We welcome the release of Kids Forward’s “Race to Equity 10-Year Report: Dane County.” Ten years ago, the first Race to Equity report highlighted the fact that racial disparities in our community were deep, persistent, and exceeded state and national levels. The new report reinforces and deepens those findings. It underscores what BIPOC people in our community already know: while our city and our region have made progress in addressing some aspects of those racial disparities, it is not nearly enough and we must do better.

As the report notes, both Madison and Dane County are growing rapidly. While that growth has provided opportunities for some black and brown residents, deep racial disparities persist and black and brown communities are still disproportionately left out of the City’s prosperity. This is especially true for lower-earning BIPOC families, whose voices are too often lost or sidelined in public debates.

We know – and this report documents – that the challenges faced by families in our region fall disproportionately on BIPOC communities and individuals. The City has worked diligently to address a number of issues including the lack of affordable housing; after years of under-building housing, in the last four years the City has shifted into high gear, permitting 15,000 new housing units of all types. Over the last four years, we more than doubled the affordable housing fund and this year we are proposing to increase the fund by another 60% over six years. The relatively small number of dollars in our affordable housing fund leverages hundreds of millions: since 2015, the City has provided over $35 million in affordable housing support, which has leveraged over $226 million in other investment.

The City has also launched a guaranteed income program to help stabilize some of our neediest families. This pilot program will transition into a permanent program soon. The City also launched Madison’s Community Alternative Response for Emergency Services (CARES) program, a mobile response team for behavioral health emergencies, designed to better serve patient needs and reduce contacts with police.

The City is investing heavily in South Madison, which is home to many black and brown Madisonians. We committed to the largest TIF on record for that neighborhood, which will generate some $115 million in investment. The recently-released 2024 budget invests in affordable housing, land acquisition, public facilities, and transit that help make the vision laid out in the South Madison Plan a reality. For example, the budget plans $24 million in investments in South Madison for new housing and an expanded Public Health Clinic.

To better connect South Madison to jobs, services, and economic opportunities throughout the region, the City is planning a North-South bus rapid transit line to supplement the East-West line under construction. When completed, this project will reduce congestion and local air pollution and provide faster access to job centers – especially for underserved populations: an estimated 90% increase in access for low-income residents and 92% increase for the Black community.

Despite these steps, we know, and this report underscores, that the City needs to do more and do better. And we will take the information and recommendations in this report and strive to do just that.

We also know that the City does not operate in a vacuum. Our ability to address the inequities created by past and continuing structural racism is greatly impeded by state laws that prohibit Madison from taking many of the measures called for in the report. The City cannot enact a local living wage ordinance, cannot require paid sick days, and cannot protect tenants’ rights. As the report notes, the impacts of these state restrictions disproportionately impact poor and minority residents. We hope that decision makers at every level of government will heed the recommendations made in this report and join Madison in prioritizing racial equity.


  • Katie Crawley, (068) 266-4611
Mayor's Office