19-year-old UW-Madison student and Madison native Reez Bailey has announced his candidacy for alder in the April 2021 election.
Bailey will be running to represent Madison’s District 4, an area that encompasses much of the downtown area including West Mifflin and Bassett Street. He hopes to succeed Michael Verveer, who has held the position since 1995 and often ran unopposed.
“As a young person, recently I've been upset by how our city has handled issues of racial equality, police reform and economic relief,” Bailey said in an interview with the Daily Cardinal. “However, I know in my heart it’s hypocritical to protest against the system if I’m not willing to help fix it, which is why I'm running for public office, to help articulate the values of my generation.”
Bailey’s campaign platforms outline the fact that he plans to run on progressive policies—such as police and economic reform — that are widely supported among students.
Bailey has particularly focused on the issue of police reform, where he has promised to work to divert funding from the Madison Police department and towards other public programs such as education and social work. He also hopes to increase community control of local law enforcement, end forceful crowd control methods by officers and limit the amount of military equipment available to local departments.
“It is not my intention to take money away from Madison police due to my personal feelings about law enforcement. However, this pandemic has made it apparent that there are services that local residents depend on that aren’t getting the funding they deserve,” Bailey said. “As a result, I feel the city should re-evaluate its priorities which would involve providing less money for policing.”
If elected, Bailey would be the second member of the Madison City Council under the age of 25, with the first being Max Prestigiacomo of District 8, which is an area also largely dominated by UW students.
“I think age is a totally valid concern for voters to have regarding elected officials, however, I would ask that people not judge me solely on my age,” Bailey said. “If I can demonstrate to my constituents that I can represent their views in a way that is respectful of the office then I am perfectly qualified for the position.”
When asked about his opponent Verveer, Bailey expressed concerns that the long-time alder may be out of touch with his constituency.
“My opponent in this race has done some really good work for the community, but no matter how long a candidate has held office, the public can always choose a new candidate,” Bailey said. “When an individual has been in politics so long, I feel that there is a risk that they can become a political institution instead of a public servant.”
Bailey feels that his voice — as well as the voice of others — is not taken seriously by elected officials. He hopes that his election will re-establish the voice of constituents in District 4.
“I feel like as a citizen of this city — or even of this country — I am not always heard and that’s a sentiment I hear being echoed by a lot of people right now. It’s gotten to the point that we have to come out in the streets just to have their voices heard by elected officials,” Bailey concluded. “I was brought to this moment because I felt that someone needed to step up and be willing to listen.”