17th District race has student challenging incumbent

Ryan Spoehr, News editor

In the race for the 17th District for Madison city council, incumbent Joe Clausius is being challenged by Madison Area Technical College student Spencer White.

Madison College is near the center of both campaigns. White is passionate about his school and what it has done for him, not only academically, but because of his role at the volunteer center as well.

“Madison College has basically given me the experience I’ll need on the campaign,” White said. “It will be integral to my serving the district in the future.”

Madison College’s Truax campus is located in the 17th District. With the Facility Master Plan being implemented, Clausius has been included in discussions about the expansion plans.

In the future, one or more residence halls could be added extending from the corner of Wright Street and Straubel to Hoffman Street. The project that Clausius wants to work with the college the most on is the housing project.

“That will be the number one thing I’ll be working with Madison College on,” Clausius said. “I’d like to see this, a joint partnership for the students and faculty.”

Water quality is a growing concern in the district. Tetrachlorethylene, which is commonly used in dry cleaning, is a contaminant found in district’s Well 15. It is found in some paint and spot removers, water repellants, brake and wood cleaners, glues and suede protectors.

There are negative effects of tetrachlorethylene entering the body. It can cause damage to the central nervous system, kidney, liver and possibly the reproductive system, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Starting in the early 1990s, there were small traces of the contaminant found in Well 15, according to Madison Water Utility. In 2000, the level of water in Well 15 was at approximately two micrograms per liter, three under the maximum contaminant level of five micrograms per liter. In 2009, it rose to approximately four micrograms per liter, the highest it was in 10 years. However, it dropped below four micrograms per liter in 2010.

Both candidates acknowledge the need for the issue to be addressed. There is a lot to be done, Clausius said. When he first became alder for district, Clausius took over governance of Madison’s Well 29. Eventually a filtration system was built. Although he does not see imminent danger, Clausius said Well 15 faces a similar situation in the future.

“The bottom line is we’ll have to build a filtration system,” Clausius said. “There isn’t any way around it.”

A new well is not the best plan, according to Clausius. In fact, he doesn’t see it as a viable option.

“Well 15 is too deep and pumps too well to simply drill another well,” Clausius said.

The well is a critical issue for whoever takes office. White said he will do whatever it takes to ensure that the district has clean water.

“The reason that I have a big stake in is that I drink this water and so does my daughter,” White said. “I will spend whatever we have to. This is Madison, Wis. We need clean water.”

As the election is drawing near, White understands that he is not the favorite in the campaign. Despite being the underdog, he is optimistic about the election.

“I feel that I bring new ideas to the table,” White said. “Length of service doesn’t automatically mean victory.”

White brings his passion for the local arts and the community activist scene. He has regularly volunteered at the River Food Pantry, Goodman Community Center and East Madison Community Center. One of his major campaign platforms is reinvigorating the Overture Center and making it more of a showcase for local arts.

Clausius is seeking his third term as an alder. He served on the Sun Prairie city council for six years.  Clausius is passionate about reading. With the Hawthorne and Lakeview branches of the Madison Public Library in neighboring districts, the 17th district is without a library. Clausius is using his passion for reading as a platform for his campaign and bringing a library to the district.