Plan to help downtown businesses bounce back from damage and looting put on hold

The Madison Common Council didn't move forward with the recovery program Tuesday night
Surveillance image of a store looted on Langdon Street in June
Surveillance image of a store looted on Langdon Street in June(WMTV)
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:23 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A plan to provide funds to help downtown businesses affected by recent destruction and looting was put on hold by the Madison Common Council Tuesday night.

The council voted 14 to 6 to place the program “on file without prejudice,” which means the plan doesn’t move forward, but a similar proposal could appear before the council in less than 60 days.

The measure combined a $500,000 Equity Program, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs of color in Madison, with a $250,000 Recovery Program, which planned to move money toward helping businesses in the State Street area after peaceful protests turned violent at the end of May and into June.

The decision to put the measure on hold instead of referring it to another council meeting, which failed in an 11 to 9 vote, came after several alders raised issues with the Recovery Program, that would give money to damaged local businesses.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for any plan that puts taxpayer dollars towards restoring a downtown commercial business district that has zero Black-owned businesses as our first step following the protests,” said Alder Max Prestigiacomo, who went onto add that a vote for the Recovery Program would be valuing “property over human lives.”

“Downtown is the neighborhood that has received the most resources from the city. This is quite literally institutional racism,” said Alder Rebecca Kemble. “The whitest, wealthiest neighborhoods in city receive the most city resources.”

Around a quarter of businesses on State Street are not expected to recover after the damage. The Recovery Program was set up so owners could apply for grants of up to $25,000 for repairs.

Some alders raised concerns over the Recovery and Equity Programs being combined and questioned if it would be possible to separate them. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that would not be possible, because they were combined into one resolution.

The move to put the measure “on file without prejudice” could allow the council to move forward with the Recovery and Equity Programs separately. It’s not clear when the next moves will be made on the two programs.

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