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
Just in case you were wondering
Dear Friends and Neighbors
I hope that you are well and finding joy. I have said before that writing can be cathartic. I appreciate all of you that have read and commented on my posts.
I think that for the most part I am a mellow fellow. I intentionally try to find time to meditate and reflect each day. You might have heard of the concept of vicarious trauma. In my work with the UW-Madison Odyssey Project, and at times with my service to the city, I witness so much suffering. Each day, someone that I serve is battling domestic or intimate partner violence, trauma from recent shootings; housing insecurity; inadequate incomes, unresolved mental or physical health needs; and daunting anxieties over the well-being of their children. I pride myself as having empathy and compassion, so observing the horrific conditions that far too many face living in Madison-quite literally breaks my heart.
Numerous times, I have described Madison as "a tale of two cities". On one hand, we live in a small, big city that wins many national accolades. On the other hand, for those that are vulnerable and marginalized (like most of our BIPOC neighbors) Madison is a challenging and dismal place. Lately, I feel that Madison could be the tale of many cities, as I am witnessing conflictual dichotomies around generational interests, class, status, and other components that make our intersectionality (all the things that we are). I want to highlight one example that has left me perplexed. To begin, let me offer context.
To help our local, small bars and dining establishments to weather the devastating economic onslaught brought on by the pandemic, the City initiated the Streatery Program to allow for outdoor dining and consequently, music -where in the past, this might not have been allowed. As someone who had spent many years of my adult life working in the hospitality industry, I recognize and appreciate how important our local hospitality industry is to the fabric of our neighborhoods and city. As the sponsor to amend the Streatery program, I wanted to pause and offer my intent.
This amendment was only intended to impact Steateries that play loud, amplified music that directly borders family homes. Homes where people that had laid their foundations long before the Streatery program was enacted certainly long before the pandemic. For me, I am deeply concerned for these folks, who like all us-continues to suffer from the uncertainties of the pandemic; but on top of this, they have no control over amplified music blasting their lives-their home.
To be as clear as I possibly can, this is not about folks practicing, not about Make Madison Music; not street festivals; not about venues that already host live amplified events. (Sylvee); not about acoustic music. This is only about protecting the sanctity of existing homes that directly border the boundaries of a Streatery. I have been utterly dismayed in how my actions have somehow been perceived as a "war" on music, or on musicians. I have had people flat out dismiss the fact that one of the homes negatively impacted has a young baby present. I have seen comments where folks have suggested that the neighbors subjected to amplified music should move if they don't like the music.
Some folks have gone as far to suggest that neighbors seeking respite from amplified music are somehow expendable. That their concerns come from some unwarranted privilege. Now I know those of you who have never directly cared for a young baby-or perhaps your children have grown up-might not know/remember what it is like to care for an infant. Before this program, neighbors had their backyards only connected to a parking lot. Now they have a beer garden with amplified music -as almost literally in their backyards. Perhaps some of you don't care, or my words cannot resonate, but I must always advocate for our babies and families well-being first and foremost.
I personally applaud and support the Streatery program as I have more establishments in my district than others. This change does not impact even a fraction of the current venues and will not be permanent as the program ends in April of 2022. Truth be told, my constituients have only raised concerns about two venues, and when I spoke with the original sponsors of this program, they understood and support this amendment because of their concern for families that have been negatively impacted.
It should be noted that each neighbor directly impacted by amplified music, that have raised concerns, have supported their neighboring establishment for years. Even donated to their go fund me pages during the pandemic. For decades, these establishments hosted live music indoors with no concerns. In striving to support our vital small businesses, I was thrilled about the Streatery program as I took office.
So, you might see how I am completely dismayed that somehow this issue is perceived as some attacks of the arts as I discovered on social media. Longer than some of these commentators have been alive, I have personally supported and selfishly benefited from the arts. In my 35 years of service to children and families, I have opened doors and facilitated marginalized neighbors to have access to the arts. This is not about attacking the arts, but rather supporting my constituent's rights to live in peace.
This Monday The Madison Arts Commission will look at my amendment and weigh-in. If so inclined, please help me to support impacted neighbors while supporting our local, small businesses. Proposed Streatery Outdoor Live Music Restriction
The Madison Arts Commission will be discussing a resolution restricting live outdoor music with amplified sound at Streatery venues near residential dwellings at its meeting on Monday.
Thanks for reading! I am sending you all my best wishes and care!
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