Photo Credit: SHELLEY K. MESCH, STATE JOURNAL
I’m running for county board because in these challenging times we can and should make a difference at the local level. I will defend our values against attacks and work with our community to expand progress on issues ranging from equity to environmental protection and from transportation innovation to criminal justice reform. I’ll do that through hard work, persistence, listening to all sides, and bringing people together.
Fight for Clean Lakes and Sustainable Agriculture
Our district is a water district. We have Lake Monona, the Yahara River and Starkweather Creek. We love to paddle, swim and fish. But last summer we had a horrible, blue green algae bloom. Algae produce toxins that are harmful to pets, fish and people, and is caused by phosphorus, largely from farm runoff.
Counties are primarily responsible for implementing farm conservation standards. Our district needs a progressive environmental leader on the board. I’ll bring my knowledge as an agronomist and environmental scientist to the board to improve our lakes, farms and local food economy.
- Support farmer innovation in storage, composting, injection of manure and nutrient management planning and stop winter spreading of manure to reduce run-off.
- Promote urban programs to reduce pollution from fertilizer, streets, winter salting, and leaves.
- Organize a Food and Farm Summit to develop an ambitious plan for expanding healthy, affordable food and making Dane County the innovative food and farming capital of the Midwest.
- Expand organic and grass-based farming to improve water quality and livestock health.
- Expand markets for local and organic food.
- Review leases of county-owned lands and procurement contracts to support expansion of local and organic food at county venues.
- Scale-up urban agriculture, farm-to-school and regional processing, distribution and marketing of local food.
Protect and Care for Those who are Vulnerable
The county provides critical services for kids, seniors, people with disabilities, homeless and those who need mental health services. I will fight for quality human services, to support those who are in need, to live with dignity.
- Listen to families and our non-profit community as the county transitions to Family Care, the state’s managed care program, and work to address what they may see as deficiencies and where there may be concerns.
- In 2018, the county will conduct a comprehensive review of mental health services. I’ll review the study results, talk with community leaders and make recommendations for more efficiently addressing the needs of those struggling with mental illness.
- Support alcohol tax to fund alcohol and drug addiction programs including the county’s drug court and address the growing opioid epidemic.
- Increase wages for childcare and caregiver jobs. The vast majority of these workers are women and disproportionately women of color. The average caregivers pay is $10.09/hour, extraordinarily lower than the national median of $17.78.
Reform Our Criminal Justice System: Keep More People Out of Jail
Wisconsin and Dane County’s racial disparities in incarceration are among the worst in the country. Efforts over the last decade such as expanded diversion and alternative sentencing efforts and a declining crime rate have reduced our jail population significantly, but further reforms are needed. I support greater innovation to reform our criminal justice system to keep our communities safe, address racial disparity and do more to keep people out of jail.
- Expand deferred prosecution and diversion efforts for non-violent offenses to reduce the number of people in jail.
- Work with the sheriff, community leaders and researchers in the criminal justice reform movement to set specific goals to decrease the arrest rate for African American adults.
- Collect, analyze and making publically available demographic data of our jail population in real time.
- Review local ordinances and lower penalties where we can for non-violent crimes.
- Expand funding for National Alliance for Mentally Ill (NAMI) to expand their crisis intervention training to first responders.
- Ensure the hiring of criminal justice personnel, therapists and social workers reflect the demographics of the community.
- Expand early childhood education and school-based mental health initiatives.
- Support training front-line staff in mindfulness.
Address Race Equity and Social Justice
We must fight against structural racial inequality and ensure that we have a just, inclusive government that works for everyone. We cannot move forward as a progressive community until we decrease the inequality in this county between the haves and have nots – most often from communities of color. Women and LGBTQ people also remain vulnerable in our culture and suffer from discrimination, abuse, violence and exclusion.
- Support funding for the new Tamara Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion.
- Implement the goals from Dane County’s 2015 Racial Equity Analysis including in data collection, hiring, training, budgeting and criminal justice reforms.
- Advocate for opportunities for women and girls at every level of decision making and participation.
- Provide education and cultural competence training for all county employees around equity in race, gender and sexuality.
Make Housing More Affordable
In Dane County there are more than 34,000 very low-income households including 1,800 school children who are homeless. Moderate income families also struggle with high rents and mortgage costs. When housing isn’t affordable, people, families and communities all experience insecurity and are vulnerable. Worse, it’s tough on kids. I serve on the Design Coalition Institute Board, a non-profit that focuses affordable housing and I will make affordable housing a priority.
- Support development of an action plan for filling the housing gaps addressed in the county’s 2015 affordable housing assessment report.
- Explore ways to partner with municipalities to access WHEDA and other funds and focus on addressing the affordable housing gap.
- Set higher energy efficiency standards for rental properties. No one should have to live in poorly built and leaky houses and pay high utility bills.
- Remove barriers that prevent the use of accessory dwelling units. These “right-sized,” affordable houses (typically up to 700 ft2) are built on the same property as the main residence and can serve as an apartment for a parent, child, a caregiver, or renter.
Focus on Climate Change and Clean Energy
Climate change is the greatest environmental crisis of the century. I was appointed to serve on the county’s Climate Action Planning committee, and I will fight to rapidly advance clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce carbon pollution in Dane County.
- Fund the transition of Dane county trucks and cars to bio-gas from the county landfill or electric vehicles.
- Transition the Dane County airport to a clean energy facility by generating 6 MW of electricity from solar panels installed on the airport terminal roof and on 30 acres adjacent to the airport. Add geothermal to heat and cool the terminal.
- Help businesses in the 6th District access PACE (property assessed clean energy) a new innovative financing tool to scale-up their energy efficiencies and renewable energy and save money.
- Expand county-wide electric car charging infrastructure to rapidly expand the electrification of vehicles.
- Explore creation of a joint transportation commission now while partnering with local communities to seek state approval for a future regional transit authority to provide regional governance and sales tax to support transit infrastructure.
- Partner with the City of Madison and other local governments to advocate for regional transportation authority and a multi-modal transportation system including bus rapid transit, rail, expanded ride-share vans and bike lanes.
- The largest source of waste to the Dane County landfill is from food and other organic waste that produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. I support diverting food waste from the Dane County landfill, recycling it into biogas (to offset diesel and fossil fuel in the county and municipality fleets) and compost.
Make Government More Transparent and Accountable
Government processes and decision making shouldn’t be a puzzle. Too often they are. I’ll work to ensure Dane County’s actions are transparent and encourage citizen’s to be democratically engaged.
- Join with other counties to fight the state’s photo ID law, a political tactic that has harmed the integrity of our voting by purposefully confusing, discouraging and deterring certain voters.
- Advocate for the UW-Madison Chancellor to make student ID’s compliant with the photo ID law (as UW Green Bay, UW-Stout and UW-Superior have done), so all students have access to the ballot and can easily vote.
- Create a transparency task force to identify new, creative ways (i.e. an app contest for digital applications) to engage the public and make government more open and accountable.
- Support making publically available information more accessible and livestreaming county meetings.
- Improve Legistar, the County’s legislative tracking system, possibly adding alerts and explore using the county’s electronic voting system to record every vote by the board.
- Partner with UW Journalism to create media internships for students to learn their craft and expand press coverage of county board activities.