Within the city of Madison, there are a plethora of issues which affect local residents. Oftentimes, though, it’s easy to get caught up in national level issues, leading city politics to take a back seat. As students and residents alike, we bear witness to the impacts of housing policies, policing and drug enforcement, to name just a few issues.
These effects, though, are not restricted to Madison natives alone. It is important to note that just because students are not from Madison, doesn’t mean they won’t experience the consequences of local political issues. International, out-of-state students and even students from other Wisconsin cities are also impacted by local policies — often in ways they don’t imagine. It is, therefore, necessary that all students get more invested in local politics.
One of the key issues affecting Madison residents today is affordable housing. In recent years, Madison has proven to be an attractive destination for workers and students alike. The population growth has prompted the development of new housing projects in the city, such as the newly proposed Downtown Heights project by Core Spaces, the same developer that developed projects like The Hub and The James. Such developments are built in place of beloved local businesses, and only push rental prices up for students, which adversely affects students that need affordable housing.
Predatory rental practices also pose a threat to students in Madison, with management companies forcing students into ill-informed housing decisions. Such practices are especially likely to affect affluent international and out-of-state students who may not be aware of local norms and easily be blindsided by greedy companies, while proving to be an obvious impediment for those, from both in and out of state, who cannot afford expensive housing.
Responsible leadership at the city level is paramount to protect the interests of those that need support, while thwarting exploitative practices.
While policing may not sound like an issue to international students who are naturally law-abiding or come from countries with great reverence for the police, flawed policing practices in the U.S. have devastating consequences, especially when taking into account racial disparities. Run-ins with the police, especially when police intervention might not be necessary, can become part of a student’s record, no matter where they are from. This can also result in the cancellation of visas granted to international students and affect future applications for entry or stay in the U.S.
And drug related infractions can have even more serious consequences. City leadership therefore becomes important, as elected representatives can hold the police accountable while also working towards implementing responsible policing practices.
For example, the Madison City Council passed an ordinance which allows Madison residents to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis. While it seems like efforts at the state level to legalize the drug will encounter significant roadblocks, local policies allow much more direct interaction with city council members which enables more legislation to be passed to better our community.
There is a wide range of key issues that affect Madison residents from all backgrounds, and paying attention to city politics is more important than ever in order to make Madison a community accepting of everyone.
International students may not be able to vote and out-of-state students may not feel inclined to, but it is still in their best interests to stay aware of local politics, sparking conversations with Madison residents — who should absolutely be more invested in grassroots politics. Everyone capable of voting in local elections should, and every single member of the city and campus community should stay aware of local politics.
After all, change starts from the ground up.
Register to vote in the Spring 2021 election at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/RegisterToVote