April 3, 2015
I just want to go around and have folks introduce themselves and talk about the roles that they’re representing in the community.
(people go around and introduce themselves – the names are hard to pick out, but it’s different people involved in the community)
(00:01:12) The purpose of this group is to have a coalition where folks discuss and get information about different issues pertaining to what we identify as minority and under-resourced communities, specifically communities of color, LGBT communities, communities with different abilities, women, etc.
Throughout the year we tackle different topics such as transportation or health, related to those communities.
Every year I try to have some sort of open space for candidates to come. This is the first meeting of 2015. The format is having a conversation of about topics surrounding racial justice, social justice, equity, and things of that nature.
Four years ago, back in the 90s, when I was mayor, we focused on five areas that we thought were critical in terms of how to build strong families and strong neighborhoods. Those terms were housing, transportation, health (mental, nutrition), quality childcare, education, and job performance. If you look back historically back to the 70s and through the beginning of this century, in terms of addressing these issues, the city was doing a good job. If we look at academic performance through the nineties to 2005, we at educational disparities closing, if we look at employment between white and non-white populations, there was greater employment and more people in the workforce. We were making a difference with the strategies that we adopted.
Things got really bad around 2008-9, the most important variable was the recession. It’s interesting when you talk about race and equity how the analysis goes. January 3rd of 2007, I went to Madison’s downtown rotary to speak, and I had one message: it was the tremendous growth that had taken place in the number of schoolchildren since 2000 who were receiving free and reduced lunch programs, and that was happening despite the fact that in other economic indicators we were doing better. The reason why was because of a growing immigration into Madison. We were in a period that was being overlooked by many, where Madison’s Latino and African American populations had almost doubled. This growth was reflected in the difference between Madison’s population of adults compared to school-aged children. When we get to the recession, we have a period of about 3 years where we really bottom out, and then we have a period of recovery, which means that by about 2012, for Madison’s middleclass and white population, the effects of the recession have passed for most people. For communities of color, the recession did not end. So when we look at white statistics, we’re back to numbers that were before 2005. When we look at communities of color, particularly African American populations, we’re still in the recession. The question is why (00:08:00)
In retrospect I think we have a good understanding. A large part of it has to do with two different factors. One, there was a significant portion of the African-American population that was really adversely affected by something outside of Dane county, the closing of the general motors plant in Janesville. Lost in the oversimplified analysis was that there were hundreds of families, individuals, who had principal wage earners who were skilled workers that worked with GM or with supplier companies, and when they got hit, there was no place to go.
The second part, which compares to the 90s, is that there are no longer the kinds of entry-level jobs available in Madison that lead to careers. Those jobs disappeared; the industry and retail changed and left no significant career opportunities. That was the recovery from the recession was so disparate.
In 2011 when I ran, I said city finances, which were a mess, was the first issue, and secondly, we had to get to the issue of poverty and inequity, and if you look at the strategies we’ve adopted, from food initiatives to community centers – they’re all designed to address transportation, health, housing, all of the things we’re talking about here.
We need to redirect the nature of city spending and get it on a new track with where our values are. The issue of Overature funding is behind us, but the first 3 years of this administration were spent discussing major issues about how much money was going to Overature when we have all these other obligations. Even this year, we’re dealing with this. In terms of priorities, I can think of a dozen things more important than what we’re spending on (i.e., the Madison Sports Authority).
To a limited degree, where we’ve had successes is where I’ve taken on the responsibility and fought for these issues, but to a greater degree, where it’s been successful is where we’ve had community engagement and community leadership. I want to point out the success of the $300,000 we spent on busing to Owl Creek, as well as funding for the Meadowood Community Center (00:13:33). I predict we’re going to have more of that in the coming years.
Thank you so much. You gave me more food for thought. But I wanted to start out by asking something that’s really personal to me. This overarched theme of racial disparities – what is it like to run for mayor in a city known for having alarming racial disparities? With the events surrounding the death of Tony Robinson, Madison is not only a name of a small town in WI anymore, it’s associated with a lot of good things, but also a lot of disturbing things. I can speak as a person of color in this very divisive community where I’m not privy to hear certain things that are spoken in a white context. What is it like to be running for office with all this division being so apparent? I’m sure a lot of people are trying to speak to these issues.
The campaign for mayor is making it more difficult to address the issues and the reason is the question of suspicion which is what I say or what others say, is it couched in terms of the fact the we have an election, or is it genuine and personal?
A week ago I was in a meeting with a number of community leaders including African-Americans and Latinos, and a question came up regarding making a statement about recent events – and I wondered if I should be the one to make a statement considering my involvement in the upcoming election.
Let me put it this way – when I hear people saying that Madison is a racist city, I put up my hand and say wait, let’s rethink that. When I hear people say that Madison is NOT a racist city, I put up my hand and say, wait, let’s rethink that. And the reason is there’s a real problem with generalizations to begin with, and secondly, it depends on the context and the issue.
There are people making, transcending the obvious – for example, what happens in faith-based communities, Madison does a fine job in addressing the problems with race. If we talk about the ethic in our public schools in addressing these issues, we do a good job. If we talk about commitment to organizations that are designed to deal with disparities, we do a good job.
But, when it comes to institutional racism, we don’t always do a good job or recognize it.
I just want to clarify quickly – when you say we do a good job with these organizations, what exactly are you talking about as far as doing a good job?
Let’s talk about the schools, for example. I think the schools produce the good and the bad/contradiction of what I’m talking about. In the schools, as part of the curriculum, the way our teachers address the issues of race, there are representations of Dr. King, etc., the environment is a healthy one. But when we talk about how many African-American and Latino teachers we have, we’ve got a different issue. When we talk about a policy that has standards that leads to automatic suspensions, we have another problem.
Now let’s take some Madison businesses. We’ve got some Madison businesses that do a marvelous jobs of writing out checks supporting organizations and non-profits benefiting communities of color. But when you walk through their offices, you don’t see the representation of diversity that you’d expect. So we’ve got this enormous hill that we’ve got to climb where we have to take the rhetoric and hope and turn it into a reality. That’s the contradiction of Madison. (00:20:40).
I wanted to ask one more question regarding system change – what would you like to accomplish by the end of your term?
Well, let’s talk about some of the most important disparity gaps. I want to go back to one more example. I’d like to see the city’s efforts to work with the school districts and specifically out-of-school time. We know that out of school time is very critical to the academic success of our students. Middle class kids, particularly white, have all the extracurricular opportunities, programs, vacations that make enormous contributions to their growth, maturity, and academic success. Then, when we look at African-American kids, Asian kids, Latino kids, they don’t have those same opportunities. So that’s one area. (00:21:56).
Secondly, in regards to economics, we’ve made enormous strides in employment in the last year and a half. Going from about 2-dozen to 125, and now 800 summer youth jobs – the progress is fantastic. I hope by the end of 2019, we will have met what I call the Boston goal. Every summer teenager who wants a job will have one.
Third, the same is true in terms of adult employment. The recent United Way initiative which the city helped spark, created 200 full time, living wage jobs. I hope that number becomes 1,000.
I want to go back to the area of health. We had something at the South Madison Community Health Center, and for a 7 year period, African-American infant mortality, which was at national levels, dropped every year for 7 years, to the point that it was below white infant mortality – where in the U.S. do you see that? To me, that would not happen in a community that was racist. We made a real effort to deal with that issue, with health all together. But then, someone in city hall declared victory, stopped funding it, and sure enough, after the next 3 or 4 years, the African-American infant mortality started creeping up again. The point is that they didn’t understand from an institutional perspective why black infant mortality dropped and what the consequences were of defunding that program. It had nothing to do with health care professionals – it had to do with the success of black women/mothers connecting the medical establishment to youth African-American women who were pregnant. And that in turn, made the delivery of the system far better. What wasn’t understood was their role in creating trust and providing access. I might add, we’re back on track to re-establish this program (00:25:30).
Why don’t we ask if other people have any questions?
(Regarding the use of firearms, especially with police, as useful or harmful ways to “keep peace”, noting that there are 11 countries that do have police with empty holders.)
In a perfect world, and I’m not saying I don’t believe it could happen or work, because I do, but if we were to have the gun control laws that those other nations have regarding the restrictability of firearms, it would not be necessary to have police officers with firearms. Unfortunately, since the year that I tried to ban handguns in the city of Madison, the preemption of local control and where our state leaders and national leaders are taking us, is completely the wrong direction. So that’s the first thing.
Second, going back to your analysis, when we examine (and I’m not in the position to say since I don't have the report regarding the Tony Robinson case) when we look at other situations, there are a number of variables that are controllable, and not in the hands of the police department. They specifically have to do with substance abuse and mental illness. One of the shootings that I can think of that was a year ago in may involved an individual that was clearly disturbed – the killed the mother and then killed the woman’s daughter – another call was prompted by someone indicating that the subject was mentally ill. In all these instances, one of the things that’s a common factor is that when the officer tells the individual to put down the weapon or to stop approaching either the officer or other people, the individual doesn’t listen, and it’s almost, it’s an issue of mental impairment or substance abuse, in which case, that all occurred before the officer got there. And it’s a reflection of the inadequacy our community and our state and our nation to address these issues. And, parenthetically, who is least likely to get help with these issues? It’s going to be people without health insurance and it’s going to be people who are of color. I think it’s got to be addressed from that standpoint as well.
The real challenge for us as a community if we’re asking what can be done so that we can be sure that it won’t happen again, I think it’s in part going to come up as the city council addresses the issue of police accountability and procedures, but it also has to come up with a discussion of the issue of mental illness and substance abuse. Because when you look at so many of these instances in the state and country, that’s the underlying issue in most of these cases. The responsibility is not being met within Wisconsin. The time to schedule an appointment through Journey Mental Health is up to a year, minimum 6 month waiting. Our reputation as one of the most intoxicated states in regards to binge drinking is not something to be proud of. And, there is very, very little that we are doing for teenagers. One of the discussions that we’re having in my office right now has to do with the fact the a private club called Wally Gators is gone and has never been replaced, and the school district’s loft is gone and has never been replaced. There is no place for teens to gather and hang out. Believe it or not, part of growing up is hanging out –
Ananda: – in safe spaces. (00:33:15).
(Unknown man responding to Soglin):
Biometric pistols – if you’re dealing with someone not listening or there are other things happening, it’s understandable that the officer wouldn’t want someone to get a hold of their pistol. Is that a way that we could relieve the anxiety that already goes with having a tough job?
I’m sure that’s one of the things that the committee will be looking at with the police departments. Because one of the key things with an officer is that you cannot let someone get a hold of your firearm, and sometimes, that has tragic results.
I want to go back to a couple of things. You mentioned access, but one of the things I’ve been hearing a lot is that folks don’t often get substance abuse or mental health help and resources until they’re in a system, and incarceration plays a big role in that.
I want to expand it – whether we’re talking mental health, substance abuse, whether we’re talking violations of the law, where the system is broke, is in all these areas, and since we’ve got somebody from REAP here, let me expand it to questions of nutrition and health. What happens is we don’t get interventions early enough in any of these instances. And the system is designed to start working when things get really, really bad, and that’s the tragedy of it.
There are some things that we can easily take care of. For example, there are additional nutritional programs that are available during the summer for when kids aren’t in school. We haven’t fully taken advantage of those and we will this summer. The bottom line is hungry kids do not learn.
Next, in terms of criminal justice, we’ve got a system that only addresses the worst-case scenarios. Now, we’re trying with something new here, which is the South Madison Restorative Justice court. So that is one alternative that my office is supporting. (00:37:26).
Again, when we start talking about teens, and let’s talk about another aspect of this that hasn’t come up – teenage suicide. There’s a combination of factors where ignoring the problem has such tragic and disastrous consequences, and being a teenager without resources, you know, it’s a really bleak world out there. That’s one of the challenges we’ve got. I don't know how we get the resources – we got a state government that doesn’t believe in spending money on these things.
I’ll mention one more thing – we’ve got a significant number of people in Madison who’ve got jobs that end after midnight, when there are no longer bus services in certain areas. Right now there’s a service through the YWCA, there’s a transportation system to get them home at night, and that service is in serious trouble because of loss of funding.
Right, so I have one more thing. I want to talk about the impact on communities of color, because there’s a lot of conversation about what it is happening and what is not happening, but I think to me, the most important way to frame it is how communities of color view policing. I am a resident of the South Side, had my apartment raided, have had several contacts with the police, am a working mom, I try to abide the law. I still have negative and traumatizing interactions with the police and have had to protect and prevent my daughter from coming in to contact with people who are ready to shoot. And I feel like that’s the impact and experience of a lot of folks of color with the police. What are some of the things that you’re office or that you in particular can do as far as addressing some of this impact?
Well, the biggest effort we’ve got, and I think it’s the most important one, is our Neighborhood Resource Teams. NRTs do not run the neighborhood; they are a resource to the neighborhood. They only work when they are engaged with leaders in the community who set the standards, who set the expectations, and eventually I hope, set the priorities for city spending, which is critical. NRTs include police officers, public health staff, firefighters, bus drivers, and community development staff.
I think the solution to all of this, the five areas I talked about, and the trust that you’re talking about, is building strong neighborhoods. And that’s what the city ought to be doing every day, and that is the ultimate solution. (00:42:00)
Thank you, and thank you everyone for your questions. Thank you so much for your time. Hello Scott, come on in. Have a seat, we’re just having a very informal meeting and I have some prompt questions for you, and then we’ll open it up to folks to talk a little bit about issues pertaining to racial and social justice and equity.
So the first question I wanted to ask you is what is like to run for mayor in a city with alarming racial disparities? (00:44:03)
It’s more than just this race; it’s being an elected leader where you know that racial disparities are 11:1 with African-American men compared to white men. The disparity rates in our community are alarming. You see it not only running for mayor but as a member of city council. The nation put Madison under the microscope, as you saw what occurred on March 6, individuals around the country called Madison out and said, “How could this occur?” The devastating element to that and to the many individuals who are looking for solutions and results, the fact of the matter is that many of the issues that people are experiencing that are not only connected with Tony and his family, but racial disparities in Madison are something that I’ve never experienced. We have two Caucasian men [Resnick & Soglin] saying you’re looking to us for answers, but what it takes is a community of those listening to you, those reaching out to you, saying these are the needs that we have in this community.
I have one more question and then I’ll open up – what would be your first decision to promote equity in our city?
I go back to some of the conversations that I’ve had early on when I was deciding to run with folks like Reverend Alan Mitchell, with Alex [Gee] as you mentioned, and the issues that they said “here are the areas to focus on immediately,” that right now the city could be focusing on but are not doing enough on. They focused it really on five particular areas – childcare, transportation, jobs, building a strong safety net, and finally dealing with issues of incarceration. So if you were to say the first issue, it would be childcare. My wife sits on the One City learning board, and we’re dealing with families in South Madison where only 1/3 of the families have access to affordable childcare, and for a mother who may be trying to decide, “do I try to find somewhere I can send my child for daycare, do I look for a friend or relative,” it can be a very difficult decision.
We also need to send children into an educational setting on equal footing – this starts very early on. We need more scholarships and partnerships available, as well as more funding for daycare. I believe that’s the first area to focus on.
I’m going to open it up – anyone have a question?
Same question of firearms asked to Soglin – (Regarding the use of firearms, especially with police, as useful or harmful ways to “keep peace”, noting that there are 11 countries that do have police with empty holders.)
So, my mother previously worked for a police academy. When it comes to use of force by law enforcement agents, and you see the acceleration of the use of force, legal force and even the presence that police officers enter a situation with, it’s a very dominant perspective. It creates more hostile situations, it’s not the element of de-escalation. When you look at what the elements of our policies show, both at the use of force, but also what we could be doing in the ways our law enforcement could be trained to de-escalate that force going into a situation. There are tasers, and I understand why it may not have worked in Tony’s situation, but there are other forms of technology and just training protocols that may have made a different circumstance happen on March 6th.
We need to say, “How do we improve this? How do we become the model city nationwide?” I think that we’re not setting the bar for our own law enforcement high enough, there’s no excuse. It’s a difficult conversation.
Now is a time where you’re seeing the community energy behind it all, saying as leaders, let’s bring forward serious reform. One of the other issues I run into is looking at statistics and seeing how we compare, not only to our peer cities, but have racial disparities Decreased? Much of that data is not available to the public, and just like everyone else, I’m looking for answers.
What is your primary motivation for seeking the office of mayor? What is it that’s driving you, what’s prompted you, what are issues that you see that you want to make better?
Yes, so I have that question a lot, and it has a lot to do with my story. So I started a tech company 8 years ago, I go to an office with floor to ceiling windows with a view to the lake; it’s a really good life. But I see the same reason why I joined the city council – I absolutely love waking up to public service. And you see what you can do in the private sector when you’re trying to help out, maybe donating some money, etc., but when you see an entire city working together towards a goal, that’s a real challenge. You have to be innovative and creative, and there’s nothing more exciting. So as someone who had the opportunity to serve district 8, which I served for 4 years, and seeing when we are working together and trying to tackle problems, we can have such a large impact, as Madison mayor as much as anything else. I gave up that entire nice lifestyle of the private sector because I said, “This is how I want to focus my time.”
The concept of Implicit Bias: Police bias and police incompetence. They rely on a piece of information or a stereotype to make decisions, and that transfers into hiring, decisions of funding, and I don’t know how to deal with that. Part of it is that people haven’t been exposed to dealing with other people who are different from themselves, people with different thought processes and cultural perspectives. What is in your background and experience working with diverse communities that will inform you to not have this implicit, subconscious bias?
And it’s because you don’t have the shared experience. How I tackle that, I’ve seen this in a couple of different areas. In academia for example, you can’t just read about someone else and their experience and say that you really “know” that.
You need to learn and communicate firsthand experiences of what other people are experiencing, and it’s not just going into a meeting with an agenda saying “I have every single answer,” problem one is that you actually don’t, and you don’t understand the issue that someone is facing. One thing I do is understand that I don’t share experiences of racism, for example. So I ask myself, what can I listen to, how can I combat this, how can I help. One of the pieces that we created in the private sector through the urban league – we invited 12 CEOs from tech companies to a roundtable discussion at the Urban League to talk about, “what can we do to expand technology?” Particularly when you see such disparities, especially in the tech workforce, where you see up to 90% white men. Out of the 12 CEOs that were there, 10 of them had never been to South Madison before. So that’s the first thing we discovered, but what came out of that was the Y-web program through the YMCA. We’ve taken 30 students, primarily students of color and women, teaching them how to program, and while they’re in the program, we’re going to provide childcare and transportation, and we’re not going to let you fail. You’re going to receive training from one of the best teachers in the state, and he will teach you how to program. And that created 30 jobs at tech companies, and that’s on a very micro-scale, but these are the pieces that you need to come up with solutions for moving forward.
A lot of your comments had to do with interventions, but I want to go back to the systemic level. What is one systemic change that you’d like to accomplish by the end of your term if you become elected mayor?
I would like to see our serious issues with transportation addressed in Madison. Communities in the north, south, west side need and depend on public transportation. It’s a huge barrier to employment, these people may be spending up to 2 hours on public transportation a day. So many different issues come down to transportation, so to see serious reforms and addressing issues of time.
I go back to when I feel like we were a more integrated community. I see so many programs that are downtown, whether it’s concerts on the square or events at the Overature Center, you still don’t see a community united in our public programming. Many programs do not reflect the diversity of our community. We need to break down these barriers, and that’s going to take more than a mayor, but to see that kind of improvement and knowing deep down that we’ve made progress, I think that would be an amazing accomplishment.
What are your thoughts and reactions to the idea of white privilege? Is that a concept you’re aware of?
Yes, it absolutely exists. And I actually was having this conversation recently in regards to times that I’ve gotten in trouble with the law and I’ve never had to worry about what that interaction is like. There’s the issue of white privilege, whether it’s in hiring or the job market or whether I just show up in a room looking to network with someone and how they would approach me vs. another person in the community. It absolutely exists.
We need to address those kinds of biases throughout our system. Getting to HOW we address that and getting everyone in the community to understand that these biases exist is a much larger challenge.
So I gave Paul Soglin some time to talk about himself and introduce himself, so why don’t we finish that way. Take your time and talk a little bit about you.
Yeah, you know, I’m someone who grew up in a middle-class family in Wausau, WI. We all have our own shared stories. I came to WI and my dad lost his job at the radio, so I was raised in Wausau in a very homogeneous population. You start to see what it means to be a democrat up there, it’s a very different experience. UW was the school that I could afford, came here for school, started a company out of the dorms. The first company failed pretty miserably, we made about $50 over the course of 9 months. But the second company we created 8 years ago still has 22 employees, and what I’m proud of there, it was voted as one of the best places to work in Madison.
About 18 months ago, I was married to my high school sweetheart at the Overature Center. I’m very lucky to have her by my side. And I’m trying to figure out how to have a better community for everyone and get everyone together to figure out how to tackle Madison’s biggest issues, whether it’s homelessness, public funding, etc.
Being someone who will be respectful and listen to new ideas, and not just resting on our laurels, but being the progressive beacon for the rest of the country. I know we’ve been there in our past and we need to figure out how to grow and get there in our future.
One last question regarding the impact, particularly among communities of color, and there’s a lot of debate focused on different folks responding differently to policing of neighborhoods. But there is over-policing in communities of color. So what are some of the things that you think a mayor can do that can be really tangible, that’s beyond resources and funding and politics?
So, you know, we’re having the conversation of “does over-policing exist?” This is from the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition presenting this issue very eloquently. What do I do when I hear an issue? I end up reaching out to a church leader or person of color and say “does over-policing exist?” and there was never even any hesitation, it was just a “Yes, it does exist,” and there were a bunch of stories. To hear these stories over and over of someone who lives in a neighborhood and is routinely questioned as to whether or not that is their actual place of residence, I mean, how do you address those types of issues? That’s a bigger challenge.
One of the ideas taken from another community is to make sure that every police precinct has a non-binding board of residents who sit and meet with the lieutenants and captains of that precinct on a regular basis, to say, “this is occurring in our community.” Because you look at what soft interactions look like in our legal system, and depending on that officer’s discretion, someone on the South Side may deal with a different kind of citation or different type of form through the legal system, whether that same exact thing happened on campus, or Langdon St.
There are different policing issues in the North precinct vs. the South precinct as well. So you need to have enough flexibility where officers are able to respond to their community, and we do need some form of law enforcement in our lives. But when you see the disparities of the 11:1 arrest rates (for black men compared to white men), and you say, “is there over-policing in the community?” at least anecdotally, we are looking at the answer of “Yes.”
[talking about how times have changed – people used to know their neighborhood police officers, and police officers used to know everyone who lived in the neighborhood – there wasn’t an issue of targeting and interrogating someone to see if they actually live there. There was a familiarity and trust, and he doesn’t know if there’s not enough resources any more, or what has changed, but that the change is not good.]
It’s a great point, I actually lost one of my neighborhood police officers who got transferred, and I thought he was great. It’s hard to keep officers inside the same district, and police officers have job aspirations. Having a neighborhood police officer who is familiar with everyone and who is trusted by everyone is the person who can make the best choices and decisions in a moment, and who can deal with situations without them ever escalating. That’s what we want our officers to do more often than not.
Right, like for example, if the police officer that Tony Robinson dealt with had known him, how would the situation have been different? How would he have reacted differently? Maybe he would have just called his parents or treated him with less force.
Yes, I think that gets back to our point about neighborhood policing vs. community policing. That’s a good way to end our meeting. Thank you Scott and everyone for being here.