To Cottage Grove Community Residents:

My husband and I want to encourage everyone to learn about the candidates and upcoming issues for the April 6th election. Spring elections have fewer voters but the results directly impact our local services and leadership. Make this April election a turnout as big as last November!

Larry and I have been long supporters of library services. We have accessed nearby libraries, the bookmobile, and online resources. Hidden in the details, our county taxes include funding to the Dane County Library Services. In 2019, our Cottage Grove community paid over $300,000. Library land has been purchased and is ready for building near two schools, a neighborhood, and on Cottage Grove Road. We work hard at shopping locally. I have to add a round trip of 25 minutes to the Pinney Branch Library. We are not working parents with young children or unable to drive the route. Although there are school libraries in the Village, they are not and will not be accessible to the general public. The funding and resources for these two types of libraries are very different. You can look up data from many reputable organizations to better understand these facts.

Most importantly, a library is more than a building. It is a local government service to residents of all ages, businesses, and visitors. Libraries become the heart and voice between local departments, organizations, and diverse people! A library is an investment into a stronger local, innovative economy. It’s time for a library! Contact the Library Planning Committee, the Friends of the CG Library, and your local municipality for more information.

United in the Library Future,

Larry and Anne Schoenemann, Cottage Grove

Please vote for Kristie Goforth as our next Mayor of Monona. Kristie Goforth has over 20 years of visionary leadership along with numerous ideas to make Monona welcoming to all. On City Council, she is the current Chair of the Landmarks Commission and Community Media along with being the Co-Chair for the Transit Commission and serving on the Plan Commission.

As someone with an extensive communication background, she understands the importance of making the website more user-friendly and having council meetings on YouTube so people can view them on their own time. Most people I know do not have the time to dedicate to attending a full city council meeting. Having more committee videos online will increase engagement and transparency. She also proposed the idea of a citywide e-newsletter and it’s off to a great start.

Economic Development: As the former director of the Monona East Side Business Alliance, she expanded and extended Monona’s regional economic strength. Membership doubled under her leadership in two years. She hosted multi-chamber events and has strong connections with other community leaders. She also understands the importance of the arts improving communities, including with our murals that bring people to this area where they support local businesses.

The stronger our business community and tax base is, the more resilient we’ll be as a city. We are listed as 2nd highest amount of debt based on population within Dane County. Kristie Goforth understands that we also have to focus on reducing our debt load and set smart priorities to invest in to help support most, if not all, of Monona citizens.

Education: As a mother of two school-age children, she understands the importance of having a strong educational system and making the community better for future generations. She has volunteered at Winnequah School. She paid for her way through school by working numerous hours and graduated in Conservation Biology and Geography with a focus on urban planning from UW-Madison.

Environment: Kristie Goforth has been a life-long conservationist and environmentalist including as a water protector, especially with being an enrolled member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa. She is a Commissioner for Dane County Parks and current Executive Director for Free Bikes 4 Kidz along with being on the Wisconsin Bike Federation Board. Keeping Lake Monona and the Yahara watershed clean and protected along with making sure all can enjoy our beautiful lakefront and looking at park access is very important to her and many in this community. She wants to prioritize public transit options to reduce pollution and increase access for the car-less.

These are some of the reasons why I’m voting for Kristie Goforth and why others should vote for her with her proven role as a leader and visionary. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Heather Owens, Monona

My neighbors, I bring two San Damiano ideas to your attention. Only two, so I won’t waste your time. Also, it is hard for me to keep more than two ideas in mind at the same time!

First, out of the current darkness forced upon us by C-19 and an economic recession. the opportunity to support the maintenance of San Damiano will create a forever legacy that will shine through these and any future dark clouds. Please seize this opportunity and help to fashion a solution that benefits all.

Second, we were recently reminded that if you are going to pray, move your feet. We are indeed praying that our friends, neighbors and Dane Countians will move to support the purchase and maintenance of San Damiano. To support that end, we are moving our feet with a donation to this meaningful opportunity. Please offer your support as well.

David and Joy Schroder, Monona

I write to urge my fellow Monona residents to re-elect Mary O’Connor as Mayor of Monona on April 6, 2021. Mary has demonstrated an impressive amount of patience, adaptability, and ingenuity as a leader these past four years, and has the connections to and relationships with Council members, City staff, and community members to show for it. She has gone above and beyond in the scope of her legislative initiatives, emergency management tactics, and budgeting savvy during what has been a supremely difficult period in Monona’s history, and has earned my trust and respect as a result.

I once told Mary that each time I see the “Wall of Mayors” in the City Hall conference room – a photographic array of white men, with a lone female standout at the end of the line (Mary) – I feel a sense of pride at having pushed myself as a young woman to run for and win a seat on the Council. When I shared this anecdote with Mary, she said something to the effect of “Imagine how I feel!” and she’s right; being elected as the first female mayor in a city of predominantly “traditional” (but ever evolving!) values, in addition to accruing the support of several of her male predecessors, was an incredible feat. I am proud to serve with Mary and am grateful for her listening ear and compassionate leadership.

Mary has exceeded my expectations not only in her quest to self-educate, introspect, and take seriously the lifelong journey of anti-racism, but also in her ability to accept and positively respond and adapt to criticism. She understands, and demonstrates through action and acknowledgment, that recognizing her strengths and weaknesses, and embracing new challenges as they arise, can only make her a better and more open-minded director of City operations.

Now in my third year on City Council, I have become painfully aware of the perils and pitfalls of the job. I can only imagine the energy, strength of character, and ability to separate the personal from the professional that the position of mayor requires. Fortunately, we have those qualities in Mary O’Connor, and it’s my hope that we as a community will formally recognize and continue to embrace them by reelecting her on April 6.

Molly Grupe, Monona city councilor

Mayor O’Connor and all of Monona City Council — with the shining exception of Kristie Goforth — took advantage of the people on my street during a global pandemic to shove a draconian and punitive 365-days-per-year No Parking alternate side 8AM to 8AM ordinance on a one-way street block. I objected from the get go as it is UNSAFE due to the downward sloping alluvial plain that runs down to the lake. If you park vehicles on the west side of the street (contrary to the city’s founding fathers) the view of oncoming traffic, vehicular, bikes, joggers, dog wakers, etc., will be OBSTRUCTED and ERGO HAZARDOUS. They have essentially taken a nonproblem and made it dangerous. My voice of reason wasn’t enough, so they went ahead with this ridiculous ordinance because they have gotten drunk on their political-power koolaid and just needed to boss some citizens around for their own self importance sake. This is dangerous stuff. If they are getting something this simple so wrong, just what the heck else are they up to? (See financial fudging re San Damiano purchase.)

Kristie Goforth was the only one who didn’t vote for this and tried to present my case to City Hall, but no doing. I wrote up a petition to restore the historic parking norm and went door to door during a pandemic to see what my neighbors really thought. You could sense the personal paralysis that this pandemic has inflicted, but people were eager to sign this petition. Pitting neighbor against neighbor is the worst kind of government. Wicked/Evil. I did receive a majority of signatures for restoring the historic parking norm, but the mayor said that I would need to convince the Public Works Commission. I knew I needed a lawyer to present it because I don’t have the stomach for this kind of thing. Kristie Goforth did steer me to an attorney who at long last said he would help me based on its merit. This was just before Christmas. Then the January meeting got cancelled so my attorney presented it by zoom at the February meeting. Since that time they have been sitting on this petition with NO movement...

So here we are still waiting waiting waiting for this UNSAFE, UNSOUND and UNCONSTITUTIONAL No Parking Ordinance to be resolved. I encourage all citizens of Monona to vote for a new Mayor (Goforth) and new City Council members who have “We the People” in mind: Patrick DeLuca and Nadia Dominguez. This would be a start.

Candyce Ver Burg, Monona

The members of any elected body have an obligation to their colleagues, and to the citizens, to treat one another with respect, even when they disagree. Their discourse, in public and in private, must be civil. They are obliged to know the facts, understand the issues, and come to meetings fully prepared. Importantly, they ae obliged to listen, to ask questions when necessary, and to be willing to change their position when the situation calls for it. Effective public officials understand that compromise is often necessary and that only rarely is an idea or an initiative fulfilled in its entirety all at once. Public policy develops incrementally, not all at once.

Rarely does one find an individual holding public office who understands this as well as Monona Alder Nancy Moore has. Her integrity is beyond reproach; she respects and honors the nature the trust she holds as a holder of an elected position. Nancy knows how important it is to help make sure that the residents of Monona understand why the city council takes the actions it does.

As chair of the plan commission, she has been a leader in the effort to ensure that new development in Monona be environmentally sound as well as responsive to the long-term interests of the city and the developer. The Riverfront Development is testament to her approach. She and her colleagues on the plan commission and the council are to be commended.

Nancy has been and continues to be a moving force behind the city’s acquisition of the San Damiano property. She knows that this property will be recognized as a gemstone in Monona, a place for community gatherings and activities, spectacular vistas of the State Capitol, and the enjoyment and appreciation of nature and the outdoors. She knows that we owe it to future generations to have public control of such an important piece of property.

I’ve known Nancy as a colleague, and as a friend, and I have worked with her in her role as an alder. . She has served Monona well and has been an excellent member of the city council. She deserves our support and re-election.

Peter McKeever, former Monona alder

The feasibility study for San Damiano states that a successful fundraising campaign will be dependent on a compelling vision and a master plan, but it would be challenging to raise up to $2 million in the next three to five years. As a result, the property must first be acquired by another entity. “If the City were to buy it and continue to own it, a campaign to raise money privately would have a very difficult time,” it stated.

Other options included the City “either borrowing the money to purchase or putting a referendum on the ballot.” Unfortunately, Monona residents were never given the chance to review the study until now, nor were we offered the opportunity to debate and vote in a referendum. Until the master plan is reviewed by the public and transformation of the property becomes a reality, only the Norbertine priests will experience this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and “dream come true” of an $8.6 million windfall.

Although San Damiano was appraised at $10.3 million in 2011, its value dropped to $8.6 million five years later. According to Dane County, the property was assessed at only $4.0 million in 2020, with $86,000 currently due in penalties and back taxes. Let’s collect those back taxes.

San Damiano Monona is described on its website as an “epic, iconic and magical place” that “offers breathtaking views of the Capitol and a peaceful natural expanse amidst the bustling sprawl of Madison’s East Side.” Planning for its restoration and public recreational use, however, won’t begin until weeks after the property’s closing in June 2021, and will continue through December 2022.

Transformation of the property “as designed” will dominate much activity surrounding northern Monona neighborhoods until Summer 2026, or whenever construction is complete. It’s still unknown when Monona residents may view the master plan or if they have any say in the property’s future. Meanwhile, many are confused about the direction of San Damiano’s future. Some Monona residents suggest the land should be developed as apartments and condominiums, or as a site for small retail businesses. Others prefer to learn about the value of nature and its benefits by experiencing the site in its pristine state.

As reported in a Wisconsin State Journal article dated March 13, consultant David Allen had privately warned certain Council members in September 2020 that it was unlikely that millions in donations could be raised anytime soon. In an open records request conducted in March, it was discovered that other Council members could not review Allen’s feasibility study, drafted in July, until after the vote was taken on September 8.

Sincerely,

Tim Jacobson, Monona

I encourage you to re-elect Kathy Thomas to the Monona City Council. These unusual, trying times require the leadership of a proven problem solver who combines her broad knowledge and expertise, extensive experience, and strong community relationships with a common sense approach to all matters that come before the Council.

In the wake of the pandemic, 2021 and years beyond will prove especially challenging for many local governments, and Monona is no exception. The city faces a significant loss in revenue and unlike other Dane County municipalities that can rely on city expansion for increased revenue, Monona, as a landlocked community, must find other ways to cover those losses. The city must be very strategic in managing city finances to maintain city services while holding the line on property taxes. Kathy has seen the city though challenging financial times before. Her knowledge, experience, and keen eye on the future will help shepherd the community through its current challenges.

Kathy’s steady leadership was exemplified this past summer as she led the Public Safety committee through a review of police policies, ensuring that Monona’s policies model the standards set by “8 Can’t Wait.” In a climate of heightened scrutiny and distrust nationwide, she engaged concerned residents in the conversation, making sure all had an opportunity to be heard. In her time on the Public Works Committee, she has pushed for creative solutions to road projects that have enabled the city to meet changing demands within the constrictions of location and budget.

Kathy has been an active, engaged community member throughout her years as a Monona resident. Through this work, she has built invaluable relationships with members of the community and has helped shape our unique city.

Kathy Thomas is fair minded, thoughtful, and always keeps the interests of taxpayers at the heart of her decision making. Encouraging public engagement to ensure that ALL members of the community feel valued and respected is one of her core values. Her wealth of experience, deep knowledge of where the city has been, and creative ability to think outside the box, will be instrumental in moving Monona forward into the future.

As a former Mayor of Monona, I know first-hand how challenging and complicated running our city can be. Even during the best of times, there are difficult decisions that need to be made and complex issues that need to be managed. During these unique times, those decisions and issue become even more challenging.

During her time as Mayor, Mary O’Connor has shown that she has the knowledge and collaborative skills to manage major redevelopments, maintain and grow our great city services, and keep our city in good financial shape. She has skillfully led our community through unprecedented challenges, such as historic flooding and the current public health emergency.

Monona needs an experienced leader who will continue to represent and work hard for everyone in our community. Please join me in voting for Mary O’Connor this spring.

Robb Kahl, former Monona mayor

It is critical that we support Mayor Mary O’Connor and Alders Kathy Thomas, Doug Wood, and Nancy Moore to keep Monona moving in a positive direction. Each one deserves our vote because they have the values and work ethic necessary to continue to make Monona better for all residents and businesses.

I want to specifically encourage Mononans to reelect Mayor Mary O’Connor. I have worked with both mayoral candidates. Mayor O’Connor is genuine, deliberate, honest, a good listener, truly collaborative, and willing to change her mind. She also deeply understands municipal finances, where others provide misleading graphs. Mary knows being mayor is not about ribbon cuttings or grandstanding; it is a tough job where difficult decisions have to be made, with the best interest of all Mononans in mind.

As mayor, Mary has reduced the city’s capital spending, increased our tax base, invested in Monona’s parks, prioritized our outdated city facilities, tackled pedestrian and bike safety issues, negotiated the purchase of San Damiano, initiated efforts to clean our lakes, and has been there in person to help during times of emergency, such as filling sandbags during the 2018 flooding. She accomplished this and more by working with all council members, city committees, residents, and city staff, even those with opposing views. She has made Monona a better place for current and future families and businesses.

The same can be said of Alders Thomas, Wood, and Moore. Because of them, Monona leads by example in sustainability efforts; the city is addressing our aging infrastructure; our streets are becoming safer for pedestrians and bikes; there are more recreation programs for children and seniors; even public transportation has been improved with the installation of a bus shelter near Walmart and the installation of B-cycle stations; and the list goes on. The alders and mayor are not in this to advance their own agenda, but rather complete an agenda that advances all of Monona.

Elections have consequences and in this one the consequences are clear. If you support our parks and recreation programs, the library and senior center, the enhancement of our public safety and public works services, and saving the San Damiano property from development, and believe in transparency and collaboration in government, please join me in voting to re-elect Mayor O’Connor along with Alders Thomas, Wood, and Moore. They continue to make Monona a great place to live, work, and play!

Andy Kitslaar, Monona

Monona is facing a variety of significant challenges and wonderful opportunities, some on-going and others unique to this moment in our progressive little city. Of the five candidates campaigning for the three City Council seats, two hold such strong appeal to me that I’d like to share my thoughts on why I think it important that they be re-elected to their roles helping to lead Monona into the future.

Nancy Moore’s two terms have been marked by both powerful actions and careful reflection. Her visionary work toward a more sustainable and livable city is exactly what she promised when first elected; she has certainly delivered. Picture the changes in Monona over last four years and you’ll see Nancy Moore’s fingerprints all over them: New, sustainable construction along Broadway, with more to come; a leading role in increasing diversity, inclusion and equity; a strong pledge for 100% renewable energy use in City facilities.

However, it is Nancy’s work to ensure that Monona is in control of the future of the San Damiano property between the lake and Monona Drive that speaks most loudly of her service to Monona. Tireless, committed, visionary, relentless and collegial are all terms that should be applied to her work. However, let’s not forget the most important word: Successful! Monona can now plan for exactly what to do with this priceless property, and Nancy Moore’s professional expertise in conservation planning and leadership will be vitally important as the project moves forward.

Doug Wood stands tall in any look at Monona’s leadership. Currently Council President, Doug Wood has made excellence in community services his hallmark: Award winning Parks and Library, an outstanding AA+ bond rating, great Police, Fire and EMT services. He has the type of progressive views on sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion that Monona has consistently not just supported, but demanded. And, like Nancy Moore, Doug is committed to finalizing the acquisition of San Damiano and ensuring an inclusive process to develop a viable master plan for this wonderful community and area gem.

I strongly urge your support for both Nancy Moore and Doug Wood.

Finally, I feel compelled to make one final comment. Our family has lived In Monona for almost 25 years. In that entire time, Monona’s city elections have NEVER seen the level of anger, vituperation and deliberate distortions of fact that we’ve witnessed during the current campaign. There’s plenty of room to discuss differing visions, opinions and priorities without stooping as low as we’ve seen this year. Prepare your facts and get them out there. But, whatever your feelings, realize that in a city our size, a responsive, effective, cooperative government strongly depends on bridges between that government, the citizens and our city staff. Burning those bridges now serves no good purpose.

Lindsay Wood Davis, Monona

When deciding which candidate(s) to vote for in the upcoming McFarland School Board race, I consider candidates who have demonstrated a genuine care for kids, a strong interest in representing families and community, active participation and involvement with school and community. BRUCE FISHER does all of those things and more. Bruce Fisher will bring the perspective as a former classroom teacher, coach, mentor, leader, lifelong educator to the School Board, a perspective that is sorely lacking on the present school board. But equally as important Bruce Fisher will fulfill his responsibilities as a board member with integrity, honesty, compassion, apply his vision for a brighter future for our schools, and ultimately will demonstrate passion and commitment to enhance and support teacher’s teaching and student’s learning,

Bruce Fisher consistently demonstrates the necessary skills and aptitude to effectively serve on the McFarland School Board. Bruce Fisher will assure that students in our schools will have an active supporter in advocating in their best interests. Bruce’s extraordinary classroom experiences, participation in Village committees and community volunteer, reputation among students, former students, parents and members of the community will serve as assets in the role, responsibilities, and outcomes of the future School Board.

Realizing a major responsibility for members of the School Board is to develop, enforce, and evaluate school board policies, Bruce Fisher is an exceptional choice to serve on the School Board as a result of his educational background, experiences and familiarity with school board policies and its guidance, influence and impact during his educational career.

It is with complete confidence that a vote for BRUCE FISHER is a vote that will help assure a brighter future in the McFarland School District for all stakeholders, but most importantly for our students.

Tom Mooney

McFarland

Monona is a beautiful place to live, but if you value transparency in government, it’s not the best. Each year our property taxes go up, and despite homeowners paying more and more, the city’s debt keeps going up too. Worst of all, there are few opportunities for public input on the decisions that drive our financial trajectory. The upcoming San Damiano purchase is case in point.

Last summer, a private fundraising consultant issued a report unequivocally stating that he did not believe the city could raise the funds necessary for this purchase. Instead of publicizing the finding, it was “lost in the shuffle” according to Mayor O’Connor, and only came to the community’s attention thanks to the reporting of the Wisconsin State Journal.

After making this enormous purchase with zero public input, there is now an insiders-only steering committee which is also declining to engage the community in any meaningful way. If the city government really wanted to find a solution to best meet everyone’s needs, they would give folks the opportunity to have their voice heard.

That’s why I support Kristie Goforth for mayor; she genuinely believes in engaging the community and making sure everyone’s opinion is considered. As a newer member of a city council dominated by folks who have had their seat for decades, Kristie has experienced firsthand a city government culture that is opaque by nature, keeping their cards close to their chest even among their peers.

Our country has experienced a decades-long decline in civic engagement, and that leads to the situation we are now in. Having a leader like Kristie who will go the extra mile to engage the community and make everyone feel like their perspective matters will go a long way to reversing that trend, at least here where I call home.

Jimmer Yunek

Monona

Editor's note: This is the final week letters to the editor regarding the spring 2021 election will be published in the Herald-Independent. This is a longstanding policy to allow response time before the election that gives candidates the chance to respond to any last-minute attacks on their candidacy.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to jswanson@hngnews.com. You can also submit your letters to the editor to that email, and just because the election is over doesn’t mean local engagement has to be, too. We always enjoy getting local opinions and commentary on issues that matter to you.

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