Madison mayor candidates tackle downtown issues

Madison mayor candidates tackle downtown issues

With incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin away on the East Coast on city business, his opponents took the podium at the Concourse Hotel Thursday night. The forum was focused on issues in downtown Madison.

Richard Brown, an accountant and former Dane County supervisor, stressed a strong fiscal backbone and faith-based connections in the community.

“We’re going to do this through strong fiscal policy and partnerships and collaboration. I want to be your mayor because I’ve been placed in this situation just for a time like this. My background has done a lot of things,” Brown said.

Christopher Daly talked about his activism and his desire to establish a public bank for the city of Madison to protect citizens from a pending economic downfall. He mentioned economic, social and environmental sustainability as important points on his platform.

“The businesses in the downtown, I think that they’re going to play a vital role in achieving that vision of equality and employment and opportunities,” Daly said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of cooperation on the parts of both government and the business community.”

Bridget Maniaci boasted her family’s history in Madison, and told the crowd she’s ready to bring something new to the mayor’s office. She stressed that a fresh perspective on development was needed in the city.

“We’re getting to those geographic boundaries and limits,” Maniaci said. “So now we’re about to hit this very real sort of second generation point in our city. And we have to be smart; we have to be savvy. We can’t just continue to build out, and we have to bring new ideas to the table.”

Scott Resnick, who holds a spot on Madison’s common council and started his own business in his UW dorm, put equality gaps and fair Internet access at the top of his priority list for the city. Talking about economic development downtown, he said retaining quality business is important.

“So we need to be looking towards the future. We need to be trying to think of ways that our economy can create a place where anybody would want to create a company and keep a company here in town,” Resnick said.

The four candidates present for the forum were asked a series of questions with topics ranging from the importance of public input to public safety on and around State Street.

On the issue of homelessness in the city, Brown promised a path toward solutions. He also ranked affordable housing and dealing with the homeless population in his top three issues for the city.

“I have a plan that we can really really help people and it’s a plan that stands on solid grounds. We can fix this,” Brown said. “If we come together and we partnership, and it has a lot to do with our faith-based organizations and Housing First.”

Daly told the crowd he would like to see a day shelter implemented immediately and said it does not have to be a brand new building.

“Aside from even building new facilities, I think we already have the space. It is here. And it’s just a matter of the political will to use it, to utilize it,” Daly said.

Maniaci also put housing in her top three issues for the city and criticized the city’s placement of resources that could help the homeless.

“Over the last 40 years, we tend to push homeless services, social services to where it is politically expedient on the edge of the city,” Maniaci said. “So let’s bring it to home. Let’s put a shelter and a day shelter where folks who need it most can most easily access it.”

Resnick set a deadline for fixing the homelessness problems in Madison.

“We have the ability to end chronic homelessness in the city of Madison by 2016. Right now, we are starting to work down the right path, using things like Housing First, but we need to start going above and beyond in these conversations to make sure we are all on the same page, to coalesce resources, to make sure that any individual who needs a shelter can find one,” Resnick said.

Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and Downtown Madison Inc. hosted Thursday night’s forum. The next forum is scheduled for Feb. 4, all ahead of the primary election on Feb. 17.