It wasn’t a pretty sight–Thoughts on the meeting of the Dane County Board of Supervisors

I attended the Dane County Board of Supervisors meeting last night where I spoke in support of the resolution to purchase 1490 Martin St. for a permanent day resource center (The gist of my remarks are here). Coincidentally, a staff member from the Turkish parliament was there to observe the proceedings. He is interested in democracy and local politics. Both of us learned a great deal.

It wasn’t especially edifying. Many people spoke in opposition to the resolution. A large number of those who expressed their opposition were homeless themselves or advocates for the homeless. Many other opponents are neighbors of the facility. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. One heard again and again from neighbors about the problems center guests would bring into the neighborhood; the danger they presented. These are arguments brought up every time efforts are made to expand services or locate new programs and facilities in neighborhoods, towns, or cities throughout Dane County and the US. These are arguments some of those same progressives will angrily rebut when their own efforts are being challenged. Last night, however, because NIMBY sentiments played into progressives’ hands, the arguments were allowed to stand.

I’m grateful for those who have worked so hard over the last months and years to make the day center a reality and I am eager to watch how plans for transportation and renovation move forward. I am also excited to see the Day Center open on November 1. It’s the culmination of many people’s dreams and will fill a huge gap in our community’s services for the homeless.

A report of the meeting is available here.

 

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2 thoughts on “It wasn’t a pretty sight–Thoughts on the meeting of the Dane County Board of Supervisors

  1. Dear Fr. Jonathan, I appreciate your deep care, concern and work with the homeless however I feel you are being unfair to characterize my neighborhood in the town of Madison as expressing NIMBY. The fact of the matter is we have already been co-existing with Porchlight for a number of years without making much noise about it. What we reject is the condescending tone of some from the County of, why are you people whining now? You have been OK with what exists so why would you have a problem with not only doubling what exists but it also being potentially unlimited in size and scope (as the zoning determination of “permitted” would allow)? And why would you people have a problem with open hours of 50% more than what exists including weekends and potentially 24hrs/day (as “permitted” zoning would allow)? Many of us would accept what exists, but not expanded to such a degree. Many of us would also accept this facility being 1/2 block away (which is certainly still in our neighborhood) next to Madison Newspapers and the food pantry. However the location proposed is residential and should be zoned that way with any businesses subject to conditional use permit only, which is not what the County wants. Personally, my feeling is that I would prefer our country/state tax it’s society at a high rate
    that would pay for education, healthcare, etc. and a huge safety net for all. I found your blog because I have researched the zoning codes and googled any info I could find out about this issue. Thank you so much for allowing me to express my opinion here.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ms. West. The point of my post was not to criticize neighborhood opposition. As the chief representative of the landlord of Porchlight’s men’s drop-in shelter, I deal with neighbors’ complaints about it on a regular basis and work hard to find solutions to problems. What I was trying to point out in my post was how progressives on the County Board were cynically using neighbors’ opposition (and the voices of homeless people) for their own political ends.

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