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Wisconsin State Journal (copy)

Two candidates are running for the open District 3 seat on the Middleton City Council in the April 2 election. The term is two years.

Sarah Cords

Age: 44

Address: 6714 Franklin Ave.

Family: No response provided

Employment: Editor, book indexer

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: Former longtime volunteer with Catholic Charities Elder Mentor service

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, master’s degree in library science, UW-Madison

Katy Nelson

Age: 54

Address: 1733 Park St.

Family: Single with a partner

Job: Owner/trainer, Zucca Pilates

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: Middleton Zoning Board of Appeals

Education: Bachelor’s degree of business administration in marketing, UW-Whitewater


Why are you a better candidate than your opponent?

Cords: I trust voters to pick who is the best candidate for them. I believe I’m the best candidate because I think that local government should be more responsive to current residents, should encourage them to learn more about things like TIF and other budget and planning questions, and should help all citizens find a way to contribute their own knowledge and skills to our community. At this level, it’s really the nitty-gritty of how do we get along when we live next to each other, and how can we plan better to become more resilient in the face of economic and environmental changes.

Nelson: I believe my experience as a business owner for the past 12 years, as well as my time on the Zoning Board of Appeals, will give me an edge over my opponent. I came into the race with the support of the current Ald. JoAnna Richard, with a full range of issues that I care about, including the repair and support of the Pheasant Branch trail and our ponds, the concern for our cyclists and pedestrians, affordable housing, and concern for a plan for future storms like the one that hit Middleton last August.

What is the most important issue in the community, and how would you address it?

Cords: People in my district tell me they’re thinking about a lot of issues, including how city services are paid for, how fast our schools are growing, how we can address public safety concerns, income inequality, challenges facing our infrastructure, and conserving our natural spaces. To me, those all seem like questions about our rapid pace of growth, and I want the public to weigh in on city plans and goals. I especially want city committees to be more representative of the larger community. We all need to help formulate a comprehensive city plan that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

Nelson: I see two important issues in our city. One is our storm water issue. Our mayor is currently working with Madison’s mayor to work out a plan to mitigate some of the storm water that comes from the west side of Madison into our ponds. In addition to the plan that is worked out with Madison, Middleton will need a storm water plan for future big storms. Secondly, Middleton has a shortage of affordable housing for middle-income families. The average cost of a house here is currently $400,000. With 18,000 jobs in Middleton, 16,000 people have to come here every day from outside communities. If more apartments and condos were built, that were affordable for these workers, we could see fewer cars on the Beltline, we would see more money being spent at our businesses if the workers lived here, workers would be able to walk to work in some cases, leading to healthier, happier citizens.

Do you have any new ideas on how to keep property taxes in check?

Cords: My district consists of pretty modest (and older) homes and multifamily apartment buildings, and everyone is feeling the pinch of rising property taxes. Thirty percent of Middleton property taxes go to fund the city and its services, so the first unglamorous but very important thing to do is to try and ensure the city lives within its budget the way we all have to live within ours. I would like to ask some questions about how Middleton’s TIF districts are working, because tax revenue from TIF districts stays in the TIF districts for many years, rather than going into the general fund. We keep getting told that the regional population, ours included, is exploding. So why is the city subsidizing so much development?

Nelson: Just north of Middleton in the town of Springfield exists some of the best farmland in the entire country. Middleton has a pact with Springfield that it will not push development north into Springfield at least until 2029. I hope that pact is extended. We need farmland to grow food — we can’t be all about sprawl. As a result, Middleton has to be smarter about using the finite amount of space it has, revitalizing in places that are no longer vital. Mixed-used projects that blend condos or apartments or townhouses with restaurants. Pilates studios, libraries, etc., will make great use of spaces that are no longer working. The result will be more workers living in Middleton, spending there money here, and sharing the tax burden with single-family residences.

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.