The Madison Common Council created a task force that is considering restructuring the city government. 

The Task Force on Structure of City Government is composed of four common council members and seven appointments made by either the mayor or the common council president. The task force will give recommendations to the common council who will ultimately decide the structure’s fate, task force member and former alder Ronald Trachtenberg said.

A public referendum may be called for certain ordinances, Trachtenberg said.

“The task force has no power in of itself — it only makes a series of recommendations,” Trachtenberg said.

The task force is considering making alder positions full time instead of part time, changing alders’ terms to four years, increasing the number of alders, increasing the president and vice president terms from one to two years, and changing the amount of members’ salary, according to an article from The Cap Times.

Trachtenberg added that the task force has agreed the mayor’s office is fine the way it is but is struggling with the way the common council is structured.

One of those structural issues they are looking at includes trying to decide the appropriate amount of council members to have on a part-time or full-time council, Trachtenberg said.

He said that currently, the common council has 20 members who work part time.

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Task force member Roger Goodwin said the task force voted in favor of both a larger and smaller council on different occasions, but in both cases voted in favor of a full-time council.

Trachtenberg is in favor of a part-time council.

“You’ll get people with more backgrounds,” Trachtenberg said.

Trachtenberg cited examples of business, social services and education expertise and said there were many people of different backgrounds who brought knowledge to the table during the time he served.

There are differences in representation across the city depending on the time requirements of the alders in the districts, Goodwin said. 

Goodwin is in favor of a larger council that serves part time so that each member doesn’t have to represent a large number of people. If the council serves full time, Goodwin said, it would be justifiable to have fewer members because they would have more time to handle a bigger district.

Some members believe a full-time council will deter people who don’t have the time, Trachtenberg said.

Redistricting will occur in the 2023 election, so the restructuring of the council could be implemented at that point if the council chooses to do so, Trachtenberg said.

He added that the length of term limits doesn’t make a difference.

“I know very few, if any, alders that were defeated after their first term,” Trachtenberg said. He only had one formal opponent in the eight years he ran.

Trachtenberg favors a four-year term because it might attract more people, stating that it takes a lot of time and money to run for office. He also favors a two-year term for the president and vice president because he said there is a six-month learning curve. 

Goodwin said lengthening the term for president and vice president would make sense if the terms were made longer for alders. He agreed that a four-year term makes sense since running for office takes a lot of time. 

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If the council was full time, it may become more politicized, Goodwin said. Right now, Goodwin said, anyone can run for the council without having to raise “a fortune.”

If it’s full time, Goodwin said he believed there would be more of an incentive to get the position and raise a lot of money.

“More money means potential for corruption,” Goodwin said.

Trachtenberg agreed and said not only does he think a full-time council would become more political, but he fears it.

Goodwin added that the salary changes could change the type of person that would run for city council — many people don’t have a desire to run for a job that makes them less money.

The task force is considering paying the members 80% of the Dane County median income for a three-person family, or $67,950, according to an article from The Cap Times.

“The biggest issue I got, is the cost to tax payers,” Goodwin said.

It can cost hundreds of thousands a year for each alder. A full-time alder will need offices, staff and cars. Goodwin forsees a multi-million dollar impact.

The task force is also recommending a significant restructuring of boards and committees and reducing the number of them, Goodwin said. There are over 100 boards and committees.

There is no perfect answer, Trachtenberg said.