Parenting Inside Out to be included in the proposed 2020 budget

Mary Huser, Pajarita Charles, Tanya Buckingham, Joe Parisi, Chelsea Jones, Brian Mikula, and Kathleen Martinez

Mary Huser, Pajarita Charles, Tanya Buckingham, Joe Parisi, Chelsea Jones, Brian Mikula, and Kathleen Martinez

A recent graduate of the Parenting Inside Out course offered at the Dane County Jail said, “I always thought I was a good father and I thought I knew a lot,.” This program, “helped me take a step back and evaluate. I can’t wait to go home and show my family.” You can read more about the researchers behind this new course at the School of Social Work website.

I was fortunate to meet Dr. Charles in the work we were doing together on the Journey Home Delegation last year around this time. In the time since we first met, she and her colleagues worked to modify the curriculum to fit a jail setting, and launched a pilot program. On Wednesday the second class graduated. What struck me at the graduation were the ripples of good that are coming from this work. As expected, there is impact between parents and children. PIO is also being introduced to other counties around the state. And, most striking, was the bond between the men that participated in the class.

The County Executive attended the graduation and announced to the room, which was full of graduates, mentors, instructors, and staff that the position needed to make this program permanent will be included in his 2020 budget.

Lake Level Update

Over the past few weeks we’ve all been carefully watching the lake levels. I’ve heard from some of you already experiencing damage to your property, including piers and newly landscaped yards following last year’s flooding. Throughout this process I’ve been in contact with the County Executive’s office, Board Chair Corrigan, the Land and Water Department, and Monona Mayor O’Connor. County and city staff are acting as quickly as possible to handle the new realities of a wetter climate. In this post I’ve summarized where things stand regarding the action underway, what is to come, slow-no-wake, and engagement.

Why is the water high?

Change in Annual Average Precipitation (inches) from 1950 to 2006   Source:

Change in Annual Average Precipitation (inches) from 1950 to 2006


My colleagues, climate experts at UW-Madison, have researched the changing precipitation and temperature. The research shows, “from 1950 to 2006, Wisconsin as a whole has become wetter, with an increase in annual precipitation of 3.1 inches. This observed increase in annual precipitation has primarily occurred in southern and western Wisconsin, while northern Wisconsin has experienced some drying.” This trend is expected to continue.

Lake Monona has been high as a result of high water table across the chain of lakes, and Lake Mendota draining after the wet periods that we’ve experienced. Between Monona and Waubesa there continues to be a chokepoint, which is the first to be addressed through dredging.

My colleague, Supervisor Chawla, serves on the Environment Agriculture Natural Resources (EANR) committee. He has a nice summary on his blog about what is happening right now as well as upcoming actions.  

Funding and pace

The permitting process is slower than any of us would like as we face the threat of another high-water summer. At the same time, it is understandable that the evaluation for permitting is thorough in order to ensure that any action we take does not cause a negative unintended, potentially more harmful, consequence in the future. County staff are working closely with the DNR so this process moves as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The current funding for the project this year covers the work between Monona and Waubesa. The county is actively working to move other dredging projects forward, it will be important for other units of government to partner with the county to cover the costs.

Slow-no-wake (SNW)

In the last week, there were requests for slow-no-wake in some portions of the lake. I talked with both the County Executive’s Office and the Board Chair. Both confirmed that they were watching the lake levels closely and were very close to calling for SNW. The dry weather has helped the levels.

Jointly, the Sheriff, the County Executive and the Board Chair make the determination about when to issue a slow-no-wake.

What is happening right now

Aquatic plant removal

Aquatic plant harvesting is underway to increase the movement of water out of the chain of lakes. 8 aquatic plant harvesters have been in the river since the end of May. Babcock Dam (Lake Waubesa) and Lafollette Dam (Lake Kegonsa) continue to be open, as they have been since 2016. As the water levels lower, the harvesters will be moved back to the lakes for recreation.

Sediment removal between Monona and Waubesa

The process to begin sediment removal (dredging) is underway.

Sediment samples between Monona and Waubesa were taken when the Lake Level Task Force was meeting so that if the recommendation was to move forward with this, it would not slow planning. Sediment samples are tested for heavy metals, PCB’s, and PAH’s to avoid environmental harm, and is needed for DNR permitting. The laboratory takes about three months to complete — without starting these samples during the Lake Level Task Force meetings, the work could not have been completed this year.

Updated data was collected to determine the best place to dredge, and is needed for construction plans for estimating the project. You can access detailed data at Integrated Nowcast/Forecast Operation System for Yahara Lakes. This is the data that is used to monitor the progress of water moving out of the lake system.

Engineering plan drawings for the Yahara River between Monona and Waubesa are being designed, and bids will go out in the next couple of weeks. These plans are needed for permitting and the competitive bid process.

The sediment removal is expected to begin in October, assuming it is approved by the DNR and the County Board. County staff has been working closely with the DNR to ensure there is no delay.

 Upcoming County Action

Future sediment removal

A 5-phase sediment removal plan has been recommended for the chain of lakes, but is dependent upon funding. Work towards these projects is continuing, as experts at the Land and Water Resources Department continue to collect data. Sediment samples were collected for the remaining areas, with laboratory results to come. Updated bathymetry data will need to be collected. In addition the DNR requires biological and archeological evaluation for permitting. The County and the Ho-Chunk are involved in conversations about the Native American Fish Weir.

 The county will look to partner with other units of government to share costs associated with the care of our lakes.

 Tenney Dam

An additional recommendation from the Lake Level report is to reinforce the Tenney Dam. This action will increase the storage capacity of Mendota. The goal is to complete this project later this summer.


Land restoration and preservation is one of the best ways that we can protect communities around the county from extreme rain events as they provide a “sponge” to absorb the rains. The recent land purchases in Pheasant Branch and Babcock Park will help with infiltration. 

Monona’s Response 

Dane County / City of Monona partnership, Blue Water Barge Program. Photo credit: Scott Adrian

Dane County / City of Monona partnership, Blue Water Barge Program. Photo credit: Scott Adrian

Mayor O’Connor confirmed that the taking care of storm water outfall problems at Stonebridge park are a major priority.

Dane County and Monona are partnering in the Blue Water Barge Program. to clean up debris and lake weeds which helps with the phosphorus levels of the lake and helps keep the beaches in Monona useable.

The algal blooms and weed growth have made the shorelines in some areas unusable. The county will be looking to move weed cutters and collection barges to Monona as the water levels improve downstream — prioritizing lake levels. If you are able to collect weeds and put them on your pier, you can check the county pick up schedules at the Monona City website to see the schedule of collection days.

Citizen Action

Quarterly update

One of the recommendations from the Lake Level Task Force included a quarterly update, the next will happen at the EANR meeting on August 22. If you have any questions you would like submitted, please send them my way.

Contact Yahara Lakes Association (YLA)

If you are interested in coordinating efforts with other community members, YLA is an extremely active group in Dane County working to improve and support ongoing efforts for lake maintenance and improvement.

Stay in touch

Please, as always, stay in touch. I want to know about what is happening on your property, and any other new developments. You can reach me by email: or phone: 608-237-6712.


Resolution 035, Jail Consolidation and Bonding

Dane county population continues to rise

Dane county population continues to rise

Dane county has nearly doubled spending on mental health in the last 5 years

Dane county has nearly doubled spending on mental health in the last 5 years

Details about mental health and housing spending trends

In spite of Dane County’s rapidly growing population, one that topped 500,000 people in 2015, the County Board will consider approving a smaller jail tonight. Through work of many diversion programs, the Dane County jail has been able to reduce the population in jail significantly. With a vote to approve building a smaller jail, the County is making the promise to continue to invest in diversion programs, as well as expanding mental health and housing support.

In preparation for voting on Resolution 035 to authorize the jail consolidation project and bonding for the financing of the project, I have been reading reports, articles, asking for data, and seeking input from local leaders and organizers.

The decision to spend money on a jail is not an easy one. Having spent several hours in the jail on different occasions, and learning of multiple suicide attempts in my short time on the board, I cannot accept the conditions of the current facility, and therefore will vote in favor of Resolution 035. At the same time, I am committed to the work needed to continue to decrease the number of people in the jail and take action to reduce the disproportionate number of people of color in the Dane County jail.

I was driven to run for the County Board by my experience of working at the community level, seeing the tremendous impact that culturally-relevant, community-based, trauma-informed care and support have. In my work with medical professionals, and mental health experts in our community, this approach has only been reinforced with time. The county is limited by jurisdiction on how it can be involved in schools and other solutions that I have heard mentioned in public discourse. I am interested in exploring creative solutions through community centers that can address the achievement gap, opportunities for mental health support, job training, housing stability. In addition to programs like Neighborhood Intervention Program, and Building Bridges partnerships, we can have a direct impact, earlier in the stream, and help people before they reach crisis addressing root disparity. Funding for the jail will not impact any current services provided by the county, therefore the commitment to the community will not be disrupted.


Dane county jail average daily population decreases 41% through

Dane county jail average daily population decreases 41% through

In a recent Cap Times letter to the editor, Sheriff Mahony described the Dane County jail system, “composed of three jails: the City-County Building, the Public Safety Building and the Ferris Center work release center. The City-County Building jail, which first opened in 1954, was developed with a philosophy of warehousing inmates with no concern for adequate medical or mental health space, programming space, education space or recreation space.”

This is not the first time a project to renovate the jail has been considered. “In 1999, Sheriff Gary Hamblin requested $26 million to add on to the Public Safety Building.” In 2017, the Dane County Board voted to approve $76 Million in borrowing to add on to the Public Safety Building. Earlier this year, we learned that this would not be an option, due to structural problems with the Public Safety Building.

More work to do

Timeline of action and impact for Dane County Jail

As you can see in the timeline above, Dane County has increased efforts over the last ten years to decrease the jail population. This has come in the form of diversion programs, housing support, and mental health support. There is more to do.

In a letter on May 2, 2019, MOSES stated values of respect, reductions in the jail population and elimination of racial disparities—continuing over time. Additionally, they asked that a facility would include, a variety of programming spaces to maximize access to opportunities for classes and religious/spiritual services of many kinds, centralized spaces for larger specialized meetings or services are also provided, face-to-face visitation space, housing units specially designed for health services and mental health services, state-of-the-art health care (infirmary) and mental health care/treatment facilities, spaces that promote staff interaction with residents in a way that minimizes behavior that leads to imposition of isolated housing assignment, access to interior and outside (fresh air) spaces for exercise and recreation is provided.

If the resolution passes, a facility that addresses these values can be constructed. We will then continue to work with the community to reduce the number of people in jail by addressing bias, and offering support to structural barriers.

Census Complete Count Committee

On May 6, the County Board approved the Census Complete Count Committee which will work to ensure an accurate county of every resident, including the most likely people to be undercounted. it will also work to increase awareness to encourage a high rate of return. It is important for every resident to know that all information provided on the Census is kept in complete confidence.

Population totals from the decennial Census determine the number of seats each state has in the United States House of Representatives and are used to redraw state legislative districts, county supervisory districts, and municipal aldermanic districts. Census information is also used to determine the appropriation of approximately $675 11 billion in federal funds for state and local programs.

Dane County Town Hall, District 24

Join Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and District 24 Dane County Supervisor (Monona / east Madison) Tanya Buckingham for a Town Hall on Tuesday, May 14, at 6pm. This free and open event will be held at the Monona Library, in the Forum Room.

The town hall is an opportunity to learn more about current events happening in the County Executive’s Office and with the County Board, including lake level actions, energy and sustainability efforts, and neighborhood engagement.

Please contact Supervisor Buckingham if you have any questions, 608-237-6712 or

There is no need to RSVP, but if you would like to follow any announcements about the event, you can find it on facebook.

If you have a question that you would like to submit ahead of the Town Hall, please share it here.


Lake Level Recommendations

County Executive Parisi at Lottes Park announcing Lake Level Recommendations

County Executive Parisi at Lottes Park announcing Lake Level Recommendations

Lakes Project, Map of Phases.jpg

The Lake Level Task Force completed its work on March 18, with final recommendations for action. County Executive Parisi was in Monona to announce the first stage of the process, dredging between Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa (shown on the map), the first of five phases.

You can read the recommendations in depth in the Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Level Task Force Final Recommendations (link). The recommendations cover long and short term goals for dredging, dam management, exploring pumping options, aquatic plant harvesting, lake levels, adjustments to lake level management, and stormwater and infiltration,.

Press conference

My recommendations

Overview of process

Driver's Licenses for All

Resolution for Drivers Licenses for All

Resolution for Drivers Licenses for All

On April 11, I introduced an advisory resolution urging the state legislature and the governor to adopt the budget item to restore drivers licenses for all in Wisconsin. The resolution was informed in partnership with Madison Common Council, and Voces de la Frontera.


All residents of Wisconsin, regardless of immigration status or income, should have equal access to driver’s licenses.  Wisconsin currently bars an estimated 32,000 residents of our state from obtaining driver’s licenses due to their immigration status, of whom over 12,000 are the parents of U.S. citizen children. 

In 2017 alone, over 100,000 Wisconsin residents’ driver licenses were suspended not for any driving offense but solely for failure to pay fines for minor infractions.  Without a valid driver license, many people face barriers to meeting basic needs in day-to-day life, such as traveling to work, taking children to school, grocery shopping, going to medical appointments, and visiting places of worship. 

Expanding access to driver’s licenses will likely reduce the number of uninsured drivers by at least 28,000, and result in lower insurance premiums for already-insured Wisconsin drivers, at a cost savings of $16 million.  Restoring access to driver’s licenses for all in Wisconsin will allow more motorists to complete driver’s examinations and safety screenings, and will also provide more residents with identification for law enforcement purposes; helping more people to come forward to work with law enforcement to report crimes which will improve public safety for all.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Dane County Board of Supervisors calls on Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin State Legislature to include in the 2019-2021 State Budget provisions to restore access to driver licenses for all without regard to immigration status, and to end the practice of suspending driver licenses because someone lacks money to pay fines, or for minor non-driving offenses.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the offices of Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, members of the Joint Finance Committee, and the Dane County delegation.

Voces de la Frontera Toolkit

Voces de la Frontera Toolkit

Penguins and Kids Day (April 6) at the Zoo!

African penguins born recently at Henry Vilas Zoo

African penguins born recently at Henry Vilas Zoo

Robben and Dassen, two African penguin chicks, recently joined the Henry Vilas Zoo. The chicks were born three days apart at the end of Dec/beginning of January. They now have their juvenile waterproof feathers and will get their first swimming lessons by staff this week. Keep an eye out for when they will make their public debut!

In a press release today from Dane County Executive, Joe Parisi said, “Robben and Dassen are the seventh and eighth chicks of their parents, who are a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended breeding pair. SSP programs are developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to oversee the population management of select species and enhance conservation of species in the wild.”

Kids day, Saturday April 6!

This Saturday visit the zoo for kids day at the zoo. All day, carousel and train rides will be free. Kids 12 and under will also be able to get one free hotdog and ice cream treat at the Glacier Grille.

Kids day at the zoo, April 6

Kids day at the zoo, April 6

Activities include:

10am Orangutan Keeper Chat
10am – 3pm Discovery Cart (near the Big Cats)
10:30, 11, & 11:30am Teddy Bear Story Time (near the bear exhibits)
11am Otter Feeding
12pm Polar Bear Keeper Chat
12:30 – 3pm Sensory Play Activities (at the Animal Health Center)
1pm Live Animal Program (Education Pavilion)
2pm Seal Feeding

Upcoming events:

April 27 - “Party for the Planet.” This commemoration of the zoo’s conservation work, there will be a solar presentation by Madison Gas and Electric, electric vehicles, and other Earth friendly educational displays.

For the Love of the Animals — Spotlight on What We Stood to Lose

Areas of animal loss WIthout aza accreditation

Areas of animal loss WIthout aza accreditation

In just a couple of hours the contract between the county and the Henry Vilas Zoological Society will expire. It has been a long few weeks since I first learned about the dispute between the Zoological Society and Dane County. I have poured over contracts and documents, and had hours of meetings. Throughout, I have held a critical view, trying to decipher and reconcile the reports—received both in writing and in face-to-face meetings. As you have seen in the media this has been an extremely emotional process. And, the reason is, of course, because everyone involved loves the animals and the mission of the zoo. The zoo provided different fulfillment for the individuals involved, from conservation efforts, to animal welfare, to camaraderie, to offering a wonderful and free resource for residents and families—stretching beyond the borders of Dane County.

The priority for the two parties involved is to support their individual missions; the Henry Vilas Zoological Society was to focus on the fundraising, and the county staff on the care-taking of the animals. As happens with organizations that evolve over time those relationships can become unclear as to where one stops and where the other begins. This lack of clarity, and the inability to resolve the differences—despite 10 months of negotiation, and a 3-month contract extension—led to the concern of the loss of accreditation. The impact of losing accreditation would mean that the highlighted areas on the map above would lose animals. And, of course, both entities felt they had the best way to protect the zoo in the long-run. There was a disagreement between the two regarding how to move forward. As I understand the information, ultimately the county felt more confidence in their vision to do what needed to happen, and ability to protect the zoo’s accreditation by allowing the contract to expire.

The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The accreditation carries with it some of the most unique animals at our zoo. We do not own all of the animals, they are simply housed with us because we’ve proven our ability to care for them.

A couple of things to clear up about process:

  • Dane County is committed to continuing service as usual—including no charge to visitors.

  • AZA accreditation is the top priority in maintaining our unique zoo.

  • While a 100 year-long relationship is admirable, it is a good idea within partnerships to re-evaluate how that partnership is working, and always ask how things may be done better. This may lead to a major shift if it is the best interest of the mission and the people it serves.

  • The Dane County Board does not negotiate contracts. We are able to take action only on the items presented to us.

  • This conflict is one that arises frequently with content-expert organizations that are supported by a separate fundraising organization. I was surprised to learn that this conflict is particularly common with zoos.

I have received as much feedback from all of you on this topic as I have on any other. I do love the engagement, and hope that it continues into other areas as well! I have heard stories in favor of a split and against. In working towards an educated decision, I spent a lot of time with all of the information to make the best decision that I felt i could. With all of this information, I plan to support the upcoming resolutions 607 and 629, expected at the April 11 County Board meeting. Resolution 607 adds several positions to meet the accrediting body, and continue uninterrupted service. The positions include: a Zoo Manager, a Facility and Animal Life Support Assistant, Semi Skilled Laborer, 2 Zoo Keepers, a General Operations Manager, a Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, a Volunteer Coordinator, and an Education Manager. Some of these positions are required by the AZA and came up in the review last year as being necessary. With the change in the structure between the organizations, the county has increased ability to make these hires as needed. Resolution 629 allows Centerplate to operate concessions at the zoo.

Looking to the future: a request for proposals will be released to find a fundraising partner. Of course, the HVZS is welcome to apply to that process. It is hopeful that the transition will be smooth in the shifting access of all digital assets, as well as volunteer and donor lists to the county. A lot has been learned about how to nurture a partnership of this magnitude between the county and a nonprofit organization better into the future. I have heard a need for clearer lines of communication between both entities, and increased transparency from the fundraising partner.

For more specifics, I am happy to continue to respond to your direct requests. You can always find me at

PRESS RELEASE: Tree Removals along Lower Yahara River Trail Boardwalk

Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 5.19.17 PM.png

MADISON, WI – March 27, 2019 - Dane County will be conducting selective tree removals along the Lower Yahara River Trail Boardwalk in April. These removals are needed to clear some storm damaged trees from the boardwalk corridor. Tree work is anticipated to start April 1 2019, weather depending.

Cyclists and pedestrians will be required to use alternate routes of travel during the tree work. Alternative routes, online mapping tools, and additional information are available at:

For more information, contact Alex DeSmidt, Parks Facility Planner, 608.221.7212,            

About Dane County Parks

Dane County Parks offers a variety of recreational opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast and natural environments for quiet getaways or special events.  Dane County Parks takes an active role to enhance and preserve the county’s finest natural resources.

Census 2020 first step

I really love the Census, so much of the work I do making maps requires it. I frequently work with international data, and it the US Census is among the most complete country-wide data collected across the globe. We use it for analysis and understanding our population. It is immensely important for the work we do at the county.

The United States Constitution requires a census of the population every ten years.  The U. S. Census counts people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, and citizens and non-citizens.  Population totals from the decennial Census determine the number of seats each state has in the United States House of Representatives and are used to redraw state legislative districts, county supervisory districts, and municipal aldermanic districts, and is used to determine the appropriation of approximately $675 billion in federal funds for state and local programs.

The Complete Count Committee will work for one year, and is a group of diverse community leaders appointed by the County Executive for the purpose of developing and implementing a comprehensive 2020 Census awareness campaign in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.  Communities throughout the country have begun forming these committees, including the cities of Madison and Middleton. Dane County will coordinate with municipal committees, and will focus geographically outside of Madison.  Additionally, the county will identify areas with a low initial response for the 2010 census and will focus on improving the response for 2020. 

 The goals of the Dane County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee are to:

  • ensure an accurate count of every resident,

  • ensure an accurate count of most likely undercounted communities,

  • achieve a high return of online, phone, and mailed Census surveys,

  • make every resident aware of the Census, and

  • make every resident aware that the information they provide for the Census is kept in complete confidence.

If you, or your organization, would like to be involved, please reach out:

Below is the introduction of the resolution. A huge thanks to Supervisor Chawla of District 6 for helping me with figuring out the starting point in the video.

Buckeye Road Update

Cap Times, March 16

Cap Times, March 16

Yesterday afternoon, “in the spirit of compromise and a desire to get the project moving forward for families in the neighborhood,” the Director of Dane County Public Works, Highway and Transportation, delivered an offer to Madison City Engineer with the parameters the city had outlined, including:

Collaborative reconstruction — as has been agreed to the whole time, with only the ask that the city take over snow removal. In the Cap Times this morning, Abby Becker reported, “As a Madison east side resident, Parisi said he sees county plows driving down the same street that city plows pass through on their way to clean up side streets.” Parisi said, “It’s just an incredibly inefficient way to approach our streets.” The snow and ice removal maintenance agreement assures that snow and ice removal are done as efficiently as possible — reducing redundancy in salt application and fuel usage.

The county will continue to do the crack filling, street patching, and pavement lane marking. The city is already responsible for 100% of the street lighting, sweeping, and crosswalk marking. This would remain the same. Additionally, there is no transfer of jurisdiction. The county will share half of the expense of resurfacing Buckeye, and 80% of chip sealing—as is the cost sharing with all municipalities.

The urgency to complete the project is reflected in the proposal. If accepted, there is good potential for the project to move forward this summer.

Please Protect our Pollinators!

Mindy Habecker, Dane County Extension Natural Resources Educator, talking about pollinators

Mindy Habecker, Dane County Extension Natural Resources Educator, talking about pollinators

Mindy Habecker, Dane County Extension Natural Resources Educator presented at today’s UW Extension meeting.

The Dane County Environmental Council is charged with guiding the implementation of the report recommendations produced by the Dane County Pollinator Protection Task Force. The goals are: 1. Expand education and outreach efforts 2. Maximize pollinator-friendly land use and management.

You can see the progress the Dane County Pollinator Protection Task Force at their 2018 Progress Report (link).

Why should we work to protect our pollinators?

A pollinator is any animal that visits flowering plants and transfers pollen from flower to flower, aiding plant reproduction. Wisconsin pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, flower flies, beetles, wasps, and hummingbirds. Bees purposefully collect pollen as a protein source for their offspring, making them the most efficient pollinators. There are approximately 20,000 bee species in the world, 3,600 in the United States and over 400 in Wisconsin. All forty-seven species of North American bumble bees nest in colonies, as do some smaller bees, but over 90% of all bee species are solitary (do not live in colonies). The overwhelming majority of all bees are wild (not managed by humans).

In Wisconsin, pollinator-dependent crops account for over $55 million in annual production. These crops include apples, cranberries, cherries, green beans, pickling cucumbers and fresh market fruits and vegetables. Honey and beeswax contribute an additional $3.5 million . High rates of annual honey bee colony loss are of concern in the United States and Europe. During the 2014- 15 winter season, Wisconsin was among the U.S. states suffering an annual honey bee colony loss greater than 60%.

You can learn more through their handout, also available in Spanish, and hard copies be requested for your library, visitor center, city center, etc.

What can you do to help pollinators?

  • Reduce pesticide use, especially to flowering plants and shrubs or to areas where pollinators may be nesting.

  • Cultivate or plant flowering trees, shrubs, and herbaceous flowering plants that bloom throughout the growing season from early spring until late fall, especially native species.

  • Choose a variety of flower colors. Bees are most attracted to blue, white, yellow, and purple flowers. Butterflies like white, pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange. Beetles are attracted to white and green flowers. Moths like white flowers that bloom at night.

Comfort Bags for People with Dementia

Supervisor Eicher, Dane County Dementia Care Specialist Joy Schmidt, and I, Sun Prairie Colonial Club

Supervisor Eicher, Dane County Dementia Care Specialist Joy Schmidt, and I, Sun Prairie Colonial Club

Channel 15 recently covered the work we did on the Health and Human Needs committee to provide comfort bags to people living with dementia.

The work is a beautiful example of what happens when we work together. This project was a result of the regular dialogue that Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor and I have. Leading into the budget season, I asked her for opportunities to support District 24 that would also benefit the whole county. Diane Mikelbank, the Monona Senior Center Director responded to the request, with the idea of bringing Comfort Bags to Dane County—something she had learned about from a neighboring county. When I proposed the budget amendment, the county staff got to work and figured out how to implement the plan.

The bags have objects that can distract a person living with dementia when their primary care giver has to go with first responders in an emergency situation. Joy Schmidt the Dane county Dementia Care Specialist works hard throughout Dane County to train communities in becoming dementia friendly, and train first responders on assisting people with dementia. She met with us as the bags were distributed last week in Sun Prairie. Comfort bags are being distributed to communities throughout Dane County. At the time of the filming for NBC, five communities had received the bags.

Volunteers in Dane County, including the RSVP sewing group, have sewn and donated some of the multi-sensory muffs for this project, and have helped assemble the bags. Once the bags are given to an individual, due to sanitary reasons, they are left with that person who can either keep or dispose them.

NBC15 Segment on Comfort Bags

NBC15 Segment on Comfort Bags

In addition to the bags, Joy would like people to know about the medical information cards, called File of Life cards. Joy hopes that every home of a person with dementia has one. You can see them with the comfort bag in the photo. These cards contain personal information that is critical in an emergency.

File of Life cards are useful in any home where a person with dementia lives

File of Life cards are useful in any home where a person with dementia lives

My Recommendations on the Lake Level Task Force

Tonight, the Lake Level Task Force held a public hearing. Several community members spoke in favor of and against three of the options in the technical report: 1.) Lower Lake Mendota, 2.) Dredging, and 3.) Rerouting and Pumping. We heard passionate arguments in favor and against each of these options. In addition, we heard support of exploring more infiltration options. After reading all of the reports, the presentations of the scientists, and public comments, I have come to some long, medium, and short term goals that I would like to see come out of the recommendations of the Task Force. I have written them here in order to get feedback from those of you living on Lake Monona, the everyday-experts; those of you who spend a bit of time every day on the lake, who monitor lake levels throughout the season, and who have too much experience with sandbags.

First, a few quick resources for background informaiton:

  • Find links to technical documents and public comments at the Land & Water Resources page here (link).

  • The Technical Working Group report can be found here (link).

  • A quick overview of meetings can be found at my website post on Feb 10, here (link).

My recommendations

The Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force has met four times, for several hours, and each of us has read many reports of work done both for this iteration of the lake discussion, as well as historical documents. My approach for supporting resilient lakes that can respond to increasing rain events, in severity and frequency is prevention at the upstream sources. However, many of those options will take time. So, they must be combined with actions that can be taken as soon as possible. The suggestions that I offer, are supported by the experts on the committee, those that testified, and the models that were run during the study—they are science-based solutions. They are listed in, what I believe to be, chronological order of ability to see impact.

Additionally, if there are possibilities in jointly addressing flooding and phosphorus in our lakes, then extra attention should be paid to those options.

Short-term (1–2 years) — Increase Flow


There is some thought that if the permitting began very soon, we could see some of the biggest bottlenecks in the system of lakes improved yet this summer. We must take action that will move water water out of the system before any other scenario can be considered. Pages 12–15 of the technical report show some of those choke points in the system. Figure 8 (included below) is an example. You can see the uneven bottom of the Yahara River. Dredging would allow for the water to continue to move more downhill rather than facing the friction of an uneven surface.

Adjust Mangement Manual to Manage Lake Levels at Seasonal Minimums

With input from County Staff, there could be an adjustment to the management manual to manage the lakes at a seasonal minimum until the impact of the actions taken can be evaluated. The trouble with this is, even if the manual is changed, getting the lakes to the seasonal minimum could prove problematic given how much snow we have on the ground, and will depend on the rainfall we see this spring and summer.

Medium-term (3–5 years) — Continue to Increase Flow & Systemic Changes

Infiltration (shorter-term)

Infiltration has long and medium-range goals. The idea of infiltration is that we create more opportunities for rainwater to soak into the ground like a sponge. We can do this by creating environments that are softer, and including plants that absorb more water. Nature provides these in the form of wetlands, an incredibly valuable resource in flood resistance. In the shorter-term we can be restoring wetlands. When this was first proposed, I thought for sure this would be a multi-decade action. However, a community member and staff at The Nature Conservancy informed me that it is actually a much shorter timeframe than that. In a couple of years a wetland can be up and functioning to promote infiltration.

What I would like to see is an analysis of how much we need to increase infiltration to make the difference we really need to see for the impact of our lakes.

Additional benefits of increasing infiltration is that it reduces sediment accumulation, which reduces the amount of dredging maintenance necessary. It could also promote a reduction in phosphorus entering our lakes.

Other ways to increase infiltration are retrofitting buildings with green roofs, installing rain gardens on public property, as well as encouraging such actions for county residents.

Infiltration (longer-term)

An evaluation of zoning and building requirements to increase permeable surfaces on construction which could include installing green roofs, and permeable pavement.


This is the displacement of water from one point to another, through a diversion mechanism such as a pipeline. This option needs a lot more study, before proceeding. The map in the report, figure 27, shows the pipeline going through a wetland considered to be a national treasure by many organizations. Pumping in a different location may be a viable option, but a lot more information is needed before proceeding.

proposed pipe through waubesa wetland

Concern over the redirected water is significant and alternative routes have been discussed. Dr. Zedler, author of Waubesa Wetlands: A New Look at an Old Gem (available on the Town of Dunn website), warned us of the churning that can happen as a result of displaced water which can upset the delicate ecosystem, as well as biological concerns, especially as they relates to invasive species.

Long-term (5–10 years) — WiDNR Lake Level Evaluation

Lake Levels

The consideration of lowering Lake Mendota for storage is a longer-term decision, and not feasible until there is a way to move water out of the system. For this reason, I would move forward with increasing the ability to move water out of the system first, evaluate that progress, and then re-evaluate the need and possibility of lowering the lake levels. The process of lowering lake levels will be slow due the need for the Wisconsin DNR to conduct a complete study to update the targets set in 1979. It might make sense to move forward with initiating this project, since it is a slow process.

What does the action look like?

The Task Force will make recommendations that are intended to be reviewed by Lakes and Watershed Commission and Environment Agriculture and Natural Resources (EANR). A resolution, or possibly an ordinance, can be drafted to be approved by the Dane County Board. Here is what I would like to see in that resolution:

  1. Begin the process to obtain dredging permits

  2. Model and evaluate infiltration (wetlands, permeable pavement, etc.) scenarios — how much land is needed to have the necessary impact. Evaluate the feasibility of such an approach.

  3. Evaluate the possibility of acceptable routes for pumping that do not harm sensitive wetlands, complete a full environmental impact study of any of those proposed routes.

  4. Explore the impact of building and zoning regulations to increase permeable surfaces.

  5. Set a requirement to re-evaluate lake levels with new data, after mitigation actions are taken, and in partnership with the DNR.

  6. Extend the time that the Lake Level Task Force meets in order to oversee the progress of these recommendations, and evaluate the impact of the changes.

  7. What is missing? What would you like to see in what I advocate for in the final two meetings of the Lake Level Task Force?

What can you and I do in the meantime?

In the Spring 2019 Nature Conservancy Magazine, you can find an article titled Planning for a Rainy Day. In the article you will learn more about the power of rain gardens, and green roofs: steps we can all take to helping to absorb rainwater. An example of action that can be taken is the recent approval by the Sustainability Subcommittee to install a green roof on the City County Building. Thanks to Dr. Zedler for speaking and brining this to our attention.

Spring 2019  Nature Conservancy Magazine ,  Planning for a Rainy Day

Spring 2019 Nature Conservancy Magazine, Planning for a Rainy Day

Love for the Community Restorative Court

On Valentine’s Day the Health and Human Needs (HHN) committee met to discuss a series of considerations for regular business, you can see more about that by taking a look at the minutes (link). We also heard from the Dane County Community Restorative Courts. A huge thank you to HHN Chair, Supervisor Jaime Kuhn and Director of Human Services, Lynn Green, and their commitment to organizing visits from service providers within the county human services. We have all learned a tremendous amount from the staff that have visited from various areas of this very large department.

The same was true the week of February 14th, when we learned more details about the Community Restorative Court, and the success it has had across our community. The website proudly announces the Community Restorative Courts (CRC): repair harm, reduce risk, rebuild community.

The CRC is victim based, offender focused, and community driven. As you can see in the report presented to us, there is a 90% successful completion rate, with an incredible impact on recidivism, with only 7.64% of those who have completed the process with a CCAP record after 6 months.

Recently, I have learned of some stories where these practices have been used in schools with great success. I hope we can continue to expand the work of the CRC, bringing positive change for everyone involved.

You can learn more by reading some of these stories about CRC in the news:

Court program aimed at giving troubled youth a second chance set to expand

Dane County receives $50,000 to support Community Restorative Court

Peacemaker program seeks community volunteers

Dane County Community Restorative Courts

Dane County Community Restorative Courts

Lake Level Task Force Public Hearing

The Lake Level Task Force has held the first three meetings (details here). The fourth meeting, a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5 at 5pm at Fen Oak (Lyman F Anderson Ag & Conservation Center, 5201 Fen Oak Drive). At the public hearing you will be able to ask questions of the task force and Technical Work Group experts who drafted the 2018 Yahara Chain of Lakes Flooding Report.

All public feedback has been recorded in the minutes. You can find easy access to the minutes and agenda in my post from Feb 10 (link) titled, Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force Meeting Schedule. Also, at the bottom of the Land & Water Resources Department website, Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force (link) you can find links to public comment that has been provided to each of the meetings.

Please attend on March 5, if you are able. If you are not able to attend, but would like to share your thoughts with me, please contact me.

LAnd & Water REsources department, Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force WEbsite

LAnd & Water REsources department, Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force WEbsite

Sustainability Subcommittee approves green roofs at CCB and energy saving at Alliant Energy Center

On Friday, the Public Works Sustainability Subcommittee convened to review three applications for improving the environmental impact of two county properties. The committee began with an election of committee leadership, selecting chair Supervisor Erickson — an advocate for sustainability who helped to create the Sustainable Management and Renewable Technologies (SMART) Fund (with former District 24 Supervisor, Robin Schmidt), which supports efficient energy initiatives. I was elected as vice chair.

Three initiatives, two at the Alliant Energy Center, and one at the City County Building were recommended for approval. The applications will move to Public Works, and if approved, will go before the county board.

Green Roof at the City County Building:

Install extensive living roof systems on each of the first floor roof Sections on the MLK elevation of the City County Building (approximately 3,800 total square feet). This project is really exciting, as it will model what can be done to retrofit older buildings to mitigate urban heat islands and storm water runoff.

Green roofs help reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, which can increase urban temperatures up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit compared to surrounding rural areas and prolong and intensify heat waves in cities. (City of Chicago, 2008) They can also lower the energy demand by assisting in internal building temperature regulation. Additionally — and related to community conversation about storm water runoff — green roofs can absorb 50-100% of storm water.

Two initiatives at the Alliant Energy Center:

Replace 348 with 308 energy efficient LED fixtures. The result is to reduce contribution to fossil fuel dependence by reducing the amount of electricity and eliminate the need to send metal halide bulbs to the landfill. This project is expected to save 60,310 kilowatt hours of electricity usage per year, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42.6 metric tons, saving $12,425 per year, resulting in a payback period of 2.06 years for this project. This request is a result of similar successful projects in the past few years.

Replace large, slow speed roll up doors with two new 14’x16’ high speed Rytec Spiral doors. This project will reduce the electricity and gas used to cool and heat the building. Slow speed roll up doors are often left open show ingress and egress in all seasons. The project is estimated to save 13,085 therms of natural gas and 11,346 kWh of electricity, annually, leading to reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 77.4 metric tons leading to an estimated cost savings of $9,972, a payback of about 8.4 years. This project furthers the Sustainable Operations Plan goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by all county operations and facilities, and to planning for and implementing climate adaptation measures to build resilience in the face of current and future impacts of global climate change on government operations and our community.

Chicago City Hall’s green roof — temperature differences between the vegetated and non-vegetated claimed to be as much as 70°

Chicago City Hall’s green roof — temperature differences between the vegetated and non-vegetated claimed to be as much as 70°

Dane County Spatial Data Available, Free

On September 20th the Land Information Council voted to make all Dane County GIS data available for free (excluding the 2017 orthophotos).

Senior GIS Analyst, Tim Confare, developed the Dane County Open Data portal where anyone can download spatial information. It is a pleasure to serve with colleagues committed to open access to data for important decision-making tools. A big thanks to Dr. Ventura, UW Madison Professor of Soil Science, and his ten years of service to the committee.



Yahara Chain of Lakes - Lake Levels Task Force Meeting Schedule



Meeting 1 - Welcome, introductions, overview of technical reports

Agenda (link)Minutes (link)
Feb 4, 5pm • Fen Oak

Meeting 2 - Detailed discussion of scenarios 1-4

Agenda (link)Minutes (link)
Feb 11, 6pm • City County Building, Room 354
Reminder: Technical Report, Adaptation Scenarios begin on page 21 (link)

Meeting 3 - Detailed discussion, scenarios 5-8

Agenda (link)Minutes (link)
Feb 18, 5pm • 
Fen Oak (Lyman F Anderson Ag & Conservation Center, 5201 Fen Oak Drive)

Meeting 4 - Public hearing

March 5 (Tuesday), 5pm • Fen Oak (Lyman F Anderson Ag & Conservation Center, 5201 Fen Oak Drive)

Meeting 5 - Draft recommendations

March 18, 5pm • City County Building

Meeting 6 - Final recommendations

April 1, 6pm • City County Building

Public comments can be emailed to:

August 2018 Yahara Lakes flooding

August 2018 Yahara Lakes flooding