River Alliance Executive Director Raj Shukla hosted a meet and greet at State Line Distillery on Jan. 11, one of many events for his mayoral campaign.
“This is my first time running for anything but I’m not new to the city,” he said in his speech during the event.
Shukla, a political newcomer, serves as the chair of the Sustainable Madison Committee and has shared his ideas for reforming the city’s approach to environmental issues. He attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison and worked in Milwaukee for sometime before returning with his wife to Madison to raise their family. He also said he wants to focus on other issues like ethical housing options, transportation and social inequality which he said is interconnected.
“I believe that we are a community that is what is does and I believe we can make a city that is sustainable, that is vibrant,” Shukla said.
He shared ideas about how to preserve Madison’s environment, especially after the floods that occurred last summer. Shukla suggested the city look into rain gardens or special pavement. He also discussed replacing non-renewable resources with sustainable ones, moving away from coal-powered electricity starting with local utilities.
“We need to find ways to electrify our vehicle fleet whether it’s privately owned vehicles like people with cars or from the city’s point of view, electrify our buses. We have to electrify our fleet vehicles and we have to do it with renewable sources,” Shukla said.
He said environmental justice is apart of social justice and cannot be ignored. Shukla said the sustainability committee has already begun working on some of these issues, encouraging the use of wind power and solar energy. He said he wants to support local utilities in building new resources.
“When you look at where there are health problems and environmental challenges, they tend to be where communities of color are,” Shukla said. “They tend to be where the poorest communities are so there’s health reasons to do this. There are environmental reasons to do this. There are social equity reasons to do this.”
He also said he wants to focus on transportation and affordable housing which he said are linked. Shukla said the communities that use public transportation should have the ability to make decisions concerning city-wide transportation. This includes listening to youth and giving agency to outlying communities.
“You can’t have a really good functioning transportation system without density,” Shukla said.
He said land use policy should encourage development of communities including access to amenities and work nearby. Shukla said this is an important component to a healthy transit system.
“I would like to start what I’m just calling a Transportation Equity Council or Transportation Equity Committee that is made up of specific community members, the folks that most need transit and the folks that are being least served by our transit system as it stands now to have them help us design what’s happening,” Shukla said.
He said it’s important to create communities where it’s safe for residents to bike and walk in addition to the prominent bike path areas in Madison. Shukla said we have to understand the challenges an efficient transit system brings for commerce, education, quality of life and housing. He said he also wants people to become more informed of these issues through his campaign.
“What I want this campaign to be about on a larger level is that we need to get more involved on a political level,” Shukla said.
Leading up to the primary scheduled for Feb. 19, Shukla will host a Happy Hour at One Barrel Brewing on Jan. 16 and another meet and greet at the Maple Bluff Country Club on Jan. 17. The mayoral election is April 2.