For the Record: Officers back in MMSD schools a part of Gloria Reyes’ mayoral bid

Also on FTR: Record-breaking year for referendum around Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — Madison mayoral candidate Gloria Reyes wants to explore bringing police officers back into Madison’s schools, as well as target a number of changes to the incoming bus rapid transit system — a key project for incumbent mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The issue wouldn’t fall under the complete control of the mayoral office, but one that Reyes could bring the influence of public pressure.

Reyes’ comments on For the Record highlighted key issues in her race to unseat Rhodes-Conway, who is expected to make announcements about her plans for the race later on Sunday afternoon.

RELATED: In run for Madison mayor, former cop Gloria Reyes stakes bid on public safety

The school board for the Madison Metropolitan School Board voted in the summer of 2020 to end their contract with the Madison Police Department, providing school resource officers to the district’s four high schools.

Gloria Reyes was the board president at the time, and while she had initially opposed the idea, ultimately chose to back ending the contract. The vote came during as Madison became the site of weeks of protests over the murder of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake, but the conversation had started prior to 2020.

“We were in a pandemic and we had protests around this. It wasn’t fair for our community to continue to have officers in schools when we weren’t even in school. We cut the contract, it was a really good time to hit the hard reset button,” the former MPD police officer and detective explained on FTR of her decision.

“It wouldn’t have helped them to stay. They couldn’t do their job effectively if they were continuing to be criticized for their actions while in schools.”

Now, Reyes said, she believes the school district has had time to assess and evaluate solutions for school violence without officers, and says she wants to push for a conversation to add officers back in.

“That is something I would explore,” she noted.

A decision to bring school resource officers back into school would not fall within the direct purview of the mayoral office, but if she won her bid for mayor, she could use the position to put public pressure on the school board t0 take up the issue again.

In her interview, Reyes said she would also create an Office of Violence Prevention that would include members of a variety of different city departments to address a holistic approach to reducing violence in the city.

Bus rapid transit, metro redesign could see big changes if Reyes wins bid

Bringing a bus rapid transit system to Madison has been one of incumbent mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s biggest projects, and one of her core campaign issues when she first ran nearly four years ago.

Now, millions in federal funding has propelled BRT to a potential start date in 2024, under a redesigned metro system where faster and more frequent rapid transit buses channel more riders through key city routes.

The project has not been without constant controversy, however, with the system provoking outcry from downtown businesses when Rhodes-Conway laid the BRT route through State Street.

RELATED: ‘It doesn’t make any sense’: Madison’s rapid transit plans hit snag yet again after proposed amendment

In addition, some residents disapproved of plans to move some of the bus stops after maps were released showing the newly-designed metro system would favor fewer routes and stops to achieve higher-frequency buses–resulting in longer walks for some.

Now, Reyes said that if elected, she would upend both of those controversy points: she would divert the BRT routing off of State Street, and push back BRT plans until new metro transit maps could be drawn that would eliminate residential concerns.

“I’ve spoken against the process of how we’ve engaged our communities. We should have done an equity analysis at the beginning of the bus rapid transit discussion, and not wait for the federal equity audit or assessment or analysis.”

A federal equity analysis, required by law because of the system’s use of federal funds, found the metro transit redesign which includes BRT would benefit minorities and low income residents.

Major delays to implementing BRT could risk federal funding, city staff have said in the past.

Also on FTR: Wisconsin Policy Forum’s Ari Brown on record-breaking referendums across Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Policy Forum’s Ari Brown also joined For the Record on Sunday to discuss the Forum’s recent report, finding record-breaking referenda for both schools and other local governments across Wisconsin in 2022.