Link to interview on Madison City Channel
link to to interview on WORT of all candidates for district 14 Alder:
Scroll down for questionnaires from the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters.
Capital Times 2015 Column
Two years ago I spent many months talking with residents about what they would like to see as priorities for South Madison and what qualities they felt were needed in their representative. By far the most dramatic response was the need for an Alder who was available, accessible, and responsive to the residents of the district. I pledged to make my home phone and cell phone available and to return all email and phone messages in a timely manner. Today I am proud to be able to confidently say I have far exceeded this pledge. I continue to assert that constituent service is at the heart of the responsibilities of an Alder. I will continue in my next term to be as accessible.
The other two major topics I discussed two years ago were housing and economic development. What I have learned is these are one and the same. Madison’s housing shortage, especially in low income and affordable housing, is a major contributor to poor student performance in schools and a growing economic and opportunity gap in our poorer neighborhoods. The lack of choice in housing drives up rents and forces more and more families to work harder for a lower standard of living. This household instability negatively effects student achievement and reduces the ability for family members to take advantage of programs designed to increase skills and economic opportunity.
This is the flaw in the policies of my predecessor and his allies in the community. By focusing too much on creating and funding programs without first ensuring that the people most in need of them are in a position to actually take advantage of them I believe is one of the major contributors to the disparity gap we are all now talking so much about. This disparity gap did not happen over night, not even over a single decade. It is a result of singular thinking in delivering solutions that may actually be at the heart of the problem. This is why I am promoting a comprehensive economic development strategy.
I spent my first year going around all the neighborhoods speaking with community leaders. From these conversations I asked people what it is they most need from the city. This is at the heart of my economic development strategy. Part one is to identify opportunities for developing small business in the district owned and staffed by residents in the district. I would like to identify businesses for which people currently leave the area to purchase goods or services. Then partner potential small business owners with successful in kind businesses to learn all they can. Finally, assist with opening and running the business during its early years. The idea is to keep more economic capacity within the district.
Part two is to invest in city infrastructure that brings more customers through the district via a modern urban transportation plan. By creating a true transit hub with a park-n-ride, daily commuters will flow through the hub slowing down to transition between modes of transportation giving South Madison businesses access to more customers and economic capacity. At the heart of this plan is to slowly change South Madison from an area that leaks economic activity to the rest of the city to one that draws activity, i.e. dollars.
I have a long track record of creating new ideas, new ways to address problems. My opponent only offers the same old tired answer of more programs, more money and non-specific economic development. Change has to be more than a campaign slogan. Change has to lead to results. In my two short years in office, I believe I have a strong record of results and a clear new vision for the future. I ask for your support on April 7.
Questionnaire from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce
1) Why are you seeking this office?
I invested substantial time and effort two years ago defeating the previous Alder. Over the past two years I have began many initiatives that I feel are important and that I would like to see completed. I enjoy this work and am good at it. This district has quite a lot of diverse needs and requires a full time Alder. I am in a position to be a full time Alder.
2) What in your background or experiences qualifies you to understand the unique needs facing small businesses?
I have worked for several small businesses, as small as a three-person office. I have started and successfully ran a small business while living in Chicago providing translation and interpretation services to corporations. Here in Madison, I spent the first year in my role as Alder conducting an inventory of South Madison listening to community and business leaders discuss the needs of small businesses in the district. I have used this information to create an economic vision for South Madison, which I have spent the last year sharing with stakeholders in the district and City Hall.
3) What are the most important issues the businesses in your district face?
There is quite a large opportunity and economic disparity gap in the district. I believe this gap is due to decades of poor planning, education and investment that causes a powerful inertia to maintain the status quo for some while others thrive. Closing this gap by the implementation of a comprehensive economic development vision is key to unleashing the full potential of the district.
4) What is the city’s role in growing the economy? How can the city best support the growth and retention of jobs?
The city must have a vision for growth. For my district, that vision could be my comprehensive plan to increase the number of small businesses and ensuring that city investment drives economic opportunity targeted to the abilities of the group most affected by the disparity gap. For example, using transportation investment to bring customers from outside the district into transportation transfer halls would create foot traffic to support a whole range of businesses that could be owned and staffed from within the district. The goal is to bring economic activity (cash) into the district and then circulate within the district.
5) How can Madison best attract and retain a diverse and talented young workforce?
We have to understand what the next generations of workers are looking for when they choose a place to live. To this end, we need to create a very livable and vibrant urban setting where folks can live work and play in the same area. Transportation options become vital as new collage grads often have too much debt to afford a car right away so choices in clean, safe efficient transportation are needed. Of course, we need to have in place the jobs that can lead to careers. This leads to the economic development strategy.
6) The City of Madison is in the process of updating its economic development strategy. What policies or initiatives would you like to see incorporated into this plan.
UW is one of the top recipients of federal research money. In other cities with universities receiving similar levels of investment, that research is converted into businesses at far higher rates than in Madison. In my district, I plan on pairing a small business idea with a person who wants to run their own business, with a mentor and financial advisors to open and run the business. We need a similar plan with the research coming out of the University. We need to find business development experts and capital to work with the University to transfer research into businesses and employment.
7) Last year, the council adopted a new, more flexible Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) policy. Do you support the use of TIF, and how do you believe it should be utilized moving forward? How would you rate the City’s past use of TIF?
TIF is one of the most misunderstood tools the city has. I am completely in support of TIF. It is the only way to make investments in the city that raise property values and spreads the cost of the investment over all the property tax levying authorities. Because TIF is so flexible, it can be abused. As long as the core principle for determining funding of a project “If not but for” is followed it can be very effective. With a few exceptions, I believe the TIF program in the City of Madison has been very well administered.
8) In recent years, the Council has approved significant changes to the city’s zoning code and development process. In general, what is your opinion of these changes and its overall effectiveness?
Since I have only worked with the new zoning code, it is difficult to discuss its comparative effectiveness. My biggest concern about the zoning code is how residents misunderstand ‘conditional use’. Opponents to specific projects often cite the zoning code as a basis for why a project should not move forward. The conditional use tool allows for flexibility when appropriate and is very much needed. While it is confusing, I find the new zoning code has worked well on the projects in which I have been involved.
9) What strategies do you support to enhance the city’s transportation infrastructure?
I am working on the transportation master plan oversight committee. Transportation is one of my favorite topics. I believe Madison needs a clean, safe, covered park n ride system that connects to all modes of transportation in a covered transit hall (replacing outdoor transfer points). The centerpiece of my economic development vision for South Madison is a transit hall connected to affordable housing containing economic activity. I believe in multiple purpose developments that share infrastructure costs so the more activities that can partner with a project (both public and private), the lower the investment compared to a single use development.
10) Do you consider Madison’s property taxes to be too high, too low, or appropriate? Please explain your reasoning and provide specific examples of any fiscal changes you would recommend.
Currently property taxes are about appropriate. The state does not allow us to increase our property tax levy year to year except the tax from new taxable construction. For this reason our transportation plan is vital to sustainable growth. We need to use access to transit as a way of concentrating new development so the property tax increment generated will not have to go to expanding infrastructure but can be used for paying for the services our residents expect and the good wage earned by our city workers.
Questionnaire from the Wisconsin State Journal. (responses limited to 60 words)
1. What qualities distinguish you from your opponents?
I value communication and accessibility. I made a commitment to respond to every inquiry I received from a constituent in a timely, respectful and thoughtful manner. I am a goal oriented problem solver. Too often politicians make their mark by only identifying problems. A leader engages stakeholders in a dialogue to arrive at a consensus solution to a problem.
2. What changes would you make in how the city handles development?
Developments around the city should be combined with others to reduce the costs of common infrastructure expenses. Too often the city approaches each project as a single issue. Development should be designed to deliver living-wage jobs at the correct skill level to address disparity. We should craft our image to show businesses that Madison is the best place to locate.
3. What this city really needs is _____________.
A comprehensive housing and transportation plan. The lack of choice in affordable quality housing for our working families is at the core of problems throughout the city from homelessness to education. Madison's aging housing inventory is not meeting expectations. With a modern transportation system and investment in housing we can become competitive in attracting and retaining working families in Madison.
1Second Round of Questions from the Wisconsin State Journal (also limited responses to aprox 60 words)
1) List three of your top priorities.
* Targeting economic development to create living-wage, skill-appropriate jobs that will lead to household stability, improve student performance and allow more people to take advantage of programs to better their standard of living.
* Increasing affordable housing choices for working families with modern amenities
* Increasing the availability and range of offerings of out of school activities.
2) If you could reverse one city action, what would that be?
I would negotiate the purchase of the Villager in a different way. I would have purchased it for its true value, and then demolished it. We could have then partnered with a private developer to construct a new build-to-suit facility that would contribute to the property tax base. This would also keep the TIF district healthy allowing for further investment in the Park St corridor. We have spent way too much money on this facility and crippled the TIF district
3) How would you describe the council's relationship with the Mayor, and how would you help improve it?
I have always had a very good working relationship with Mayor Soglin. I am not sure I would characterize the council as a whole as needing improvements in its relationship with the Mayor. If there is any small amount of advice or assistance I can give to help a colligue with an issue before the Mayor, I am always happy to help.
Here is my response to questions from the League of Women Voters (Sheri Carter did not reply)
All responses can be found here:
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office?
As the incumbent I have served 2 effective years in this office. Besides the direct experience in office, I studied political science at the University of Wisconsin Madison. My background is in sales and business development. What the district needs is a comprehensive economic development plan to aid in closing the disparity gap in South Madison.
2. What is the most effective way for the city to allocate resources to address homelessness and racial inequality?
Housing is at the heart of many social problems in Madison. We have a shortage of quality affordable housing options especially for our working families. We are promoting affordable housing construction by assisting developers in acquiring tax credits and other public investments. This will lower the amount a developer needs to charge for rent to cover the cost of construction. The city is also starting a program of building SRO, single room occupancy, housing that can directly house homeless individuals. These are just two examples of what we are beginning to do today.
3 What other important issue faces the community you seek to represent, and how would you address it?
We need to stabilize economically the most at risk households in the district. We have a very high unemployment rate in many sections of the district. A comprehensive economic development plan that focuses on creating jobs at the skill level of the existing workforce is needed. We also need to keep the economic capacity of the district in the district by promoting the growth of locally owned and staffed small businesses. These goals are achievable in my comprehensive economic development plan.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED WITH THE CAMPAIGN. IT WAS A GREAT NIGHT AND I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR SUPPORT.
_____________________archived 3 April 2013 _____________________
A NEW VOICE FOR SOUTH MADISON
AND THE FRESH START FOR WHICH WE HAVE WAITED 18 YEARS!
Thank you to the Wisconsin State Journal for the opportunity to talk with you about the future of Madison and the 14th district. It was a lively conversation with our current Alder. Our summations drew a stark contrast between the two of us. Mr. Bruer stated he believed that there were many desirable development projects needed on the south side but they were just not able to be supported by the market forces in the district. I believe it is the role of government to identify these vital projects and then use the levers of power we have in government to bend the market forces to make the projects successful. Quality of life should not be dictated solely by the market. I also believe my background in sales is what is needed to show the viability of development projects that are needed and desired in the community. This difference is reactive versus proactive leadership. I want to be your proactive leader in South Madison.
Listen to my radio interview on
"Being Authentic" here:
Thank you to "A concerned citizen's group" for the package of information. I agree with you, there is a concern.
THE FOLLOWING IS A COPY OF A COLUMN I WROTE FOR THE CAPITAL TIMES:
My name is John Strasser and I am running to represent you on Madison’s Common Council.
For the past several months, I have been out in the District talking to voters and community leaders to hear firsthand how the residents of the 14th District envision the future. Many of you have seen me out in your neighborhood knocking on doors and many of you have invited me into your homes to warm up and talk about the issues of concern to you. Thank you for this opportunity and your kind words of encouragement.
While I have heard about many issues in the community during this process, by far the most common concern has been the systemic lack of communication, accessibility, and responsiveness of the current Alder to his constituents. Nowhere is this more evident than in the section of the former 13th District newly redistricted into the 14th District
The residents here told me that their former Alder did an outstanding job of keeping them informed on issues before the council concerning the neighborhood and was readily accessible. Upon annexation to the 14th District these aldermanic services stopped. The ability of an Alder to effectively represent constituents is predicated on open channels of communication between the Alder and all the stakeholders in the community.
My first priority as your Alder will be to proactively work to re-establish open, effective and efficient lines of communication between city government and the residents of the district.
I believe that South Madison is primed for development and has been for quite a while. For too long our current Alder has ignored the wants and needs of the community and the guidance of the professional city staff. This has lead to wasteful spending on projects that do not meet the needs of the district. We need a proactive visionary leader to work with all stakeholders ensuring that development is comprehensive, equitable and responsible
We need to focus on two major areas of development. We are severely lacking in retail outlets that deliver basic goods to the district such as groceries and apparel. South Park Street was once a retail destination for all of Madison, now it does not even service the retail needs of our district. For decades the professional city planning staff has identified the need and viability of retail redevelopment on South Park Street to provide not only services but goods and jobs for the neighborhood. We need to identify opportunities and act to increase the number of businesses delivering goods to the community.
Secondly, we need to address the aging rental housing stock in South Madison. With more and more rental property choices in Fitchburg, Verona and Monona, we need to proactively act to prevent the migration of our residents to communities offering more modern accommodations than are available in South Madison.
I welcome your input on any issue of concern, from the new water meter system to invasive plant species on the Cannonball Trail, from issues of safety to rules regarding building inspection.
I want to be your voice in city government.
___________________________ Archived 4 March 2013 _________________________
Please find below a copy of the questionnaire sent to me by the League of Women Voters and my answers. They asked that the answers should be limited to less than 100 words.
1 – Please describe your priorities for this term in office and your specific qualifications to address those issues effectively.
First I would repair the lines of communication between the district stakeholders and the alder. The number one issue raised in my canvassing of the district is the lack of response and accessibility of the current alder. Second, work to rebuild and strengthen the neighborhood associations. The participation of the associations is vital. I have made contact with most associations and have found that while some are doing well, others are in need of proactive assistance to reconstitute themselves in order to ensure the vitality of the district. My background in sales and communication is what is needed here.
2- What should be the long-term relationship between the city and the Overture?
There is a conflict between long and short term investment when creating a budget in a underperforming economy. As a general principle, the Overture is unquestionably a strong economic draw to the community. The access to the arts in a modern urban city has real value. When looking at the long term investment of city resources, the Overture is a sound investment. It is difficult to create a budget when long term investment concerns are pitted against immediate need. The Overture should be protected as a long term investment but not at the cost of immediate vital human services.
3- What criteria will you use to balance economic growth, environmental concerns, and land-use planning?
From the outside looking in, I feel Madison has very strong and thoughtful development regulations that balance these concerns. Problems arise when development projects are rushed, where the due diligence is lacking, where sufficient time is not allotted for stakeholder review. Policies of development at any cost lead to underperforming projects, undue environmental impact and cost overruns. I would approach development in a more comprehensive manner. A project that follows established regulations, that is well planned on the front end saves money, land and the environment on the back end. This allows us to do more with less.
Feel free to submit questions to email@example.com
____________________ ARCHIVED 25 January 2012 ___________________
My name is John Strasser and as you may have seen in the newspapers, I am running to represent you on the Madison Common Council. This is an historic race. It has been nearly 20 years since anyone has raised a strong challenge to unseat our current alderman of 30 years.
I am a 10-year resident of the 14th district, and active in the community as an election volunteer, recently becoming the chief election inspector at the Leopold School polling location. My business background is in sales and marketing. I returned to school to pursue a BA in political science at the University of Wisconsin. I have had a lifelong interest in politics, and was active during the recent recall process. This summer, I was elected to join Wisconsin's 2nd congressional delegation to the Democratic National Convention, an unforgettable experience.
I have been out in the district meeting many of you, the voters, and getting feedback on the issues and concerns of the people. The experience has been very rewarding. My goal in the upcoming weeks is to visit every neighborhood to meet with residents one-on-one at their homes to hear firsthand what issues in city government concern them.
My neighbors say they want an alder that is responsive and accessible to the people. And they want to create a comprehensive redevelopment plan for each neighborhood. These ideas coincide nicely with my vision for South Madison. I will be a proactive, accessible, progressive voice representing all residents of the 14th district.
I hope you will consider me for your vote on April 2nd.
John R. Strasser
Approved and paid for by Friends of John, John Strasser, candidate
2905 Irvington Way