It’s hard to believe that it’s already mid-July! The following is a brief update of what has been happening at the county.
The Day Resource Center for the homeless continues to move forward, however, not as quickly as I would like or without some twists and turns. The County Board approved purchase of a building on Martin Street in the Town of Madison so that we could provide consolidated services for those who are homeless – showers, washing machines, access to computers and social services, to name a few. However, the location continues to draw criticism from some who either don’t want the facility to be near their neighborhood or who want the facility to be located in the central downtown area. I voted for the Martin Street location for several reasons: it is the only permanent option that could be up and running by this upcoming winter – a commitment I feel strongly about; it is close to the central city; it is already used as a shelter and would have fewer barriers to overcome prior to occupancy. While there is a proposal to commit $4 million to a downtown homeless shelter, I cannot support that proposal considering the many other needs of the County. I will continue to work to ensure that this facility is available to meet this segment of our population.
I’m excited to have a Monona Grove student as part of our new class of future leaders into the Youth Governance Program. In this program, select high school students serve on County Board committees, participating in County government and casting advisory votes. This is the third year of the program, which is collaboration between the Dane County Department of Health and Human Needs and UW Extension. Welcome Sam McCarville to the Public Works and Transportation Committee!
Alliant Energy Center Pavilions are being constructed this summer, ensuring the return of several key events to the local economy – the Midwest Horse Fair and the World Dairy Expo. The pavilion construction will be completed early this fall. In addition, the County Board signed a contract with The Hammes Company to initiate a SWOT assessment (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the Alliant Energy Center, its place in the community, and its future. The City of Madison and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau also contributed funding to this collaborative effort.
In a bittersweet meeting, the County Board approved a contract with its largest employee union, AFSCME local 720 and 705, extending it through 2016. What makes this bittersweet is it is the last time we will be allowed by law to use collective bargaining as a tool to negotiate union contracts. This contract provides the County savings in employee health costs, which we were able to turn into a modest wage increase for County workers. The contract demonstrates that local governments can bargain in good faith, respect their hardworking employees, and come to agreements that meet the needs of employees and taxpayers alike.
This fall when you go to the ballot to cast your vote for governor and other state offices, you will also have the ability to offer your opinion on two important issues. The first relates to the State minimum wage. The County Board approved an advisory referendum question on the following question:
“Should the State of Wisconsin raise the minimum wage to $10.10?”
Many of us on the County Board believe that the state should raise the minimum wage to decrease income inequality, lower reliance on government programs, allow lower-income workers to support a family and adequately reward hard work. And we think you’ll agree — but even if you don’t, we hope you’ll make your voice heard on the ballot.
The second question asks:
"Shall the next Governor and State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?"
By rejecting federal Medicaid funding, the number of Wisconsin residents who have healthcare coverage is reduced while the costs to the state for BadgerCare program increases. Thousands of people are no longer covered by BadgerCare because we have not accepted these federal funds.
I was proud that Scott McDonell, Dane County Clerk, was proactive and ready to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, starting the very day the federal court decision was issued. Hundreds of same sex couples married in Dane County, in just one week. I witnessed several of these weddings and the joy I saw will be in my heart for a long time!
The County Board will be spending a lot of time in the next year assessing the findings of a recently released Jail Study. This study looked at how we can better meet the safety and security needs of our jail population, recognizing the impacts of mental health and drug/alcohol issues associated with those brought into the jail system. The result of these discussions will help us decide if we need to build a new jail, either downtown or in a greenspace site outside of the City, or make other repairs to the existing facilities.
The County Board passed a resolution authorizing County Executive Joe Parisi to intervene in the proposed MG&E rate changes. MG&E has proposed increases to their service rates that will increase their base charge assessed to all customers. The proposal will have a chilling impact on those with solar or alternative energy sources, who otherwise would have lower energy bills due to less energy usage. The County Board approved intervening in the state rate change process, so that the county board can argue against these proposed flat-fee, regressive rate increases.
We continue to move forward in expanding the Dane County Landfill, providing the county with another 30 years of capacity at 1/9th the cost of building an entirely new county landfill. The expansion will also double the renewable energy generated by decomposing wastes in the landfill, from $3.3 million worth of energy to more than $6 million and is expected to be completed this fall.
Lastly, we continue to work with the 911 Center Board to ensure that all calls received by the 911 center are quickly and effectively routed to the correct responding entity. I am confident that improvements have already been made and that when you are experiencing an emergency , calling 911 will continue to provide life-saving responders to your aid.