Mark-Anthony Whitaker Is Running for Madison Alder
Envisioning a Better Madison
|Mark-Anthony Whitaker is a veteran of the Iraq Warand makes his
living in information technology.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Whitaker wasn’t really interested in politics until seeing the uprising in Madison.
“I went to the city council meetings,” Whitaker recalled. “I watched them on the city channel. I watched them on YouTube. I would go to the different neighborhoods.
The more and more that I went to these things, the more I would see folks talk about income inequality and racial disparities. Time and time again, those folks who
came up with the solutions and implemented the policies that those solutions derive from, those folks didn’t come from poor communities, didn’t come from Black
communities, and had not experienced racism or discrimination. Because my fiancé was from here, he grew up with it. He said, ‘You experienced a lot of that stuff in
the military. Maybe you should think about running for office.’ I said, ‘I’m not running.’”
By the time 2018 rolled around and he still didn’t see enough people who looked like him creating and implementing the policies that he decided to throw his hat in
Whitaker is very personable and exhibits a genuine concern for the issues that District 12 is facing. It’s a diverse district that basically stretches from Madison
College through the Dane County Regional Airport to the Warner Park Community Center down to First Street and E. Washington Avenue and back to Madison College.
Parts are industrial —the Oscar Mayer complex is a part of it — and contains Truax Field while other parts are working class with some middle class housing.
Whitaker is a IT technician who works for Meriter Hospital, currently rewiring their west side clinic that was hit heavy with flooding. And IT figures into his thinking
about the issues confronting the district. In terms of the Oscar Mayer complex, he wants the city to think out of the box.
“I would love to see Oscar Mayer turned into a technology park,” Whitaker said. “I think the pieces are in place now for a bold idea. I think that right now all of the
ideas that are being floated are safe. And I think if we want to make sure that we are investing in folks and giving them opportunities, giving them a path towards the
future, I think we have to say, ‘What does the future look like? Does it look like technology? Of course! Self-driving cars are already coming. Everyone has a mobile
phone. Apps are coming out daily.’ We have a huge space here, dozens and dozens of acres. We have youth right now who lack direction and purpose. I think if we
want to show the folks in these areas of the north side and the east side that their success will move the city forward, I think we have to invest in them. And I think
the best way to do that is to say, ‘Hey, we have the Madison Unified Fiber Network. Can we do that? We have UW-Madison downtown. Can we use that? We have
Epic out in Verona. Can we use that. They want to be connected to the city via rapid transit. Could we get them to the city in a technology park where they can go and
learn how to do programming or robotics or AI? And we could make it a green space. We have a really good opportunity right now to change the way folks think
about the northeast side. I think if we don’t jump on that opportunity with a bold idea, I think in 20-30 years, we’ll look back and say, ‘You know what we should have
done or could have done when we had the opportunity?’ And the opportunity would have gone by.”
And speaking of things speeding by, Whitaker is concerned that the deliberations on Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, will literally pass poor and working people by.
“BRT would go right down Sherman Avenue, maybe,” Whitaker said. “It will exclude a majority of the north side. Anyone to the east or north or west of Warner Park
will be excluded. You’ll have to get on a shuttle or some sort of local transit. And the people who most need this sort of rapid transit from one side of town to the
other don’t get it. They haven’t been thought about. These are the kinds of things that I want to get in and change because Madison talks a really good game on
addressing these disparities and working to tackle some of these issues. We’ve been talking about them for 30 years now. The current mayor was mayor when my
fiancé’s mother-in-law moved here 30 years ago. He’s the mayor now. And he is still dealing with some of the same issues that she had when she first got here.
What I don’t want to do is lay the blame at anyone’s feet. I don’t want to say, ‘Well, it’s your fault’ or ‘It’s our fault for not coming to the meetings.’ That’s not what I
want to do. What I want to do is make sure that folks who have been excluded from the conversations about BRT, those folks who are most affected by transportation
issues get a seat at the table and have someone at that table who is going to listen to their issues, who knows what it is like to come from those issues.”
Another issue that District 12 is facing is the housing of the Air Force’s new F-35 fighters at Truax Field. It’s a complicated issue where being a veteran and liking the
F-35s may conflict with what the residents of his district want.
By Jonathan Gramling
They say that first impressions are the ones that last. When Mark-Anthony Whitaker —
candidate for the Madison District 12 Alder spot — moved to Madison in the winter of 2011,
the uprising against ACT 10 was just beginning.
“The first thing we saw when we got to the city was people flooding into the Capitol,”
Whitaker said. “People were singing. It was the protest against Walker. People were out and
about. The Capitol was flooded with people. This is my Day One experience of Madison.
‘What’s going on?’ Folks were flipping out and protesting. Teachers were walking out of
classrooms. ‘What’s going on here?’ I had to figure out what was going on in Madison. I had
Even though Whitaker was released from the military after serving a year in Iraq because of
“I know some folks who are not happy with it,” Whitaker said about the F-35
placement at Truax. “But we get a lot of benefits from the military having its
planes here. We have one of the best airports around. People come to the
Dane County Airport and say, ‘This is your airport?’ ‘Yes, this is our airport.’
We get almost $100 million spent here. And that is economic development.
But folks are concerned. They are concerned about the noise. They’re
concerned about the pollution in the water. There are issues with the ground
water. There was a story that came out about fire fighters using flame
The new Public Market will be part of District 12. And Anthony is concerned
about an already congested traffic situation getting even worse.
“I’m not completely sold on the public market just yet,” Whitaker said. “I like
the idea of it. That will help with the food deserts. I’m really concerned though
that folks who don’t already have a well-established business will have a
hard time getting in and keeping a vendor stall. One of the hallmarks of being
Black or even Brown is the lack of stability. And it is really concerning to me
that how these vendor licenses are approved, who gets the vendor licenses.
I’m concerned about what the public transit looks like around that area. I don’t
know if you ever come out of Johnson and merge onto Packers there, but it is
like a death trap. It’s vicious over there. And then you add a public market
that people will be coming in and out of at First Avenue, it’s going to be
Whitaker feels that a lot of the issues that the city of Madison faces could
impact District 12. And he wants to help the city deal with the underlying
problems instead of treating the symptoms.
“Root causes are hard to solve,” Whitaker admitted. “If you want to focus on
crime, you want to make sure that folks are not boosting cars and breaking
into houses and molesting business owners. We need to make sure that the
root cause of that the root cause of that poverty is dealt with. We have to
make sure that folks graduate from high school with a pathway to a career
and a job and some sort of stability in their adult lives. If we want to reduce
crime, help the folks out of poverty. There is no other way around it.
Otherwise you can just take criminals and lock them up. And look how that
has worked out for us. So I think we need to focus on root causes.”
Mark-Anthony Whitaker is ready to take the challenge on as the District 12