It's actually quite simple. I'll lay out a few ways we can make life better for people in Monona.
• Let's become obsessed with maintenance.
Our city has a lot of amazing qualities. It's no wonder so many people want to live here. The sense of community, the parks, the pool, the lakefront, the eclectic mix of businesses. But as with everything, there's always room for improvement. I'd like to see us really focus on maintaining what we have. Let's get really good at it too! And whenever we're discussing adding a new amenity or piece of infrastructure, let's really analyze the maintenance demands that will come with it. Will it require us to purchase new equipment? Will we have enough staff to maintain it? Many cities are struggling to maintain what they have but keep on building. Let's not get in that situation and instead, let's really focus on maintaining what we have before we add more.
• Let's bring the communication out of City Hall and to the people.
Here's a quick story to help illustrate how I will communicate with you—my neighbors and fellow community members. Every day at 3pm there is a drag race down my street, Gordon Avenue, when the high schoolers get out of school. Recently there was a hit and run two doors down. The victim was badly injured and was hit by a high school driver.
I emailed the City Council to tell them about the hit and run and asked if there was a way we could get speed humps on my street for the months while school is in session. This was the suggestion of our Chief of Police and it would be the ideal solution.
I was asked to gather a few of my neighbors and come to a public safety meeting on Feb. 23 at 6:30pm or 7pm. Either way, I had two other commitments that evening and did not have time to corral my neighbors. In today's world, where we're all short on time, it's a lot to ask for people to come to city committee meetings. Many occur only once per month.
If I'm elected to the council, I will come to you. I will ask that one or two people be present to walk your street with me illustrating where the challenges are for you. Then, I will ask you what solutions you would propose. We can brainstorm a bit to make sure the solution works for both sides. I will then take that conversation to the committee meeting and share our conversation and ask for that solution to be implemented.
What this accomplishes is reinstating the lost art of face-to-face communication. We are in a new playing field in communication. Human connection is being lost due to social media and people are often using texting and emailing as a means of communication when a conversation (in person or phone) would work best. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a human on the other end of our keyboards. It will also reduce conflict and potential lawsuits if we just sit down with our neighbors for a friendly conversation.
• We can say no to the money.
It can be so tempting to go for grant money when it's dangled in front of us. But we know grant money isn't always a sure bet. Take the Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant that we thought we were going to receive for Grand Crossing Park that was yanked at the last minute. Grant money allures us into new projects that we may not necessarily need. That new project will require maintenance, more staff time, more energy, and more costs not covered by the grant. We can just say no once in a while.
• Let's have more empathy and understanding for those who come to us with their problems.
On the campaign trail, I've heard a lot of frustration from people who feel they are not being heard, understood, or have been on the receiving end of harsh statements by council members. One individual who has lived here for two years said he is considering leaving due to the way he was treated by a council member at the first meeting he ever attended and publicly spoke. :(
I will bring humble leadership to the council. I will lead with empathy and understanding foremost even if we disagree. I will always show respect to those who come to share their thoughts even if the comments are hard to hear.
• Let's find the easiest and cheapest solution to fix a problem and do that.
South Winnequah Road is an example I can use in this case. I'm not sure where the idea came from but there is talk about the widening of south Winnequah Road which would require cutting a lot of trees so sidewalks can be put in. The problem is that cars drive too fast there, in the summer there can be up to 1,000 cyclists per day, and that stretch sees about 4,100 cars per day. I don't believe there have been any accidents but it is a recipe for disaster because that beautiful street was not designed for 4,100 cars per day.
My background in Geography/Urban Planning tells me that we actually need to do the opposite. We need to make it narrower and less predictable in order to take advantage of inherent traffic calming measures. Think about driving down Willy Street. There is activity everywhere, parking on both sides much of the day, pedestrians, cyclists and a high number of cars and it's relatively narrow for all of that activity. That's why we tend to drive slower there. It's less predictable, cars are turning in and out, someone could step out at any minute—we have to pay close attention. When you widen a street so it feels like a 747 could land on it, cars will drive much faster and it will become more dangerous. We've had four fatalities in Monona in 2019 which is a record high.
I've talked with numerous homeowners on that stretch and have proposed an idea that many seem willing to try. We could declare that entire street a Bicycle Boulevard. It's not designated as such now but that is what it is. We could paint a lane on the west side of the road keeping all bicycle traffic on one side. On the inside of that, we could paint a lane for pedestrians. So the bike lane acts as a protective buffer between the cars and the pedestrians.
When we have a road that sees that much bicycle traffic and there's no sign of it coming to an end, we just have to roll with it (sorry for the pun). We could also put stop signs at many of the intersections as a way to deter cars from using it as a thoroughfare. This would be a fairly inexpensive solution to try for one year. Then we could revisit it and talk with those who live there to see how they fared. Would cars just go to the next street up and use that? It's possible as people tend to find the next easiest way but we could lay down some speed humps to make that street less desirable for through traffic.
We spent a lot of money redeveloping Monona Drive and it would be great to see more traffic on there. Currently, we see about 14,000-16,000 cars per day and it has the capacity for 30,000-40,000. Having higher traffic counts on the Drive would help stimulate economic development because it would be more appealing to businesses—more traffic = more exposure = more potential customers.
Do you agree or disagree with my plan? Feel free to reach out either way and share your thoughts. I'd love to have a face-to-face conversation with you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.