When my wife Susan and I moved to Madison from Athens, Georgia in 1991,
a Southerner's natural aversion to driving in snow dictated we live within
walking distance of the University. That way we would be able to care for
Susan's mosquito colonies (this is true, honest) regardless of weather.
What began for us as fear driven necessity rapidly ripened into a true
joy of living in what is fashionably referred to as a traditional
The Dudgeon Monroe neighborhood is a traditional one in the very best sense; a friendly, safe, attractive mix of residential and commercial districts. Given the proximity of parks, a zoo, and a world class arboretum, we have a living environment that exceeds the fondest dreams of progressive urban planners. Add in the fact that this little piece of paradise is located in Madison, one of the most livable small cities in the country, and folks, it just doesn't get much better than this.
My own experience of living here is one of walking to and from work year-round with my wife, meeting friends at any number of local eateries and coffee shops, answering the siren call of frozen custard, or even walking my canoe down to a Lake Wingra for a quiet evening paddle. This last item always makes me feel like a little kid who is getting away with something marvelous.
Of course it is no accident that our neighborhood is as good as it is. The DMNA celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year, commemorating a quarter century of concerned citizens working together in an organized way with their elected officials to improve the quality of life for everyone. Remember that quiet Wingra paddle I enjoy so much? Believe it or not, 25 years ago ski boats ruled Lake Wingra. Bill Jordan told me earlier this year that the noise from the boats on Saturday morning was so loud that it was impossible to carry on a conversation on Terry Place. It took concerned neighbors, a city government who listened, and a whole lot of work to fix that mess. Thanks, Bill. I owe you one.
As good as our neighborhood is, it can be even better. Next year the DMNA will shepherd the conversion of the rail corridor to a bike and pedestrian path, attempt to tame the traffic on Monroe Street, submit an unbelievably detailed long range plan to the city, publish a revised walking and biking tour guide, continue ecological restoration projects along the Wingra shoreline, and throw a fine little jazz party in the park for good measure.
I don't have space here to enumerate all the other projects that are in the works, but the amazing theme that ties them all together is a bright and shining spirit of neighborhood volunteerism.
That is where you come in. September is our membership drive. When you renew your membership in DMNA, please consider volunteering to work on one of the myriad committees. Or come up with your own project! We are always looking for good ideas and dedicated volunteers. You will be amazed at the sheer amount of work that goes on quietly behind the scenes to make our neighborhood even more wonderful than it already is.
Soon your neighborhood block captain will be asking you to join DMNA, still at the bargain price of $5 per household.
Last year 871 households joined, contributing $4,355 to finance the many activities of our effective neighborhood association. Your block captain will also invite you to join one of our many active committees and you will be given the opportunity to contribute to the Capital Fund Drive for beautification of the west-end business district of Monroe Street (see Capital Fund Drive p. 8)
Popular Annual Events: DMNA events include the Garden Show, Lake Wingra Clean-up and Jazz in the Park in June. Early each year the Wine Tasting Party entices many neighbors to brave the winter freeze for an enjoyable time together. The Social Committee also hosts the Fall Potluck, Annual Meeting, and the new 4th of July celebration. New this year is an annual beer tasting fest in October.
Educational Efforts: The Gardening Committee maintains the neighborhood garden and planters, as well as educating the neighborhood about the benefits of gardens. The committee is also working to expand membership in Friends of Lake Wingra and to support the 1999 UW Water Resource Management Summer Workshop at Lake Wingra.
Publications: DMNA publishes the Hornblower quarterly, and every other year, including this one, produces the useful directory listing our residents and merchants, including identification of baby sitters and odd jobbers.
DMNA is proud to have a homepage, which keeps us informed about various DMNA activities. Our History Committee will be publishing a walking and biking tour booklet, organizing DMNA files, and interviewing older residents.
Enhancing Our Neighborhood: The Oak Savannah committee is still hard at work restoring the arboretum across from Dudgeon School, and parks is restoring and improving the Children's Glen by Glenway and Cross Streets, as well as beautifying Wingra Park.
Working with the parks department staff to restore the Park and Pleasure Drive corridor to a woodland is the goal of the Woodlands Committee. Transportation, which focuses on calming traffic on Monroe Street and on our neighborhood streets, recently completed its Drive 25 campaign.
Planning, Evaluating, Assisting the Elderly. Long Range Planning has finished compiling its recommendations, which it now will shepherd through the city commissions for approval. Zoning continues its participation in the city's R2 Zoning Committee and will facilitate DMNA review of and participation in modifying the recommendations. The newly formed Housing Committee is focussing on seniors, identifying and establishing connections for them and publishing a booklet entitled "How to Stay in Your Home".
Recruiting New Members, Protecting the Neighborhood. Membership is in charge of the annual drive, organizing Hornblower delivery, distributing welcome kits to new residents, and recruiting and matching volunteers with committees. Two new DMNA committees are being formed: Rail Conversion to represent neighborhood interests in all aspects of the rail corridor conversion process, and UW to do the same regarding the UW Master Plan.
So when your block captain knocks on your door, please be ready to support DMNA with your annual dues, and consider volunteering to serve on one of its many active committees. YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD NEEDS YOU!
Two of the top 10 concerns identified by the long range planning survey
were: inappropriate tax assessments and unaffordable homes. The Housing
Committee is studying alternatives regarding property taxes and how to
make information available.
One of the biggest surprises new homeowners in Madison face is their second year's property tax bill. Another is the increasing rate of property tax increases year after year until upon retirement, some seniors find taxes taking a big chunk of their social security. Among Wisconsin cities, Madison annually ranks near the top in the amount of property taxes paid. The growth rate appears significantly greater than inflation. In the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood, many residents report seven percent annual increases.
In many states, citizen initiatives have forced changes in laws that prohibit such increases. Perhaps the best known is California's Proposition 13 which amended the states' constitution. Quoting from the Los Angeles County assessor's guidelines: "Real Property is reappraised only when: (1) A change in ownership occurs; or (2) New construction is completed; or (3) New construction is partially completed on... January 1.
Except in these three instances, real property assessments cannot be increase by more than two percent annually, regardless of the rate of inflation." Similar legislation has passed or is in serious contention now in: Maine (also two percent limit, 1997) Nebraska (established fixed amount limits, 1997), Michigan (1994), Utah (exemption and abatement based on disability or indigence and age, 1996), S.C. (complex formula mostly aimed at education share of property tax. 1995 passed by one house, being considered by other house), Oregon (two percent annual cap), Idaho (complex limiting formula, 1997). Links can be found on the DMNA Website that provide details on these property tax relief measures.
In Wisconsin, with its Progressive tradition of supporting public education, its unlikely that a citizen initiative ballot would succeed that might jeopardize real education. Therefore any suggested cure for the property tax burden, especially for seniors, will have to be very carefully drafted and debated.
DMNA will sponsor a forum on property tax relief in January.
In January Mayor Bauman set in motion a planning process leading toward conversion of the rail corridor bordering Dudgeon-Monroe to a bicycle/pedestrian pathway. Considering that the future of the corridor has special importance for our neighborhood, the DMNA Council agreed in July to create a new DMNA committee on the corridor to represent the neighborhood's interests and monitor the process.
The DMNA Rail Corridor Committee will be comprised of residents who are interested in the future of the corridor, and its relation to our neighborhood. The committee will include residents whose properties adjoin the corridor, and residents from other parts of the neighborhood. The membership of the committee will be balanced to ensure representation of a variety of viewpoints and different user groups.
During the proposal, design and construction phases the committee will keep the neighborhood informed; act as a forum to receive neighbors' views, suggestions and concerns; participate actively in the planning process to represent DMNA's interests and to minimize construction inconveniences; and help generally to ensure that the proposed conversion benefits our neighborhood and the Madison community.
On a continuing, long-term basis the committee will be available to help with neighborhood complaints or problems. It will work with similar committees of the other affected neighborhoods and with city authorities to monitor, improve and enhance the corridor, helping to raise funds, organize cleanups and plan and carry out enhancements to the corridor.
The new committee will be chaired by Paul Beckett, 2533 Gregory Street. Residents who would be interested in participating in the committee are encouraged to email Paul email@example.com or call him (238 2580). An initial meeting of the new committee will be organized in early fall.
The DMNA by-laws state: "The primary purpose of the organization is to improve the neighborhood through democratic citizen participation and involvement. The organization will work for the achievement of this purpose by generating and sustaining a spirit of neighborhood among area residents through all appropriate means..."
This spring, the DMNA Council approved the Long Range Committee plan, which includes the recommendation "to support a diversity of creative housing approaches". It further calls for identification of properties that could be converted to mixed use (including homes) "for seniors, low income households or persons with special needs." It supports land trusts, affirmative sales, and granny flats (a small living unit adjacent to a relative).
In addition, it opposes discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and handicaps, and encourages economic diversity within our residential populations.
The adoption by the Madison City Council July 7, 1998, of a resolution declaring Madison a city of tolerance and adoption by the Dane County Board August 6, 1998, of a resolution declaring Dane a County of tolerance support and reinforce these DMNA policies.
Through its 1998-99 Capital Fund Drive, DMNA seeks to raise $2,000 to extend the beautification of Monroe Street to the western end. Possibilities include improving the landscaping on the traffic island at the end of Monroe and on the grounds of Dudgeon Park.
One suggestion for consideration is a native plant garden along Dudgeon Center's chain link fence in the front yard, to improve its appearance. This year's capital fund project thus will commemorate 25 years of neighborhood activism and create a wonderful western entrance to our neighborhood. Please give generously to this worthy project!
Interested in working on plans and/or attending informational meetings about the project? Contact Maggie Jungwirth, chair of DMNA's Parks Committee, at 233-6663 or Daryl Sherman, chair of DMNA's Gardening Committee, at 238-5106.
Bicycle parking in the eastern business district along Monroe Street will be enhanced significantly this fall with the installation of eight new "ring and post" bike racks. The municipally funded project resulted from a year-long cooperative effort between DMNA, VNA, MSBA and the good bike/ped folks in the city transportation department. Many thanks to Ken Golden and Arthur Ross!
A new drinking fountain is slated for installation at the south west terrace at the intersection of Harrison and Monroe Street. City Engineer Janet Gebert worked closely with DMNA to site the fountain as part of the ongoing Monroe Street beautification project.
Many thanks to McKay Nursery and Landscaping for donating labor and materials for the new planters on Monroe Street.