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Longtime South Side community leader Isadore Knox seeks District 14 seat on Common Council

Isadore Knox Jr.

As a resident of South Madison for over 30 years, Isadore Knox is looking to serve as a voice for the community in his run for alderperson of the 14th district in Madison. After raising five children, spending over a decade in both state and county government, and serving as a Madison alderperson in both 2005 and 2007, Knox is hoping his experience and connection to the community will continue on through the position. Knox plans to make sure his neighbors’ best interests are a top priority as changes in both neighborhoods and districts on the South Side of Madison prove to make representation an important issue.   

“I currently serve on the Police Citizens Oversight Board, which is an interesting committee, to say the least,” Knox told Madison365. “I also serve on the Destination District Task Force, which is a task force looking to create more economic development, and more positive neighborhood potential connecting the South Side to the isthmus and downtown… There’s a lot of work that we need to do now to strengthen different neighborhood associations.

“Obviously, gentrification is coming to South Madison,” he added. “In that process, it’s important that the residents know what things are developing in South Madison, and there are a ton of things developing currently. Not only do they need to know those things, but they need to be able to be in a position to be involved and respond to those changes that are coming.”

At a time where prices for goods and services across the board are increasing, concerns about housing and cost of living are on people’s mind more than ever. Knox was especially aware of the wants and needs for quality, affordable, and diverse housing options. While many housing developments on a large scale have started across areas in Madison, Knox is wary of cluttered housing developments that are often less attended to in terms of services and opportunity in the community; opting instead for housing concepts that offer opportunity to a spectrum of incomes and people.  

“My concept is what you call ‘scattered-site housing,'” said Knox. “I think my approach is that mixed-income neighborhoods make stable neighborhoods. I think what the city’s approach should be is to find a lot of these smaller lots that are available in every neighborhood and develop those. Either doing duplexes or, at the largest, a fourplex. Then build them in neighborhoods that have home ownership and rental, mixed-income housing. That way the community can support each other, and benefit from those.”

Housing is especially an important topic for Knox’s campaign as members of the community look to change their living arrangements and the community makes space for residents looking to move in. Knox spoke to the potential of South Side Madison, and is sure that the potential is not lost on many looking for opportunities to invest in a Madison neighborhood.

“I like some of the new things that are coming like the [Urban League of Greater Madison Black] Business Hub,” Knox said. “Hopefully, that will stimulate some business opportunities for a lot of the entrepreneurs that are coming, and hopefully stimulate some employment opportunities. We’ve got to get people working with a salary that’s gonna help them pay their bills. It’s great that we have the Madison College campus now on the South Side, so people can train to learn their craft, and provide for their families. We do have transportation issues. Even with this rapid transit hub, we still have to make sure that people can get the bus to the hub.”

Isadore Knox and family

While Knox had praise for the idea of new residents and investors interested in the South Side, he also urged people to not forget the residents of Madison’s South Side that have called the area home for generations. In an area of Madison including neighborhoods long gone underserved, largely criticized, and regarded only at convenience, it is no surprise that many on the South Side feel they should be included in current developments in the community. Knox was certain that the needs of residents should be kept at the forefront, especially when it comes to safety and interventions in the community.

“Our communities need to be safe, as well,” said Knox. “I really don’t like when people think there’s an expectation for us as Black and brown people to live in unsafe communities … that’s totally unacceptable to me. We deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to live in a safe neighborhood and to get the kind of response that we expect to keep those communities safe. We’ve got to be involved in helping that happen, too.”

Knox stressed the importance of acknowledging policing as a system with problems while working to find solutions that include accountability and responsibility to the community. 

As someone who has been co-director of the Southside Raiders Youth Football and Cheerleading Program for decades, as well as serving on the board of the South Metropolitan Planning Council, Knox was sure that education and intervention were vital in making sure the community is ready to stay ahead of incoming changes.    

“We’re about healthy neighborhoods first. Then we can look at what things we can say we are proud of in our city, too…I believe everyone needs to be heard. Whether you agree with them or not,” Knox says. “They need to be heard, and you need to process what they’re saying. Because in that conversation, you can actually find some win-wins and move forward from there.”

The potential on Madison’s South Side can be a large draw for potential residents and a boost of opportunity for current residents. However, it will take the community and individuals to fight for community interest to keep people’s needs met as these developments happen, and Knox is hoping to provide that service as alderperson for the 14th district in Madison. 

The primary elections for the alderman position race will be on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and the general elections will be held on April 4.