Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney was talking to a friend recently about the trouble he's having recruiting minority candidates. Fewer than 5% of sheriff's deputies - and only 6% of the office's support staff, including booking clerks and aides - are racial minorities.
Mahoney's friend is an African American who works for the U.S. Justice Department. "He graduated from a black college in Virginia," says Mahoney, who took office in January. "He encouraged us to look at that campus."
Mahoney likes the idea. He plans to send recruiters to black colleges in the South sometime this year. He notes that recruiters from Southern cities - Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix - make the trek to Wisconsin every year.
"They sit at the same job fairs we sit at," he says. "Why shouldn't we do the same thing in areas outside of Wisconsin?"
But County Supv. Rich Brown thinks Mahoney's plan is "the most ridiculous idea in the world." Brown doubts minorities will leave the South to come to Wisconsin, where the population is mostly white. "I don't think a white guy saying, 'Hey, come up here' - I don't see an avenue for it. Why would they come here?"
A few years ago, the Madison Police Department did a similar tour of black colleges. "It was not very cost-effective or productive," says Sgt. Mike Koval, whose job includes recruitment. "A lot of folks are inclined to look at markets close to their support networks - families, churches, schools." Seventeen percent of the department's workforce are racial minorities. Koval says he doesn't go any further south than St. Louis looking for candidates.
Mahoney dismisses the criticism, saying, "Just because it doesn't work in the city doesn't mean it won't work for the county."
Dane County budgeted $30,000 for minority recruitment by the Sheriff's Office last year. Mahoney doesn't know how much a Southern tour will cost, but says college tours are usually "not a gigantic ticket item." And he plans to use some of the money to hire a consultant.
When Brown hears that, he starts laughing. "We have so many consultants. What's a consultant going to tell us?"
Instead, Brown wants the sheriff to focus on hiring minorities who already live in Dane County. He says Mahoney should create a cadet program to offer MATC students a scholarship if they graduate with a degree in law enforcement and agree to work at the Sheriff's Office for a couple of years. "You guarantee yourself two or three people a year," says Brown.
Mahoney rejects this idea: "I'd like to concentrate on those reaching graduation now, rather than waiting four years in the hopes of cultivating someone."
And he notes that, as sheriff, he's already made progress in minority hiring. In May, he promoted two Latino candidates and one African American to detective, the first time persons of color have held these positions.
But Brown says Mahoney needs to do more. "The sheriff said he's committed to hiring a diverse workforce," he says. "I don't doubt that he wants to. I just doubt that he knows how to do it."
Making it affordable
At a press conference in Madison this week, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) touted a bill to authorize 100,000 new Section 8 housing vouchers and create a federal Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be charged with providing more than one million affordable units over the next 10 years.
"The federal government should be showing strong leadership on this issue," he said. "The current funding isn't even remotely close to the need."
Dane County supervisors also want to create a local trust fund, similar to one run by the city of Madison. It could be used for down-payment assistance, security deposits for renters, and for developers who build more affordable units.
"The city carries a lot of the burden of affordable housing, and the county could chip in," says Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell, who wants financing for a trust fund in the 2008 budget. "Home ownership is important to people's self-esteem and to their sense of commitment to the community. It's something we should always be promoting."
Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz, a fiscal conservative, is okay with that. "I think the county could put something in toward it," she agrees, adding, "I think we could leverage private-sector contributions too."
Bruskewitz says the trust fund could also be used for "manufactured housing" - a.k.a. mobile homes. "The trust could provide the land, then people could put their houses on it," she says. "That would be kind of a cool thing."
Psst! Anyone wanna be treasurer?
How hard can it be to find a new city treasurer?
Apparently too hard. The city of Madison has been without a treasurer for nearly a year and a half - ever since Ray Fisher retired in February 2006.
"It's a complicated position to fill," says Janet Piraino, chief of staff for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. "The person we're looking for needs to have good management skills and also a real good knowledge of investments. It's a challenge to find someone with skills in both those areas."
The city treasurer oversees a significant portfolio of investments and bank deposits, for both the city and the Madison school district. At its peak, the portfolio can reach $450 million.
Since Fisher left, the city has advertised twice to fill his position. His deputy, JoAnn Terasa, has been in charge of the investments. She's worked for the city of Madison for 10 years and applied - both times - to be the new treasurer, but wasn't hired.
"JoAnn had some excellent skills in managing," says Piraino. "Her skills are not as strong in the area of investments."
The mayor's staff is now putting together an "aggressive" recruitment strategy, says Piraino. But she admits the private sector pays much better for people with the necessary investment skills. The city job will pay between $67,395 and $90,983, and Piraino says this is not likely to increase. "For a public-sector position, it's a good salary."
Hiring flap continues
A group of city managers wants to hold a special meeting to discuss the controversial hiring of mayoral aide Jeanne Hoffman as Madison's new facilities and sustainability manager. Hoffman got the job, even though she has only a business administration degree, and not the architectural or engineering experience the city advertised for.
The Madison Professional and Supervisory Employees Association planned to meet last week, but failed to get enough members present for quorum.
Some city employees believe Hoffman got the job because she's the mayor's crony.
Piraino insists that's not true: "I'd like to assure them that the mayor's office did not have any involvement in this decision." And she believes staffers will stop questioning the hiring once they understand Hoffman's abilities.
"Jeanne has some really great skills," says Piraino, noting that Hoffman did a space-needs analysis for the entire city and staffed a special committee focused on sustainable building. "She has a lot of appropriate experience."
Teed off? Read on
Gov. Jim Doyle needs your help. To raise funds, he's hosting a two-round golf tournament at University Ridge on Monday, June 18. There's a continental breakfast before the first round, a grill-out lunch between rounds and hors d'oeuvres after round two. Yum.
And best of all, the cost, which includes a greens fee, golf cart and photo with Doyle, is just $1,000 per person. But you must register your foursome by June 4. Just call 260-2036.