Opinion

Cardinal View: Satya Rhodes-Conway will provide the change Madison needs

Image By: Ethan Husky

Paul Soglin is practically synonymous with Madison politics and has created quite a legacy for himself, serving as mayor for longer than anyone else in Madison’s history. He’s worked toward providing the city with affordable housing, improving public transit and hiring more women and minorities in the city during his 22-year tenure.

However, if we simply focus on what has already happened and don’t look forward to the potential of the city,  we can’t expect to make progress. This is why it is imperative that Satya Rhodes-Conway is elected as Madison’s next mayor.

Rhodes-Conway would bring ambition and enthusiasm to the office of the mayor that Madison hasn’t seen for quite some time. She’s not looking to create a legacy for herself; she’s looking to create concrete change.

She is a candidate who has engaged with communities and citizens from every corner of Madison, knocking door after door and leading a grassroots campaign that hasn’t relied on big-money donors. 

She’s also shown you don’t need money to win, as she earned just 1 percent fewer votes than Soglin despite significant funding discrepancies in February’s primary election.

One issue plaguing voters, however, is distinguishing between the similar stances both Rhodes-Conway and Soglin maintain.

While Soglin has spoken on the need for better care of the homeless in Madison and for improved racial equity, he has not always practiced what he has preached. He consistently received criticism for not more effectively tackling racial equity and issues facing the city’s homeless population. For instance, he implemented an ordinance that fines people $100 — on their first offense — for sitting on a public bench for longer than one hour between 5:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. Though some progress has been made over the years, it hasn’t been nearly enough.

Satya Rhodes-Conway is more than prepared to lead Madison forward and pursue progressive policies.

Rhodes-Conway writes on her website “Renters are having a hard time finding places that are affordable.” She is thinking of college students and recent graduates, who struggle to find affordable housing in a city where premium housing complexes crop up each year. With this in mind, she aims to support housing cooperatives and bolster programs in place that help people secure affordable housing.

Addressing homelessness is a large part of her housing platform, a perspective which Soglin has lacked. 

As mayor, she will serve low-income individuals and communities of color, those who are the most affected by Madison’s housing market.

Food accessibility is an issue these communities face as well, and Rhodes-Conway recognizes this in part due to her experience on the Madison Food Policy Council. She hopes to continue the work she has done as part of the council with the goals of supporting urban agriculture projects, increasing access to healthy and locally-sourced foods through improving the city’s transportation system and minimizing the gap in health outcomes caused by not having access to healthy foods.

Climate change, something that has loomed over Madison for quite some time — especially after last August’s catastrophic flooding — is a subject on the minds of many of the city’s voters, and it is one Rhodes-Conway is more than prepared to face head-on.

The mayoral candidate pitched her flag in Madison after landing an environmental internship 20 years ago. Her dedication to the environment remains as a firm pillar of her campaign, specifically a focus on climate change preparation. 

A highlight of her campaign is increasing ecological resilience through planning and land use, something that would hopefully block damages caused by climate-related flooding. As climate drastically changes, our city between two lakes needs a forward-thinking mayor in office in the midst of this uncertainty.

Rhodes-Conway is focused on sustainability as well; during her tenure as the alder for District 12 and as a member of the Sustainable Madison Committee, she supported the 2011 Madison Sustainability Plan. With this focus, she aims for the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and food waste, transition to clean and renewable energy sources, and increase the city’s green infrastructure.

People from across the city and the state alike have recognized Madison’s need for new progressive leadership. Rhodes-Conway has received endorsements from active and retired elected officials from Madison and Dane County; mayors across the country after her time working with the Mayors Innovation Project; and local organizations like the Affordable Housing Action Alliance, the Four Lakes Green Party and the Teaching Assistants’ Association.

If that’s not convincing enough, Soglin himself endorsed Rhodes-Conway when he made his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial race last year — when he signaled he was ready to move on from his post as mayor — calling her “eminently qualified.”

Paul Soglin has served his city well for more than 20 years. However, a true leader knows when it is is time to pass the baton to the next generation. Satya Rhodes-Conway will respect the work Soglin has done, while ushering Madison into the future.

Madison: It’s time for change.

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