No referendum on jail consolidation!
The Dane County Board voted 21 to 14 (with 2 absent) against asking voters in referendum whether to replace the near 70-year-old, Alcatraz-style county jail on the top two floors of the City-County Building in downtown Madison WI.
The referendum supervisors turned down Thursday 01-19-23 would have asked for authority to spend an additional $13.5 million on top of $166 million previously committed in the normal budget process. The extra money is needed to cover cost overruns on a six-story jail addition due to the county’s endemic dithering. The addition would eliminate solitary confinement. It would also replace the decrepit Huber work-release center on the grounds of the fairgrounds at Alliant Energy Center.
The referendum vote having failed, supervisors realized they could not achieve the three-quarters super-majority to amend the budget by direct county board action and so punted that back to committee, where progress goes to die.
Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, we must say, was a powerful advocate for the jail. He showed supervisors pictures taken earlier Thursday of silverfish contamination in the “inhumane” City County portion of the jail. “The bathrooms we have are absolutely deplorable, there is exposure of lead, and poor water quality.”
“We should not be legislating by referendum,” Chairman Patrick Miles, McFarland, said. “We don’t know the total cost of the project yet (and won’t) until March. When that happens, I will be authorizing expenditures then. Whether we do now or in March does not affect the timing of the project.”
But last November, Miles backed a smaller, five-story jail tower — proposed at the last-minute — that would have sabotaged years of expensive planning. The county executive vetoed that.
“We are paralyzed; we are unable to reach consensus. That is why it should go to referendum.”— Sup. Tim Kiefer, Waunakee
Madison would turn out like crazy to vote NO.— Sup. Yogesh Chawla, Madison.
These 21 voted AGAINST the jail referendum
* Glazer, Jeffrey
* Ripp, Dave
Wright, Jacob C.
These 14 voted FOR the jail referendum
Supervisors * Larry Palm, Madison, and * Michelle Doolan, Cross Plains, were absent. They and Sups. * Ripp and * Glazer were among the 18 who commendably voted in November 2020 against a plan to shrink the jail addition to five floors from the planned and previously approved six floors. Those 18 include the 14 who voted Thursday 01-19-23 for the referendum.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Sup. Chawla is correct, Madison voters would have massed to deep-six the jail. So is Sup. David Ripp: Putting meat and potato issues like public safety to referenda IS dereliction of an elected official’s duty. But the Dane County Board IS derelict in its duties.