Task force finds current Madison city government setup limits representation for communities of color, low income populations

The city of Madison is not set up to allow everyone an equal shot being involved in democracy, according to a city task force that looked into Madison’s government structure for two years.

The Task Force on the Structure of City Government talked to people in and out of the city and state, sent out surveys and looked at data, all trying to figure out what the government could do better.

The members found what’s in place now isn’t working for everyone, especially communities of color and lower income groups.

“The majority of decisions are made by a very small group of people at the end of the day,” said Justice Castañeda, one of the task force members. “And that was one of the things that we saw as being very alarming, that this is done in the veneer of representation or representative democracy, and it’s actually doing the opposite.”

The group broke its findings into three: committees, common council and mayor’s office, giving the biggest recommendations for the first two.

For one, the more than one hundred boards, commissions and committees should be restructured, and two, alders should be full-time, with districts redrawn from 20 to 10.

“To be effectively and aggressively engaged in your district’s business, it requires a lot more,” Castañeda said. “It’s not a part-time thing.”

The cost for the change is estimated between $1 and $2 million dollars a year, which Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway isn’t sure she could get behind, saying to News 3 Now there might be less costly methods of bettering representation.

She did express interest in looking at the other recommendations of the task force, and she said the districts will be redrawn after the 2020 Census, though a change in the number of alders would have to be approved in a voter referendum.

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