Students who run for political office are always accused of trying to pad their resumes. But you can't make that charge about Wyndham Manning and Conor O'Hagan, the two students who want to replace Supv. Ashok Kumar.
Both have already been active in their communities. Manning worked with the Wisconsin Union Directorate to plan events on campus, while O'Hagan is the freshman representative for Associated Students of Madison. The candidates share similar views on a number of issues, so the race may come down to style, not substance. Dist. 5 encompasses most of the UW campus downtown.
The Daily Page: What is the single most important issue for your particular Dane County Board district?
Manning: As the (mostly) student district, ours is seen as artificially isolated from the rest of the county. I believe this holds us back from exploring our neighboring communities and encourages students to look at jobs outside of Dane county after they graduate. For this reason I think providing transportation alternatives that connect us on the isthmus with our neighboring communities efficiently is the most important issue facing our district.
Providing students with the means to explore while they are on campus and encouraging graduating students to stay in Dane County and take greater advantage of the many professional opportunities right outside of our school's borders would have a great impact on not only students, but the communities which they will hopefully come to be a part of.
O'Hagan: The necessity to continue improving safety of university students is the single most important issue. Great strides have been made to improve safety when students are at their homes. However, the safety of students arriving at their destination is a huge question mark. Muggings, sexual assaults, and robberies are still a persistent problem in the 5th District.
Therefore it is time for the county to strongly consider funding a nighttime carpooling program, which will allow students to use the program after studying or working late, leading to a safer district.
If Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk were to leave office, who would be her ideal successor?
Manning: I trust Supv. Scott McDonell for his leadership and dedication to the position of chair, his smart voting record, his ability to work across partisan lines and by virtue of the fact that as a more recent graduate of the UW, he understands the unique role that students play in local politics.
O'Hagan: The ideal successor for County Executive Falk would be Supv. David Worzala.
Do you support a Dane County Regional Transit Authority, with its own taxing ability? Why do you think some communities oppose an RTA?
Manning: Yes. Transportation alternatives under a system that is diverse in means while being unified and efficient in approach are necessary to best account for the needs of our growing community. With Madison Metro ridership approaching record highs, traffic congestion and gas prices increasing, and air quality decreasing, it only makes sense to support public transportation initiatives. Rail may have a high start-up cost, but it is cheaper to maintain, decreases congestion, and provides numerous opportunities for economic development.
I think some communities are worried that this system will not benefit them directly, despite the proof in other communities across the country of their success in creating new jobs, economic corridors, and more tangible links across municipalities, regardless of the immediacy of the impact.
O'Hagan: I plan on supporting funding for the implementation of mass transit options. Bringing the RTA to the county and the university area will be very beneficial to my constituents.
Has the County Board become more or less relevant over time?
Manning: More. As the dynamics of our rural and urban communities become more polarized, it is more important than ever to have a board with oversight that understands the role and impact of these communities on each other. Balancing a focus on preservation of our family farms and beautiful rural land while increasing urban vitality promotes a higher quality of life and standard of living by ensuring cleaner, safer, sustainable and more personal communities whether on the farm or in the heart of downtown Madison.
O'Hagan: The County Board is becoming more relevant over time and will continue to grow in importance.
Name the one quality you possess that is most essential to the job.
Manning: My background in the arts has instilled with me, above all else, the ability to think abstractly and to turn that into a workable paradigm by which I lead. I'm not afraid to take calculated risks or fail, because I understand that as the only way to achieve success and measure true progress. This continual process of learning and openness to change helps me negotiate in ways that measure the basic values at play without compromising my own judgment.
O'Hagan: I am running for this position from a new perspective. I bring a business mentality to the table, with the ability to end the precedent of political science majors holding this post. I also bring passion, an eagerness to ask questions, find answers and work to implement previously unthought-of resolutions. I stand for Solutions for Progress, because I can provide consistency and longevity, something this district desperately needs on the County Board.