One of the first candidates to formally announce for the Madison Common Council this spring was Mike Basford. He is running for the District 12 seat being vacated by two term Ald. Brian Benford. The district is located at the juncture of the city's east and north sides, just to the southwest of the airport. Basford is one of two announced candidates so far for the seat, which is likely to be a serious competition given the political and community credentials of himself and his opponent, Satya Rhodes-Conway. Basford is a homeowner on the north side who has worked in IT consulting and for a homelessness non-profit.
The Daily Page: You've written that this spring's elections will be a "turning point" for the city. What do you mean by that?
Basford: This is a "turning point" election because a lot of change has happened in Madison over the last few years -- both in terms of growth and policy. While we face new challenges, there are some in Madison who want to roll back many of the gains we've made in areas like housing and public health. You hear them on the AM dial, and you read about them in the editorial pages. They keep saying, "We want to take Madison back."
What they really want to do is take Madison backward. We can't afford to be that shortsighted. We need a city government that isn't afraid to be innovative, that isn't afraid to be a leader among communities and that is caring enough to include everybody in what it has to offer. Will we have that kind of city government or waste precious time and energy looking backwards and grandstanding? That is what this election is about.
What will you do to create a second city pool at Warner Park?
I will continue to support the community's efforts to build momentum for the pool at Warner Park. This is an ongoing effort that has been in the works for years.
While I support these efforts, I also keep in mind that we do this in the context of a lot of change that is proposed for Warner Park -- from the pool to a new Mallards' stadium to proposed expansion of the Warner Park Community Recreation Center.
We need to develop a long-range plan for Warner Park that involves all of the interests from the community, from the Circle of Friends to the Mallards, and encourages input from Northside residents. It is something I am already working for as a member of the Warner Park Community Recreation Center Advisory Committee and the Northside Planning Council. I will certainly continue to work towards these goals as District 12 Alderman.
You say change is coming to the north and east sides of Madison. What kinds of changes do you mean, and what would be your role in addressing them as an alder?
Madison is continuing to grow and opportunities for infill development in the central isthmus are drying up. For the last few years, the neighborhoods of District 12 have been emerging as areas that are attracting families due to their affordability and friendliness. Here is where developers are eyeing the future changes for our city.
It is crucial that District 12 is represented by someone who not only understands the development process, but also has a desire to see that any future developments are economically and ecologically sustainable, that include the neighborhoods that are the major stakeholders, and that bring good-paying jobs to the North and East sides. I have extensive experience in this type of development planning due to my service on the City of Madison Zoning Board of Appeals, and from leading two Madison neighborhood associations.
During the 2007 budget hearings, you spoke about your support of neighborhood planning councils, you were one of the founding members of the East Isthmus Neighborhoods Planning Council and are the treasurer of the Northside Planning Council. What kind of relationship should alders have with their corresponding planning councils? What if their district does not include one?
I am very much an advocate for planning councils -- my involvement in them goes back nearly seven years.
Planning councils are the coalmine canaries for the areas they serve. They are closer to the ground than city agencies and are usually the first to identify serious problems in the community. They help facilitate city services to areas that need them. And I believe they serve as a great resource for alders by helping connect them to citizens and issues.
Some alders are afraid of such empowered groups. I celebrate them and would like to see them proliferate throughout the city, provided that they are created like the other planning councils have been -- from the grassroots of the community.
What's the biggest improvement you feel you could make to District 12 as its alderperson?
I believe we can improve our transportation options to decrease traffic going through our neighborhoods. I've believed that since I went to a Dane Alliance for Rail Transit (DART) meeting nearly eleven years ago that described how a regionally based transportation solution could help our streets. We need to partner with Dane County and surrounding communities to make this so.
I also believe we need to improve access to the city's bicycle path network for Northsiders. That is why I formed an advocacy group over a year-and-a-half ago to fight for the creation of the "Sherman Flyer" bicycle path. Work still needs to be done to make this a reality and building the Sherman Flyer will be a top priority for me.
Both you and your opponent, Satya Rhodes-Conway, are considered by supporters to be strong community activists and progressive in your politics. What's the primary difference between you and your opponent?
I have been a resident of Madison for over twenty years. My roots in this community are deep and strong. I graduated from high school here. I attended the University of Wisconsin here. I helped start a family business here. I met my wife here and we bought a home on the Northside nearly three years ago.
Madison isn't a stop on my life's journey. It is my home. My neighbors know that my love for what this community is, my appreciation for what it has been, and my hopes for what it will be, are what drives what I do here.