Concerned members of the Fitchburg community, many of them young parents, locked arms and stood in solidarity in front of the Town of Fitchburg City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to announce an effort to recall Mayor Jason Gonzalez.
Mayor Gonzalez has come under fire recently as the result of his proposed budget for 2018 that calls for eliminating city funding for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County’s after school programs as well as Badger Prairie Needs network, which provides a food pantry to underprivileged citizens.
Citing the Mayor’s new budget along with other issues of policies and what they said were his broken promises to the community, citizens of Fitchburg are calling for the recall process to be explored.
“We cannot allow you to ignore us. Our kids are our priority,” said activist Sina Davis of Mothers in the Neighborhood. “More than 2,400 families from the poorest areas will lose funding. We will lose a food pantry that serves dozens of families. They will not be able to feed their families or even provide a Thanksgiving dinner. More than 78 kids in the King James Way area will lose their programming.”
Residents bristled at Mayor Gonzalez’s notion that municipalities should not be responsible for funding entities like the Boys and Girls Club. But both the tension of the moment and the upcoming recall effort cut much deeper than just policies concerning the Boys and Girls Club.
“I’m standing here representing not only my neighborhood but all communities of color whose children will be affected,” said Carmela Harris. “Mayor Gonzalez has refused to meet with mothers in this community. He has refused to meet with Church elders in this community. He has refused to meet with Michael Johnson and Coleen Perry, other community leaders and the mothers of Fitchburg. We have no choice but to ask his recall. But, Mayor Gonzalez, you still have an opportunity to make this right.”
The Fitchburg Common Council meets Tuesday night at 6pm to begin the process of finalizing Mayor Gonzalez’ budget. It could be that the Council decides to reverse the Mayor’s course and decide to fund the Boys and Girls Club along with Badger Prairie Needs Network.
“We are calling on Alders to restore the funds and have them be line items moving forward in the future,” said Caliph Muab-El of Focused Interruption Coalition. “If you are gutting resources like the Boys and Girls Club, you are creating an atmosphere where crime will rise. Kids will have no place to go. This is a real life issue. He has failed in his promises to the community. We are tired of his failed politics. We are saying, ‘no more.’”
Muab-El also spoke at length about the process of the recall effort. In order to recall Mayor Jason Gonzalez, petitioners would need 25 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. That would require approximately 2,800 signatures.
Mayor Gonzalez also has not been in office for an entire calendar year, which is one of the requirements of a recall. However a recall can be filed for 60 days early, which Muab-El says they will file for in February.
Muab-El said that a recall will be pursued if the funding for Boys and Girls Club and Badger Prairie Needs is not put back into the budget.