This was another packed meeting with many important initiatives and happily, no unwanted entertainment. Get updates on the Climate Action Plan, the annual budget, Black History Month proclamation, and read about some “cheeky” public comments from the Madison GOP.
|Watch the full meeting here||View Presentations||See past meeting recaps|
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Mayor Conley welcomed the replica of the Lincoln Portrait into the chambers. As covered in prior updates, the original 9-foot-tall life size painting created by artist W.F.K. Travers in 1865 is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery for five years. You can view photos from the visit by Council members and others in the Borough Facebook post.
While in Washington, D.C. for the portrait event, the Council and Mayor met with NJ-11 Rep. Mikie Sherrill and discussed Madison’s affordable housing needs, how Madison can benefit from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and her reintroduced Auto Theft Prevention Act.
The Mayor also provided an update on accessibility improvements, following last meeting’s heated exchange with “Lefty Grimes”, who attended this meeting and later in the public comment period thanked the Mayor and town for these improvements, but challenged them to complete other needed improvements to make Hartley Dodge more accessible to all.
Next, a Proclamation was read to acknowledge Black History Month and accepted by Kenisha Tucker, co-founder of Madison’s Hidden Figures which has a goal to enable residents to “learn about their town from the perspective of the underrepresented ethnic groups who have added and continue to add to Madison’s and our nation’s fabric.”
Ms. Tucker thanked the Mayor and in her remarks, she expressed gratitude for this recognition which brings awareness to the many contributions of Black Americans who have consistently contributed “fiscally, culturally, innovatively to our nation since its formation” and hoped this Proclamation would be a call for all to dedicate themselves to “learning something new about the rich, complicated, painful, resilient, and victorious part of American History from a diverse perspective.”
Ms. Tucker expressed hope for a future in which American History is no longer segregated into categories like Black or Asian American history and is in its most authentic form. She views this as essential to preserving American history. In closing, we were asked to pause and reflect on the history of our county this month and going forward.
In the next portion of the meeting, Council Members provided reports from committees, which can be heard in the full video. In particular, the Community Affairs update by Council President John Hoover mentioned several exciting events coming up:
- Scavenger Hunt in the business district called “Hearts and Roses” which started February 10th and will run for a month until March 10th. It’s a family-friendly event with a $100 grand prize.
- Taste of Madison on Monday April 25th.
- Re-imaging May Day was mentioned as well with a possible name change. An update is coming in the February 23rd meeting
Public Comment Period 1
Seven people spoke during this period with five expressing excitement and gratitude for the Climate Action Committee work, with comments about pride at Madison being a role model to other towns, that the investment in combating climate impacts will improve health and be economically beneficial, recognition of the plan’s fiscal soundness, and a reminder that the town can’t mandate anything to residents. Finally, resident Chris Schorr framed this approach as “Use what you have, start where you are, and do what you can.” to remind us that we can’t wait for someone else to tackle climate issues.
Two people spoke with concerns for the scope and timing of the report recommendations, which were all addressed in detail in the last presentation on January 23rd, highlighting the importance of residents staying informed on such a critical issue. One resident claimed that he didn’t understand what “resiliency” meant as it relates to climate change. A quick review of the last report shows the definition that resiliency allows communities to adapt to a changed climate, which a subsequent speaker touched on.
Climate Action Committee Recommendations
One of the meeting highlights was the impressive presentation of the Climate Action Committee’s recommendations, which followed the January 23rd report. In the presentation, nine recommendations were revealed, organized by five objectives for energy and resiliency. The easy-to-follow presentation should be viewed, alongside the recording for more context and detail.
- Objective: Reduce Transportation Emissions. Action: Alternative Fuel Vehicles for the Municipal Fleet
- Objective: Accelerate Renewable & Clean Energy. Actions: Accelerate Residential Solar Installations and Track Reliability as Madison’s Grid Evolves
- Objective: Improve Energy Efficiency & Affordability. Actions: Implement Energy Efficiency Outreach Campaign and Adopt a Green Building Policy for New Projects
- Objective: Reduce Building Emissions through Electrification. Action: Replace Gas-Burning Equipment in Municipal Buildings
- Objective: Build Climate Resilient Communities & Natural Resources. Actions: Update Complete Streets policy to include Green Streets component, Adopt a Water Conservation Ordinance based on the prescribed Sustainable Jersey action, and Complete a Community Equity & Diversity Profile based on the prescribed Sustainable Jersey action.
Next Steps (from the report):
- Feb. 13 resolution adopting Climate Goals and the Climate Action Process (which passed later in the meeting)
- Adopt 2023 Climate Action Recommendations at a subsequent meeting
- Climate Action Committee to compile 2023 climate data, implement the adopted actions, and develop recommendations for 2024
- Help other NJ towns adopt a climate action process
The presentation closed with a stylized image depicting the global mean temperatures from 1850 to 2200 (est.) by @alxrdk based on warming stripes by @ed_hawkins. This image provided a clear visual for both the danger of doing nothing and the opportunity to take action that puts us on a more sustainable path.
Council members and the Mayor shared their reactions on the presentation. Some highlights:
- Bob Landrigan shared that he likes how this plan is being communicated and how costs are embedding in the budget. He expressed an understanding that some people are concerned about the cost. He reiterated that we need to start somewhere and that nothing will be mandated to residents.
- Eric Range liked that the plan is focused on things the Borough would do anyway, but gives a climate lens to evaluate projects. He also likes that initial recommendations focus on municipality and doesn’t force people to do anything. The Borough leads by example.
- John Hoover applauded the quality of the report.
- Tom Haralampoudis appreciated that the report is thorough and that a lot of public concerns were answered in it. He would like community incentives from the town down the road. He felt that people will get used to changing energy sources, just like when gas or oil was new for people.
- The Mayor commented that all we can do is educate and guide the community and that the infrastructure will be there to support these small, steady, incremental change to get to our goals.
- Rachel Ehrlich closed by thanking the Climate Action Ad Hoc Committee members.
Borough Administrator Jim Burnet then presented an update on the budget. That presentation can be viewed here.
- Revenue shortfall is still an issue for the budget
- Court fees, daily parking revenues, interest on deposits are all down
- Costs have increased, especially with pension obligations
- Fund balance is moving towards pre-pandemic levels.
- Property tax revenues are subject to tax appeals and amounts may be reduced, but on a positive note, new ratables improved.
- Currently there is a proposed 2% tax increase for existing homes, which would mean for an average home, $5.05 extra a month.
- Department heads will present next in the February 27th meeting.
Some excepts from the key slides are here:
Public Comment Period 2
In the 2nd comment period, seven people spoke again on a variety of topics. The most bizarre was when Mary Wilson announced that she is the new Chair of the Madison GOP and suggested that the Madison Council members should switch their party affiliation to Republican. Calling her remarks “cheeky”, they were in fact ill-informed at best, and insulting at worst. Ms. Wilson referred to the Lincoln portrait as inspiration to become Republican when anyone with knowledge of history knows that the ideology of Lincoln fits squarely with the Democratic platform. One can simply read historian Harold Holzer‘s evaluation of Lincoln’s views on ending slavery and that “people who labor for their livelihoods have a right to dignity and economic security.” While it’s true that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, Lincoln would reject every aspect of the current Republican platform.
Not to be outdone, former Madison GOP Chair and unsuccessful former Council candidate Kathy Dailey said she thought Ms. Wilson’s suggestion was a “great idea and I think you should consider that.” To use the public comment period in this way was in poor taste and missed the mark.
Remaining Meeting Highlights
- Proposed ordinances were voted on and passed.
- Consent agenda resolutions passed.
- New appointments were made to committees.
- Thank you to LD25 State Senate candidate Christine Clarke for attending the meeting and speaking in support of the Climate Action Plan
- Next Council meeting is Monday February 27th at 8 pm.