Updated: Jan 28
The bad news regarding the pandemic continues. With new variants emerging, we are still at war with this invisible enemy, and will continue to be throughout 2021.
2021 is going to be a year where our local businesses continue to struggle, people continue to face financial challenges and food instability, property owners will continue to struggle to pay property taxes, and the fight against the pandemic will continue. If elected Mayor, discussions will move beyond following the County's lead, and reopening. Our City saw a budget shortfall of $250,000 in 2020, and that will continue in 2021. These issues lead to my priorities as your Mayor.
1) If you elect me to lead our city, I will immediately assemble a task force comprised of concerned Monona residents, local business owners, local government officials, and business advocacy groups.
It's important for the future of our community that we work together to address our local businesses needs, and how all of us can do a better job of supporting them so they can survive these tough times, and thrive in the future.
Keeping a forward looking mindset is essential for leadership. With that in mind, I have already established three potential vaccine sites in Monona so we are better prepared when we receive the vaccine. My longstanding relationships with our local business community made this possible. Eventually the skies will clear, the sun will come out again, and we have to be prepared to move forward.
As part of my philosophy of leadership, I believe it's important that we better establish Monona's tourism brand. Monona sits in an ideal location to be a thriving tourist destination. And as such, many of our local businesses will see increased revenues. When I led the Monona East Side Business Alliance in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, we established a Tourism Task Force that laid the groundwork and we can continue this work together. This led to data driven decision making in developing the foundation of our tourism brand.
2 ) We must get ahead of the wave of crime sweeping through our City. Your safety falls squarely on our city's leadership and I am ready to get to work on increasing your safety and finding ways to improve our community's connectivity.
Our community deserves leadership that is actively working to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. We all know with a rise in financial hardship, this oftentimes results in an increase in crime. We must address this issue on many fronts including community engagement. My approach is neighborhood based. Our high percentage of elderly residents are especially vulnerable. This priority falls under my comprehensive communication plan that I will implement if elected.
As your alder, I have already established the If You Love It, Lock It campaign but we must do more. On February 2nd, I am hosting my Public Safety Town Hall with our Interim Police Chief Sara Deuman, Monona Officer Nathan Reynolds, and Gloria Reyes CEO of Reyes Public Safety.
Increasing our community connections is one way we can increase our safety. We all have a responsibility to look out for our neighbors and to know our neighbors. Neighborhood watch groups, community policing, and neighborhood associations provide people with an immediate way to communicate with each other and alert each other of crime events in our neighborhoods.
But, we must watch out for the pitfalls of neighborhood watch groups like people taking matters into their own hands, falling into racial stereotypes and group think. My town hall event will have an equitable perspective which is essential in discussions of policing and safety.
3) Take a proactive and collaborative approach to our city planning starting with San Damiano and South Towne Mall.
On June 1, we will close on the purchase of San Damiano. The purchase price is $8.6 million. We will deduct the $2 million grant from Dane County for a total purchase price of $6.6 million for this 10 acre addition to our parks system. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create an incredible space that drives tourism and brings more business to Monona.
We have budgeted $50,000 in 2021 for San Damiano for hiring a grant specialist, developing a conceptual plan, appraisal services, and an archaeological survey. It's a very tight budget for that scope of work but we're hopeful that we'll receive other grants to assist with the purchase of the land. The Friends of San Damiano are also fundraising to assist the City with the purchase. The capital fundraising by the friends group is expected to be a multi-year effort.
On the day we announced we were purchasing San Damiano, I would have worked to establish a steering committee to assemble ideas for its future and collect data so we can make data driven decisions. The steering committee would include residents, business owners, Monona tourism professionals, economic development professionals, a representative from Aldo Leopold Nature Center, and cultural stakeholders from Ho-Chunk Nation. It's essential that the community be involved in the planning every step of the way. Although we'll be getting a late start, it's not too late to start this committee but we must get to work immediately. Consideration of a national design competition should not be dismissed as a way to generate the best ideas at the lowest cost to the City.
The large site of San Damiano will put a lot of pressure on our entire parks system and our police department. One thing I've learned by serving as a Dane County Parks Commissioner is how maintenance heavy parks are and how expensive they are to successfully operate. Having a site with 10 acres will require a lot of staff time for mowing, tree maintenance, protecting the historic mansion, and monitoring the park and maintaining the safety of those using the park.
Olin Park in Madison is a good example of a large park that doesn't have organized activity other than the boat launch. It's renowned for its nefarious activity because of its size and areas that are not visible from the street. Our police department will need to regularly patrol the park day and night to prevent illicit activity. We must get to work immediately to activate areas of the park. The current plan is to put a "few picnic tables and benches out there" for the next couple/few years. This is not a sound approach. We need to place an emphasis on data driven decision making.
South Towne was made an Opportunity Zone two years ago. Opportunity Zones are a federal program where financial incentives are provided to developers who can turn the site around with improvements quickly.
As soon as that designation was determined, I would have assembled mall owners and adjacent property owners to start working on 10 year future planning session. Since it's all privately owned, the City cannot be the lead on this but we should be a central component since we have access to all of the owners. I have lined up private funding for the master planning and have a volunteer lead group that could spearhead this for the City.
If you share my thoughts and concerns, please consider making a donation to my campaign. You can sign up to volunteer, get a yard sign, and donate on my home page.
As always, you can reach out to me to provide input by email. I hope to hear from you!