The Madison Common Council voted Wednesday to pass the Mayor’s budget, which includes investing in COVID-19 relief and affordable housing.

The Finance Committee made amendments to the 2021 capital and operating budget before the budget passed through Common Council with an assortment of amendments.

Nine amendments the Council passed pertained to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s capital budget and seven amendments pertained to the operating budget, increasing the budgets to $166.4 million and $349.5 million, respectively.

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The Council placed Amendment 10 in the operating budget, which proposed funding four more police officer positions and reclassifying one police officer to a sergeant for an “Entertainment Zone Team” in downtown Madison, on file after extensive debate.

The city heard almost six hours of public testimony Tuesday, most of which centered around Amendment 10, accepting the COPS grant.

Ald. Sheri Carter, District 14, and Ald. Zachary Henak, District 10 put forward Amendment 10, which would raise the Madison Police Department’s funding by $347,580 for the four officer positions.

The grant would cover about $230,000, while the city would pay $117,000 during 2021. Over the course of four years, the city would pay over half a million dollars to MPD.

Ald. Max Prestigiacomo, District 8, opposed the amendment, citing the public testimony heard earlier by the council and the disconnect between the community and its alders when it comes to police funding. Prestigiacomo said he felt “embarrassed” to be a part of the council.

“I’m so sorry to the organizers that have been a part of this process. You’ve been forced to share your pain, your trauma, and unfortunately, people still aren’t listening,” Prestigiacomo said.

Prestigiacomo said it is an “upper-class” and “white narrative” that MPD is “progressive.”

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Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, voted for the amendment and said she supports the Black Lives Matter movement and that public safety is an issue that the city of Madison needs to take up. As a Black woman, Harrington-McKinney said she knows what it is like to live in a white world.

Harrington-McKinney said the objective of the grant is not to increase police, but to improve community cohesion and reduce crime in Madison’s entertainment zone — the downtown area around State St. — through collaborative problem-solving between businesses, residents and city agencies to make downtown safer and more welcoming for people of color.

“[The] objective of this grant is to implement a multi-stakeholder plan to reduce crime and improve safety in downtown Madison,” Harrington-McKinney said.

Harrington-McKinney talked about the benefit to having officers downtown to form relationships with protesters and opposed having officers come from outside to the downtown area.

Ald. Michael Tierney, District 16, said he has had constituents call him and list off police shootings in their area, noting people in his district have been victims of gun violence. He said people want police and neighborhood patrols.

“If we lose officers, they see the writing on the wall,” Tierney said. “Whenever something happens downtown, there’s going to be officers from the east district that go off to other parts of the city, resulting in limited response.”

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The Council debated the amendment for nearly an hour. In a 15-2, vote, they placed the amendment on file, and, therefore, “defeated” it, Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said to The Badger Herald.

Alds. Paul Skidmore, District 9, and Tierney voted against the motion to place the amendment on file, while Alds. Arvina Martin, District 11, and Carter asked to be excused.

In addition to Amendment 10, the council voted on amendments centering around affordable housing and COVID-19 relief. Amendment 15 included the addition of $50,000 to the affordable housing budget. This will provide funds to help outreach of affordable housing to the homeless population in Madison. The Council voted on and passed the amendment unanimously.

Amendment 7 also passed, appropriating $50,000 to fund PFAS testing at Truax. PFAS — a specific type of chemical compound — is an environmental and health hazard that has been used in firefighting foams at Truax Field Air National Guard Base. 

Amendment 3 of the executive budgets added $250,000 to the COVID-19 relief fund, raising it to a total of $725,000. This amendment addressed the lifting of the moratorium on eviction and giving aid to fight eviction.