One of the most exciting things about Madison’s 2019 municipal election campaign is the generation of ideas by candidates seeking not just the mayoralty but City Council and School Board seats. Mayoral candidates Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway are both smart and engaged leaders who are addressing the issues that Madisonians are already concerned about. But some of the best ideas about the issues that Madison needs to start wrestling with are coming from aldermanic candidates.
We’ve written before about the race for the open 13th District aldermanic seat that represents parts of the south and west sides, complimenting Tag Evers for mounting a bold campaign that recognizes the need for “a ‘moon shot’ sense of urgency with regard to our challenges and our possibilities." We’ve been especially impressed with the focus Evers has placed on addressing the root causes of the city’s challenges and the commitment to economic and social and racial justice that he brings to the search for solutions.
But we have also been impressed with the approach of the other candidate in District 13: David Hoffert. The president of the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood Association, Hoffert brings to the race a combination of Madison roots and expertise with regard to issues that the city will need to address. He has a graduate degree in public policy from Stanford University, which is compelling. Equally compelling is the fact that, before he obtained that degree, he helped to develop self-driving cars in the mechanical engineering department at Stanford. We’ve been struck by Hoffert’s understanding of technology policy, especially as it relates to transportation decisions that cities such as Madison will have to make in the near future.
When we wrote about Evers, we emphasized that we were not making an endorsement in the race just then — simply highlighting good ideas and a good approach. We offer the same proviso as we write about Hoffert. We’ll endorse soon.
For now, we simply want to highlight an important point being made by Hoffert when he says that “our city leadership needs to take steps to prepare for future challenges” — particularly the challenges that will extend from technological progress. He has spoken about the experience of living in the San Francisco Bay Area as the tech boom took hold and housing affordability, long commutes and traffic congestion became overwhelming concerns. He told Isthmus that he had “witnessed a society that was truly breaking down due to inequality” and offered a savvy warning: “We’re clearly going down the road of a tech economy that’s great for upper-middle-class white people and awful for others. I don’t want us to go down that road.”
Hoffert recognizes elected officials need to be exploring best practices and best responses to changes that we know will come. As an example, he points to self-driving cars, which will be on our streets before this decade is done. As Hoffert says, autonomous vehicles “represent an incredible opportunity to save lives and increase efficiency, but also could be another example of the tech economy disrupting the lives and livelihoods of our hardest-working residents if we don't manage it well.”
That’s a vital perspective that reminds us that Madison needs to focus on the future. Now.
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