Issues

Leslie got into this race to make sure that District 12 continues to have strong, progressive representation on the Madison Common Council while ensuring that her neighbors have access to plans and public dialogue that affect their homes, family, and quality of life. It is for these reasons that her main issues in this election are:

  • Stronger, Healthier Neighborhoods
  • Sustainable Economic Development
  • Safe and Accessible Transportation
  • Good Government that Works for Everyone

Stronger, Healthier Neighborhoods
My top priority is to build stronger, healthy neighborhoods, and this requires respecting community identity while making positive changes that impact the entire city. Three components to making these changes are a multi-modal transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, and infill development which leverages and protects our beautiful natural resources and green spaces. Community leaders unite neighbors around a shared vision by giving residents real decision-making roles in reclaiming public spaces. An emphasis on repurposing reduces waste, uses fewer virgin resources, and maintains density. Sustainability gives direction to inevitable growth.
My approach to budgeting puts my service to the neighborhoods first, aiming to bolster existing infrastructure, expand opportunity, and increase equity. Our world-class public schools and health-care services must be maintained, as they both support Madison residents and attract new families, entrepreneurs, and young people to Dane County. I would prioritize a continued investment in the public services that make Madison a great place to live and work, and encourage creative, cooperative ways to sustain these services if faced with tight economic decisions.
Aside from the usual public safety concerns about crime, the Northside has several contributing factors to the disparaging views of the area: poverty, density and lack of opportunity. There are a number of proposals in the works for transit development and infrastructure upgrades, and preserving our neighborhood’s identity and character while working to address under-development is a critical balancing act for the District 12 alder.
Northeast Madison needs a strong advocate for community oversight who insists on clear benchmarks for transparency and accountability. As a bilingual educator, single parent of a recent high school graduate attending Madison College, and small business owner for 20 years with a successful record of business and city planning input, I am well-situated to serve my diverse district.

Sustainable Economic Development
Madison is known for delivering quality products and services to a wide audience. We have many of the most desirable assets that businesses look for when researching new locations, such as excellent schools and vibrant neighborhoods, a first-rate health-care system, an exciting cultural base for public and private arts, and the natural beauty of our natural resources and green spaces in the surrounding areas. There is a talented and highly-educated workforce that enjoys Madison’s high quality of life.
The foundation for economic success includes well-defined, safe and accessible transit plans, along with designs promoting infill and placemaking. Repurposing and upgrading existing structures whenever possible to extend the life of viable properties, save resources and promote innovative solutions to urban designs that have not been successful previously.
Neighborhood plans, such as the Northside Plan commissioned just a few years ago, should be a guide for city government to provide communities a seat at the table when the future of their neighborhood is planned. Eken Park-Emerson East is set to develop a new plan this year which will help guide their development over the next 10 years.
The FEED kitchens project, developed with the Northside Planning Council, is one example of innovative sustainable development that will nourish the Northside and surrounding neighborhoods for decades to come. Food politics play an important role in establishing the identity of a neighborhood. Community leaders recognized the potential in Food Enterprise and Economic Development (FEED), and stepped in to provide the support necessary to ensure success of the project. More innovative, viable economic development resulting from public-private collaboration should be encouraged.
The City must regulate development and the use of TIF funds carefully to ensure compliance that meets the needs of the city and its residents, along with those of the developers. TIF dollars are a great tool if the project has financial or social benefits, with responsible land use, affordable housing and economic stimulus. Instead of quickly offering publicly funded financial incentives to developers, we should first be encouraging developers to offer us a public and environmental benefit to incentivize public support for their proposal. Developers who fail to follow through with their agreements should have financial penalties imposed. It’s important that alders use the City’s leverage when considering development projects to insist on community benefit agreements, like the one that was drafted for the Edgewater, which raise environmental and sustainability standards and gives preferential treatment to local, union contractors who hire within Dane County.
Addressing the issues of economic growth, care for the environment, and land use planning is indeed a difficult balancing act. Not every development opportunity is a good one. It’s easy to say that the community should be involved in the process, but unless alders insist on using the City’s leverage when considering development projects, including financing arrangements like TIF’s, to attach specific conditions that benefit communities and the environment, we can’t guarantee even a semblance of balance on these issues. Growth is inevitable, but sustainability must be a cornerstone of our environmental and land use policy.
City government can streamline development strategies and processes so that new business prospects can capitalize on the assets we already enjoy and also bring new sustainable economic development that allows for more growth into areas and services that have not been explored previously. Looking to other cities which employ cutting edge urban planning and incubator projects for new entrepreneurs will help Madison maintain its image as a place for creative, young people to live and work.

Safe and Accessible Transportation
Safe transportation systems for all modes is a requirement for a successful, healthy economy. More intensive efforts to create safer roadways and offer multi-modal pathways for greater access should be prioritized. Warner Park and the Northside  needs safe bicycle access and I will listen to neighborhood residents and work with city government to develop a plan that meets the needs of future city plans, along with  residents and business owners . Our public mass transit service needs updating to appropriately balance the needs of residents who depend on the bus as their main source of transportation and commuters who use mass transit to cut down on cars in the city during the regular work week. Madison Metro struggles to be the only provider of public transportation, and our community’s needs go beyond the scope of the current program. I was a supporter of high-speed rail before the project funding was rejected by Governor Walker, and I would support any effort to revitalize that project and bring it into Madison.  Multi-modal trails to expand and connect Dane County’s bike paths and bicycle boulevards will improve safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians traveling downtown, and this is a particular focus for residents of District 12.  When working to improve Madison’s transportation infrastructure, we must involve all community partners from assessment and planning through implementation and review.

Good Government that Works for Everyone
Honest and open government are essential tools for success in a democratic society, especially at the city level. Residents subsidize the city budget through their property taxes, and they should be active assistants and planners in their cities. More public input at all levels is required to ensure that our community members and their needs and wants are properly represented and implemented. Dialogue and collaboration are necessary tenets of successful community building.
Safe cities are comprised of strong neighborhoods where youth and seniors thrive, families are connected to their neighbors, schools are centers of learning and inspiration and the community invests in equity and opportunity for all.

     I feel that it is an alder’s responsibility to hold regular district-wide community forums for community members to share issues and problems they are having. This is also an opportunity for the alder to share city business that impacts the district and inform constituents of important events and happenings in their area.

The results of the April 2 election will determine how the Northside and Eastside will look over the next 20 years. I want to keep the District 12 alder seat solidly progressive, pro-union, pro-community and pro-environment in the face of huge economic growth and infrastructure upgrades proposed this term. With many developers pressuring city officials to approve their projects quickly under the guise of job creation and economic growth, I intend to be a strong community advocate who will insist on transparency and hold all players accountable. Alders are entrusted to serve and build healthy communities, and that means balancing the needs of neighborhoods with the needs of Madison as a whole.  I am confident that I am well-positioned to be a strong advocate on the Common Council to address the unique issues of my constituents.

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