A Madison committee pushed back a decision Tuesday on two competing plans to study the structure of the city government.
The Common Council Executive Committee delayed a vote on proposals by Mayor Paul Soglin and Ald. Sara Eskrich that would create task forces for examining a broad swath of local government-related topics, such as the powers of the mayor and the vast committee system. But disagreement on which idea could be most effective and an offer to construct a third option prompted the committee to refer the plans for the second week in a row.
Soglin’s plan would have a 17-member task force consisting of 15 city residents and two council members. Eskrich’s task force would be four council members and three residents who are experts in governance and community engagement.
The proposals also vary in what topics the task force would explore and who members are appointed by, but both call for a report to the council by the end of 2018.
Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, one of a few committee members not satisfied with either proposal, said the council should step back and ask city residents what questions and concerns they have about local governance.
“(The proposals are) a very constrained set of questions, constrained by the self-interest of alders and the mayor’s office,” Kemble said.
Kemble, who said the findings of a task force could have “historic” implications, offered to work on a third option to reconcile the differences in Eskrich and Soglin’s approaches. She intends to bring it to the committee at its Aug. 1 meeting.
While there was strong consensus on the importance of public engagement in the process, members weren’t set on how many residents should sit the task force.
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said that while Eskrich’s plan has fewer residents, she believes it provides a path to a “depth of community involvement and input.”
She also said it’s important to have a larger presence of council members because it will be the City Council that ultimately acts on any governmental changes, including whether to put the changes to a referendum.
“There is something to having a broader array of residents participating in the conversation,” council President Marsha Rummel said about Soglin’s proposal, while noting that a 17-member committee might be too large.
Rummel added, though, that she supports having members with an expertise in community engagement as part of the task force.
“I have absolutely no fear that the public will be engaged to the very best of our abilities in a variety of ways,” Ald. Denise DeMarb said.