Alder Brian Benford
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Benford’s Updates
I must be getting old!
Hello Friends and Neighbors
I hope that this note finds you well and finding joy. It's been hotter than my puppy's breathe outside but I am a summer being so I don't mind. Many of you know that I was an alderperson for District 12 (D12) from 2003-2007. As much as I loved my role serving D12, I have to proudly say that District 6 (D6) is one of the most historic, vibrant and funkiest areas of the city. I know that most of you agree, because I see all of you folks, from all over town, over here. Whether it is hoisting a locally- brewed barley pop, eating at an amazing restaurant, going to fantastic, free festivals (ah, the things we used to do) or enjoying beautiful Lake Monona, D6 has it all. Having moved to Madison in 1979, I cannot tell you how much D6 has changed over the years. For that matter, the whole dang city
Many of my acquaintances bought homes in the Jenifer/Willy street area during the early 1980's. Some, for as little as $70K. Now, these same homes are approaching or spilling over a million dollars on the market today. Being 61, I doubt that many of my old friends in the 80's, ever thought their home values or our neighborhoods would have undergone such drastic changes. As a father of four, beautiful adults in their thirties and twenties, I am reminded that perhaps within D6, we have tension between generational perspectives.
As I think of D6, I think of roots. Two of my children attended Marquette and OKeeffe. My four oldest graduated from East High (across the speedway from D6). I worked at Red Caboose, Marquette, OKeeffe, Operation Fresh Start, the Atwood Community Center (now Goodman), in the Social Justice Center for Citizen's Action Coalition and was a manager at the old Bob's Blue Plate (now Monty's) when it first open.
For over 40 years I worked and raised my family between D6 and D12. When I meet and talk with younger folks in D6, it is inconceivable to them that they might be standing on the corner of Willy and Livingston talking to me in 40 years. Yes, I will probably be dead, but the reality is; most of the folks that swarmed here to D6- to live in the "hip" part of the city, will, as young folks do-move on to other places.
I notice this intergenerational conflict plays out in most new developments within D6. Without that deep, rooted affinity to place, and lacking the real, personal histories that many of us have within D6, some of our younger neighbors, might not have the same sense of ownership or investment into our neighborhoods. I am not suggesting that this is a bad thing, but it causes me deep reflection in my service.
I write this with last Tuesday's council meeting in mind, where we amended our zoning codes that stripped away some neighborhood input on certain size developments in certain areas that could directly negatively impact D6. It is a very complicated matter, that truth be told, the vast majority of folks living in Madison paid no interest in. No surprise, few seek knowledge of anything happening in city government. I am tremendously proud that is not the case for D6ers.
Many of our neighbors and community leaders stepped up to voice their opposition to the zoning changes. Some proponents attempted to claim that these changes were not only centered on increasing housing stock and density, but were somehow tied to creating more equity around housing and developments. This left me feeling cheesed off in how it had been framed-especially to new alders. I heard promise of creating more opportunities for small scale BIPOC/non-profit developers. Not to be too much a cynic, but I will not hold my breath waiting for that.
Many people lobbed critiques that somehow, us D6ers, wallow in our own privileges because of our strong neighborhood associations and leaders. I bristled at these assertions for many reasons but mostly- we have strong neighborhood associations and leaders because years of developments has changed the fabric of D6 over the last 40 years. We had to organize to ensure that where we lay our head at night, where we raise our kids, build our foundations for life- would not be under constant assault by developers (not all) who cared more for profit than people.
As the intergenerational dichotomy plays out in the future, I am deeply worried about many of my old acquaintances getting priced out of their homes. As I recently looked for a new 'affordable' apartment to rent, I was shocked to see 2-bedrooms going for over 2K. Please don't misread me. I understand that change is inevitable. My only hopes is that future changes will balance the histories, or the roots of old farts like me with the interests of our younger neighbors. I believe that any new development needs to be guided by these principles. With that said, please pay attention. Your neighborhoods depend on you.
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