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Friday, June 21, 2024

City officials skeptical ahead of new task force’s first meeting

Skepticism was already brewing before city officials had the inaugural meeting of the Task Force on Structure of City Government Thursday night.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 8, believes the task force “appears to be a solution in search of a problem.”

He noted the drivers of the task force are alders who wish to reduce the powers of Mayor Paul Soglin, namely his veto power and ability to appoint individuals to the committee.

“That’s a governance structure that in theory is possible but is it wise,” he asked, adding the origins of this task force was the mayor acting contrary to the opinions of certain alders.

“There have been a number of things that some members of the council would have like to have see enacted that the mayor didn’t agree with, so that was kinda of the end of that,” said Skidmore.

Enis Ragland, deputy mayor of administration and finance agreed, saying the mayor believes the current structure is fine, however, he noted Soglin is open to alternatives.

“We are not opposed to looking at how we might govern ourselves in the future,” he said, adding that the mayor’s open to trying successful initiatives from other cities.

To say he is wary, Skidmore says, is an understatement, saying that even staffing the task force was a contentious decision.

“Finally, after some wrangling, there was a compromise where the mayor appointed half, council president Marsha Rummel appointed half, and they jointly appointed the chair,” he said.

The first step for the task force is to assess the work being done in cities similar in size to Madison. The timeline for the task force notes the alternatives should be focused on ways Madison could improve “racial equity and social justice.”

The group will seek feedback from a variety of parties including former mayors and alders.

Following that assessment, the task force will analyze the quality and structure of the common council, mayor’s office and city committees, respectively. In the official resolution, the powers of the mayor that will be under review are bolded and highlighted.

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Ragland says the mayor does not have any early ideas as to what could be legitimate or helpful reforms but said at some point he’ll speak to the task force.

The group has an operating budget of $30,000 and is expected to hold public hearings, obtain reports and field public opinion on different government structures.

The task force is scheduled to complete its findings by the end of this year.

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