Thirteen Madison alders signed a petition in support of the fall schools referendum.
Before Tuesday's Madison Common Council meeting, alder Austin King circulated a petition to his fellow alders. It urged support of the three-part school-spending referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot.
This referendum, if passed, would authorize the spending of $23.5 million to build a new elementary school on the far west side; provide financing for an expansion of the Leopold school on the southwest side; and provide refinancing to free up extra funds.
The petition was signed by 13 alders: Brenda Konkel, Lauren Cnare, Mike Verveer, Robbie Webber, Judy Olson, Austin King, Ken Golden, Tim Gruber, Brian Benford, Isadore Knox, Tim Bruer, Paul Van Rooy and Noel Radomski.
Seven alders -- Jed Sanborn, Zach Brandon, Paul Skidmore, Larry Palm, Judy Compton, Santiago Rosas and Cindy Thomas -- declined to sign.
The primary organization working in support of the referendum is Communities and Schools Together (CAST), which boasts the endorsements of all seven current school board members, several Fitchburg alders and Dane County Board chair Scott McDonell, among others.
Several members of the Common Council have personal connections to the school district beyond their role as a taxpayer. Gruber and Palm are school district employees. Four others -- Benford, Brandon, Cnare, and Radomski -- have children enrolled in the district.
Circulating petitions of this type during council meetings is a regular practice. A recent example is a petition urging opposition to the state's advisory referendum on the death penalty, which was passed around a few weeks back; most council members signed.
King says the school petition came out of a recent summit between council members and the school board: "While there were plenty of interesting questions and some back-and-forth on land-use and planning issues, everyone there agreed that a strong city is dependent on a strong school system, and a strong school system is dependent on a strong city. Although we are separate levels of government, our fates are intimately intertwined."
Note: Only four alders currently have childeren enrolled in the Madison Metropolitan School District.