"I have no political experience," says Brooks McGrath, "I am simply a hard-working man who wants a better life for himself and his neighbors in a city he loves."
McGrath, 32, is one of four candidates running for the District 6 aldermanic seat on the near east side of Madison. He works as a stagehand and is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 251 and St. Bernard's Church. Excepting a six-month sojourn in Cleveland, he has lived in Madison for a decade, spending the last three in the 6th District.
A brief interview with McGrath follows.
The Daily Page: District 6 is rapidly becoming denser with the growth of developments like Union Corners. What is the ideal level of density that you would like to see on the near east side, and how can it be affordable?
McGrath: I do not wish to see density go out of control. Too much density and a city becomes overcrowded and less enjoyable, less attractive. Furthermore, I feel the focus on density is growing to the point where the city is close to ignoring a thriving housing market. Reducing government intervention and allowing the private sector to do their job would actually keep housing affordable.
You emphasize a "healthy business environment" in your message. Do you think this environment in Madison is currently healthy, and what specifically would you do to improve it?
I feel Madison is headed towards an unhealthy business environment. Paid sick-leave as a city ordinance will only drive business out of the city. Inclusionary-zoning restrictions discourage developers from working with the city.
The city of Madison is not an island. The decisions Madison makes affects outlying communities. Business restrictions threaten to take out our own legs. Madison risks become a hollow economic shell while the rest of Dane County thrives.
What do you think the status of the Central Park concept will be by the end of this decade?
I'm an optimist, so I think it will be a usable space by then. I am hoping that foundations and private donors would be the reasons for its success rather than tax dollars. For reasons ranging from limited tax spending to private donations from residents, it would elevate the park's status as a source of community pride.
You say streetcars are a bad idea and that you would like to see Madison Metro improved. What changes would you like to see in the bus system, and what other kinds of transit should the city foster?
Simplifying and tightening Metro would be the goal.
Establish a grid system over the city, or at least the closest thing we can have to a grid. East-west routes would be designated with a number preceded by an "E" or "W" designating the direction. Likewise, North-south routes would designated with a number proceeded by a "N" or "S". We should create routes easily understood by all. If your bus is identified with a letter, you know you are either going east or west.
We should establish timely and constant routes and stops, with the latter occurring either every 10, 15, or 20 minutes depending on rush hours. During slower hours, we should replace full-sized buses with half-size buses that theoretically use half the fuel. We should collect hard data on ridership through regular head counts, and modify routes and stops and bus size accordingly.
We need to create a Metro system that can be flexible within a rigid framework. Adding alternative forms of public transportation would diminish bus ridership for a system already heavily subsidized. I would not consider alternative systems until or unless the Metro system becomes saturated -- in that it cannot take anymore riders.
As far as an expanded Metro, I would support exploratory van-pools and get a read on the demand for expanded routes before blindly dedicating an entire route to a community that may or may not use it.
On a personal note, being a caffeine addict, I would applaud being allowed to drink my coffee on a bus!
What kinds of developments would you like to see in the East Washington corridor between the Capitol and the Yahara River? How should TIF be used in any projects suggested for this area?
East Washington is primarily a commuter corridor to me, in that spirit that I would like to see more businesses that are commuter-friendly, for cars, buses and pedestrians. I don't support any buildings that threaten the view of the Capitol. As I understand TIF, an area needs to be blighted or in need of rehabilitation. I see East Washington on the rise, as there are attractive and successful businesses developing. In that sense, I don't see much of a need for TIF beyond better lighting.
You say "true representation has become lacking over the last few years" in city government, and that "politics and political action groups can only corrupt." How would your representation of District 6 residents differ from the status quo?
I would put resident input before neighborhood associations and political groups.
Neighborhood associations do not necessarily put the needs or wants of their residents first. A handful of influential members could make important decisions that do not reflect the will of residents.
Politics thrown into what is supposed to be a non-partisan office corrupts, in that a representative may find themselves beholden to those who are not constituents.
As much as I appreciate the look and feel of my district, I wish to see a functioning district first. I wish to see to it that its citizens feel safe, streets are plowed, and the water is drinkable. Stepping aside and allowing businesses to operate ultimately makes a city a better place to live, work and play.