Our Wisconsin Revolution - Dane

meet the candidates

County Board District 6

Pam Porter

Why are you running? What are your top two policy objectives?

I am running because our collective house is on fire. Under this President and this Governor, everything I have spent my life working for - freedom, equality, justice for all, voting rights, worker’s rights, environmental protection - is threatened. Our highest elected officials are attacking our values, undercutting our laws, spewing racist bigotry and hate about women & immigrants, calling white supremacists stand-up citizens, giving enormous tax breaks to the rich, punishing working people, gutting health care, gutting environmental protection.

I’m also running because I love my community and I love what we stand for. Since I announced my candidacy I’ve knocked on over 1,200 doors and have sat down to talk with many of my neighbors. It’s been inspiring. We have amazing people – many of whom could live anywhere in the country but chose to live here because of our reputation of being a creative, inclusive community.

But our community didn’t happen by accident. When I moved here 30 years ago, our eastside neighborhood looked a lot different than today. Many buildings at Schenk’s Corner and on Willy Street were empty and run down. We put our values to work and together built this community. We created organizations like Common Wealth, ReStore, Red Caboose, Tenant Resource Center, Goodman Center, Wil-Mar, NAMI and most recently the Beacon. We created art collectives and performance spaces and co-ops like Union Cab, Nature’s Bakery and Willy Street Co-op. This district is about amazing, visionary, people who built something special that we need to protect.

In these crazy, challenging times, we can and should make a difference locally. We must defend our values against attacks and build a movement that advances progress on issues that matter. My policy priorities will be: (1) Fight for Clean Lakes and Sustainable Agriculture (2) Protect those in Need: Provide Quality Human Services, and (3) Reform our Criminal Justice System: Keep More People Out of Jail.
 

What qualifications and/or experience make you a strong candidate for elected office?

I am a first time candidate, but long-time community advocate and activist. I have worked to advance policy both from an outside and inside government perspective: as Executive Director for the statewide environmental organization Clean Wisconsin; board member of many community-based organizations; as Executive Assistant to County Executive Kathleen Falk; Outreach Director for Governor Jim Doyle; and, Special Assistant to DPI State Superintendent Libby Burmaster. Currently I work as a Research Manager at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agriculture focusing on sustainable farming and food systems.
I have worked for many campaigns including as campaign manager for Kathleen Falk, treasurer for Mark Pocan for State Assembly, and Field Director for Tammy Baldwin for Congress. While working for Wisconsin Citizen Action, I partnered with Planned Parenthood to launch ItsUp2Us, Wisconsin’s first women’s candidate training program.
I have also been active in our community. Currently I serve on the board of the Design Coalition Institute, a non-profit that focuses on affordable, green housing. Previously I served as a board member for Madison Audubon Society, One Wisconsin Now, The United (currently OutReach LGBT), Community Shares of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Citizen Action and Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

All the candidates in this race share similar progressive values and each is making important contributions to our neighborhood. However, my knowledge, proven leadership, and record of getting things done set me apart.

An example is my work in lakes and sustainable agriculture. Our lakes are the crown jewels of Dane County and the 6th District in particular. However today our lakes are polluted with phosphorus, largely from agricultural runoff. As an agronomist and environmental scientist, I have spent my professional career working on sustainable farming and food systems and will bring a unique water quality expertise to the board. In 2013, I was appointed by County Executive Parisi to serve on the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission. Previously, as an aide to former County Executive Kathleen Falk, I staffed the County’s first agriculture advisory council and worked on zoning and land use and transportation policies that protected farmland, encouraged denser development and greatly expanded bike lanes.

We can’t keep saying we support clean lakes without bridging the urban-rural divide and partnering with farmers. We need a progressive environmental leader on the County Board who understands environmental law, the science, scope and cause of lake pollution – but who also has a vision for agriculture, who cares about economic justice in agriculture and who understands how our farms impact our water. Our watershed can be a model for clean water and a sustainable food and agricultural economy that is healthier and safer for everyone – for our lakes, for the eaters and for the farmers that grow our food.
 

Will you help us implement OWR’s policy objectives at the local level? How? You can consult OWR's platform at: https://ourwisconsinrev.com/program/

Yes. I strongly support OWR’s efforts to make government of, for, and by the people and would seek to partner with OWR to advance bold policy goals. These are challenging times and those of us working at the local level must reignite a movement to articulate what we stand for and set an example of what a progressive community can accomplish.

The Wisconsin constitution assigns a lot of responsibility to counties and local municipalities and our progressive values should be bold in shaping these functions. Dane County has a progressive County Executive and progressive County Board so we have the support and votes for progressive ideas. With imagination and by pulling together and working locally, we can advance policies that matter and that are within our reach. Working together with OWR and other allies, we can work to advance greater voting accessibility and fairness, achieve transportation equity, press for universal care, and advance ambitious clean energy projects to address climate change at the local level. We can do more to vigorously clean up our water and air and design regional food systems.

I would help by working as an ally with OWR, helping keep an open channel of communication between the County Board and OWR members and leaders. I would meet, strategize and problem-solve about policy goals, sponsor and/or support legislation and partner on educational outreach to citizens.
 

What is your plan to win? Feel free to list (or provide web links to) any endorsements you have already received, the size of your campaign team, your fundraising strategy, and any other relevant information.

I think local elections are a great chance to get people to participate in building our democracy by knocking on doors, getting to know their neighbors and listening and talking about issues they care about. I have a terrific campaign manager, Mitch Brey, a 10-person campaign team; and, I am running a strong, grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor (canvass-based) campaign. Our goal is to have more face-to-face communications and less Facebook. So far, I have knocked on over 1,200 doors and plan to knock on 3000 doors by the general election. In addition, we have recruited volunteer ward captains and block leaders to organize house parties, knock on doors, put up yard signs and phone neighbors. We filed our campaign report (2018 January Continuing) with $15,251 in contributions raised through events, house parties, and on-line donations. We are using social media and plan to do mailings and have a strong GOTV operation.

Through my activism, I am grateful to have earned the support of Congressman Mark Pocan, County Executive Joe Parisi, former County Executive Kathleen Falk, former Alder and Council President, Judy Olson, County Board Supervisors Chuck Erickson, Richard Kilmer, Mary Kolar, Michelle Ritt and Robin Schmidt, former County Board Supervisor Andy Olsen, former school board member Carol Carstensen, former County Board Chair Dick Wagner,and Alder David Ahrens.

My campaign website is: https://www.friendsofpamporter.com
Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/pamporter4dane
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pamporter4dane
 

Would you be willing to fight to suspend Voter ID laws in Dane County? How would you do this?

I strongly oppose the Voter ID law and would work hard to encourage the state legislature to overturn it. I think it is a cruel and unnecessary tactic that has harmed the integrity of our voting by purposefully confusing, discouraging and deterring certain voters, more frequently those who are young, poor and people of color, to vote. The effort, veiled by the guise of “widespread voter fraud,” that frankly does not exist, is an obvious effort to benefit Republicans and restrict and suppress Democratic voters. According to a recent UW study of registered voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties (the 2 counties with the largest low-income and minority populations), the passage of the law resulted in massive confusion, deterring 16,801 voters from voting.

I applaud the County Board’s resolution calling on the Governor and state legislature to suspend the law until assurances can be made that all voters can access the ballot. However, until the law is overturned, I would support: amending the law to allow voters without an ID to vote by signing an affidavit; making ID’s widely and easily available to anyone who applies for one; automatically registering to vote every 18-year old and/or everyone renewing their driver’s license. According to the Dane County Clerk, there are 14,000 students at UW Madison who don’t have the ID they need to vote. I would encourage the County Board to advocate that the UW-Madison Chancellor take steps to make student ID’s compliant with the voter ID law as UW Green Bay, UW-Stout and UW-Superior have done, so all students have access to the ballot and can easily vote. I also support additional funds for the Dane County Clerk to train poll workers and conduct outreach to the general public.

Lastly, I oppose the state’s recent decision to move the Sheboygan Avenue DMV site to the far-west side. The proposed new location, is poorly served by transit which is disproportionally used by seniors, low-income and African American voters and persons with disabilities. I would urge the County Board to request that the office be located where transit is an easy option. Also I would urge the state, as several other state’s have done, to establish mobile vans to visit underserved rural and urban communities, “licensing on wheels,” to enable the public to more easily obtain a photo ID or driver’s license or renew vehicle registrations.
 

What (if any) alternatives to incarceration will you support as County Board supervisor?

Although expanded diversion and alternative sentencing efforts and a declining crime rate have reduced our jail population significantly, Dane County’s racial disparities in incarceration are among the worst in the country. The demographics of those in jail are 37% black and 61% white vs. the population at-large: 4.8% black, 82% white. Blacks are 100 times more likely to be imprisoned on a drug sentence than whites, the second highest in the U.S. and 23 times more likely than whites to be imprisoned on a non-drug offense, the nation’s highest.

We need to make bold, comprehensive reforms of our criminal justice system to address racial disparities, and do more to keep people out of jail. I support radically reducing the number of people in jail by expanding deferred prosecution and diversion efforts, including community restorative justice court, drug/alcohol court and veterans court, and use of pre-arrest alternatives. I support reviewing ordinances and lowering penalties where we can for non-violent crimes; expanding the pre-trial bail program; and, exploring week-end court for initial appearances and bail hearings. To promote greater transparency, the County should collect, analyze, and publish data of our jail population in real time. We should also adopt hiring practices that assure that criminal justice personnel reflect the demographics of the community.

We must also focus on the non-criminal causes of incarceration including providing effective services for those 20-38% of our jail population who have mental health issues. I support funding for NAMI to expand their crisis intervention training to first responders so they better understand, recognize and respond to those experiencing mental illness. The training has been shown to keep people out of jail and in treatment.

The lack of affordable housing is another leading factor causing at-risk people to be incarcerated. I support development of a county-wide action plan to build more affordable housing and to encourage landlords to adopt more lenient screening criteria in their rental applications.

I will also support efforts that focus our early investment in kids, including early childhood education. It is a national crisis that kids are suspended, expelled and even arrested for relatively minor behaviors. Students of color and LGBT kids are disproportionately punished. We need to support teachers and schools in reforms to prevent this and fund innovative programs such as Dane County’s “Building Bridges” that contracts with private therapists to provide counseling to at-risk students.

Finally, to help those who are incarcerated succeed at re-entry, I support community-based programs that engage volunteer mentors from the faith community, neighborhood organizations, and employers to help re-entry individuals find and retain housing, employment, and transportation.

What strategies would you pursue to increase the funds for community-based mental health and AODA Services and improve the availability of affordable housing across the county?

I strongly support community-based mental health & AODA services and am proud Dane County goes beyond what is required by law to provide quality care. However, in these times of state and federal cutbacks, we need to explore both increasing funds and reducing costs. This year, $224 million, nearly half of the County’s budget is allocated to cover human services.

One area where cost reductions can be realized is the jail, which costs taxpayers $60 million each year. Keeping a person in jail costs around $30,000/yr. while treatment of people with mental illness costs about $3,000/yr. Because as many as 38% of those in jail have mental health issues, it is critical that we reform our criminal justice system to keep people with mental illness out of jail in the first place.

I support reviewing local ordinances and lowering penalties where we can for non-violent crimes and expanding treatment for people with mental illness, deferred prosecution and diversion efforts. In 2018, the County will conduct a comprehensive review of mental health services. I will review the results of this study, listen to community leaders and make recommendations for more efficiently addressing the needs of those struggling with mental illness.

A related issue are costs to Dane County associated with excessive drinking, estimated at $654.8 million, including $72 m in health care and $110 m in criminal justice, motor vehicle crashes and other costs. Nearly half of those in jail are sentenced for an alcohol related offense. I support state law change to increase taxes on alcohol, directing the funds to local government for prevention, treatment and jail diversion.

I also would support a new initiative: training front-line staff in the tool of mindfulness. Studies have shown that when workers are trained in mindfulness, they experience less burnout, less depression, and greater job satisfaction. The UW’s Center for Healthy Minds is an important resource that is bringing mindfulness programs into the community. We should tap into their training expertise.

I serve on the Design Coalition Institute Board, a non-profit focused on affordable housing and am devoted to the idea that housing is a human right. The 2015 Housing Needs Assessment identified there are 28,469 very low income households in Dane County, including 1,800 children who are homeless, and an affordable housing gap of 16,800 units. When housing isn’t affordable, families and communities experience insecurity and are vulnerable. Worse – it’s tough on kids.

I support development of an ambitious action plan for addressing these gaps. I also support higher energy efficiency standards for affordable housing projects because people who are poor should not have to live in leaky houses and be forced pay high utility bills. I support expanding accessory dwelling units, self-contained, right-sized (up to 700 ft2) housing units that can provide affordable housing for a parent, child, caregiver, or renter.

 

Yogesh Chawla

Why are you running? What are your top two policy objectives?

I am running for Dane County Board because our district deserves an activist who will work hard to implement progressive change for our community. When my parents landed in the United States in 1976 from India, they had the American dream in their hearts. We struggled, but we were supported along the way by the communities around us.

The American Dream that we had as immigrants is out of reach for many of our neighbors. Dane County has some of the most alarming racial disparities in the entire country within our criminal justice system, schools, and in terms of economic opportunity. I will make it a priority to change that. Two of my top policy objectives are outlined in the following bullet points:

• There are two Dane Counties. There is the one where opportunity and connections ensure access to the best education, employment, and a path to a better life.

Then there is another Dane County, where we have some of the worst racial disparities in the entire country. It is the Dane County that disproportionately incarcerates minorities, and where life in general for underserved communities is worse here than in much of the rest of the nation.

We can work together to change that. We must take a multi-generational approach to economic inequality. We must provide parents with the support they need in job opportunities, affordable housing, transportation, and child-care, while helping children live in safe and healthy communities where they excel in highly achieving public schools. To do this, I will prioritize investing in and expanding Early Childhood Zones, and innovative programs like Joining Forces for Families.

• The quality of Dane County lakes has stagnated. We are now in an emergency situation where our lakes are ravaged by phosphorous pollution and are being overtaken by invasive species like zebra mussels and spiny water fleas. The status quo is no longer good enough, and we need to take urgent action to tackle this issue.

Our lakes are a community treasure and must be protected. I will work with farmers, scientists, activists and environmental stewards to prioritize restoring our lakes so they are safe and enjoyable for people, pets, fish and wildlife.

To clean up our lakes, we must fight locally for a clean energy future. On the Dane County Board, I will advocate for more renewable energy, particularly solar, by expanding the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program to include residential property owners in addition to commercial property owners, so they can also receive long-term, low-cost loans.

Solar energy is profitable both financially and environmentally. We can power our economy with solar, invest in energy efficiency, and serve as a model county that leads by example to fight climate change.
 

What qualifications and/or experience make you a strong candidate for elected office?

My professional background provides a unique skillset needed by the County Board. I am a nationally award-winning public safety software developer. The open source software I have written has helped jurisdictions save thousands of dollars and thousands of staff hours every year. Open source software makes code publicly available for inspection and re-use, often at no cost.

Dane County currently has a real gap when it comes to open data and accountability to its constituents. I believe we must harness the modern power of technology and analytics to close this gap and I have the professional experience to do so.

I have been working on local elections for over 17 years and worked on numerous school board, city council and county board campaigns. I have been a long-time Progressive Dane member and frequent steering committee member since the year 2000. I was the co-chair of the party in 2017 and stepped down to pursue Dane County Board. I have canvassed in support of presidential, gubernatorial, state assembly, US senate, and congressional candidates in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections.

I have deep roots in District 6, and I put my boots on the ground on behalf of our neighborhoods. I serve on the SASY neighborhood council as the Yahara representative, and on the organizing committee of a revitalized Atwoodfest. For my social media work on Atwoodfest, I was recognized and awarded at the well-attended volunteer dinner. I helped raise hundreds of dollars for Atwood Barbershop’s back-to-school haircut and backpack program.

The Capital Times recently wrote (https://goo.gl/bMcsDM): “Chawla has distinguished himself by outlining an agenda for making the board’s deliberations more accessible… Chawla’s agenda is a smart one. He’s talking about using new technology, and his own experience, to make it easier for citizens to engage with county government. We hope that other contenders for the board will embrace his proposals and come up with more of their own.”
 

Will you help us implement OWR’s policy objectives at the local level? How? You can consult OWR's platform at: https://ourwisconsinrev.com/program/

I will work diligently to advance the platform of OWR. There are many parallels between the platforms of Progressive Dane and OWR. I worked on numerous local campaigns for the last 17 years where I fully supported the Progressive Dane city and county platforms.

I am already working locally to implement planks in the OWR platform. As a poll worker I have been verifying paper ballots at the polling place, and verifying election results as part of the official City of Madison canvass following elections. In the 2000’s, I worked on the Madison paid sick leave campaign. I have testified at the Sustainable Madison city committee meetings advocating to decarbonize Wisconsin energy production by 2030. As a member of Legacy Solar Co-op, I have helped others navigate federal and state credits to install solar panels and I am a spokesperson for the “Switch to Solar” renewable energy credit exchange.

To advance the OWR platform, I will build coalitions and introduce legislation on the County Board. I will expand the PACE program to allow low cost loans to residents to install solar panels and make their properties more energy efficient. I will work to reduce racial disparities by making jail and booking data publically available so we can identify and correct disparities with bail and average length of stay of inmates with different demographics. I have already accomplished this in other counties in the country, and now I want to do this in the county I call home.

I have good relationships with many county board members. I will work to build coalitions not only with elected officials, but also with my neighbors so we can advocate for effective, progressive and bold local government. With my extensive neighborhood involvement and connections, I will connect the work of the county board to my constituents.

What is your plan to win? Feel free to list (or provide web links to) any endorsements you have already received, the size of your campaign team, your fundraising strategy, and any other relevant information.

I am proud to have the endorsement of District 6 alder Marsha Rummel, in addition to District 2 alder Ledell Zellers. I have been endorsed by two former school board presidents, Bill Keys and Arlene Silveira, as well as current school board members Nicki Vander Meulen and Anna Mueller Moffit.

I am most proud of the over 150 in-district supporters I have, including former supervisor Brian Benford, local historian Gary Tipler, Bert Zipperer, Brian Standing, and MLK Humanitarian Award winner Ali Muldrow. I am also endorsed by SASY neighborhood association leaders Ginny Jenkins, Dan Lenz, and Jason Tish. I have a great relationship with many of the independent business owners in my neighborhood, and have earned the support of the owners of Table Wine, Bad Dog Frida, Atwood Barbershop and The Harmony (current and former owners). In addition, I have secured well over 100 yard sign placements.

A complete list of supporters is available at: https://www.voteyogesh.com/supporters/

My campaign team is led by former Marquette Neighborhood Association president and veteran campaign manager Michael Jacob. My kitchen cabinet has numerous volunteers assisting with lit design, social media, yard sign installation, data entry, and volunteer coordination.

My campaign is a true grassroots effort where my philosophy to win is to directly contact voters. I have knocked on over 1,300 doors and secured over 200 signatures to get on the ballot (the most of any candidate in my district). At my well-attended kick-off event, I had numerous supporters pose for a unique photo on the Rutledge street bridge over the Yahara river, with our photographer getting the best shot from a canoe on the water.

I have been deeply involved in my neighborhood for years, and I will use those networks and friendships to help advance my candidacy and also to connect with more neighborhood residents.

Please also see my facebook and twitter pages:
https://www.facebook.com/yogeshfordanecountyboard/
https://twitter.com/yogeshchawlawi

Would you be willing to fight to suspend Voter ID laws in Dane County? How would you do this?

In October 2017, the Dane County Board overwhelmingly voted to suspend the Wisconsin voter ID law. I am fully supportive of these efforts. This is now a legal matter that is being deliberated in courts all across the country.

While I think that Dane County has limited authority to suspend Voter ID laws, I have worked diligently to make sure that “everyone who is able to cast a vote is able to cast a vote and have their vote counted.” This is the mantra of the City of Madison Clerk’s office, and I am proud to be a City of Madison Election Official.

To combat the negative effects of Voter ID legislation, I have registered voters at the Eastside Farmers’ Market, worked the polls at the Wil-Mar Center, and served as an absentee ballot courier for early voting at Hawthorne Library. I have also volunteered registering voters at various concerts through the group HeadCount.

I don’t think it is enough to simply oppose Voter ID laws; I am a strong proponent of being an activist and taking direct action to ensure that citizens have and exercise their right to vote.

At the polls, I have assisted many voters, educating them on different forms of acceptable identification such as passports. I have also helped students vote by verifying enrollment, taking innovative approaches like looking for e-mails from professors. When I was working on early voting at the City County Building, a voter was going to leave after exhausting all proof of address options when we finally looked up a traffic ticket they received in Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (CCAP).

I was most happy when we helped a homeless voter cast his ballot by working with the Tenant Resource Center to identify the intersection where he would frequently sleep.

What (if any) alternatives to incarceration will you support as County Board supervisor?

I was opposed to the new Dane County Jail from day one. I testified against the jail and my testimony is available on my candidate Facebook page. I participated in “Derail the Jail” rallies and meetings opposing the jail.

Dane County must collect and analyze criminal justice data to figure out how we can divert people who are struggling into mental health treatment and restorative justice programs, and away from jail cells. Let’s expand the use of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) tool so we can remove implicit bias. And we can expand the use of bail-monitoring programs as an alternate to cash bail for non-violent offenses so we can ensure that someone’s life is not completely up-ended by spending time in jail while waiting for a hearing.

We can also implement enhanced notifications to ensure that citizens show up at court appearances. When a court appearance is missed, a warrant can be issued, which wastes officer time, results in additional jail time, and perpetuates a destructive cycle.

Going forward, we must look at resolution 556 passed in September 2015 and fully implement the recommendations on “Data Collection and Analysis” and “Length of Stay.” We must also build a Mental Health Crisis Center with staff appropriately trained on how to deal with individuals in crisis, and use this facility as an alternative to incarceration. If Dane County can borrow $76 million dollars for a jail, it can certainly include a mental health crisis center in the capital budget.
 

What strategies would you pursue to increase the funds for community-based mental health and AODA Services and improve the availability of affordable housing across the county?

Dane County is in desperate need of a Mental Health Crisis center. Rather than spend $100 million on a new jail to disproportionately incarcerate the mentally ill and people of color, we need to treat a mental health crisis as a public health, not law enforcement, issue. We are investing $26 million dollars in debt service for the new jail. This money would be better spent on diversion, mental health and AODA services. We need teams of rapid response public health professionals to respond to a crisis outside of a law enforcement context.

We must immediately merge justice and health data so we can appropriately identify and treat people who are seriously mental ill and booked into jail in order to increase staff and inmate safety. A project that I worked on in Pima County, Arizona did just this, and was awarded a Best of NIEM (National Information Exchange Model) award in 2014. The project saves Pima county money and staff time. When we make county government more efficient using technology, we can use the money that is saved to fund mental health services.

However, it is more important to invest in front-end services to address mental health issues before they escalate. To fund this, we should aggressively pursue federal grants and advocate for more state funding. There are also private foundations that are very active in expanding community-based mental health, and reducing the number of mentally ill people who are incarcerated. I have written open source software under projects funded by grants from The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) and the Macarthur Foundation.

Housing is a human right. Dane County, specifically Madison, has a low vacancy rate and is subject to rental price surges. To keep up with an expanding population, we must create more housing units, but we must also ensure that the housing is affordable. I am on the SASY planning and development committee, and we work hard to encourage affordability in any new developments that we support. District 6 is rapidly changing, and we must ensure that our neighbors can afford to continue to live here.

We must also protect our most vulnerable populations. We must reduce chronic homelessness and provide permanent housing opportunities, while expanding comprehensive day centers like the Beacon.

To accomplish this, we should invest in programs that work. Housing Initiatives works on providing permanent housing for the homeless, and has a 95% success rate. Rethke Terrace Apartments is another model project that provides housing to the homeless and many veterans.

The city and county government operate in silos, and with more cooperation they can pool their resources to tackle affordable housing together. I have been endorsed by both east isthmus alders Ledell Zellers and Marsha Rummel, so I am in a good position to bridge city and county government.

 

Britt Cudaback

Why are you running? What are your top two policy objectives?

I am running to be a County Board Supervisor to bring a new progressive voice to Dane County.

If we’ve learned anything in the past year in politics, it’s that we have work to do for building a progressive bench for the future. We must start lifting up and investing new leaders at the local level if we’re going to develop and sustain a progressive political infrastructure in the long run in Dane County and across Wisconsin. And I figure if I’m going to expect my community to invest in new leaders, then I ought to be the first to raise my hand and put my name on the ballot.

My top policy objectives are to reform the criminal justice system and intervene in cycles of poverty. I think these two issues are largely interconnected, especially in Dane County. We can address these issues through things like reforming cash bail bond, failure to appear processes, fully utilizing and expanding community justice programming, and using data-driven sentencing policies, among a variety of other changes. I bring a breadth of policy experience working on these issues and am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on these issues in Dane County.

What qualifications and/or experience make you a strong candidate for elected office?

First, my professional and educational experience make me a strong candidate for elected office. I currently work for State Representative Melissa Sargent and can bring my experience navigating state laws and politics to the County Board. Likewise, I think my educational preparation has uniquely prepared me to be an effective policymaker and to understand equally the issues facing Dane County and how to develop innovative solutions to address those issues.

My policy experience also makes me a strong candidate. Dane County has lead the state and the country in adapting to and mitigating climate change, but we have also historically struggled in areas like reducing racial disparities and recidivism rates, promoting alternatives to incarceration, and perpetuating cycles of poverty. I bring firsthand policy experience to address challenges like criminal justice reform in Dane County. While working in the Nebraska State Legislature, for example, I worked on legislation to promote data-driven sentencing policies, reduce prison overcrowding, decrease corrections spending, and develop re-entry services and programming. We need to improve incarceration outcomes, fully utilize restorative justice programming, and reform our bail bond system, and my background and experience will allow me to tackle these issues on the County Board effectively.

In addition to my policy background, my experience and perspective as a queer-identified person distinguish me from my opponents. The Dane County Board lacks equal LGBTQ representation, especially from queer, gender variant, or non-conforming persons. We desperately need a diversity of backgrounds which helps inform positions on issues like homelessness that disproportionally affect LGBTQ-identified youth.

Finally, we need candidates for office who have been, and, if elected, will continue to be, committed to the long-term goal of building a robust, progressive bench and infrastructure in Dane County. While serving on the board and as a curriculum chair of New Leaders Council-Wisconsin I have spent the last several years working to recruit, train, and mentor new progressive leaders from across the state. I hope to use my position on the Dane County Board not just to serve, but to empower and lift up other leaders, too. I think we need elected officials who are willing to invest in and build up others to ensure we have new leaders who are prepared and able to run for local office.

Will you help us implement OWR’s policy objectives at the local level? How? You can consult OWR's platform at: https://ourwisconsinrev.com/program/

Absolutely. There are several of OWR’s policy objectives I can not only help with but am also passionate about, but I’ll note just a few examples. One of the objectives that I’m particularly interested in and committed to is promoting grassroots advocacy and civic engagement. As far as I’m aware, I am the only District 6 candidate talking about the importance of citizen participation, transparency, and accountability. One of the things I want to do, if elected, is to host standing office hours and listening sessions in District 6 to hear regularly from my constituents and to provide an opportunity for public discourse and dialogue. It is critical to me that we have elected officials take the initiative to actively seek out constituents’ input and feedback on issues facing Dane County.

Another example of OWR’s policy objectives I’m interested in addressing is income disparities and creating an economy that works for everyone. I believe I’m the only card-carrying union member running in District 6, and I think that makes me uniquely qualified to understand labor-management relationships, the importance of unionizing and collective action, and why we need livable wages and benefits. I look forward to continuing Supervisor Hendrick’s work in bringing a $15 minimum wage to Dane County—I’ve worked on legislation to raise the wage across Wisconsin and am excited to continue working on this at the local level.

Finally, OWR’s policy priorities tangentially mention this, but I think income inequality is tied in part to public transportation accessibility. Lack of reliable, efficient transportation is a predictor of income disparity and opportunity inequity, so promoting transportation access—especially outside of urban areas—is critical. We need to make employment, job training, child care, and other resources available by public transit to adequately address poverty, and this is something I’d like to tackle on the county board.

What is your plan to win? Feel free to list (or provide web links to) any endorsements you have already received, the size of your campaign team, your fundraising strategy, and any other relevant information.

I plan to knock doors and raise money. My campaign team is myself, my campaign manager, a handful of people on my kitchen cabinet, and various other volunteers. My fundraising strategy is to do call time, make hard asks, and follow up on pledges.

Would you be willing to fight to suspend Voter ID laws in Dane County? How would you do this?

While working on the statewide voter protection legal team during the 2016 election, I saw firsthand how arbitrarily voting laws are sometimes applied or enforced across Wisconsin. I absolutely support nonpartisan redistricting, repealing voter ID laws, automatic voter registration, and campaign finance reform; however, I would also be extremely concerned about actions that could pave the way for other, less inclusive, less progressive jurisdictions to further disenfranchise persons of color, women, elderly, and other minorities at the polls. Theoretically, I would support suspending voter ID laws at the county level, but as a matter of practicality, I would be very concerned about responses from other counties who might then be inclined to restrict further the right to vote, as well as the retribution Dane County might receive from the Republican-controlled State Legislature.

What (if any) alternatives to incarceration will you support as County Board supervisor?

I support restorative justice programming, diversion, community corrections, creating alternative courts for certain offenders (e.g., mental health, drug), among other innovative approaches to reducing incarceration and recidivism rates in Dane County.  

What strategies would you pursue to increase the funds for community-based mental health and AODA Services and improve the availability of affordable housing across the county?

The state has made it extremely difficult for political subdivisions across the state to raise revenue other than implementing a wheel tax or going to referendum to raise the tax levy, which really puts a strain on health and human programs like community-based mental health and AODA services. Consequently, I think with a county budget already strapped for cash, the best recourse would be to decrease corrections funding in Dane County. If we can address things like failure to appear, front-end services for navigating the criminal justice system, cash bail bond, and weekend stays, I think that can help us cut down on our corrections spending significantly. Likewise, I think if we not only collect more data in our criminal justice system, but use the data for things like data-informed sentencing policies, risk assessments, and re-entry programming, that will also help cut corrections costs that can be redirected to mental health and AODA services.

 

Heather Driscoll

Why are you running? What are your top two policy objectives?

I’m running because I want to help transform Dane County into a national leader for environmental sustainability and social justice.

I envision a time when we can all swim in and enjoy our lakes without having to worry whether the water is safe. A Dane County that is known as a wonderful place to live for people of color. A community where women are paid equally for equal work and a group of diverse women make up half of the elected leaders in our government. A future where we’ve cut our jail population by more than 50% because we’ve aggressively invested in our citizens and the services we need.

Two tangible policy areas I will focus on is to partner with the city to fix our composting program and to increase restorative justice in our criminal justice system.

What qualifications and/or experience make you a strong candidate for elected office?

From working in mental health at a psychiatric center to starting a small business in San Francisco, I'm familiar with overcoming barriers and have the determination and creativity to bring fresh solutions. I currently serve on my neighborhood (SASY) board and chair the environmental committee. My life of public service includes serving in the Peace Corps, and working on and volunteering for environmental, marriage equality, and progressive political campaigns.

I care deeply about issues critical to the County – cleaning up our lakes, restorative justice, affordable housing, mental health services, and public health. I’ve had difficult life experiences that have helped me see the profound value in access to health and human services. When I was 2 years old depression took my dad’s life and in my 20’s I personally experienced what it’s like to be sick while uninsured. Looking back on these experiences, they are the moments that have shaped my path and are driving me to fight for change through elected office.

As a mom with two young children, I understand the unique challenges facing families. I'm very concerned about how the decisions made today will affect my children’s generation and generations to come.

Will you help us implement OWR’s policy objectives at the local level? How? You can consult OWR's platform at: https://ourwisconsinrev.com/program/

OWR has laid out a comprehensive platform. I look forward to supporting many of the items on your agenda, but the two areas I am most focused on include environmental sustainability and social justice. Dane County has so much potential. There is more we can do to protect it and make it an equitable place to live for everyone. Furthermore, I want to see our county lead on renewable energy, energy conservation, clean transportation, bicycle access and usage, and public transportation solutions.

What is your plan to win? Feel free to list (or provide web links to) any endorsements you have already received, the size of your campaign team, your fundraising strategy, and any other relevant information.

My training in the Emerge Wisconsin Class of 2017 prepared me to run for this office. My strategy is primarily focused on connecting with the voters in my district, listening to them, and responding to their top issues. I have raised over $6,000 which I am using on recycled literature, biodegradable yard signs, and social media to reach voters. In addition, I have a tremendous backing from my family and friends and a campaign team of 10 volunteers who are supporting me and helping me reach voters in a variety of ways.

Would you be willing to fight to suspend Voter ID laws in Dane County? How would you do this?

Yes, it is critical that all voters are able to exercise their rights to elect their leaders. I will follow OWR’s lead on this and look forward to working to ensure equal access for everyone to vote.

What (if any) alternatives to incarceration will you support as County Board supervisor?

This is one of the issues I am most passionate about in this campaign. I am very inspired by the national #cut50 initiative founded by Van Jones. #cut50 has the goal of cutting the number of incarcerated persons in America by 50%. I believe in that goal, and the only way to reach it is to aim high and envision this future. I plan to focus on rehabilitating people and helping provide tools for sending them on a positive path.

I will fight for investments in mental health services and job training. We have to give people hope so when they get out of jail, they have a better chance of success.
Let’s re-envision our jail and prison system, so that our community members who make one mistake don’t end up being sent on a path that makes it much harder to succeed. Instead, we need to hold them accountable while also ensuring they get the help they need to turn their mistakes into a brighter future. I fully support current efforts for restorative justice and will work hard to expand those programs. I’d also like to see more investments matching up those who are struggling, with ex-offenders who have turned their lives around.

I want our community to see that those who have committed crimes still have promise - that they can come back into society and contribute. I recently heard a story about a local solar company which had two ex-offenders on a job site installing solar panels, and how those two individuals were happy to get the chance to make a positive difference for the future. These are the connections we need to make as a community.

What strategies would you pursue to increase the funds for community-based mental health and AODA Services and improve the availability of affordable housing across the county?

I completely agree with investing much more heavily in mental health and AODA services. There are many individuals throughout the County that can be helped with the right services. As a past worker in a mental health facility, I have seen the transformation that can happen with some individuals when they receive the right care. However, too many of our mental health services offered today are clinical and prison-like in their own ways. I will work hard for the creation of a crisis restoration center.

I’ve found that engaged and empowered professionals, trained to listen, learn, and offer solutions, can make a huge difference in the lives of those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. We should do everything we can to get those people back into society, helping us build the best community we can.
I fully support more affordable housing and will work with Dane County Housing Initiative on solutions.