One of, if not the hottest race for the Madison Common Council in the spring 2007 elections is for the District 12 seat being vacated by Ald. Brian Benford. Located on the north and east sides of the city from the Yahara River to Warner Park to the edge of the airport, the district aldermanic seat is being contested by two respected neighborhood activists both supported by numerous elected officials and community members. One of these candidates is Satya Rhodes-Conway, a homeowner in the Eken Park neighborhood who has worked as an educator and municipal policy activist.
A brief interview with Rhodes-Conway follows below.
The Daily Page: What do you mean when you say been preparing all your life to run for office?
Rhodes-Conway: I wasn't consciously building the skills and experience one needs to run for office -- in fact I never thought I would run, even though people have been telling me I should for years. But over the years, I've developed strong leadership and facilitation skills, gained enormous experience in city policy, and been involved in a wide range of neighborhood projects.
My family raised me to believe that I should give back to my community and I realized that, given my experience and my vision for both the district and the city, serving as an Alder is a way to give back to the neighborhoods and the city that I love.
What would you do to create a second city pool at Warner Park?
I'm very excited about the possibility of building a pool at Warner Park. I've seen first hand what a success Goodman Pool has been, and I know that a second city pool at Warner would be a great resource for Northside neighborhoods. That's why I joined the Circle of Friends in 'pounding the pavement' for a pool (see attached photo).
As I stood behind the mayor for his kick-off announcement yesterday, I was thrilled to hear him publicly state in no uncertain terms that we will build a second pool and it will be at Warner Park. It was a nice exclamation point to the funds he included in his budget for the Warner Park pool. I look forward to working with him and with the whole Northside community to design a pool that will serve everyone, and to find the rest of the funding needed to build it.
You've written that you've been preparing your campaign for months. What exactly have you been doing?
I've been talking to my neighbors across the district about their ideas and concerns, about their vision for the district and the city. I've had many wonderful conversations, and have heard several things again and again: First, District 12 needs an active, accessible representative in City Hall. I will be that representative. Second, we need to address transportation and safety issues in the district. I have many ideas about how to do this, as do our neighborhood activists.
I look forward to talking with even more of my neighbors throughout the campaign about the best way to keep our streets and our neighborhoods safe and accessible to all.
During the 2007 city budget hearings, you spoke about your support of neighborhood planning councils and for adding ten neighborhood officers to the MPD. That latter proposal and a substitute suggestion failed, however. Do you think the council should have a voice in staffing decisions for the city at the department level?
I believe that Alders should set priorities for the city as a whole, especially on matters of public safety. Neighborhood policing is not just a staffing decision; it is an effective and popular tool to deal -- both proactively and reactively -- with the very real problems our neighborhoods face.
I've spoken with many neighbors around my district that have been frustrated with the Madison Police Department because they talk to a different person every time they call. Having a neighborhood officer gives people someone to contact who knows the neighborhood, the history and the issues. Neighborhood officers aren't the only solution, but they are an important part of the solution, and I think it's appropriate for the Council to communicate that.
What's the biggest improvement you want to work towards within District 12?
We need to make it easier to get to and from the Northside. I will advocate for improvements in Metro service; work to address traffic issues on Sherman and Northport and in individual neighborhoods, push for better bike access; and collaborate regionally on other public transit options.
We need to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods, whether this means making sure kids can cross the street safely or making sure that folks feel safe walking down the street at night. I will work to keep our streets safe through traffic calming and good planning. I will work to keep our neighborhoods safe both through responsive, neighborhood-based policing and by addressing the root causes of crime.
Both you and your opponent Mike Basford are considered by supporters to be strong community activists and progressive in your politics. What's the primary thing that you bring to the table that differs from your opponent?
I have a depth of experience, both in Madison issues and in city policy in general. One of my responsibilities at my job is to staff the New Cities Project, where I work with city leaders and experts from across the country to identify and share best practices in city policy. I spend a lot of time working on ways for cities to build on their strengths, and I am eager to bring that knowledge and experience to the Madison Common Council.
I also have a strong vision, matched by a willingness to listen. In talking with my neighbors over the years, I've developed a keen sense of our neighborhoods on the North and East side, and how we can preserve and improve our quality of life. I'm ready to be an active, accessible representative for District 12, and to be a strong voice for our neighborhoods in City Hall.
Finally, I think my work ethic is a big asset for our district. There's a lot going on in our neighborhoods. Representing our neighbors well will take someone who is not afraid to work the long hours, will take on leadership roles, and will do the hard work of soliciting and incorporating the thoughts of the people who live here.
Note: Rhodes-Conway is holding her campaign kick-off on Saturday, Dec. 2 at The Sandlot in the Eken Park neighborhood next to Demetral Field. The press release announcing her candidacy is available in the related downloads at top right.