Oil pipeline expansion. For over a year, the Zoning and Land Regulation Committee (ZLR), of which I’m now the Chair, had to respond to actions resulting from a request for a Conditional Use Permit in northeast Dane County. Oil pipeline company Enbridge wanted to expand the capacity of its Line 61. Per federal law, we could not say “no” to the pipeline expansion. We did vote to require additional insurance to protect Dane County land and water. Enbridge appealed our decision to the entire Dane County Board of Supervisors which supported the decision of the ZLR committee. Enbridge is pursing legal action to reverse our decision even though the Wisconsin Republican led legislature and Governor Walker made it unenforceable.
Day Resource Center. For more than three years, I have been working with fellow Supervisors and others to create a Day Resource Center for our homeless neighbors. Last year the Board approved the purchase of the “Messner” building on East Washington for the Center. Due to it’s condition, opposition by some neighbors, and other challenges, it is unlikely the Center will open before 2017.
Housing First. More likely to help those most in need, “Housing First” programs are expanding throughout Dane County. Both the county and the City of Madison have funded and developed housing units so that the issues leading to homelessness can be addressed. Housing First programs have proven effective at reducing homelessness by helping individuals get into a safe, stable place. Then, whatever challenges they face, mental health, medical conditions, unemployment, or addiction, can be addressed.
Living Wage. Recently, I saw an ad from online shopping giant Amazon for their southeast Wisconsin shipping facility. Amazon is looking to hire new employees. The pay offered was $14.50 per hour with weekly paychecks and immediate employee benefits. There is support on the Board for Dane County to pay a $15 living wage. To do so within the 2016 budget would mean cutting from other programs. Incrementally, we can find a path to pay a fair wage to all our employees. It may take a referendum to raise the levy to do so, and I ask that you join me in supporting a $15 living wage.
Environment. As a member of the Lakes and Watershed Commission, fellow Supervisors citizen members, and I continue to work to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other pollutants entering our lakes. We work with farmers and others to ensure we keep nutrients in the ground feeding crops not algae.
Racial Disparities. A shared goal of my fellow Supervisors and I is the elimination of racial disparities in our county. Many committees including a diverse group of community leaders are working together to ensure everyone in Dane County has a chance to climb up the ladder of opportunity.
Transportation. While the Governor and majority party have prevented us from pursuing commuter rail, Dane County is working with Madison and local municipalities to pursue other transportation options.
2017 Budget. Preparations for the 2017 Dane County Budget have begun. More than 50% of the county budget funds the multitude of human services Dane County provides, and that make the difference between surviving and thriving for many people. The challenge is how to pay for any new initiatives. Without raising the levy, any additional services would require cutting current ones. This is an annual debate between what we need and what we can afford. Yet, I believe, together, we can make Dane County a better place for everyone.