Jerome Madigan’s journey to council has been a long one, having served in many capacities in Redwood City and having worn many hats.
Over the years, he thought long and hard about running for the seat before he decided to throw his hat into the ring this year. It’s not a decision he made on a whim, he said.
Another fresh face to city hall, Madigan said he is familiar with the issues surrounding Redwood City, from homelessness to affordable housing and public safety to supporting law enforcement.
Madigan faces an uphill battle, going up against longtime council member Diane Howard in district 6. But it's time for 'fresh leadership,' he argued.
Although Madigan recently stepped down to focus on his campaign, one of his most notable roles was his time on the Housing and Human Concerns Committee, where he spent five years working with several of the city's nonprofits, which focus on everything from homelessness to affordable housing.
One of his goals as a council member is to take what he’s done at the committee and bring it to a “higher level.”
“That's that's a big piece of this; Just doing kind of what I have been doing,” Madigan said. “And that is work around homelessness, affordable housing, and just overall care for the city and the issues that surround the city, especially the safety issues and things like that.”
There is "no silver bullet to solving homelessness," he said.
"If any one person tells you, 'hey, I have the answer [to solving homelessness],' it's like, 'no, you don't,' he said.
Madigan, whose primary vocation is minister, said solving homelessness is more than just housing the unhoused. It requires a “holistic approach” and collaboration between various entities, including law enforcement, he said.
“I've taken part of a holistic approach in, kind of, working with law enforcement, working with mental health services and kind of trying to pull those things together for people to try and help care for them as a whole person so that they don't repeat patterns,” Madigan said.
As an example of something that has worked, he points to the County and City’s property exchange, a decade-long negotiation between the jurisdictions that saw the groundbreaking of the 240-unit Navigation Center earlier this year. The facility would provide services for homeless people.
Madigan was 24 years old when he began working as a youth minister in Redwood City, a ministry that he still has a passion for.
For youth in Redwood City, there are major gaps in resources, he said.
“And I don’t think that’s something that is a secret to people,” Madigan said, adding that venues for teens and children have dwindled or disappeared altogether.
While developers have offered some solutions by adding, for example, courtyards or soccer fields to their city proposals, it’s not enough, he said.
“But the point is, I think that as a city as a whole, we need to rethink how we are serving our youth,” Madigan said. “That is something I do plan on really addressing as a council member [by] using my experience. Part of it has to do with our police department and part of it has to do with also helping enrich [youth].”
And Madigan is a strong supporter of the Redwood City Police Department, calling the department a “vital part of the city.” Understanding that law enforcement across the state is dealing with major staffing shortages, Madigan said he believes the city should continue to make sure the police department has what they need to provide services to the community.
“I think we have continued to see some issues throughout the downtown area and other parts of the city,” he said. “I know this is a multifaceted issue.”
In late May, police confronted roughly 200 minors during a Fox Theater speaker series event where Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai was speaking to hundreds of people. Many of the kids were on bikes. Ultimately, two minors were arrested after police said they either resisted or assaulted officers.
When asked about a recently established police pilot in collaboration with the Police Activities League, which targets Redwood City youth cyclists, Madigan said he hadn’t seen much data on the project but was encouraged by the effort so far.
“From personal experience, knowing some Redwood City police officers and knowing their heart in this, I know that there are many who do serve in law enforcement in PAL, care and they want to find a solution that works for everybody,” Madigan said.
“Proximity is the only way to start to bridge the gap, but it doesn’t always work. But there are also times where we get people in proximity and get people talking together and trying to work together that good things do happen,” he said, adding that the approach doesn’t mean that the city should be dismissive of disruptive behavior.
In June, City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz told city council members that the city had recently lost about $83 million in the last two years and was projected to lose millions of dollars if the city did not take immediate action, some of which may come raising the transient occupancy tax on hotel guests and property transfer taxes.
One thing Madigan doesn’t want to do is burden residents or businesses, he said.
“People are really struggling,” he said.