Why are you running? What are your top two policy objectives?
I am honored to serve on the Dane County board. My top priorities are criminal justice reform and mental health services. I am proud to have won the NAMI Dane County's Community Citizen Award in 2016 for my advocacy to keep people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. There is so much more work to be done.
In addressing racial disparities and criminal justice reform, in the next two years I hope to work on several programs: 1) expand our bail reform pilot to county-wide, ensuring that no one is in jail because they cannot afford bail; 2) expand the charges referred to our community court, deferring more from the criminal justice system before they are even charted, and ensure our district attorney actively participates in the restorative court alternatives; 3) create and fund a crisis restoration center.
I also am a strong advocate for public school. I think it is our obligation, no matter what elected official we hold, to support and prioritize the success of public schools. I will continue supporting our underfunded public schools.
I was the lead sponsor for creating the mental health responders for students in our public schools, and I hope to expand this to all Madison public schools. We also must support and expand youth court and municipal restorative court to all in-school disciplinary actions. And we need to provide resources to address tremendously growing anxiety in girls, LGBT youth, and youth of color in our middle and high schools.
What qualifications and/or experience make you a strong candidate for elected office?
In my 12 years on the Dane County Board, I've championed legislation that has addressed racial inequity and criminal justice reform; advanced women's, LGBT, and worker's rights; expanded environmental protections; and much more.
I'm currently a law partner at Herrick & Kasdorf, where I focus on civil rights and tenant's rights, representing individuals throughout Wisconsin seeking justice. Prior to coming to Wisconsin, I was an attorney in New York suing police officers for police misconduct and brutality. I'm also the policy advocate for YWCA Madison.
As a volunteer, I have been chair and interim-Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Foundation, and I have been board chair of Emerge Wisconsin which trains democratic women to run for office. I'm also actively involved in supporting our public schools. I was a co-chair of CAST (Communities and Schools Together), which oversaw the overwhelmingly successful passage of a community referendum in 2015.
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 have reviewed OWR's policy objectives. I support them and will continue to be an advocate and collaborator for our shared progressive values.
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 will go door to door in my district, as I do on a regular basis, and I will continue to engage my community through newsletters, community meetings, and in-person conversations. I have approximately $10,000 in my campaign funds, although I do not intend to spend much of it.
Would you be willing to fight to suspend Voter ID laws in Dane County? How would you do this?
Dane County commissioned a study to review the impacts-particularly on people of color and low-income individuals-of the Voter ID law. This study made state and national news and helped illuminate just how discriminatory the law was.
There is not much we can to do stop Voter ID laws on a local level, but we can be a voice for our community and advocate for change on the state level. The Dane County Board has done that, and I will continue to voice that demand. What we can do-and have successfully done-is educate and empower voters to know the law and be prepared. We have created a campaign directed to low-income communities and communities of color to combat the suppressing impact of the law.
The County Board approved allowing homeless and housing unstable individuals to use the Dane County Department of Human Services as their proof of residency for purposes of securing a voter ID by the State of Wisconsin. This is a small but essential step in the many efforts the county has made to ensure everyone is able to vote.
What (if any) alternatives to incarceration will you support as County Board supervisor?
There are many alternatives I support. Before listing them, it is important to ensure that all of these alternatives are community focused and culturally appropriate. That means communities of color must lead in the development and execution of all of these alternatives. Additionally, none of these programs can be zero-tolerance. There must be accommodations, and understanding, for life's challenges and how the lack of access to transportation, funding, childcare, and other resources impact an individual's ability to participate.
Some of the alternatives that I support: 1) Expanding our bail reform pilot to county-wide, ensuring that no one is in jail because they cannot afford bail; 2) Expanding the charges referred to our community court, deferring more from the criminal justice system before they are even charted, and ensuring our district attorney actively participates in the restorative court alternatives; 3) Creating and funding a crisis restoration center; 4) Expanding use of municipal court and municipal citations that do not include potential jail time; 5) Expanding community service options for judges in lieu of jail time; 6) Full funding of drug court and OWI court, and ensuring that people of color are prioritized for these courts; 7) Advocating for mental health court, or at a minimum stronger mental health resources for all judges if the judges do not support a stand-alone mental health court; 8) Establishing weekend and holiday court, at a minimum on the most popular weekends and holidays of the year; 9) Community-based reentry services and support.
It is important to remember that human services is the key to dismantling the criminal justice system. Programming and services in our communities that prevents youth entering the system in the first place are the best alternatives to incarceration. I was on the initial grant review team for the PIE (Partners in Equity) grants. These grants go directly to community based groups with community led solutions. I supported doubling these grants so we can do even more.
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?
We know what works, what we need to do is increase funding for mental health services. I support raising the levy and prioritizing mental health services for funding. We also need to decriminalize mental illness and build the Crisis Restoration Center. I was the lead board member on the Mental Health Workgroup, and our top priority was to create a crisis restoration center as an alternative to jail. I have worked tirelessly to make this happen, and Dane County has committed to developing a center this year.
There are so many barriers to affordable housing it is hard to figure out where, or how, to start. Of course, we need to fund it. I supported the budget amendment to put hundreds of millions of dollars towards affordable housing development. Ultimately, the county board funded it at $3 million. But beyond funding, we need to challenge the state laws and stop following those regulations. Too many people face eviction and are denied access to housing based on past evictions, addiction issues, unpaid debt, and more. While the state may allow affordable housing to be denied based on these factors, we should not follow suit. It is important to understand the impact of poverty and laws that favor landlords, and the insurmountable obstacles the state has placed on those seeking affordable housing. We must rise above locally, and we must fully embrace a housing-first model.