A Madison City Council member is proposing an alternative plan for a task force to explore possible changes to how the city is governed.

Ald. Sara Eskrich will introduce a proposal Tuesday calling for a task force to examine the government structure and practices in cities similar to Madison in order to provide recommendations for change. The proposal has the same goals as a plan Mayor Paul Soglin introduced earlier this month, but Eskrich is seeking a different composition of task force members.

Soglin’s task force would be made of 17 members — two council members and 15 residents. Eskrich’s would have seven members — four council members and three residents.

“I would say the key distinction is having a body that is a little more nimble,” she said.

Eskrich said she has been on committees that have been forced to cancel meetings because of the lack of a quorum, which would make any proceedings legally void.

But Soglin said a larger, citizen-run task force would better represent the city’s diversity of race, economic level and geography, and would put power in the hands of constituents.

“The people we serve should have a role to determine what kind of government exists in the city of Madison,” Soglin said. “The analysis and recommendations should come from the people we govern.”

Soglin called Eskrich’s proposal a “token effort” to examine city government because her proposed committee would be composed of the same council members that could benefit from restructuring.

Eskrich said council members were elected to not be self-serving and instead be accountable to their constituents.

“Our job is to know the pulse of our district,” she said, “so we would bring that perspective.”

Her proposal also requires the task force to create a method for obtaining public input and community engagement to reach more people in the city.

Eskrich said many of the current council members may not be on the council by the time the changes take effect.

The timeline of both proposals has the task force providing recommendations by the end of 2018, but Eskrich said any restructuring would happen after the 2020 census when districts are redrawn.

Eskrich said she has no intention of serving on the council after redistricting.

Soglin would appoint the resident members of his proposed task force with confirmation from the council. Eskrich’s proposal would have the council president appoint the members.

Council President Marsha Rummel is a co-sponsor of Eskrich’s proposal.

The list of considerations for the task force in both proposals is meant to be similar, said Eskrich, who modeled the discussion topics after Soglin’s proposal. The topics include comparing council members elected by district and by an at-large vote, committee systems, equity and accountability, and duties of the mayor.


Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.