With current alder and University of Wisconsin, Max Prestigiacomo, vacating his District 8 City Council seat on Feb. 16, two University of Wisconsin students are registered to run for the UW campus seat.
Students Juliana Bennett and Ayomi Obuseh will both run to fill the seat Prestigiacomo will relinquish after just one term, according to a report by Channel 3000 news.
Channel 3000 reported Prestigiacomo is relinquishing his seat to allow for greater representation on the City Council.
“Representation in government is so important because it shows us that we are capable and that we can succeed,” Obuseh said.
Associated Students of Madison Chair, Matthew Mitnick, endorsed Bennett for this election, but believes both candidates are qualified for the position and will prove strong leaders for the greater Madison community.
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Both candidates and Mitnick applauded Prestigiacomo for making it possible for the city council to have greater representation.
“Max was an amazing alder and recognized the need to bring in young, diverse voices to ensure that everybody in our district is effectively represented,” Mitnick said.
Mitnick said he believes either candidate will effectively represent the voices of Madison’s underserved communities. Mitnick said the future District 8 alder will be presented with a plethora of issues to tackle, he but believes they will be in a position to make substantial progress.
Obuseh said interning with the state capital and participating in a congressional campaign helped her to understand the impact she can have as both an activist and an organizer.
“As an organizer, I help to build relationships and community and amplify the voices of the people here,” Obuseh said. “That’s something that I think is missing from [city] council.”
Bennett and Obuseh were both active in the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer of 2020.
Bennett said her involvement with the demonstrations, along with attending ASM and city council and committee meetings helped her better understand how she can bring unique a viewpoint and background to the city council.
“Seeing how the processes work, it became very clear to me that in order to see the changes that we want to see, we have to have a voice in the conversation,” Bennett said.
Bennett is running on the platforms of affordable housing, COVID-19 relief and recovery, reimagining public safety and sustainability.
Bennett said she would love to see Madison become a city in which citizens can live affordably, live safe from COVID-19, financial hardship, and live sustainably.
“In all of these, I have the overarching goal of getting students, young people, BIPOC people, anyone that has been historically underserved, into these conversations,” Bennett said.
As District 8 alder, Obuseh said because she would be representing a primarily student-district, she would prioritize students and youth.
Obuseh said her role as an organizer is to create space for citizens of various backgrounds to converse.
“My experience working with people helps ensure that we create conversations that are necessary,” Obuseh said. “I want to make sure that every voice is present at the table. As an alder, my job would be to ensure that we’re building bridges.”
in conjunction with elevating underrepresented and underserved voices, Bennett and Obuseh said they believe strongly in encouraging young adults to participate in government.
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Particularly in the city of Madison, Bennett said young people are generally thought of as a transient population that comes and goes every four years. But she said this thinking is flawed, as the student population is an integral part of Madison as a community, so they should be making their voices heard.
“It is extremely important for young adults to be involved,” Bennett said. “As young people, we need to start getting involved in these processes as early as possible and build a coalition of young, involved constituents.”
Mitnick, Bennett and Obuseh all stressed the importance of participation in government.
Bennett said whether students are participating in local politics through voting or are considering running for government, it is critical that all voices are heard and that the government adequately represents its voters.
Obuseh said she has learned the importance of asking questions in engaging with government offices. She said, in her view, when constituents ask questions, it becomes easier for them to become part of policy-based conversations.
“I want to make sure that another little girl can look up at me and that the role that I’m playing is something they can do too,” Obuseh said. “I want to make sure I empower them and let them know that we need their voice here.”