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Benito Juarez Olivas discusses run for District 18 of the Madison Common Council
Benito Juarez Olivas
Benito Juarez Olivas

"'Progressive' to me means making real progress, not lip service and band-aid solutions," says Benito Juarez Olivas, one of four candidates vying to replace retiring Ald. Paul Van Rooy in the District 18 aldermanic seat on the city's north side.

Olivas, 32, is married and has three children. He is employed as a shipping clerk at Webcrafters, and for the past seven years has lived in the Vera Court neighborhood just north of Troy Drive. Olivas says his experience working with the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter, has sensitized him to the needs of low-income families in Madison.

A brief interview follows below.

The Daily Page: What can the city do to support and enhance transit options for District 18 residents?
Olivas: I would like to see the city increase frequency of riding times from 30 to 60 minutes intervals to 15 to 20 minutes intervals. This would increase ridership tremendously. Additionally, I think the city should expand service to outlying communities with "express" routes. Enhancing the bus system would be millions cheaper than trolleys and would serve the whole city, not just the downtown. What would trolleys do for my district? Nothing.

You say that inclusionary zoning is not working, and that the city is displacing low-income families when trying to revitalize neighborhoods. What policies do you want to pursue to foster affordable housing in the city?
The inclusionary zoning ordinance needs to be repealed. It does not help low-income families attain affordable housing. It hasn't even really helped middle-class families either. We need to have more public-private partnerships to help with this regard.

It is a very complicated issue, but I believe instead of giving incentives to condo developers downtown, why not give incentives to landlords who rent in declining neighborhoods to fix up their tenants' crumbling units. We need to redistribute where the money is going to fix this problem. Why should we spend so much money to bring a light-rail system to town when with a fraction of that money we can do something really progressive? We need to make affordable housing a reality in Madison.

Do you support a second city pool at Warner Park? If so, what will you do to make it happen?
I am not sure where I stand on the pool question. It would be nice to have a pool on the north side, but is it necessary? We already have Warner Beach close by.

It would also be interesting to see where they would place it in Warner Park. We already have quite a few things going on in our wonderful Warner Park, so I would hate to see the park space be limited any more. If it could be done, I am all for it, but its feasibility seems remote. So there are still too many questions that would have to be answered for me to say yea or nay.

Do you support adding sidewalks to streets, like Troy and Woodard Drive, that currently lack them? Should some areas be left without sidewalks?
I don't think the sidewalks need to be installed. If fact, if they were installed would the homeowners on those streets be asked to help pay for them?

Probably. I don't think they would appreciate that. Also, if sidewalks were put in on Troy and Woodward some of the beautiful trees on those streets would have to be cut down. I am very much against that.

You say Madison has allowed itself to become a follower of other cities. What policies would you like to see enacted to make the city a national leader?
I just want Madison to reach its full potential. We have a great city and a capable community. Especially on the north side.

Why don't we try to find real solutions that will benefit our city? Affordable housing could be a reality. Homelessness needs to be front and center in Madison. Finding solutions for true economic development. Balancing land use and its development (i.e., smart growth). Making sure in our revitalization of downtown that we don't leave behind our city's disadvantaged citizens. This is happening all over the country, we could be a leader in making sure that doesn't happen.

What can be done to encourage more retail, particularly restaurants, in District 18?
To tell the truth, I don't know. I would like to find some sort of plan to bring more businesses, whatever kind to the district. But there is not a lot of retail space compared to residential space. We would have to find a balance, because we have some delicate environmental concerns in the district too.

Note: Olivas is not operating a campaign website.

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