget included $500,000 in the Economic Development Division for this program.

From the summary of the legislation:

[The purpose of this program is] to make progress in equalizing economic quality of life indicators between white residents and residents of color. In particular, Madison needs to do more to support diverse business and property ownership. Data shows that while Communities of Color represent approximately 27% of the City of Madison's population, business ownership rates for People of Color are much lower (between 3-9% using varying metrics) within the City (Source: Reference USA Business Database).

Business and property ownership is a vital pathway to economic empowerment. For Madison to make meaningful progress in addressing racial disparities the City must go beyond programs focused on addressing basic needs, and direct more resources and strategies toward building wealth and economic empowerment among communities that are not sharing in the City's prosperity. The City designed this ordinance to address these inter-related issues by identifying, supporting, and capitalizing business owners seeking to purchase or develop commercial space.

Small Business Equity and Recovery Program (SBER)

The Council will be considering new legislation entitled: "Resolution - Amending the 2020 Adopted Capital Budget of the Economic Development Division to appropriate $750,000 for a Small Business Equity and Recovery Program (SBER).  [Legislation File #61605]

It's hard to summarize this legislation because it contains a lot of different elements, but it's focused on providing financial support to under-resourced businesses owned by people of color and other historically underrepresented groups of individuals during this period of immediate COVID-19 response. The legislation file has the full details.

Conceptually, I'm a big fan. I'm also worried about our 2021 budget and the impact this spending would have on our large deficit, so I am still learning what I can about this one.

This legislation will be up for discussion at the following meetings:

The Budget

Our budget is never easy and 2021 is going to be exceptionally difficult. We struggle every year because state aid that hasn't kept up with inflation (more here), there are clearly needed infrastructure improvements, and general costs to continue services is increasing. COVID-19 has made things a lot worse.

Budget 101

The City of Madison has a capital budget and an operating budget.

The capital budget provides funding for the City's major construction projects including building new facilities, improving our transit system, maintaining our roads and parks, and purchasing major equipment. The capital budget includes the Capital Improvement Plan, which lays out anticipated projects for the next five years. The capital budget is primarily funded via borrowing over a 10-year period. Payments against this debt are made from the operating budget and begin the year following their incurrence.

The operating budget provides money for running City departments and services. It pays for the day-to-day spending on employees, materials, supplies and community programs. The operating budget is primarily funded via taxes. We cannot use debt to fund our operating budget.

Operating Budget

We're looking at a $30 million budget shortfall in 2020 and an estimated $20 to $25 million shortfall in 2021. For the 2020 shortfall, we're hoping to receive additional help from the federal government. The City has also implemented some different controls and will be using money from our "rainy day fund".

If the 2021 shortfall is as high as projected, it will require radical cuts in City services which would include layoffs. I think there is a false perception by some that is there is a lot of waste  in the City budget. This may be the case at the federal level, but our City is pretty efficient and in some cases understaffed. We're also constricted by the state on how much we can raise taxes. Even with what will likely be a maximum allowed tax increase in 2021, it's going to be incredibly painful.

Information from 6/9/2020 Presentation on the Budget (
Information from 6/9/2020 Presentation on Budget

City departments have already submitted their budget requests to the Mayor. For the operating budget, the Mayor asked each department to submit budget based on what it would take to continue current services and a budget with a 5% reduction. The Mayor and her team will work on putting together a budget proposal to present to the Council. We should receive the Mayor's Executive Capital Budget in September and the Mayor's Executive Operating Budget in October. We vote on a final budget in November. We have a lot of work to do and will be facing very difficult choices. I urgently want people to recognize that there are not easy answers. As with all issues, I welcome feedback and ideas from constituents, and I will be most interested in suggestions that include willingness to consider how increased spending in any area will require cuts in others. I hope you will join me in thinking hard about how our spending choices demonstrate our values as a community. We will need to make sacrifices in order to make progress.

Public Safety

George Floyd's murder has elevated a discussion on what policing should look like in our country. The big phrase being used is 'defund the police'. That phrase means a lot of different things to different people. To be clear, I'm not for abolishment of the police. I don't believe that would lead to good outcomes for anyone. I've heard this discussion framed as people for public safety and people against. That's a huge misinterpretation of intent. There are different ways to provide public safety than how most cities currently do it.

I'm for proper funding of the police, where the police focus on crime. I don't believe the police should be responsible for everything they are responsible for now. Based on my discussions with the department, they don't believe that either. They shouldn't be mental health counselors, they shouldn't be social workers, they shouldn't be medical professionals, and they shouldn't be education specialists.

I support the continued reform efforts taking place when it comes to MPD, but I'm also supportive of re-structuring and re-imagining public safety. One idea I'm very excited about is the possibility of mental health first responders, like Eugene, Oregon's CAHOOTS initiative.


I've heard from people who are worried that this means untrained social workers would be sent on service calls. That's not what anyone is suggesting. Social workers have a great deal of training and it's absolutely possible to provide them with additional training to be first responders. Not every situation requires a uniformed officer and a gun. Unfortunately, many situations get escalated due to such a response.

What am I doing?

As I noted above, I have spent the last few months listening, learning, and doing my best to make decisions that consider both intended and unintended consequences. I will continue to do that. I encourage you to reach out and share your opinions with me. Feel free to share articles and books you've seen.

Alders have received thousands and thousands of e-mails over the last few months. I've read every single one of them and when a District 19 resident includes their address, I've replied and had some helpful conversations.

This isn't an easy time, but I will continue to work hard to improve this City I very much love.

-Keith F

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