Although the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping many neighbors, family, and friends apart, I hope that you are able to connect via video app, email, text, and even via good old-fashioned telephone calls. Checking in on those you haven’t seen or heard from in a while is always a good idea since isolation can at times be rough on us all. Even as some restrictions are carefully eased by Madison Dane County Public Health, and other restrictions are recklessly abandoned by our gerrymandered State Legislature and partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court, please be safe and continue to practice physical distancing.
As for many of us, my job has changed due to the pandemic. Even though I am fortunate that my UW “day job” is relatively unimpacted since I am a longtime telecommuter, taking care of alder business has changed in both good and bad ways. The abilities to meet with folks via video or audio chat and to virtually attend city and neighborhood meetings are potential gamechangers in terms of increased access and participation opportunities. That said, for those who do not have internet access or prefer/ need to attend meetings in person, virtual meetings are a barrier. Fortunately, participation by phone is already an option on Zoom and many platforms. I imagine that once Public Health advises us that in-person meetings with safeguards are appropriate and city staff can safely accommodate these meetings, a hybrid system will develop. I hope folks will eventually have the opportunity to participate in city processes either remotely or in-person, whichever is more convenient.
Speaking of city staff , we all owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude. Many city departments have been shifting employees to fi ll gaps when needed. For instance, many departments pitched in to help the Clerk’s Offi ce during the spring election when they were swamped with absentee ballot requests, ballot counting, and the need to staff polling places. Many extra hours have been put in by those working either remotely or in-person. Those city employees who are interacting with the public in person deserve our special thanks. Garbage collectors, Metro bus drivers, janitors, and those looking after our parks and street projects, etc., are all helping us to keep the City functioning while risking their personal health.
Obviously, our first responders, including the police, firefighters, and EMTs, are taking tremendous personal risks when responding to calls for service. While PPE is more plentiful than at the start of the pandemic, these folks risk personal harm every day due to the unpredictable nature of their interactions. Like healthcare workers who have put their personal safety at risk for the benefit of everyone, we should never forget their selflessness and dedication to the community.
Common Council, Mayor Rhodes-Conway, and city staff all recognize that it is unlikely that our lives and city government will return to pre-COVID status anyPatrick Heck time soon, if ever. Federal, state, and local governments will be addressing COVID-19 challenges and repercussions for years to come. Addressing budget shortfalls, unemployment, small business assistance, food security, housing needs (homelessness, protection from eviction or foreclosure), and protections for immigrants, the disenfranchised, and the undocumented, will be eff orts that may never stop. Perhaps a small, but tarnished, silver-lining to the pandemic is that bolstered eff orts to ameliorate its impacts in these areas could become permanent. COVID-19 has exposed the cracks in our society and economy that have always been present, but not necessarily addressed or seen by everyone. Many of us are busy with our lives or willfully turn our heads. I hope that in the coming months and years we can all recognize inequality in all its manifestations and work together to overcome it.
A few updates on other issues follow. You can find more information on my alder update page listed below. I send those updates to all who sign up for my email list at that page and to the TLNA listserv.
Complete the 2020 Census ASAP!
Census data determines how more than $675 billion in federal funds are distributed to communities across the country for healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, education, transportation, and more. That’s over $2,000 per person for Madison and Dane County every year and we will miss out on that if not counted. Visit my2020census.gov. or phone 844-330- 2020.
Sherman Avenue and East. Mifflin Partially Closed to Vehicles
As you’ve likely noticed, Sherman Avenue and E. Mifflin St. are part of the city’s initiative to assist community members in having safe, healthy spaces for walking and biking during the COVID-19 Safer at Home order. These are temporarily “shared streets”. Vehicle drivers with destinations in the partially closed zones will continue to have vehicle access, as will the #2 Metro bus on Sherman.
City Allows Delay of Property Tax Payments Without Penalty Madison property tax installment payments will be due in full on May 31 and July 31, 2020, as usual, but Common Council recently approved a resolution that allows property owners to delay payment until as late as Sep. 30, 2020 with no penalties or interest. Dane County is expected to formally approve these provisions on May 21, which will allow Madison to formally enact these penalty waivers, an attempt to off er payment fl exibility for those who may be struggling to keep up with expenses during this diffi cult time.
On-Leash Dogs Allowed in Most Parks
Common Council has approved the new ordinance and associated policies that allow on-leash dogs in most city parks. Under the new policies, dogs will not be allowed on or near playgrounds, athletic fi elds when activities are occurring, conservation parks, and in several other locations/circumstances. The city’s eight off -leash dog parks, none of which are in District 2, will remain off -leash. Dogs are also not allowed in Breese Stevens Field nor on the beaches at both Tenney Park and James Madison Park.
Reynolds Park Alcohol Ban Update
On May 2, a temporary 90-day ban on alcohol in Reynolds Park went into eff ect. Due to city committee schedules being impacted by COVID-19, the earlier request for a permanent ban won’t be enacted until mid-summer. The permanent ban was requested by many nearby neighbors, TLNA Council, and by me after last year’s surge in illegal behaviors associated with alcohol consumption in the park. Like most other city parks, alcohol permits for special events in Reynolds Park can still be applied for through the Parks Division.
Salvation Army Redevelopment Update
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) recently released the results of its annual competition for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The Salvation Army’s apartment building slated for the 600 block of E. Miffl in St. was not awarded the funds they were seeking. According to the Salvation Army, the planned redevelopment of their overnight shelter for women and families will continue as planned, while the apartment building will likely be delayed as they reapply for WHEDA’s 2021 funding cycle. The shelter component of the redevelopment is tentatively expected to break ground in the spring of 2021.
East Gorham St. Sanitary Sewer Project
Later this summer E. Gorham Street between N. Livingston and N. Blair is expected to be under construction for a sanitary sewer replacement project. Gorham will remain open during the project, but there will be temporary lane closures during the anticipated construction period of mid-July to late October, Visit the project’s webpage at https://bit.ly/2YWuj0R to get updates and to sign up to receive project emails.
East Dayton Reconstruction Two blocks of E. Dayton Street between N. Blair and N. Livingston are expected to see extensive reconstruction beginning in August. Visit the project’s webpage https:// bit.ly/3cpLf3y for information. Yahara Watershed Study Approved On May 5, Common Council authorized funding for the East Isthmus and Yahara River Watershed Study. This study is the first of a two-phase watershed study that will attempt to address the flooding that has plagued the near eastside in recent years. Phase I is primarily a data-taking and modeling effort with Phase II focusing on developing/evaluating flood mitigation options. Phase II could start in mid-2021, depending on funding availability.