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Cap Times Election Q&A: Madison City Council District 18

Cap Times Election Q&A: Madison City Council District 18

On Madison’s north side, two candidates are challenging incumbent Rebecca Kemble for the District 18 Madison City Council seat.  

Veronica Figueroa Velez and Charles Myadze are running against Kemble, who was first elected in 2015. 

The City Council determined by the spring election will face difficult, ongoing challenges, including the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and eventual economic recovery from it, constrained budgets, and demands for racial equity and social justice. Also, the council will be discussing the future of how local government looks in Madison. 

The Cap Times sent out a questionnaire to all candidates facing primary elections in February. Learn more about the candidates for District 18 and where they stand on key issues facing the city.  


Rebecca Kemble

Rebecca Kemble

Rebecca Kemble (i)

Age: 55

Profession: Taxi driver, snow removal 

Prior elected office: Current District 18 alder 

Other public service: Past positions:, Lindbergh School PTA president; East Attendance Area PTO Coalition chair; Dane County TimeBank president 

Campaign website: www.kemblefordistrict18.com 

What is the greatest challenge facing your district and what would you do to address it? 

Housing stability is critical to the northside. We need to ensure that homeowners aren’t priced out and that they are not burdened by skyrocketing property taxes. Affordable housing is needed for community health and to address our glaring racial disparities. I’ve been advocating for increased investment in land banking, as well as using city resources to develop public housing and working with community land trusts to add permanently affordable housing. 

Community safety and police accountability are also vital. The current model of policing exacerbates racial disparities, leading to trauma and loss of life. As District 18 alder, I helped to develop the Northside Safe and Thriving Initiative and supported it through the city budget process. We need to engage youth more productively. I worked with community members and organizations to promote the expansion of Warner Park Community Recreation Center, allowing for mentoring space and more youth activities.

Madison will be facing a difficult budget next year. Among the city’s many competing needs, what would you prioritize?  

City government is our collective resource funded mostly by our property taxes. It exists to take care of our collective needs and build on our collective aspirations. 

I will continue to prioritize housing stability and access to healthy food. The ongoing pandemic has increased the economic insecurity of many who already live on the margins. Despite sweeping changes to state laws that overwhelmingly favor landlords while tying the hands of local governments to protect their residents, I am working with the Equal Opportunities Commission and Community Development staff to defend tenants against discrimination. I have also authored budget amendments to fund Legal Action Wisconsin to represent tenants in eviction court.

What should the City Council do to support residents throughout the pandemic? 

As alder, I urged Public Health to issue a mask mandate and to increase testing and contact tracing. We must follow the science and care for each other by wearing masks, keeping a safe distance from others, and washing our hands frequently. Our city must support residents who need assistance and ensure that public health orders are in place to protect frontline workers, older adults, and disabled residents. As a member of the Food Policy Council, I worked to convert our annual SEED Grants to be awarded to organizations who provide pandemic relief services.

I championed the city’s worker cooperative development initiative to give people more power in local economic development. I have voted for living wage ordinances and public investments targeted to marginalized communities, including the recent $2.5 million Small Business Economic Recovery program directed at small businesses owned by people of color.

The spring ballot includes advisory referendum questions on the structure of Madison’s local government. What changes, if any, do you think should be made to the structure of Madison’s local government?  

As the author of the resolution that created the Task Force on Government Structure (TFOGS), a member of TFOGS and now the TFOGS Implementation Committee, I’ve been committed to this work for many years. We have a responsibility to meet residents where they are and understand their needs as we make and implement policy. The most important TFOGS recommendations are concerned with improving resident engagement, especially for people of color and those living outside of downtown and the isthmus. I’m not in favor of reducing the size of the Common Council, which would make alders less accessible and accountable to their constituents. I am in favor of paying alders a modest wage for their work. Currently, only people who are retired or who have well-paying jobs and/or flexibility in their work schedules can manage the workload. This leaves out the vast majority of working people and people with children. 

What do you believe is the City Council’s role in police reform? 

The council’s role is to ensure that the Madison Police Department (MPD) is operating in a way that aligns with the community’s values and priorities. Last year we created the Police Civilian Oversight Board and the Independent Monitor. It is very important that they are trusted by the community, especially by those most impacted by the negative impacts of policing activity. They are charged with informing the council of progress on implementing reforms, providing an annual review of the chief, and making policy recommendations based on their outreach and monitoring activities. The Council also has oversight authority over MPD and can make broad policy and give lawful orders to the chief. I look forward to working with Chief Barnes as a policy maker to give him the support he needs to implement the 177 MPD Policy & Procedure Ad Hoc Committee recommendations, which the council has adopted as policy.


Charles Myadze

Charles Myadze

Charles Myadze

Age: 45

Profession: Continental Automotive for almost 24 years

Prior elected office: N/A

Other public service: Public Safety Review Committee vice chair; NAACP Community Coordinator and Criminal Justice Committee member; peacemaker for Dane County Community Restorative Justice 

Campaign website: Charles4district18@gmail.com; https://www.charles4district18.com/  

What is the greatest challenge facing your district and what would you do to address it? 

Public safety: Voters are angry about heavy policing, and I am running to bridge the relationship with the Black community where they are respected all all costs. Listening to the people and understanding their concerns will give me the tools necessary to advocate for them. It is time to bridge the gap and the police who protect and serve listen to the community. This will begin the healing and building process. 

Madison will be facing a difficult budget next year. Among the city’s many competing needs, what would you prioritize?  

Public safety. Violent crime is on the rise in our neighborhoods, with shots fired incidents up nearly 80% and more shell casings found by our police department than at any time in our recorded history. While I believe social services need added funding, if we fix the front-end issues that play a part in causing crime, through funding programs through different means, crime and threats to public safety go down.

Public health. Obviously, we are facing a pandemic, and it’s important to put funding into vaccines, research, whatever it takes to get this behind us.

Housing for the homeless, low- income/affordable housing, business loans to help our small businesses make it through this pandemic and stay afloat, job training programs, business incentives, transportation. 

What should the City Council do to support residents throughout the pandemic? 

Alders should listen closely to their constituents regarding concerns and obstacles they're facing and represent those things to the council. We need to listen to learn, understand and solve problems. We need to look at facts, statistics and be solution oriented. We need to help our residents help themselves by bringing their problems, concerns and ideas to the city. Representation is a two-way street, and I look forward to listening to understand my residents and their interests. We will also need to work closely with Public Health and offer agencies to ensure we are helping to meet the many needs brought on by this global pandemic.  

The spring ballot includes advisory referendum questions on the structure of Madison’s local government. What changes, if any, do you think should be made to the structure of Madison’s local government?   

No, I do not support losing half of our city's representation and paying more than twice as much for it. [$13,000 x 20=  $260,000.  $67,000 x 10 = $670,000. We don't have this kind of money, and if we did, I would rather it be spent on you and the kinds of programs that can help you than to have high-paid politicians. I am a single Dad. I work hard as a steelworker. But I want to give of my time, not for the money, but for you. Also, cutting ten alders would mean representing twice as many constituents. I'm motivated to serve you, not the money.

If the number of districts will be reduced from 20 to 10, this is a huge concern to me because it will mean a loss of representation to all constituents, but especially to our communities of color.

What do you believe is the City Council’s role in police reform?  

We're in the process of getting our Police Civilian Oversight Board up and running, and they will soon select a full- time Independent Monitor to help them provide oversight and accountability to the police department. As a Black man, that is important to me. I want to play a part in bringing healing to our city, especially our Black community. It's why I put pressure on the mayor, the council and the police department to initiate the Black Officers Coalition within MPD. I want to bring the mayor, the council members and the police chief and MPD together to work on real solutions that will build up our community especially the BIPOC community. 


Veronica Figueroa Velez

Veronica Figueroa Velez

Veronica Figueroa Velez

Age: 47

Profession: executive director  

Prior elected office: N/A

Other public service: Recent gubernatorial appointee to the Interstate Adult Offender Supervision Board (IAOS) board member of Community Shares of WI and End Domestic Abuse; member of the Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee. 

Campaign website: https://www.veronicafordistrict18.com/ 

What is the greatest challenge facing your district and what would you do to address it? 

Systemic racial inequities are linked directly to the challenges northside residents face. Access to affordable housing, increased homelessness, displacement, land mismanagement, transportation, inclusive economic engagement, lack of workforce opportunities and aggravated crime rates are high. We need to do a better job and formally acknowledge, engage and remedy inequities. I will strongly advocate for investment in families, educational supports, and access to premium healthcare for all members of our community.

Madison will be facing a difficult budget next year. Among the city’s many competing needs, what would you prioritize?  

We need to reevaluate our current trajectory, dissect on-going barriers and see what solution can genuinely impact our struggling ecosystem. We must be accountable and proactively address disparities under our charge and act to achieve a racial equity vision. The city must conduct a needs assessment to make informed decisions and allocate resources wisely. I would work together with community members who feel the direct effects of gaps in services or resources. I will bring together expert community leaders such as school personal, local government officials, human service providers, public health and organizations working with marginalized populations.

What should the City Council do to support residents throughout the pandemic? 

The city and the council should work together to implement equitable recovery strategies such as incorporating equity in planning, outreach and sustainable recovery by strengthening the state’s social safety nets for marginalized groups most impacted by COVID-19, as well as examining how data collection can enhance the state’s ability to assess the health needs of its population through a lens of health disparities and health equity. Promote an equitable and inclusive economic recovery by investing in historically marginalized communities. Ensuring equitable distribution of pandemic relief funds for business and community services, and supporting mass testing of migrant farm workers and food processing plant workers. Supporting small businesses operated in and owned by communities of color and addressing racially disparate housing security patterns.

The spring ballot includes advisory referendum questions on the structure of Madison’s local government. What changes, if any, do you think should be made to the structure of Madison’s local government? 

I don't believe that restructuring is the solution. Leveraging our resources and working with organizations and community leaders to improve and enhance our city is the direction we should move. I don't believe that increasing to a four-year term will address the lack of representation and inclusion. 

What do you believe is the City Council’s role in police reform?  

As a former member of the Madison Police Department Policy & Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee and a member of the Police Camera Review Feasibility Committee, ensuring that we advance the city's police reform agenda forward is urgent to address systemic oppression, improve community relations and create a path to a safer and thriving city.  

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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