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First Work Session of the Year

By Heather Morgan, Co-founder

Madison City Council and Mayor Finley came together via Zoom Wednesday night for a work session. Work sessions provide city leaders an opportunity to learn more about the topics facing the city. No official decisions are made at work sessions. The information gathered by council and discussed among members during these sessions does, however, inform the official decisions council members will make at regular council meetings.

Work sessions are public meetings and are an excellent way for residents to learn more about the issues and ordinances that will be coming up at regular council meetings for an official vote. A couple of months ago, there was a special work session scheduled at the request of new council members so they could learn more about proposed rezoning ordinances before casting a vote. The rezoning ordinances, which were passed at the December 28 council meeting, allowed for new residential developments in Madison. Citizens and council members who were concerned about smart growth had reservations about the new developments. The city’s planning professionals and representatives from each of the proposed developments spoke at the work session and answered council member’s questions and addressed their concerns. Although the public is not allowed to speak at Madison’s work sessions, they can attend. It’s a great way for the public to become aware of city matters and increase their understanding of the issues.

The work session held Wednesday, January 20 covered three topics:

  1. Economic Development

  2. Communication

  3. Citizens Advisory Council to the Police Department

I Vote Madison has spoken to each of these three topics in some way over the last couple of months. Related to economic development, we have spoken about the need for an overall vision for Madison. One created with public input that would instill ownership and pride in our city as it goes forward. A vision is what guides economic development and growth plans.

Communication has been at the forefront of I Vote Madison’s work as it relates to Madison government. Communication is key to transparency and public participation. Here is a portion of our remarks to council on December 28, 2020:

For the public to be meaningfully engaged in local government, they must have information about the issues affecting the city and have it in time to at least have a basic understanding of it before public hearings occur and votes are cast by council. We have some ideas on how we can increase accessibility, awareness, and education, and we will be moving forward with those on our end into the new year. We think a desire to make sure their constituents are informed is important for council members. We hope education and awareness are on their minds also when they engage with residents. I Vote Madison is happy and willing to help the city and council members facilitate any efforts on their end with regard to increased public awareness, education, and participation.

I Vote Madison asked questions about the hiring of a new police chief and stated our desires about how the hiring process should occur and what we’d like to see in a new chief. We are glad that Mayor Finley answered our questions and that the city looks to be moving ahead with a citizens advisory council to the police department. Transparency, as with council and the mayor, is important for the police department as well. Here is a portion of our remarks to council on January 11, 2021:

One thing our organization wants in a new police chief is the willingness to directly address these issues so that trust can be rebuilt. We thank Chief Jernigan for fully staffing the crisis intervention team and for creating a professional training division. I Vote Madison wants the new Madison Police Chief to continue to provide training and education when it comes to diversity, bias, de-escalation and racial justice.

We are glad that Mayor Finley and council members are addressing these issues for the residents of Madison. I Vote Madison will continue to push for more communication, transparency, and public participation, including access to video recordings of council meetings and a Zoom option so that residents can participate in the meeting even though they are not able to physically be present.

Here is recap of the work session on Wednesday night, January 20, 2021:

  1. The City Council members discussed revising the master plan for the city stating that the last master plan was completed back in 2012. Master plans are typically good for 5-7 years. The new plan would not be finalized until sometime in 2023.

  1. A tour of Madison’s website was conducted by Samantha Magnusson, Communications Specialist for the city. A survey for the public to fill out was brought up as a method to improve the website. In keeping with the topic of communication, Karen Denzine asked about City Council meetings being recorded. The mayor said this decision was up to the City Council members. Some discussion happened over storage space and some council members felt having the meeting available for a week after the meeting may be adequate. The public was unable to offer feedback at the Work Session, but I Vote Madison believes public meetings should be recorded and made available for the same length of time as the meeting minutes are required to be kept.

  1. The Madison Police Citizens Advisory Committee proposal was discussed. An official proposal will be introduced to City Council in early February. I Vote Madison will be sure to do what we can to push for transparency in the process of creating this committee.

View WHNT's Madison Neal's coverage of the citizens advisory council to the police department proposal.

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