–submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photos by Valerie Johnson
With the general election on April 7, the Rotary Club of Madison was given a special view of the candidates and the issues for the Madison mayoral election. The format was a debate with each candidate given the topics when they arrived at the meeting. Both candidates were given a question and time to respond. Short rebuttals were allowed.
Paul Soglin is a longtime Madison resident and has served as mayor 1973-79, 1989-97 and 2011 to present. He lives in the Hoyt Park neighborhood with his wife Sara, and has three daughters.
Scott Resnick is the COO and co-founder of Hardin Design and Development, and is serving his second term on Madison’s City Council, most recently serving as President Pro Tempore. He lives downtown with his wife, Kelly.
Question 1: Madison is in the midst of a downtown building boom. Are you concerned about the rapid increase in density? What about high-rise developments such as The Hub on Gilman and Frances Streets? What about historic preservation? How much is too much?
- Soglin cited the tight housing vacancy rates that were driving up prices and sprawl from four years ago and said the new city plan addressed those issues and encouraged the construction that is currently underway. Preserving State Street’s image that Madisonians know, protecting historic districts and design are critical features of how Soglin said the city should manage its growth.
- Resnick, who represents the campus district, wants to keep the downtown area vital and affordable for those who are starting careers and life in Madison. He promotes having a downtown area that is safe and welcoming to all.
Question 2: On one hand growth is the long-term lifeblood of any economy. On the other hand, we hear of cities such as Austin, Texas, which looked a lot like Madison 40 years ago, that now wonder whether such substantial growth may have been a mistake.
- Resnick said economic growth is about jobs. To get them, he believes the city needs to create an environment that encourages entrepreneurs and fosters new business development. He believes that Madison has the resources to make that commitment. He wants the city to be a community that supports strong innovation where there is economic growth for all.
- Soglin answered that Austin’s problems were caused by a lack of planning. However, Madison and the mayor’s office have worked to rewrite its downtown and zoning plans, which will help manage sensible growth. He touted his willingness to make tough decisions, such as supporting the controversial Judge Doyle Square which he sees as a strong source of job creation.
Question 3: By one reckoning, the share of Madison people living in poverty has increased 50% during the past decade. Seventy-five percent of African American families are below the poverty level. It appears that what we’re doing to reduce poverty is not working.
- Soglin strongly disagreed with the veracity of the data in the question. Emphasizing that poverty in Madison is not at an acceptable level, he says the current 2013 data shows a reduction from 75% to 58% for African American poverty in Madison. He believes that Madison is closing all of the gaps and outpacing the rest of Wisconsin and the U.S.
- Resnick says that the solutions to poverty are education, safe housing, strong transportation and equitable forms of financing. Investments must be made in early childhood education, affordable child care and Internet and computer literacy and access.
Question 4: There is a lot of criticism of the City about race equity with regard to arrests, incarceration and treatment by the police, particularly with respect to our African American and Hispanic communities. Do we have a law-enforcement race-equity problem?
- Resnick said that we “have issues of trust throughout city government” and that the court system cannot solve this issue. We need jobs and equity.
- Soglin believes that as we create success in schools and employment, we will ‘end the classroom-to-prison’ pipeline. He insists that we respect the police departments. He said the Madison Police Department is not racist, and focus should not be on that department as representing all of the ills of society.
Question 5: Our Madison lakes are a sad reflection of what they once were. What can the City do to substantially improve them?
- Resnick believes that we should not be the only one at the table citing that we should be in partnerships with experts that address the run-off issues. Only broad-scale collaboration will solve challenges facing the lakes.
- Soglin believes that we need comprehensive solutions that require collaboration with the farmer, and local, county and federal governments. He cited the $35 million that is being spent with the Madison Sanitation district to filter out phosphorus that is making its way into the watershed.
Question 6: In 1980, Ronald Reagan gave us all a laugh when he said that he wouldn’t politically exploit Walter Mondale’s youth. Mr. Resnick, some must wonder if you are too inexperienced to lead City Hall. Mr. Soglin, Madison’s challenges have not diminished on your watch, in four years you will be the same age as Reagan when that question was asked.
- Soglin said “age has nothing to do with the election.” He has been called gray, bland and tired to everyone’s laughter. Government can’t do it all but he will not shy away from the tough decisions and is not afraid to offend when it is in the best interest of the city and it citizens.
- Resnick said he has the experience to be mayor, and pointed to his knowledge of technology, innovation and job creation based on his personal business experience. He also cited his leadership positions in the City Council as valuable experience. Those are the leadership qualities that he brings to the table. He said we can do a lot when we all work together.
- Resnick believes that we must make investments in the city that will make the city a great place to live 40 years from now. He said the city must work to ensure that all the city’s voices are heard.
- Soglin said the city must spend more effort to address poverty and equity, and in building the city’s economy, which will facilitate progress in those areas. In applying the city’s limited financial resources to those areas, Soglin said we need to make inspired decisions on resourcing’ that will require clever collaboration.
So, Rotarians……it is time to go to vote.
We would like to thank Madison City Channel for videotaping our meeting this week. You can watch it on the WEB.