José Rea (left) is trying to unseat first-term Ald. Sheri Carter in District 14.
Ald. Sheri Carter is seeking a second term on the Madison Common Council. She is being challenged by UW-Milwaukee student José Rea to represent District 14 on the city’s south side. Both candidates are Madison natives and attended West High School.
But the two clash over some issues related to the district, including Mayor Paul Soglin’s recent push to curb panhandling on city medians and terraces. After months of debate, Carter was one of 12 alders who approved the measure at the Feb. 7 council meeting
“Panhandling [in medians] is very dangerous,” Carter said at a March 3 debate hosted by Isthmus. “And quite frankly, I can’t sacrifice somebody’s life to grab a monetary benefit.”
Carter adds that she’s actively involved in combating homelessness through her work as a board member for the nonprofit Porchlight.
But Rea opposes the ban, saying it criminalizes homelessness.
“If [Carter] is worried about saving lives, how about the lives of those homeless individuals?” asks Rea, who serves on the city’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “When [people are] ticketed and accumulate more and more tickets, they can be jailed by our Madison Police Department. Then where do they go? Back into the system.”
Rea says if resources for the homeless were properly funded, the new ordinance wouldn’t be needed.
The candidates also sparred over Madison College’s decision to leave downtown in order to expand operations on the city’s south side. In May 2016, the technical college announced its intention to close its downtown facility despite opposition from the mayor and other city leaders.
Rea is critical of Carter’s lack of advocacy on the Madison College issue. He says the south side should have a council member who is leading the charge to expand the college’s presence in that part of town.
“On the south side, we need better access to higher education,” says Rea.
Carter says she’s long pushed for Madison College to offer more career pathway classes at its south-side campus. But she also likes that the college has a presence downtown.
“Don’t pit downtown versus south Madison. I think they both have value,” says Carter. “We’re not all cattle. There’s going to be someone in District 14 that wants to [attend Madison College] downtown. That won’t be an option anymore. But I’m just saying we also have to look at individuals’ choices and options. I want to give them as many options as we can.”