Born in Madison, Jon spent most of his childhood in Ohio before returning home as a young adult. He is a photographer and has been co-owner of Mother Fools Coffeehouse on Madison’s east side for 28 years. Jon also loves music and performing, and co-launched Uvulittle Records to promote artists who played at Mother Fools. His favorite part of owning the coffeehouse is all of the friendships it has launched over the years.
What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?
I think we’ve got real issues with housing and we need a lot more housing stock to get the price to come down. I know a lot of people who have been priced out of Madison because of rising rents and property tax.
We have also, since before I moved back here, a real problem with racial disparity in terms of incarceration. That’s an issue that comes back in our DA race every four years. Everyone promises they’re going to do something, and nothing yet has really been done in that area.
When you have too many people who agree with each other, there’s a lot of unchecked assumptions, and I think that we see that a lot in our politics. I was on a board of directors for a company when I was young, and I was very much on the more liberal, progressive pro-worker side of the equation. The board was dominated by that position. The most conservative person on there was a person from a financial background, and over the few years I served there, I really appreciated, more and more, his contribution. A lot of times, I think we would’ve made bad decisions without someone there saying, ‘Hey, wait a second.’
What do you wish people in our community understood better?
I wish people understood better how their actions affect others. I think we have a real easy time focusing on ourselves to the exclusion of our larger community.
What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for people in our community?
I would bring together people who are experts in different fields, and have them figure out what we can do to improve our community. I’m not that expert. I like to read a lot — I try my best to understand what’s going on, but I don’t have any illusion that I fully know.
What in our community gives you hope?
Really, the young people I interact with. We’re really lucky — we have high schoolers who come in here, and I know my friends’ kids. I’m really almost always impressed when I speak to young people. The media gives us this impression that the younger generation is so self-focused and kind of exclusive and really dogmatic, but when I’ve actually talked to people in that generation, I find they’re really compassionate, caring people.