Thank you in advance for your patience as I get caught up on County news! Budget season has been hectic and fulfilling and informative - I thank you all so much for your participation in this important process. I have heard from many constituents about a variety of budget issues - from affordable housing to juvenile justice, the marijuana referendum to early voting locations, the Engage Dane initiative to the Off The Square Club funding and immigration assistance. Thank you for your participation, your offers of assistance, and your time.
There are a few specific initiatives I’d like to highlight here, and then review the remaining parts of the process, and the times when you can come to speak to your areas of expertise.
Removing fees charged to youth at the detention center
For a long time, state and county juvenile justice systems have charged families for the incarceration of children in detention centers. By old logic, families should be held accountable for the behaviors of these youth - if families are invested in the financial cost of incarceration, they would be motivated to keep their kids in line. However, this policy, I believe, is morally incorrect, economically inefficient, and ignorant of overlapping systems of racism and economic oppression that we fight every day in Dane County.
As we know today, non-white children and children living in poverty are incarcerated at a disproportionate rate. These kids are then victims of multiple overlapping systems of racial injustice and trauma. Here are some examples of ways that kids are hit with intersecting systems keeping them from success. Black families in Dane County are subject to huge disparities in poverty - 54% of African American residents live below the Federal Poverty Line, versus 9% of whites (as of 2011). So as African American parents work hard to lift their families out of poverty, a virtue we praise every day, they are not at home as much to care for their kids. Unsupervised kids without scheduled activity are much more likely to get in trouble. We have childcare costs that are through the roof. We have a healthcare system in Wisconsin that doesn’t pay for mental health treatment. We have a justice system that sentences black children at a higher rate than their white peers. And we have a juvenile detention center that stacks a collections bill on top of an already painful and deleterious experience. There are exceptions, there are excuses, there are definitely reasons to say, “but the county needs the money!”, but this is something we can control. Let’s stop charging families for the incarceration of their kids.
Big thank you to Supervisor Bayrd for her leadership on this issue.
Protecting the opportunity to bring girls at Copper Lake back to Dane County
This is a complicated budget amendment. The state Department of Corrections is finally closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. Act 185 is the mechanism through which kids will be transferred to different locations so that they are no longer at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake facilities, which have a horrifying history of abuse and neglect. While Act 185 leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and is a rather complex item to tackle, the essence of it is that counties are being asked to make room for these kids in local facilities, so that they do not have to be placed in singular facilities in distant locations. We think it is a net positive to bring these kids closer to home, closer to their families, and more under Dane County supervision. With that said, we are looking into what would need to happen to enable a “Secure Residential Care Center” for those kids who are placed under a juvenile corrections order (but not a Serious Juvenile Offender [SJO] order or sentenced as adults). Originally, the County had been planning on making room for boys under a non-SJO correctional order, but determined that the girls program would not be possible. As there are generally about 5 boys and 3 girls from Dane County at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake, we decided to make a broad capitol budget amendment to explore what bringing these girls back to Dane County would look like. PPJ-C-01 is a placeholder, so to speak. It gives us the opportunity to apply for the appropriate grants and create programs for non-SJO corrections girls, without necessarily committing to building this space. If you have further questions about this amendment, please reach out to me so that we can chat 1:1. This all leads me to my next amendment.
Big thanks to Department head John Bauman for speaking with me at length about Act 185, and Supervisor Schwellenbach for her leadership on this issue.
Funding a community engagement initiative around juvenile justice
You may have heard about Engage Dane over the last few months, which is Dane County’s effort to increase community engagement in county government. In 2019 budget amendments, Chair Corrigan, Supervisor Wegleitner, and myself have proposed a variety of amendments which have since been combined into one to address community engagement. The amendment asks to increase translation services for documentation and meetings, provide a full time community engagement role for the County Board, begin broadcasting two standing committee meetings a month, and more. My request is that we set aside $10,000 to begin a community conversation around what our juvenile justice system looks like. Contrary to the recent actions of a variety of local electeds, a top-down juvenile justice system will not work. We must speak to families, community organizations, teachers and counselors, and most of all, youth in Dane County, about what our juvenile justice system should look like. What supports do kids need when coming out of detention? How can we make the transition back to home life easier? What best practices can we teach parents as they struggle with this experience? How can we keep kids on track at school while going through rehabilitation programs? How can we maximize the effectiveness and reach of rehabilitation services? These are not questions that can be answered in a committee, but I know the answers are available in the community. We’ll work together to make the Dane County juvenile justice system equitable, effective, safe, and community based.
Big thanks to Chair Corrigan, for her commitment to community engagement, and Supervisor Wegleitner, for her determination in piloting broadcasting standing committee meetings.
EXEC-O-08, which will be rolled into EXEC-O-02
On Monday, October 29, and Tuesday, October 30, the Personnel and Finance committee will hear testimony from the standing committees about the amendments that we proposed. Monday will be focused on Environment, Agriculture & Natural Resources; Public Works & Transportation; Zoning & Land Regulation; and Executive Committee. Tuesday will be focused on Health & Human Needs and Public Protection & Judiciary.
On Wednesday, November 7, and Thursday, November 8, the Personnel & Finance Committee will deliberate about the amendments presented and pass final resolutions on for the County Board.
On Monday, November 12, the County Board meets to deliberate as a whole, starting at 7pm. If a final budget resolution is not reached, we will continue deliberations on Wednesday, November 14 and Thursday, November 15. The county board must pass a budget amendment at that point. Over the next two weeks, the County Executive may choose budget vetoes, which will then be addressed at the November 29, 2018 county board meeting.
For now I must sleep! But I’ll continue in the next few days with additional amendments I’d like to highlight, including caring for the Hmong community in Dane County, continuing our commitment to the Immigration Assistance Fund, increasing care for our transgender neighbors (particularly in this time), and jumpstarting an educational initiative to address barriers to unemployment. Please reach out with your comments on the amendments that you see above, or others that you may read about or see in the linked attachments. I am eager to hear your thoughts.