Madison's tenth aldermanic district includes one of the most discussed neighborhoods in the city: Allied Drive, the small, troubled neighborhood located south of the Verona Road interchange with the Beltline. As longtime alder Ken Golden retires, four residents are vying to represent the district, which contains some of the city's biggest challenges.
Candidate Nick Dorneanu owns the Fairwood Arms Apartments on Allied Drive and is president of the Allied Drive-Dunn's Marsh Landlord Association. He has worked with residents and property owners in the embattled neighborhood. "My goal is to ensure the growth of Madison is balanced," he says.
A brief interview follows.
The Daily Page: District 10 includes some of the city's wealthiest residents in the Nakoma neighborhood and some of the city's poorest on Allied Drive. How will you balance each community's interests as their representative on the Council?
Dorneanu: I have to listen to both sides of the community, rich and poor.
The poor residents want low-income housing, a drug-and- crime-free neighborhood, and an improved community. I will try to bring that to the table when I become an alderman. I would have the Community Development Authority (CDA) and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) come up with a plan that will bring low housing to Allied Drive and other neighborhoods where needed.
WHEDA has a program that requires that the renter pays 40%-50%. I think that program will do really well in the low-income neighborhoods. I will look into the CDA Section 8 program and see if we can roll that program out again. Right now, we have a long waiting list for it. I will bring developers that are working with federal grants and build senior-citizen complexes and low-income homes.
As far as crime, I will meet with the police chief and ask him to increase police presence and clean up all the bad apples. I am tired of hearing that we are short on staff and do not have enough police officers to cover the area. If that requires for me to work on their budget and get extra funds, I will knock on every senator's door and ask them for more Weed and Seed funds. I want to make sure that everyone can do their job right.
I have listened to the wealthiest residents' concerns, and I was told that they want more security and protection, they want a clean neighborhood and they want their water to be clean. I was told by many of them that they want their real estate taxes lowered. I will try to bring top developers to their area to make it the wealthiest it can be, from modern shopping malls to day-to-day use businesses like Starbucks and high class restaurants.
I will give the community what they need. I am only here to listen and do what they want me to do. I will be their voice in the city council chambers. The bottom line is that I will represent both sides, will listen to both sides, and will deliver what they want me to deliver. If I can not do what they need, then I am not fit for this job.
You say the district "desperately needs representation." How will you differ from longtime Ald. Ken Golden when it comes to representing the breadth of the district?
The district desperately needs representation because nobody is doing anything. Everyone makes promises, but they seem to forget them two days later.
Ald. Ken Golden has not really done anything for Allied Drive, where we have the highest crime rate and so many problems like housing and others that affect the whole district. I have been calling Ken Golden for the past two years and he never returned one of my calls to talk to him about improving this neighborhood.
Most of the people here are homeless or are about to be homeless because they can't afford housing. Crime on Allied is like no other place in this state, and no one cares. I think everyone runs away from this headache and that includes a lot of city officials, even Ken Golden. I really think that I can fix this neighborhood, and bring hope and a better life to most of the residents on Allied Drive.
When you are an alderperson, you have to look at all things, not only the positive ones. You have to balance and solve the problems for all residents within the district. If Ken Golden had fixed the neighborhood when it really needed then I would say he was one of the city's best aldermen, but the problem was left alone until it takes a Act of God to fix some of the problems in this neighborhood now.
I will be different from Ken Golden, I will care for all residents from my district no matter who they are. I will fight for all residents to get them the best possible results, and to show them what life really means living in the tenth district.
Why did you decide to run your campaign for less than $1,000 in donations?
Because I am running my own campaign, and I wanted to show to all residents that I am not doing this for fame or any other political reason. I am well known within the city of Madison. I do not need fame, but I want to show everyone that I care for them.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a person that cares and helps all in need. I have always tried to be a positive role model for all young teens from troubled neighborhoods. I want everyone to know that I will treat their problem the same, and that's why I run my own campaign. I don't want them to feel that if they did not donate any money to my campaign, I am not going to help them.
What is the ideal level of development and traffic along Monroe Street?
The ideal level of development for Monroe Street is that it should include larger streets and many modern developments. It seems that one of the larger problems is traffic, which I think needs attention. We all know that Madison is a growing city, and I would love the idea that this city will become one of the top ten places in the U.S. to have a family and a place to work.
We need to make Monroe Street an example of what future developments of Madison will look like from now on. It needs a public transportation route to decrease traffic and parking problems. This city will grow, and we need to grow with it on all levels of development.
You say your goal is "to ensure the growth of Madison is balanced." How is the city's growth currently unbalanced, and what would you do to rectify this?
The only way to ensure that growth in Madison is balanced is to listen to all objectives, look over all projects, and to make sure that the outcome of all developments and things we do to improve the city will benefit the residents of every district.
Balance, for me, is a word that defines all people from all kinds of income levels. Everyone has a right to a better life, and that means representing all of their concerns in front of the city council. Madison is growing at a fast rate, and I think that the council should look into creating more jobs, more housing and a safer city. With that in mind, we can create a better economy in this city that will make for a better life in all surrounding cities.
As you see, these days some of the developments benefit only some of the people of Madison. Let's look at Allied Drive. Nothing has been done here to improve the quality of life, but yet we spent $ 1.6 million last year for police presence and solving crimes from TIF funds. It's a waste of money that cannot be recovered. We could it take it and develop something for the community to give them hope and something to care for.
That's what I mean that some of things are not balanced. Some people do not benefit from some of the things the city is doing, like transportation. Some of the low-income neighborhoods do not benefit fully of all the privileges the city has for them. Public transportation in District 10 is at point right now where people are not to happy with it. I have heard many complaints about transportation.
You have experience with the challenges faced by residents of Allied Drive, both as president of the Allied Dunn's Marsh Landlord Association, as well as from your day-to-day work there. What must the city do to improve the situation in this community?
I have seen many things while working on Allied Drive, all kinds of crimes: shootings, drug deals, robberies, fights, etc. I have talked to many drug dealers and they all told me, "Nick, if I had a job, you think I would be here trying to sell drugs and risk getting shot or robbed?" Many of them told me that they are turned down for employment due to the fact that they live on Allied Drive.
The city needs to create more jobs for some of the residents here, and give them a hope to live by creating a low housing income and a crime free community. There are many good residents on Allied Drive, and I care for every single one, but they do not have any hope and any help to climb that next step. For example, many of the residents want to buy their own home and create a legacy for their family. But most of the time, their dreams get turned down by getting a lot of closed doors.
I have been here for a long time, and I know what it takes to fix this community. I am not afraid of the problems that this community has, and I am prepared to solve each one. I will tell my community that if I don't do my job right, then I will find someone better to do it. I am confident that I will be very resourceful for this district, and I will bring new hope for all residents.
Note: Nick Dorneanu is not currently operating a campaign website. More details about his experiences in the Allied Drive neighborhood can be found in a series (part one and part two) published by Capital City Hues in October 2006.