Madison leaders work to improve resident engagement in people of color, lower income areas

City leaders are trying to make civic engagement accessible to all. Unless you’re in city government, understanding what goes on inside the City County Building can be tricky. City leaders don’t want that be true any longer, so they’ve created The Task Force on Government Structure or TFOGS.

The 11-member committee has been at work for the past year and a half reviewing the city’s current process of obtaining resident engagement and participation. To do that, committee members have been out the community talking to residents and current and former city staff about what works and what doesn’t.

“There is a disconnect in what residents have told us they would like to have available to them in terms of means of connecting with the city government and how the government and it’s structures actually work,” said Eileen Harrington, the chair of TFOGS.

Harrington said right now most of the public’s input really only comes from four districts in the city, namely in the isthmus and near west sides. TFOGS wants more engagement from everyone especially people of color and people living in lower-income areas in the city.

“One thing that we learned is there is a very high level of interest in those neighborhoods in what the city government is doing. But there is very little knowledge or understanding about how the city government is structured, and how it works and how residents can engage,” Harrington said.

One thing that has come out of the TFOGS research is that it’s really hard for people with busy lives to get down to the city council meetings, which are usually at night and downtown. It’s difficult for people to find child care or even parking.So officials are trying to develop a way for people to engagement remotely, online,.

Officials have also heard that the city’s agenda is not very user-friendly so they want to make council meetings easier to follow online.

If you’d like to give your input to TFOGS you can attend a meeting at Warner Park Community Center Tuesday night. It is from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Dinner and child care will be provided.

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