Madison neighborhood conference focuses on building community

"Strong Leaders Healthy Places" will be this year's official theme for the Mayor's Neighborhood Conference, a free event held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on Sept. 13.

Guest speakers will offer help by sharing tips on starting and maintaining a dynamic neighborhood association, creating healthier neighborhoods, and best ways to work with elected officials.

"Neighborhood associations, other community leaders and volunteers all over Madison are busy doing great neighborhood improvement work in their corners of the city," said Linda Horvath, an urban planner for the city's planning division and a representative of the Madison Neighborhood Program. "They look forward to the neighborhood conference where they can build their neighborhood improvement knowledge and skills, see long-time friends, meet new leaders, learn best practices from one another, and network for future collaborative efforts."

Headlining the event will be Don Edwards, director of Justice and Sustainability Associates. Edwards has a strong reputation for engaging communities and ensuring voices from all different backgrounds and walks of life are heard in regards to citywide plans and revitalization projects.

In addition to Edwards, more than 300 neighborhood leaders from across Madison will come together to learn and network while partaking in 20 workshops. The workshops are divided into five areas of interest: capacity building, fostering racial equity, building civic infrastructure, constructing neighborhoods for people and growing neighborhood business and food systems.

"Bringing neighborhood leaders together with City staff and elected officials to help strategize around how we can bring greater equity to all our citizens is important to our vision of a high quality of life in the City of Madison," Horvath said.

Besides the workshops, there will also be three ride and walk tours starting at 7:45 a.m. Karin Wolf, City Arts Administrator will lead a bike ride to public art installations in and around downtown, while Katherine Cornwell, Planning Division Director, and Erica Gehrig, Vice Chair of the Landmarks Commission, will lead a walk to the most recent developments in the 100 block of State Street. Finally, Steve Cover, director of Dept. of Planning and Community and Economic Development, will lead a tour of the proposed Judge Doyle Square and South Capital District Planning projects.

Registration is free but attendees are encouraged to register in advance.

"We hope that the conference will result in some new connections among leaders of neighborhoods across the city, new collaborative efforts and strategies to overcome gaps in quality of life, and further strengthening of long-time relationships among neighborhood leaders, City agencies and elected officials," Horvath said.