Melanie Hampton and Vic Bankston are vying to fill the county board seat left empty by Madison Police Officer, and 2007 County Sheriff candidate, Mike Hansen. District 14 straddles Hwy. PD on the far southwest side of Madison.
Isthmus reporter Vikki Kratz wrote about this race in the March 28 issue of Isthmus due to County Executive Kahleen Falk's endorsement of both candidates.
What is the single most important issue for your particular Dane County Board district?
Melanie Hampton: Last year, residents of the west side of Madison sparked a city-wide outcry for more law enforcement presence. Shortly thereafter, several incidents of child enticement occurred in the district along with an increase in burglaries. From my experience in law enforcement, I know how important the County role is in public protection. Beginning with the 911 communication center and extending all the way up through the courts, the County is inextricably involved in the success of any public protection initiative taken in Madison. I will work hard to ensure our criminal justice system stays focused on public protection, justice for victims of crime, and appropriate rehabilitation for offenders. My first priority is protection for our most precious resource, OUR CHILDREN.
Vic Bankston: District 14 has experienced an increase in burglaries. Many garages and cars have been vandalized during a period of two years. The concern is that teenagers are engaging in mischief when they are not participating in structured activities. Some residents are paying attention to apartment complexes that seem to have more young people. Going forward it will be important to examine data related to the incidences in order to properly assess the root causes. During the interim residents are requesting more patrolling in the area. Nonetheless, citizens are willing to be more cautious.
If Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk were to leave office, who would be her ideal successor?
Hampton: Her ideal successor would need to have great passion for the office and the intelligence, pragmatism, and foresight to make responsible, inclusive decisions.
Bankston: Anyone following County Executive Kathleen Falk will need to have a vision for Dane County, keen leadership skills, and a wealth of experience in business and government.
Do you support a Dane County Regional Transit Authority, with its own taxing ability? Why do you think some communities oppose an RTA?
Hampton: I have two degrees in civil engineering and years of practical experience around transportation projects. Clearly Dane County needs truly regional transit solutions. For me to support an RTA, it must first have priorities that are supported by the taxpayers. Next, the RTA must have professional leadership with all programs and operations tied to clearly defined funding mechanisms and a strategic plan that includes an outcome evaluation function. The question of the use of the sales tax as one of the funding sources should be put to the people of Dane County in the form of a public referendum. I believe a large source of opposition to an RTA comes from the way it was initially proposed. Many individuals equate the RTA to the commuter rail project through the isthmus. A commuter rail project is only one project that MAY be undertaken by an RTA, again, only with public support.
Bankston: I support a Regional Transportation Authority. However, implementing a new system of this nature requires much consideration related to infrastructure. The following elements are important.
- Clearly identified enhancements to the current transportation system
- Structuring RTA project so the roads can handle it; traffic on beltline
- Programs that will generate revenue from sales tax
- Fee structure that will allow individuals who depend on public transportation to pay affordable rates
- Plans for job creation and training for Dane County residents with special needs
Has the County Board become more or less relevant over time?
Hampton: The Board has become more relevant. As the world appears to grow smaller due to technology advances, regional solutions to most issues will be necessary. Crime patterns are not necessarily contained within one municipality, but rather extend over a region, and emphasize the need to share information between law enforcement agencies. Transportation solutions will need to be regional to bring people to and from work, school, activities, and shopping. State government is not designed to handle day to day issues, and municipal governments aren't inherently designed to handle regional issues. The County is the best level for these regional issues. While the mission of the Board is very relevant, the Board must be mindful to always strive to be effective.
Bankston: The Dane County Board over a period of time has been involved in providing many services that are crucial. It is an organization that oversees the implementation of solutions related to health and human needs, intended land use, environmental protection plans, and water usage, public safety and traffic issues. Considering the population growth pattern in the county, the Board is now faced with challenges that did not exist in previous years.
Name the one quality you possess that is most essential to the job?
Hampton: Combined experience in two distinct areas of vital importance to County government: law enforcement and transportation. I am passionate about these two areas, and excited for the opportunity to affect positive change in Dane County.
Bankston: I have a wealth of experience that has proven my ability to collaborate, resolve conflicts, and set the pace for continuous improvement. My desire as County Board Supervisor is to explore the relationship between adequate senior services, provisions for health and human needs, appropriate after-school educational programs for our youth, and a decrease in incidents of crime. Educated, healthy environments create a climate for safe communities.