Column by Dane County
Executive Joe Parisi:
Investments in Opportunity for All
With $165,000 in county money and a generous $185,000 contribution from the United Way, we can create new zones to help families in the
Sun Prairie and Verona School Districts.
These zones coordinate existing community programming through the United Way and Dane County’s Joining Forces for Families (JFF) and
the Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) to provide hands-on resources for parents, located right in their own neighborhoods.
These resources help kids succeed – from birth until they first walk through the doors at school – and parents find meaningful employment,
creating long term stability for the family For older kids preparing for future careers, my budget creates two new programs.
One is the “Dane County Youth Conservation Corps,” a new life-skill development partnership with Operation Fresh Start that will put young
people to work improving our many wonderful county parks.
This work will help develop critical job skills, and their projects will keep county parks and their amenities clean, accessible, and family
Operation Fresh Start will commit more than $180,000 to this effort, with the county providing $64,000.
The second program is a partnership with The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. This new “Dane County Work Apprenticeship Program”
will help college students who have participated n Boys and Girls Club programming gain valuable job training and work experience in
various parts of county government.
Exciting opportunities also lie ahead for adults searching for family supporting jobs. For months I have worked with representatives from
labor, business, and educational institutions, as well as economic and workforce development professionals to tackle a persistent
challenge – connecting potential employees with construction companies that are ready to hire and facing a worker shortage.
With a series of major building projects ahead, Dane County is uniquely positioned to work with contractors, trades organizations,
community organizations and the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin to engage trades stakeholders in committing to
hire Dane County residents who have prepared to enter the construction trades.
The initial response from community partners has been strong. Groups including the Workforce Development Board of South Central
Wisconsin, WRTP Big Step, Construction Training Inc./START, Operation Fresh Start, Urban League of Greater Madison and Madison College
Apprenticeship Program are all at the table.
This multi-phase approach will focus on assuring that there is an adequately trained workforce to meet the needs of area construction
projects, and to develop solutions which will assure better access to under-represented workers, including minorities and women.
My budget also includes efforts that provide a fresh start for youth and adults who encounter the county’s criminal justice system.
Often, when a person completes their jail sentence, they struggle to resume everyday life. From entering the workforce to finding a place to
call home, their challenges are many.
To help, I am creating a new Re-Entry Coordinator to work with those in jail – prior to their release – to identify potential barriers to
success. This individual will work with those who are incarcerated to help them better reintegrate into their families and communities
– preventing homelessness, unemployment, and/or a return to the criminal justice system.
Reducing racial disparities and slowing the revolving door of repeat offenders into our criminal justice system is one of the most important
pieces to our community’s conversation about the future of Dane County’s jail facilities. It is critical we continue to place a priority on
treatment – keeping that focus on addressing the root causes of why people end up behind bars in the first place. That means building upon
the nearly $30-million annual investment county government makes in mental health services and successful programs like Pathfinder and
Drug Court that help those with debilitating alcohol and drug addictions.
By looking for solutions that help everyone in our community succeed, we are creating opportunity that will provide strength and stability
for future generations.
We’re all encouraged to see signs of economic recovery in
Dane County – dropping unemployment rates, rising home
values, and the familiar sight of busy construction cranes
dotting the skyline.
But we must take great care to ensure that as our community
rebounds the opportunity exists for Dane County families from
all walks of life to do the same.
The 2014 budget I recently introduced contains a number of
initiatives aimed at providing this success and stability for
families with young children to adults looking for a fresh start.
Together with The United Way, the budget expands our birth to
four-year-old kindergarten effort “Early Childhood Zone,” that
currently serves neighborhoods near Leopold Elementary