Satya Rhodes-Conway is the 58th Mayor of Madison. Elected in 2019, she is the city’s second female mayor and the first out LGBTQ person to serve as Mayor of Madison. She previously served three terms on the Madison Common Council. Before being elected Mayor, Rhodes-Conway was the Managing Director of the Mayors Innovation Project and a senior associate at the COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 13 years. Before her time at UW, she analyzed state endangered species programs for Defenders of Wildlife, researched and wrote about progressive environmental policy at the State Environmental Resource Center, and taught undergraduate biology and ecology. Mayor Rhodes-Conway was born in New Mexico and grew up in Ithaca, New York. She has degrees from Smith College and the University of California – Irvine. She moved to Madison in 2002.
Launched in April 2021, Housing Forward is a short-term plan to address housing needs in Madison by increasing the amount of housing, increasing housing choice, creating more affordable housing, combatting displacement and segregation, helping seniors and others stay in their homes, and expanding the city’s efforts to end homelessness. To provide more affordable housing, the city has so far built 862 units of affordable housing. Madison also doubled its housing-related financial assistance program from $1 million to $2 million USD (eg. homeownership programs, co-housing, housing land trusts, smaller affordable housing developments, existing affordable housing preservation and renovations). The city committed $22 million in federal COVID-19 funds to help prevent evictions and strengthen tenant protections in subsidised housing, and expanded shelter options for the homeless.
The City of Madison is using the 100% Renewable Madison plan to guide investment in renewable energy with the goal of city facilities energy use being 100% renewable by 2030. The city is investing in an electric bus rapid transit system that will improve mobility and lower transit emissions and take thousands of cars off the roads, and encouraging sustainability in both new and existing affordable housing to lower bills for residents. The city is switching streetlights to LED lights, converting the city fleet to electric vehicles, and supporting green infrastructure for stormwater management.
With almost 1 in 5 Madison residents living in poverty, the City of Madison is participating in a one-year guaranteed income pilot to support low-income families most in need. 155 families in Madison will benefit from the Madison Forward Fund, and successful applicants will receive $500 per month for one year. Low-income families with at least one child under 18 years-old and who are permanent residents of the city are eligible to take part. The guaranteed income comes with no strings attached, meaning that families can spend it on whatever they need, when they need it, and aims to supplement, rather than replace funds needed to buy basic essentials like food, transportation, utilities and rent. The Madison Forward Fund is providing $930,000 in direct cash assistance to Madison families, funded entirely by local private donors and the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income program. This program is founded upon the belief that the people in poverty are best positioned to make informed financial decisions that efficiently address their household’s needs.
In order to tackle persistent societal inequalities throughout institutions, the City of Madison has a Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative (RESJI). The initiative seeks to establish racial equity and social justice as core principles in all decisions, policies and functions of the city. Action teams composed of city employees help operationalise RESJI by facilitating communication between all RESJI team members and partners, providing updates on progress, and providing continuous learning opportunities for RESJI members and partners.