Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, clashed Monday night over tackling the city’s racial and economic divides in the one of the first major one-on-one debates for the 2015 Mayoral Election.
While both Soglin and Resnick agreed that resolving problems with the homeless and making the city more inclusive were priorities, they sparred over how to achieve those goals.
Soglin, elected mayor in 2011 after previously holding the position from 1973 to 1979 and again from 1989 to 1997, defended his actions on those issues while confronting criticism that he was too old to be mayor for a growing city.
“Old, gray, bland and tired has done a lot,” Soglin said. “We participated with the county … and now we have the Rethke Project … which is going to house some of the worst cases of homelessness in our community.”
Soglin also mentioned his proposed $25 million housing plan, which he said—barring any further increase in the number of homeless in Madison—could “eliminate homelessness.”
According to Resnick, this was not enough.
“I look at the 41 percent increased homelessness population in the city of Madison from four years ago ... and I find that unacceptable,” said Resnick, who supported more immediate measures like drug counseling and emergency housing. “Housing first is the right strategy, but the approach the mayor’s putting forward will take years before we see incremental improvements.”
The two mayoral candidates also conflicted on bridging the city’s racial disparities.
“[We need a jobs program] where we ensure that equity isn’t a buzzword,” said Resnick, who called for a fair jobs program as well as transportation and childcare initiatives to better connect more impoverished and segregated communities to the city.
Soglin emphasized community activity and engagement, saying that it was important for the mayor to talk to community leaders in order to more directly address Madison’s racial disparities.
Soglin and Resnick soon turned to resolving the technology gap. Resnick, who serves as the Vice President for the tech start-up Hardin Design & Development, proposed bringing a 4G data network to the city.
Although also in favor of opening the city’s existing Metropolitan Unified Fiber Network to more businesses, a 4G network would ultimately be more affordable, according to Resnick.
Soglin criticized Resnick’s plan, saying it was based on numbers from Sun Prairie, where, according to Soglin, different laws and different structures mean the plan would not work for Madison, although he did express optimism for MUFN.
“MUFN is a great backbone and I’m very proud in making sure it gets connected to schools and community centers,” Soglin said.
This was the second in a series of one-on-one debates between Soglin and Resnick. The two candidates will meet at least four other times before the general election April 7.