It's not a surprise that Supv. Matt Veldran is facing a challenger this spring. His win over longtime board member David Blaska two years ago was an upset and helped hand control of the County Board to the liberals. But his seat is far from secure. His district, which includes southwest Madison and parts of Fitchburg, is not necessarily liberal. It's represented by one of the more conservative alders on the Madison Common Council, Thuy Pham-Remmele.
Veldran's challenger, Dave Glomp, has no political experience, but he has the advantage of being promoted by Blaska. And he's savvy enough (or his advisers are savvy enough) to follow Pham-Remmele's lead on public safety. The Madison alder organized a neighborhood meeting on crime last fall that drew 800 residents. In a series of mailings, Glomp has assailed Veldran for supporting electronic monitoring to reduce jail overcrowding. He's also criticized Veldran for voting against hiring new sheriff's deputies never mind that Sheriff Dave Mahoney didn't want them. The bitterness of the race makes it one of the ones to watch during the general election on April 1.
What is the single most important issue for your particular Dane County Board district?
Glomp: Crime prevention and public safety remain the most important issues to all of the residents of Dist. 7, including wards 1,2, & 3 in Fitchburg. Within southwest Madison, the siphoning of police manpower to the Allied Drive area certainly allowed escalation of crime in wards 86 & 87 and other areas covered by the west police precinct. Criminals know how to take advantage of a lack of coverage by police. As moderator of the St. Maria Goretti crime meeting, I heard firsthand neighbors' concerns. Dealing with crime is a basic service and if done properly will improve the quality of life for all Dist. 7 residents.
Veldran: Public safety is foremost on citizens' minds in Dist. 7. The Madison and Fitchburg police will always be the first responders in the district. The Sheriff's department can provide necessary backup when called. Sheriff Dave Mahoney is currently having his deputies drive through our streets on the way to the west precinct in Middleton, instead of taking the Beltline. But the county's primary responsibility is working on the root causes of crime. I co-sponsored two pieces of legislation that get to the heart of the problem; one targets disconnected youth through a job training program and the second is designed to help adults with job skills with the addition of two Joining Forces for Families office workers located in the Meadowood neighborhood.
If Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk were to leave office, who would be her ideal successor?
Glomp: Mark Bugher, who has served on the Eau Claire County Board, as Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, and as appointed chair of Madison's Economic Development Commission, and who currently manages the University Research Park, as well as being current chair of the board of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.
Veldran: Someone who possesses the same skills and leadership.
Do you support a Dane County Regional Transit Authority, with its own taxing ability? Why do you think some communities oppose an RTA?
Glomp: I generally believe in regional planning as it provides some economies of scale in providing needed services. This means that I could support an RTA, as long as it considers all transportation options, including buses, automobiles and roads. And trains, if it can be proven that such an expenditure would be economically self sufficient. I am not sold on the half-cent sales tax as the only way to fund an RTA! A Middleton to Sun Prairie commuter train would not serve Dist. 7, nor would it remove a single truck from Verona Road and the Beltline. Trains will add to congestion on major arterial streets throughout the city during rush hours. A train system will cost $233-$285 million to build. A half-cent sales tax will create the largest tax increase in Dane County's history, bringing in $46 million a year. It is opposed by some communities because they see it as a Madison Metro system, not serving their area's transportation needs.
Veldran: I am in favor of creating an RTA to address our future transportation needs. No one knows how the RTA will look until the state passes the enabling legislation. This is also important to other areas of the state. We need to reduce the congestion that is continually turning our neighborhood streets into alternative routes. As I have said, I support the formation of an RTA with the increase in the sales tax and will let the voters decide through a county-wide referendum at the appropriate time. Creating the RTA can expand and enhance bus service, support increased road improvements, add more bus service for the elderly, and improve bike routes. The RTA will aid all parts of the county, but in different ways. If light rail is implemented, obviously everyone will not be directly served, but may be positively affected indirectly by having fewer cars on the roads. Enhanced express bus service county-wide will help all parts of the county.
Has the County Board become more or less relevant over time?
Glomp: Less relevant!!! The county has not stepped up on addressing or dealing with crime and public safety issues! They did not finish the last three floors of the seven-story jail they promised the citizens when citizens approved the last half-cent sales tax! This action created the current jail overcrowding situation, which they now want to fix using electronic monitoring of jail inmates, which could put citizens at risk. They have been wasting time on issues over which they have no direct jurisdiction, like resolutions calling for the impeachment of the U.S. president or developing such things as a food council! The County Board has a very important role and responsibility to assure the delivery of the basic services that citizens can't provide for themselves.
Veldran: Since I'm finishing up my first term it's hard to make an overall assessment. The county may become more relevant over time as we look regionally on issues such as air and water quality, continued lake improvements and economic collaboration. I chair the subcommittee on Energy Independence. Right now we are looking at county energy use to make the county as energy efficient as possible, which has both environmental and economic benefits. The airport is using 20% renewable energy now and we would like to increase that annually. We are looking at using alternative energy for the new Badger Prairie Health Care Center, which will hopefully break ground in the fall. But energy and air quality issues are not bound by municipal borders. That's why a more regional approach to larger issues makes sense.
Name the one quality you possess that is most essential to the job.
Glomp: I am a people person, someone who listens and hears what others are saying, especially the citizens of the district. That, coupled with my extensive management and financial (budgeting) experience, can help keep the Dane County budget in line, by controlling unnecessary spending and tax increases. As I was campaigning door-to-door, senior citizens and blue-collar workers have expressed their concerns about being taxed out of their homes! I have heard them loud and clear!
Veldran: I listen to all points of view and realize that compromise is necessary at times. One of the themes of my last campaign was that I would bring back respect to our district. I believe I have been successful. I also take the
time to listen to constituents and attend as many neighborhood association meetings and functions as possible. While I may disagree with colleagues on specific issues or how to solve them, I hope we can still respect each other's opinions.