Heated debate at Fitchburg budget amendment hearing
There was drama at the Fitchburg amendment hearing to the Mayor's 2018 proposed budget Tuesday night.
Mayor Jason Gonzalez announced in October that he would cut more than $100,000 from area non-profits. A move that struck a cord with community members, including Kaleem Caire, the founder and CEO of One City Early Learning, and former president of the Urban League of Madison.
"I am tired of the negative politics, and I am tired of people not listening to each other," Caire explained when asked why he went to the meeting to talk to the council.
He approached the microphone and within a minute of speaking, he was told to leave by the mayor.
Caire addressed Mayor Gonzalez in what the Mayor says was outside of talk about the amendment to the budget. Gonzalez slammed down his gazel and told Caire he was done. He then ordered him to leave, and when Caire continued talking, one of the alders called the police.
Gonzalez temporarily adjourned the meeting and walked out along with several others alders.
"It was embarrassing to the people who were there, and I saw a few people crying," Caire said after the hearing when NBC15 followed up with him.
Caire says he feels this heat-up was racially charged.
Gonzalez responded to that comment saying, "I am a Latino, and grew up on the south side of Madison. I know what it's like to be discriminated against."
Gonzalez defended himself saying he interrupted Caire because he felt he was fronting a personal attack outside of the discussion of the amendment.
Fitchburg Police say the Mayor called Caire out of order and requested police to remove him. They said Caire left voluntarily.
Fitchburg Lt. Chad Brecklin says he doesn't anticipate any charges will be filed against Caire.
Rules say people need to keep their comments on the amendments and not personal attacks, and Gonzalez stands by that requirement. He says this isn't about discrimination.
Non-profit leaders say it's unfortunate it had to come to this.
"I hope they do the right thing at the end of the day they were elected to represent everyone in the community. and the fact that almost five hundred people had to show up at the last meeting to advocate for young people should have never had to happen," said Michael Johnson, the President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.
One man did speak in favor of cutting the funding to nonprofits, saying the taxpayers' money should go to charities they choose.