Student candidates vying for a position on the Dane County Board of Supervisors went head-to-head on transportation, safety and environmental issues in a debate Wednesday.
The debate featured University of Wisconsin senior Wyndham Manning and freshman Conor O’Hagan, candidates for the District 5 seat, answering questions ranging from the state of Dane County’s economy to how they plan to reach out to their constituency if elected.
Manning and O’Hagan spoke to about 25 students in the Memorial Union about why students should care about a county election during a time of apathy toward local politics.
“The best thing we can do as county supervisors is work to create coalitions on multiple levels of governance and with student groups, so they can affect what’s going on in the county and understand the effect that they have,” Manning said, adding county issues reach wider than the UW campus.
O’Hagan said his most salient policy issue is safety, “without a doubt.”
In order to improve the economy and make productive citizens feel safer in the county, O’Hagan proposed a nighttime carpooling system, modeled after SAFERide, which would pick up students and Dane County residents working, studying or needing transportation late at night.
The carpool system would not be open to drunken people seeking rides, he added, because UW and Dane County already have a system in place for that.
Manning said a safe, late-night ride system where people can go online and request to be picked up would be a more effective transportation service that would not waste resources.
Before addressing safety, Manning said supervisors must do something about the rising youth gang and domestic abuse numbers. He proposed a rehabilitative arts program to “encourage a positive community built upon housing that affirm self-identity.”
O’Hagan drew upon his background working with at-risk youth, saying, “An arts initiative will not solve the problem. … If we truly want to solve getting kids out of gangs, we have to open up their minds to every single area as youth because that’s where you truly learn.”
When asked how the county government should pay for their share of a Regional Transit Authority, Manning said he supports the half-cent sales tax, adding there must be a moratorium on building new highways in sprawling, low-density communities “when we have the potential to create a system that’s going to really improve the vibrancy and connectedness of our community goal.”
O’Hagan said there is no need to tax or cut from any programs if his “building up, not out” idea is enforced. Establishing more commercial businesses in downtown Dane County areas, like Madison and Middleton, “will create a massive demand for a system such as an RTA to come in to 10 to 15 years from now. … You will naturally create revenue to pay for an RTA and put in an RTA.”
Both candidates said they would like to collaborate with City Council alders, specifically downtown Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, a heavily student-populated district, to address student issues.
“I think it should be one of the objectives of both candidates, whoever gets elected, to really make sure that students are motivated and as informed as humanly possible,” Judge said. “It is their duty to make sure their constituents know who they are.”