Larry Palm is finishing up his first term as the alderperson for Dist. 15 on Madison's east side and looking forward to another. Palm, 33, has been a secretary with the Madison Metropolitan School District since 1994, and lists education among his main issues.
He's served on the Madison Public Library Board for 10 years and was a co-founder of GLSEN South Central Wisconsin, which is now the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. He's also been a co-chair of Eken Park Neighborhood Association since 2003 and was previously a vice president of Capital Neighborhoods.
A brief interview with Palm follows below.
The Daily Page: The Stoughton Road Revitalization Project seeks to revamp the east side corridor with alternative transit, mixed-use developments, and less advertising. Last summer, the city approved a $20,000 neighborhood grant to hire a consultant. Do you agree with the project's vision? How would you support or change the project?
Palm: Since the beginning, I have been active in the Stoughton Road Revitalization Project (SRRP), and strongly support its goals. A significant amount of work has been done, and interested residents can get the latest news by visiting www.stoughtonroad.com for information about the Stoughton Road Revitalization Project.
I worked with the neighborhood associations to secure the $20,000 neighborhood grant, and the matching grant money. The Stoughton Road Project was the top ranked proposal for the city's grant program.
We have recently completed our "Request For Proposals" and will soon announce our selected consultant. The project will invite area residents and business to create a plan that will reach our goals of a safe, usable and neighborhood-oriented street. We're also interested in creating a plan that has real chance of getting implemented, not sit on a shelf.
I am also on the State Department of Transportation Stoughton Road Advisory Committee, working with their designers and engineers to plan for the future reconstruction of the entire corridor.
You've co-sponsored numerous amendments that cut spending in recent budget cycles. How do you balance your interest in keeping taxes low with an interest to fund various city programs?
I'm worried about property taxes. Senior citizens and working families are being taxed on the one thing that has the most value -- their home -- but pay with something they don't have -- disposable income. At the same time I recognize the positive impact that City programs have on the lives of all residents. I believe that setting priorities is the key to striking the right balance between responsible spending and reasonable taxes.
When I talk to my neighbors and constituents, I ask them where the city should be directing energy and resources, and their answers help me to determine the right priorities. I keep these priorities in mind when the Council is considering the budget. During the budget debate, I worked with other alders to find solutions that maximize resources without boosting tax bills, such as using existing police vehicles instead of purchasing new ones when adding officers.
I continue to seek ways to reduce city expenditures without undermining services or cutting our experienced and valuable workforce. In my next term, I will continue to demand a focus on responsible spending, and help to define the Council's priorities to achieve a balance of interests.
What kind of transit needs do you see for residents living and passing through your district?
When I took office two years ago, Metro Transit had potential, but was being driven in multiple directions. That's why I supported new leadership at Metro, and why I was the only non-Transit and Parking Commission Alder to sponsor the creation of the Ad-Hoc Long Range Metro Transit Planning Committee. Now we're working on a clear plan for Metro.
The East Transfer Point is in Dist. 15 and we have been looking at adding a park-and-ride to this site, again to attract more riders. As well, I would like to see more express bus service during peak times from the Transfer Points to the downtown and other places of employment. Other options such as creating a regional transit system can help Metro Transit provide more services to our residents, while sharing the costs with other municipalities. The new Metro director has experience creating a regional transit network, and this background will benefit Madison's residents.
The city is pursuing restoration and development of the Garver Feed Mill and Royster-Clark properties. What uses do you envision for the properties? How should these projects be funded?
I currently serve on the city's Garver Feed Mill reuse committee and have been hosting monthly neighborhood meetings with residents to talk about Royster-Clark. I am heavily involved in these two properties because I am worried about the re-development impact that these sites and potentially others will have on Dist. 15.
Currently, the Garver Feed Mill reuse committee is putting together its Requests For Proposals. Because of the unique nature of the project -- and many restrictions on the use of the property -- we're concerned about how the improvements will be paid for. Over one million dollars is needed just to stabilize the building for any planned reuse. While there is potential for a few tax-credits, financing does look difficult.
For the Royster-Clark property, we're not far enough along to determine a future usage, nor a way to pay for it. I am holding monthly meetings because I want the vision for the property to come out of the nearby residents, not from city planners or the alderperson. Nearby residents will live with the decisions we make, and I want them involved right from the start.
Last time you ran for office, you had the support of the Dane County Dems, and locally prominent Democrats. This year, you failed to get the endorsement of the Dems, and many of those who endorsed you in 2005 have endorsed your opponent, Vicky Selkowe. Why do you think they've withdrawn their support?
Since being elected two years ago, my primary focus has been to represent the priorities of my neighbors and constituents. When re-elected, I will continue to listen to and communicate with the residents of Dist. 15. I have been overwhelmed and thankful for the amount of in-district support I have received.
It is difficult to balance the needs of a district with the ideas of those who have endorsed you from out the district. Many sensible elected officials know what it like to working within tough constraints, both in the budget and in other areas, means making tough choices. I am thankful for the support of prominent Democrats, such as our new Dane County Sheriff, Dave Mahoney and Kathleen Falk our County Executive.
What actions do you find most important to protect city waterways such as Starkweather Creek? Do bike and pedestrian paths interfere with that effort?
For many years, I have been on the Board of the Friends of Starkweather Creek, so I have long been a strong advocate for our local waterways. Protecting our local water resources requires a commitment from city leaders, and the buy-in of city residents. Together, we can set policies that will enhance the beauty of our streams and lakes, and make them accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
I do not feel that bike and pedestrian paths interfere with the preservation of waterways such as Starkweather Creek, because when people are able to see these resources up close, they tend to value them more and place a greater emphasis on preservation and protection.
Currently, I am working with the City Parks Department and the East Isthmus Planning Council (EINPC) on a series of public tours and input meetings for city owned land along Starkweather Creek. One of the items for discussion is the development of a walking trail network that one day may allow residents to walk the length of Starkweather Creek.