In Madison’s north side City Council District 18, Rebecca Kemble and Peng Her are running to fill Ald. Anita Weier’s soon-vacant seat.
Weier is stepping down after two terms on the council representing a district she calls active and environmentally conscious.
“It has a lot of really great people, very individualistic and strong-minded and involved,” she said.
The two candidates stepping up to replace her each have unique areas of focus. Her is a leader in the Hmong community and assistant director of the Center for Resilient Cities while Kemble is a strong advocate of cooperatives as a worker-owner of Union Cab and president of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives.
Both have long lists of community work and involvement, but Weier is supporting Kemble to replace her as she steps down.
"I believe she’s accomplished a lot in the community and is very dedicated and hard-working," Weier said, listing Kemble's work to keep Lindbergh Elementary School from closing and starting two community gardens. "She cares about the north side."
Kemble, 49, decided to run based on a desire to develop cooperative work initiatives and concerns about how state-level decisions are impacting the city’s ability to address local needs.
“We’ve got to find new and creative ways to take care of our infrastructure, our human needs, our schools,” Kemble said.
She wants to focus on tapping into the volunteer organizations, mutual aid networks and other groups already doing vital work in the community on the environment, criminal justice or racial disparities.
“These things are already happening in Madison a lot,” she said. “We have an incredibly civic-minded population that are willing to help out.”
Kemble is also focused on supporting the development of cooperative businesses, something the city is already starting to do. She said the city’s emphasis on new, expensive development is one way to grow the tax base but one that increases that inequality. It should instead focus on getting people working and investing in people’s productive capacity.
“I think one of the biggest issues facing our whole society, the whole world really, including Madison, is increasing inequality,” Kemble said.
With his background as a business owner, Her is also focused on economic development and holding the line on property taxes.
He currently serves on the city’s Economic Development Committee and has served on the Northside Planning Council.
“I decided to run to really tell the story of the north side,” Her said.
He came to the U.S. in 1976 as a refugee with nothing but the clothes on his back. He put himself through college working, got a degree in physics, moved to Madison and started his own company.
“One of the things I want to bring to council is my unique perspective as a Hmong person, making sure the council represents the diverse communities here in Madison,” Her said. He also wants to bring his perspective as a business owner and a father of three.
From talking to neighbors in the north side, he said there are three main issues that have surfaced for the district: the need to attract more businesses to fill the empty storefronts, concern about public safety and the desire for an alder who will listen and call them back.
“I decided to pledge that if a resident or neighbor calls with a question or concern, I pledge I will get back to them in 48 hours,” Her said.
The two candidates declared their intention to run months ago, in December. Now only a few weeks remain before the April 7 election.