Is it possible the Edgewater will fail?

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If you want evidence that people in Madison, Wisconsin are much nicer than people in Washington D.C., just look at our city’s top political issues. How about the Edgewater? Although some Council members have expressed concerns about the debate being less civil and friendly than usual, I think that those of us accustomed to Hardball’s version of politics are surprised at the tolerance people on both sides of the issue show towards one another.

First the project was denied a certificate of appropriateness by the Landmarks Commission. Then the Council narrowly upheld the Commission’s findings because two potential (emphasis on potential) supporters of the plan were absent. Only five alders voted to thwart the plan (per se), but so far they have avoided the typical scorn that surrounds an irritating legislative minority.

And then the Council agreed to re-schedule the vote! So that the two absent members could get a chance to vote. No complaints from those who voted to uphold the Landmarks Commission’s findings. In fact, I talked with Ald. Marsha Rummel, who voted against the project in December, and she said she had nothing against re-scheduling, and that she understood why members were absent sometimes. This coming from an alder who has never missed a Council meeting in her life, and has never missed a committee meeting unless there was another committee conflict.

Then the re-vote was postponed again. It was agreed upon unanimously, and it seems as if supporters of the plan are going to be working behind the scenes to make the project more palatable for skeptics. But why, I’ve wondered aloud many times? The rumor is that Alds. Michael Schumacher and Judy Compton, the two who were absent at the original vote, intend to vote in favor of the project. Why not just get their votes and pass it quickly?

Three possible explanations:

1. The rumors are wrong. Compton will not vote to over-turn Landmarks. In an email to me, she said she could not tell how she will vote yet. I tend to assume she’s just being safe with those remarks, but I could be wrong.

2. Supporters of the plan want to change some things to make sure that the project is approved at later stages as well. Remember, the Landmarks Commission is only one of the many necessary steps for approval.

3. Policy makers in Madison are serious people who take each other seriously. They care about democracy, they don’t want to screw each other over, and they care deeply about the concerns of the community.

What do you think?

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