Thursday night, I was switching between CNN's Democratic presidential debate and Channel 12's Madison Common Council proceedings.
The first thing that strikes me is that Madison Police Chief Noble Wray is not only the most eloquent, best speaker on his feet at any level of government in Wisconsin but could give any of the Democrats in Las Vegas Thursday night a run for their money.
The fact is that Madison is lucky to have Noble Wray for as long as he wishes to remain here. My guess is he moves on to a major U.S. city in about four years. He puts the elected mayor in his shadow.
Thursday night he stood before the Common Council -- most of them resembling midgets scrambling out of the crazy car at a Shriner's Circus -- tall and erect in his navy blue uniform, four stars on each of his collar tabs, speaking with a self-assurance born of experience on the streets and in the command center, not random impressions collected from a survey class in a lecture pit.
Wray artfully challenged how many council members ("I don't know how many of you...") attended any of the neighborhood listening sessions. Noble Wray did them all -- southwest, north and east.
I am paraphrasing here but the chief said something to the effect: 700 at a meeting in favor of the police department, I feel confident in saying, has never happened before in the city's history.
He would be correct.
Chief Wray said he learned four things from that first meeting here at St. Maria Goretti on Madison's southwest side:
- You can't soak trouble spots like Allied Drive with police and neglect the rest of the city.
- Citizens want the police to deal with "quality of life" issues, not just hard crime.
- People want to see an officer "on foot, on a bike. 'I want to have access to that officer.'"
- "The average taxpaying citizen came to me and said, 'Chief, you need more staff.'"
I thought the chief took a polite swipe at the County Board's revolving door policy of returning miscreants back into the community. Specifically referencing bracelets, Wray said: "This community needs to know where people are coming from and where they are going. There is a high percentage of probation and parole people in Allied Drive."
So now we have PD-ers Marsha Rummel and Brenda Konkel and Monroe Street Ald. Brian Solomon suddenly morphing into fiscal conservatives. It was their amendment (along with campus Ald. Eli Judge and Julia Kerr of the Bay Creek area) to reduce the chief's requested 30 officers pending a study not scheduled for completion until the year 2009. Thankfully, it failed 13-7, with PDers Robbie Webber and Satya Rhodes-Conway also voting yes.
The Woman of the Year
... is Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele, who ran on a platform of neighborhood safety, not trolleys, and who called the two neighborhood meetings here on the southwest side that drew 700, then 800 people to listening sessions this summer that reordered Madison's priorities.
As Ald. Thuy said, "Ald. Solomon wasn't there."
Thursday night, Ald. Thuy spoke not of protecting the people who pour out of State Street taverns at 2 in the morning but of the
... elderly people in their homes -- someone broke the windows of a woman in her 90s, in the winter. I have young families with middle school children with drug dealing going on right across the street. These are good people, faithful, obedient, responsible who vote and pay taxes. They were asking, why is it that the police are not there for them?
To her and the Mayor's recounting of drug dealing, rapes, vandalism and disorder Solomon countered with "the huge income disparity between rich and poor" and "the high incarceration rate of black people."
Bus tickets for the homeless
Can satellite dish T.V. be bar behind?
With no demands for equivalent accountability, but taken on pure faith, are some of the City of Madison programs advocated, according -- credit where it is due -- to Brenda Konkel's live blog from Tuesday's Madison Common Council meeting (glad to see she is making productive use of her time):
- Bus tickets for the homeless.
- Rape crisis center
- Emergency housing vouchers
- Project HUGS (AODA for teens)
- Latino Child Care project
- Help prisoners re-enter society
- Money to create a plan for the James Madison Park Neighborhood District.
- Homeless outreach workers
- Increased library hours
- Paid sick leave for hourly employees
- Adding back the Fit City Coordinator position
- Sister Cities
- East Isthmus Arts Incubator
- Fund for Habitat for Humanity at Marquette/Hauk
- $1.2M loan to the Madison Mallards
- Eviction prevention funding
- Emergency housing vouchers for victims of domestic violence
- Affordable Housing Trust Fund
- Girl Neighborhood Power program at Vera Court
- Jobs with a Future
- Childcare assistance
That's some of the $5 million in social services the city spends, or would like to spend, on top of the $222 million Dane County spends on social services, as opposed to $53 million requested by City Police and the $56 million budgeted for the county Sheriff's Department. You do the math.
On the ground, in the hood
This is from Tim Johnson, a member of the Meadowood Neighborhood Association board of directors:
On the night of Saturday, May 5, 2007, three buildings on Russett (including my own home), one townhouse on Cameron, and five buildings on Balsam (all the Balsam Road buildings were facing Meadowood Park) were hit with the 4CH (Four Corner Hustlers) gang graffiti. These were large spray painted tags, about 4-5 feet tall. For unknown reasons, I got the regular 4CH, everyone else got the M4CH (as shown below), which Officer Lester Moore of the MPD gangs division said was "unusual" (whatever that means) and that it stands for "Maniac" Four Corner Hustlers. Doing a search on Wikipedia, the 4 Corner Hustlers is a Chicago-based gang and an offshoot of the Vice Lords.