The Bus Stops Here: Public Transit, Good Government and Citizen Engagement

Do you think that an interested “adult city resident” should be able to contact another “adult city resident” who sits on a city government oversight committee advisory to the Common Council? Do you think a Dane County citizen has the right to know who is on a county government office’s “working group” tasked with making policy recommendations for adoption by the larger council? Are you suspicious when someone has special access to governmental decision making (and its purse) but does not have to provide basic contact or naming information in return for that access? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then welcome to the idea of good governance. Welcome too to the reality that our current government is less transparent.

Partnership between MMSD and MATC brings STEM degrees to a diverse group of high school students

College students really are getting younger. This year, 26 students from East High School and La Follette High School spend their days taking classes at Madison Area Technical College’s Truax Campus. They are the first cohort of MMSD’s Early STEM Academy Program.  

By the time they graduate high school in May of 2020, they will have not only earned their high school diploma, they will also have earned an Associate’s Degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) field. The STEM Academy is the result of an agreement between MMSD and MATC to create a dual enrollment program for high school students.

Stopping the school to prison pipeline in Madison schools using restorative justice

Every 53 minutes, a gentle chime invites students into the hallways of East High School, where their principal, Michael Hernandez, stands to the side of one corridor and greets them. “Hey, did you get those credits to transfer,” Hernandez asks one student and shakes the hand of another. He looks for one student in particular in order to spot a rare smile. “I know a few students who walk down the hall because they know I’m going to joke around with them,” Hernandez said. Students walk past “even if they don’t have a class down that way, because they know someone is going to acknowledge them.”

Hernandez is a stark contrast to the stereotype of the authoritarian school leader, but he represents a  change in Madison’s schools.

November 2018 Backyard Heroes

Community Shares, a partner of Madison Commons, recognizes two volunteers each month. The volunteers come from Community Shares' member groups and are selected for their service to the community and to community issues. Hannah Nowakowski, Sierra Club Foundation-John Muir Chapter

Hannah Nowakowski has been an invaluable member to the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter. As a student intern for the organization, Hannah showed a strong commitment to the organization’s goals of protecting natural areas and promoting responsible use of the earth’s resources. Through her work as an intern, Hannah has helped champion efforts to move Wisconsin away from energy production that depends on dangerous oil pipelines.

Phase one of the Oscar Mayer Strategic Assessment Plan has been completed

The City of Madison's Oscar Mayer Strategic Assessment Committee has completed phase one of potential special area plan elements of the strategic assessment for the reuse of the former Oscar Mayer headquarters and food production facility. The initial phase consisted of regional positioning analysis, public participation on the key issues, future vision and redevelopment objectives of the location, and examination of the existing conditions in the area of the Oscar Mayer plant. The Oscar Mayer plant was forced to end production in 2017, and the plant employed more than 4,000 workers in Madison at its peak. The vision developed by Madison officials leverages the corridor’s “unmatched infrastructure capacity and location between the airport and downtown to rise as a regional economic hub. Physically and economically woven into the diverse surrounding neighborhoods, the transit-oriented, employment centered, mixed-use district is now the inclusive gathering hub of the northside.”

The redevelopment objectives from of the area are to maintain housing affordability and minimize displacement, to leverage the corridor’s existing infrastructure and building stock, and to ensure economic recovery boosts diversity in ownership and local businesses.

Wisconsin voter ID law directly impacts students

The November 6 general election is fast-approaching, and it’s a big one. County, state and federal offices are up on the ballot, including the governor’s office, state legislature, and Congressional representatives and U.S. senators. But, some states, including Wisconsin, are accused of suppressing voter turnout through repressive voter ID laws, which could impact election results. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, passed in 2011 after Republicans took control of the state legislature and the governor’s office, is one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. The law requires citizens to show a photo ID and provide proof of residence before exercising their right to vote.

Community bonds make investing in Madison easier

The City of Madison issued a one-week selling period of municipal bonds in early October to fund the renovations of Olbrich Botanical Garden. Sold in $500 increments, the bonds are meant to be more accessible to residents to provide an opportunity for them to invest in their community. While these appropriately-named “community bonds” are receiving much attention, the use of bonds to fund City projects is less unusual than it may seem. David Schmiedicke, City Finance Director, says the City of Madison issues about $100 million of debt a year in the form of bonds to pay for things like facility renovations, road construction and park improvements. Typically, these investments are sold in $5,000 denominations.