Cops and Crimes
I can't speak much about crime on the north side of Madison ("Are More Cops Really Needed?" 11/2/07), but as a resident and neighborhood association president on the southwest side, I can tell you our crimes are real, not perceived.
If Esty Dinur attended one of the meetings at St. Maria Goretti's, which brought in between 600 to 800 people, she would have heard just about every resident share a story of crime. Some of these included witnessing drug deals, hearing gun shots, having people peeping into their homes, having their homes and cars broken into, having sex offenders apprehended on their front lawns. Did I mention a murder?
Some residents even said they witnessed crimes, called 911 and couldn't get an officer to assist them because they were too busy attending other calls.
I also want to point out Ms. Dinur's misperception of the city's plan for dealing with crime. The media have focused on these 30 officers, but if you actually look at the plan you'll see that the mayor and police chief are also dealing with bad landlords and increasing funding for programs for young people.
Also, Ms. Dinur's perception that "there's been practically no public discussion" about the budget relating to these issues is incorrect. The mayor had three public input sessions at three different public libraries throughout Madison for that exact purpose.
Are more cops needed? The answer is a big yes. If the north side doesn't want its share, the folks here on the west side will gladly take them with open arms.
Nicky Morris, president, Prairie Hills Neighborhood Association
I couldn't agree more with Esty Dinur. Madison obviously has an interest in ensuring all its residents the right to live, work and enjoy leisure activities free from robbery, rape and murder. But how do we achieve that goal?
Do we achieve it by stubbornly perpetuating a social order that manifests institutionalized racism and inequality? Our punitive "justice system," operating wildly beyond the bounds of what an honest interpretation of the Constitution would allow, has created a class of American pariah.
We should do all we can locally to end the unconstitutional and draconian "Drug War," that quasi-deliberate effort to saddle certain ethnic and social groups with a kind of "scarlet letter."
A single conviction for a marijuana or crack cocaine offense may leave the offender ineligible for a quality job or affordable housing. Should we then feign astonishment that some of these outcasts resort to "street crime?"
When I discovered that more than $53 million of Madison's estimated $247 million 2008 budget will likely be dedicated to the Madison Police Department, I was shocked. The MPD already receives far more than its fair share. Adding 30 more police officers is an authoritarian luxury the city can ill afford.
Dan A. Goldstein
I live in what looks like a nice part of town - on Spaight Street, right next to Orton Park, the Willy Street Coop, and several sheriff's deputies are my neighbors - yet even with all this there is still a meth dealer in my apartment building.
I have repeatedly spoken to the Madison police, Dane County Sheriff's Department, and even contacted the local federal field agents, and I get the same response from all of them: Yes, we have files on your neighbor, we have for years, but there's not enough money/cops/resources to deal with him.
I repeatedly call the police when meth addicts are screaming and throwing rocks at my building for hours trying to get my dealer neighbor to answer his door, only to be told there's little the police can do about who my neighbor has in or out of the building.
If you don't think more cops are needed, I invite you to trade places with me for a week.
Jen L. Ahlstrom
It's a shame that Esty Dinur couldn't attend the initial west side listening session. Everyone who spoke that night addressed specific instances of crime he or she witnessed. As a resident of the "at-risk" Hammersley neighborhood, my wife spoke about a drug deal she witnessed mid-afternoon across the street (sadly, one of many).
Dinur apparently missed the Sunday cover story of the Wisconsin State Journal: "Crime Changes Aura Of Some Neighborhoods," which reported that police data supports the view that things have gotten worse.
Dinur seems to think the addition of these officers will turn Madison into a police state, doing more harm than good and taking money away from beneficial programs to curb crime. But the new officers are only one part of a broader plan the mayor unveiled last month. No one has ever said that adding 30 police officers is the only solution.
Meanwhile, my family was recently a victim of casual property damage and intimidation when youths threw rocks at our windows while walking on the sidewalk. I didn't "perceive" that to happen, nor do my neighbors "perceive" the countless acts of intimidation, loitering, speeding, vandalism, drug dealing, and property damage both reported and unreported.
Having been on the receiving end of Madison's "big blue blanket" more than once, I share Esty Dinur's concern that more police are just a solution looking for a problem. If my math is right, Madison is already one of the most over-policed cities in the U.S., what with all the overlapping jurisdictions.
I've attended many events where uniforms were almost suffocating - Madison police on top of UW police, Capitol troopers and Dane County deputies, with even a few bored Shorewood Hills, town of Madison and Maple Bluff officers on hand.
What will 30 more Madison police officers give the average citizen? What are we getting now with AR-15 assault rifles in every other squad car, family-size pepper spray dispensers brandished at the slightest trouble, and surveillance cameras monitoring unsuspecting passers-by on State Street?
Yes, there are many "quality of life" issues in our city, but these are not due to lack of local police or state power. They are due to more systemic underlying issues: entrenched white-upper-class privilege, economic oppression, xenophobia and discrimination, an anemic sense of community identity, and way too many superficial gestures of public charity seeking to substitute for meaningful solidarity and empowerment.
John E. Peck
In his Watchdog item on attorney David Sparer (11/02/07), Bill Lueders mentions my discrimination complaint with David Sparer's client, Madison Community Cooperative. Lueders leaves out some important details of my case.
First, my former housemates fully support me. My case is one of six recent attempts by MCC to kick out members of our community, Lothlorien Co-op, including one attempt to shut down the entire house. I am simply the first to file a formal complaint outside of MCC.
Secondly, Sparer's claim that I got the boot because of "threatening behavior" is totally unfounded. It is based upon alleged events at one committee meeting in April. At that meeting, I proposed an MCC staff person be fired or disciplined, because he illegally sought a retaliatory eviction against one of my housemates shortly after she organized a tenant's union in our house.
The MCC staff and officers repeatedly cited my speech in their decision to not renew my contract - speech which, while angry in tone, was clearly political in nature. Indeed, the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission has clear case precedent for the protection of beliefs in tenant unionism, regardless of whether the tenant's lease has automatic renewal or not.
The Wingra disconnect
Imagine a school with a free-and-reduced-lunch population of 70%, where 40% of students are English-language learners and another 20% have learning or emotional disabilities. Imagine most parents working more than one job.
Contrast that with Wingra school, founded by middle-class, professional Madison-types ("Rethinking How Kids Learn," 11/02/07). Can anyone see a disconnect?
There are many reasons that the Madison school district should consider more charter schools, a la Nuestro Mundo or Wright Middle School, but Wingra school doesn't fit that mold. Wingra is only effective because of the population it serves put those same teachers in a classroom with 10-12 ESL students or five or six students with various learning or behavioral disabilities, or students who come to school with minimal experience with literature, and they'd be heading for the nearest exit within a week.
Jason Shepard highlights how "progressive" Madison types just don't get it when it comes to serving the needs of poor, minority and differently abled students. Maybe Shepard should do more research before inflicting us with more tripe.
Editor's note: Speaking of research, Jason Shepard taught history and English for three years in a New York City middle school that was 99% minority and that had only a handful of kids who weren't low income - and earned honors for his success.
I am outraged that the state has cut off BadgerCare to the 29-year-old single mother and her 10-year-old son, just because they weren't able to make certain payments ("Cut Off From BadgerCare Again," 11/02/07). The state has failed them and it needs to change its policies to see that something like that never happens again.
Advice for ATC
Your story (10/26/07) asks, "Why Won't ATC Bury The Lines?" Citing the expense is not a good reason. The customers who buy the energy will pay for the project, so the added cost shouldn't be of concern to ATC or any power company on its grid.
This hesitancy is simply fear of the unknown. ATC doesn't have the experience or expertise to do this. It needs to hire people who know how to bury the power lines.
Richard Wiringa, Cross Plains
The Bush pardons
Charles Sykes: Say what you will on Harry Reid, but there is not a sane person alive who heard the Rush Limbaugh clip who does not know that he called troops who disagree with him "phony" ("Finding Ways To Fail," 11/9/07).
In terms of healthcare reform, this is not 1993. In 2007, we know that with 47 million Americans without health insurance it is time for a change. It is time we caught up to the rest of the industrialized world.
Thanks for ruining my lunch by bringing up presidential pardons. Every president likes to pardon his criminal friends on his way out of office, and one's mind can only reel at the possibilities of people that George Bush will pardon on his last day.
Jeff Simpson, Cottage Grove