Mayor Behaving Badly, Part II

Posted April 16th, 2012 @ 4:45 PM by

Ok, when we left off, he was about to go into a rant/lecture.

So, here we go . . .

There are 930 children who are homeless in the Madison Public School System. When I left office in 1997, 28% of the children in the Madison School District were in a household below the poverty level. The number today has doubled, its 56%. When I look at the lasts years intake on women. For one year homeless, one third of them are from outside of the City of Madison and Dane County, when I look at the men, 25% of them are from outside the City of Madison and Dane County. When I look at the families, over half of them are from outside Madison and Dane County and if we went back 1, year, 2, 3, 4 years, in all categories it would be well over 60% of the homeless are from the City of Madison. (Yeah, that’s what it was, not what it is. There has been a change, more and more people are Dane County residents. His own numbers are not 60% for the past year) My obligation is to the City of Madison. I have to make real tough choices with limited resources. The The City of Milwaukee gets $382 per capita, from the State of Wisconsin in shared revenues. We get $32. On a formula supposedly based on population and poverty. We are losing our middle class, we are losing the families that pay the bills. I’ve got to make some tough choices about how to allocate those resources. And even tho some of my friends don’t like me saying this and I’ve said this for decades, its like we have a lifeboat and it has a capacity for 12 people and we’ve got 16 people in a lifeboat and another dozen in the water and I don’t know at what point the lifeboat goes under, but I know we can’t take in that dozen people in the water. We do not have the capacity to solve a problem that Ronald Regan created, by destroying the safety net and destroying public housing. We can’t solve it for Milwaukee, we can’t solve it for Rockford, we can’t solve it for Chicago. And if we attempt to, I will repeat something that I think is very profound. We cannot allow the conditions in Madison to be replicated. the conditions that were in these other cities and towns and villages, now, we do not have the capacity to maintain a tent city for the homeless. The priorities are elsewhere. We have made a conscious decision that anything we do with homeless is to be directed towards one objective, which is to lead to permanent housing. People who are not on that track are only going to get temporary solutions in Madison. I have to figure out what provides the greatest results for the greatest number of people. April 30th is a date that was negotiated, it was agreed upon, it is going to be maintained and please do not misread me, do not think because I was arrested at a block party in 1969, that I am not going to support the staff team that has been working on this site from the original negotiations and if that involves the police department going in and preparing the site, so that it looks like it was the day before the agreement was entered, people are sadly mistaken. I don’t know how many times I can say that and repeat it.

Steve (Occupy) says that you say we don’t have the capacity and I think that we have seen at Occupy Madison is that we do, this community does have the capacity to do more than it has been doing, and we’ve seen when you are creative, new capacity becomes available. People in the community help out with Occupy that were not previously involved in helping the city in its homelessness efforts. Part of the problem is that the City is in a box where everything has to be following a certain model. And we’re saying if we are creative and we come up with an alternative model, resources become available that we didn’t know were available. And Bruce is absolutely right, there is no additional cost to the City, those people who are coming and inspecting already work for the city, right, I hope they are not putting in overtime.

Mayor says they already are working for the city, they cost the city money.

Steve says right and what we are saying is there is not additional cost because they had come out and inspect the site as they do for others, for businesses . . .

Mayor interrupts again, and says “so”, my house sitting there, not having had a fire in the 50 years since it was built is no additional cost to the city?

Steve says I’m not getting the analogy, I’m sorry, I’m not getting it.

Allen says that I understand your concern about Madison being magnet for people that are homeless. I heard a story the other day from a social worker that she knew personally of people who came up from Georgia, because they heard that Madison is a great place to stay if you are homeless. Now, when the site on E. Washington was first set up, it was done as an improvisational project. The people who set it up did not have the experience with the sort of thing that developed. so mistakes were made, people out there who live out there.

Mayor says I’m sorry to interrupt you, there were not mistakes made, it was set up as Occupy for a specific period of time, that was not a mistake.

Allen says he is not disagreeing with that. I’m saying that mistakes were made by people on the site in terms of people who come from the outside and stay there and you’re probably right, if we set up a tent city with an open door policy, it would be a magnet and that certainly is not sustainable. I agree with your lifeboat policy, but what has been learned, by people on the site and people in homes who support people on the site, they know that the open door policy can’t exist. And so, on the 1 and a trillion chance that there is another site made available by the city, there would have to be these safeguards put in place before that site was used. And there are safeguards, with a little creativity and using policies set in place by other places, by other cities, by good minds here in town, with cooperation these safeguards could be set up on an outdoor place so that Madison doesn’t become a homeless place. Let me say one more thing, and then I’ll stop. You mentioned the tea party and the Republicans and Ronald Reagan well I certainly don’t see that situation being reversed any time soon. If anything, a number of knowledgeable people seem to think ti is going to get worse, so I think Madison, if we’re not going to go down the tubes, has to start showing some creativity and we’re not talking about disbanding Porchlight, certainly they are doing a great job, for the people that they serve. A great job. But there is a segment of the community that is not being served and I think that they can be served better.

Ann (from Porchlight) asks to challenge Allen on this, she explains she is an outreach worker, (couldn’t hear, she’s asked to speak up)

Mayor says he has to leave in 10 minutes and he doesn’t want to rush her cuz she is speaking for the first time, he just wants everyone to know.

Ann wonders if they thought about private funding, looked for resources that weren’t taxing the city.

Allen says he sent a letter to George Austin, trying to talk with the Frautchi’s he never got a response. He thinks his letter is a pretty good letter. He didn’t pursue other avenues, but that is one experience that he did have.

Ann says she hears that you are wanting to be creative and the city is saying that they are taxed. They don’t have the resources to do that so, have people at Occupy come together and talked about options (trails off)

? says yes, that was going to be a question I was going to ask the mayor. Obviously, in all this conversation, we are asking to create a tent city. We asked for public land, you said no. what about private land. How would the city react to a tent city later. I’m just curious.

Mayor says if it meets the zoning requirements, if it meets the fire codes. If it meets the health codes . . .

I have another question for you . . .

My answer is, it would be allowed.

One of the mayors aides or a city staff person says that there is a need for a camping permit and that is through the state.

? (Occupy) through the state?

That is what the city did for Occupy on behalf of the folks out there.

Mayor says yes, we, because no body would take the responsibility of getting the permit, the city went out and got it. (Ahem, my understanding is that only the property owner is allowed to apply for the permit!) We’re not doing that again.

? Says I wasn’t here at the start either, I don’t think any of us was.

Somebody says they were.

? says that he was listening to what you were saying.

Mayor says he didn’t want the state coming down on the site as illegal so the city went out and got the permit.

? Says that there are 932 kids in the school district that are homeless, I find that very distressing myself, especially having grown kids. So you relate to getting people into permanent housing, that is what the city wants them to concentrate on pretty much. what is the city doing for affordable housing? I brought up some issues here before . . . .

Mayor says that what is the city doing, for example, certain requirements for developers if they put in housing, the city requires that they set aside a certain number of units that have to be affordable. THEY DO?! DID INCLUSIONARY ZONING COME BACK?! I’ve been in a unit recently that is a brand new apartment that is a 2 bedroom and based on the formula for income, if I am not mistaken, the family that is in it is paying about $8 a month. Wow! What program does that?! That’s virtually unheard of!

Steve Schooler (Porchlight) says he is in the process of building 50 units of housing like that, in part with the support of the city.

What, I’m sorry, what did you say.

50 units of housing, single room occupancy, efficiency, housing. 50. new. units. And they will be, just so you understand, most of our units reange from $300 to $350 a month, including utilities, those units will also be available. Granted, it is not enough, but, its happening.

Mayor says and the individual doesn’t necessarily have to come up with the entire $350 rent, they may be eligible for subsidization, so not only is the apartment itself subsidized, but then the individual does not necessarily have to come up with all the money themselves for the unsubsidized portion. I think I am beginning to understand the issue, he seems to have a very rosy picture of the situation, the isn’t quite the reality for most people we talk to.

Is this being run through an agency that screens people then?

Schooler says yes, I mean Porchlight, we’re the ones that operate it.

Mayor says in addition we have some other programs. The City of Madison is not the agency to provide social services, the State of Wisconsin and the County is, but because for years it was not sufficient, the City of Madison become one of the few cities in the United States, that provides its own community service, social service type of support. Running into the millions of dollars per year. We do everything from supporting English as as Second Language to supporting counseling programs for substance abuse. Now that is not directly homeless, but those are services that go to individuals that because they get those services are able to find housing. without the treatment and the support on the substance abuse, they would be out on the streets. Without the English as a Second Language and the services they would not be able to get the jobs that they have and they would be out on the street. Those are more millions of dollars. We continue to support hundreds, 1000s of units of City public housing, from the Romnes Apartments on the South side to the Truax Apartments on the East side.

What about the people who don’t have the substance abuse or mental health problems out here that would fit the requirements for this lower income housing.

Steve Schooler says they have units available, I mean, there are waiting lists, but there are units available.

6 months waiting lists?

Mayor says we have capacity issues. We are Madison Wisconsin, population 230,000 in the United States of America, we can’t do it for everybody, get that understood. I think you are missing the point when Chicago tears down Cabrini Green or the Robert Taylor homes and encourages families to move to Madison, that is more demand on us. It’s so annoying when this guy gets stuck in the wrong decade, with old talking points.

Steve (Occupy) says the problem he has is that he hears the complaint that we don’t have sufficient resources to deal with this problem and then I see the City turning away resources that could help deal with the problem., because Terry is a resource. Right, he’s somebody that could actually be helping us. And what the city is saying is thanks but no thanks, they are saying that to everyone at Occupy . . .

Mayor cuts in again, saying we have to prioritize what we are going to do. And I’m not redirecting resources and we don’t have the land. I’m sorry, you can’t have Union Corners, there is going to be a development there, ok.

Steve (Occupy) says that there was going to be a development at 800 E Wash. but for the last 6 months that place has been a home to hundreds of people.

Mayor says, “and do you think after what you have done there” when we made an agreement with Occupy Madison and the difficulty we are encountering and the signals you are giving us, that I’m going to move to another site so we can go through this again? What, do I got rocks in my head.

? says what signals are we giving you? I want to understand what signals you are picking up from us, because I am not sure we are sending them.

Lotsa talking.

None of us have ever suggested staying at the site and resisting, we have had private meetings where we have encouraged the break down and orderly evacuation of that property and none of us here are planning.

? says this is what Terry has been working on with the police, so I don’t know where you are getting signals from.

And yet, he felt compelled to call a press conference to demand they get out, when they said they are getting out. What is that about?

? says when everything was moving smoothly there before the deadline approached. we had full cooperation, people had hope, but right now if you are getting signals that people might stay is because they are falling back in to hopelessness. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? I’m going back to ??, I’ll be back in a park, that kind of thing.

The Mayor says that you have to . .. I want you to listen to what you said. You said you are going to set up your own rules, you set up your own rules for who can be there, what happens when people arrive and you dismiss them.

? says, he can’t speak for the others, but, that being the person that has been there 24 hours a day on site pretty much since after Christmas time, we take on anyone that comes into there, I’ve had people, I should say we, have had people come in there at all kinds of days and hours at night, people who are traveling through sometimes, people came from other Occupy’s that got shut down, some people were moving on to other cities, coming through and they couldn’t get in to some place, um, for whatever reason, for multiple reasons we have taken on people over there.

Mayor says he has to get going. I’m in tremendous pain and I just have to get going. ok?

Several people say thank you for meeting with them. I didn’t hear Soglin respond.


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