Updated: Mar 3, 2021
I Vote Madison has been listening to the voices of those in our community who are speaking up to advocate for smart growth in Madison. Several individuals have come together as a group around this issue, but like us they are also interested in increasing public participation in local government. We are combining our efforts into I Am Madison, the arm of I Vote Madison that will be dedicated to amplifying the voices of residents and helping them build coalitions and take action.
We introduced I Am Madison at Monday night's city council meeting. The video above was shown during the meeting and Co-founder Heather Morgan spoke. Here are her remarks to council:
A main goal of I Vote Madison is to empower residents so they can engage in local government and use their voices to shape our city. I Am Madison is the arm of our organization dedicated to this goal. We created this video of proud Madison residents in part as a response to comments made at the last meeting by a gentleman representing one of the proposed developments. Those comments exemplify some of what we find troublesome regarding citizen engagement.
The phrase “...don’t even represent 1/1000th of the population here...” was used when referring to the people who are speaking out at meetings regularly about smart growth and development. He’s right. There are only a few people who speak at meetings. Not only that, take a look at the demographic represented by the speakers and those in our video. Madison is not fully represented in this room by the speakers. Let’s change that by continuing to make participation more accessible to everyone. Providing the livestream (and hopefully soon a recording of it as well) and offering Zoom participation is great, and we want those to continue after the pandemic.
The gentleman also pointed out that the only people who come to meetings are those opposed to something. He’s right again. This is pretty much the nature of it, but we cannot assume more residents don’t share the opinions of those who are speaking out. Put another way, we cannot logically assume that everyone else in Madison is for these new developments. We think efforts should be made to reach out to all residents. Every single voice matters. I Vote Madison is looking into ways other cities are engaging with their citizens...how council members engage constituents to proactively learn about their concerns, opinions, and wishes so that there can be more positive engagement.
We look forward to working with council and the mayor to increase accessibility, transparency, and engagement in the coming year.
The developer who was mentioned in our remarks to council also said that those who are speaking out in favor of smart growth and not in favor of the new proposed developments are either misinformed or wrong. It is not I Vote Madison's place to decide who is right or wrong on this, but we will address the issue of misinformation. 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.