Archive for the ‘City Politics’ Category

Want to know why Progressive Dane is struggling?

January 7, 2012

Take a look at Progressive Dane’s Twitter account. The average high school cheerleader has more followers than the political party that once held a plurality of seats on the Madison Common Council. It is currently following three accounts and has 90 followers.

In PD’s defense, its Facebook page has attracted much more attention, with over 500 “likes.”  PD co-Chair Mike Johnson says overhauling social media is a priority for the coming year.

That priority should have been set much earlier. As a result of PD’s neglect of social media, it missed an epic opportunity to gain party members during the winter protests, when seemingly every state progressive who wasn’t out in the streets was glued to the #wiunion updates on Twitter. Putting that hashtag at the end of all of my tweets gained me many times more followers and readers than PD’s entire current following. Especially the younger crowd on campus.

The irony is that the leaders of PD are Johnson, a young guy who knows about this stuff, and Brenda Konkel, a prolific blogger.

The Dane Dems Twitter account is equally wretched. They have the exact same number of followers as PD! However, their laziness is more excusable, since the Dems have a statewide organization that keeps fans in the loop.

Throughout the battle for labor rights, many criticized the Democrats for running lackluster campaigns devoid of the progressive passion that defined the winter protests. If Progressive Dane had been front-and-center of that effort on social media, it would probably have a larger crop of young, energetic members.

Mayor Dave shafted…again

March 8, 2010

If I knew more about movies I would make a reference to somebody who got shafted at the Academy Awards last night. But I don’t, so all I can say is that Mayor Dave probably sympathizes from the dozens of oscar nominees who went home empty-handed. The other night his patented “Mayor Dave Chili-a-vitch’s Award Winning Chili” lost its bid for the “Men Who Cook” award at the annual Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority benefit.

I know that all Madisonians will join me in their indignation at this horrible injustice. My entry this year was my “award winning” chili, which despite its obvious award winning qualities won no awards.

I’m disappointed too Mayor Dave. If only you had a picture of the chili I would gladly promote it in brunch links.

Take notes…Brenda’s watching

February 23, 2010

I’ve never been much of a note-taker myself, and I firmly believe that many students who take meticulous notes do so at the expense of retaining the information in their heads. It’s especially obvious when you somebody writing down something that the professor has said five times before. However, one very good reason to take notes is that it flatters the professor. Especially in a small setting. Teachers resent students who think they’re too good to write down what’s being said.

So it’s not surprising that Brenda Konkel noted (no pun intended) under Mean Girls “Gossip and Rumors” that Amy Supple, Hammes Co.’s project manager for the Edgewater renovation, had brought pen and paper to the last meeting of the Plan Commission.

Typically, no one from the “team” is taking notes. Others dispute that and say that she was just passing notes. I didn’t see, so I can’t say which it was.

Good idea Amy. Just make sure they don’t find out you were really writing “I hate these people, I hate this council, I hate this fucking city!” If Brenda found that, she’d definitely post it, but not under the “Gossip and Rumors” section. Brenda also returned to one of her favorite themes, her successor Ald. Bridget Maniaci:

Alder Bridget Manaici didn’t get there til 8:30, she was at the Tenney Lapham Neighborhood meeting trying to prevent them from taking a vote to express their concerns about the Edgewater. It was a tied vote, with Linster breaking the tie for them to remain quiet.

Marsha Rummel will save trees

February 19, 2010

Trees have always been a priority of Ald. Marsha Rummel. So it was no surprise when I ran into her today that she reminded me to keep up with her ordinance to protect trees in the city from construction projects. This is part of what Rummel wrote me in September, when she was first pushing the idea to hold companies accountable for damage to trees:

This summer, 5 trees were lost, mostly due to contractor error, on Spaight St in my district. Currently city policies do not include fines for contractors who ruin/damage trees. Currently the ‘specs’ for requests for proposals and subsequent contracts for street work don’t highlight the policies we do have in place for trees.

The anguish neighbors felt this summer encouraged me to request that Engineering and Parks to review our practices. As mentioned above, the city has improved practices over the years. Sidwalk ‘sawing’ is a recent innovation, a way to level sidewalks by shaving them instead of digging out and replacing but there is still room to improve. In Milw, the city forester visits every construction site to insure that contractors are taking care when sanitary laterals are placed near trees. It’s not just the curb/sidewalk work but the utility connections to each property that result in excavation potentially on three sides of a terrace tree that put trees at risk. Milwaukee also charges a LOT of money for trees that are damaged when not predicted to be at risk.

Apparently Rummel has reason to be giddy about this issue today. She’s received enough support for an ordinance to assess fines for tree damage as well as require a higher level of review for trees during the construction process. Unfortunately I can’t find the text on the city website, so anybody (cough, cough Marsha) who finds it would be very nice to send it my way.

Nevertheless, I’m surprised by the notion that damage to trees goes unpunished in Madison. Right here, 23.21 in the city’s ordinances:

No person, corporation, or association shall plant, cut, prune, or remove any living tree or shrub in a public highway in the City of Madison, or cut, disturb or interfere in any way with the roots of any tree, to the extent of causing serious injury to such tree, in such public highway, or spray any such trees or shrubs with any chemical or insecticides without written permit of the Board of Park Commissioners.

What’s missing? A penalty to make the ordinance worth more than the paper it’s printed on.

Why Eagon supports Yahara Station

February 16, 2010

Ald. Bryon Eagon, who has not made good on his New Year’s resolution to blog more, nevertheless provides a comprehensive statement of support for a downtown(ish) station for the proposed high-speed rail line coming to Madison.

Economic Development. The hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money is meant not only to spur investments in transportation infrastructure, but also aims at spurring economic growth.

Smart Transit. This site currently hosts something like 14 bus connections.

Location. Location. Location. This about this: You’re coming to Madison from Milwaukee or Chicago. Where is your destination? Probably not the Dane County Regional Airport.

The post is much longer and his explanations much more thorough, but I’ll let you read them chez Eagon so you can give him a kick in the ass and get him to post more.

Here’s another question I will be looking into in the coming weeks: who in Madison opposes a downtown station, whether Yahara or a similar location. Will there be some contrarian alder who thinks the airport would be more practical, or that funds used for a downtown station would be better used elsewhere?

TIF and the Edgewater

February 15, 2010

I’ve seen a whole gang on interesting points made on the Edgewater in recent days, so I’d like to share a few of them with you.

First: Brenda Konkel brings up an interesting motive for supporting Tax Incremental Financing for the renovation: schools. According to Brenda, the proposed changes to the TIF district (which you need to be a part of to receive TIF funding) include James Madison Park (which Ald. Bridget Maniaci has lobbied for), as well as the Lincoln Elementary School.

For those of you unfamiliar with the jist of TIF, the city pays a subsidy which it expects will be paid back through increased property tax receipts that result from the increased property value in the area. It is in the interest of public schools, who are the largest beneficiaries of property taxes, to support plans to increase the property tax base.

Although Brenda seems to use this point to illustrate a sinister scheme by the schools, I see it as a valid point in favor of TIF. The public sector can benefit as well as the private sector. And please no comments about Kelo v. New Haven!

Forward Our Motto, another Edgewater renovation opponent, points out that Madison has been inconsistent with its allocation of TIF money. For instance, Epic, the Madison-based software firm, moved to Verona years ago in an apparent attempt to find a more business-friendly climate. Lukas points out that Verona gave them $14 million of TIF money, which is $2 million less than we’re giving the Edgewater people. Lukas correctly points out that Epic represents a helluva lot more jobs than the Edgewater.

In response I would make two points. First, it doesn’t look like Epic ever applied for TIF funding from Madison. Did they want to stay here anyways? They rejected sites in Madison and Fitchburg before settling on V-town. Take a visit to their headquarters sometime and you’ll understand that the vision their CEO had likely wouldn’t have been possible within the city limits. If Epic approached Madison with some kind of offer and the city told them to go to hell, well, that was very short-sighted. But I doubt that’s what happened. Secondly I would make the somewhat predictable point that the Edgewater is taking place during a recession and we’re desperate for any kind of investment we can get.

Who makes money in Madison?

February 8, 2010

At least 20 members of city government. The following are the 20 highest paid city employees. Anything surprise you? Something sticks out to Brenda Konkel, and it’s not just that a bus driver made $160k last year.

John Nelson, Bus driver, $159,258

Dean Brasser, Comptroller, $151,551

Noble Wray, Police chief, $143,585

Michael May, City attorney, $143,434


Spotted at the Union: High speed rail politics

February 5, 2010

Valued Sconz commenter Paul Axel is eating a ranch-chicken wrap, drinking a diet raspberry snapple and telling Ald. Bryon Eagon why Madison needs a high speed rail station downtown. It appears he’s preaching to the choir, but he’s introduced some interesting points on how to frame the argument in favor of a downtown stop instead of one at the airport.

Eagon: “When you think about people coming from out of town, Chicago, Milwaukee –– the last place you want to go is Dane County Airport.”

Now the two candidates for a downtown station are Yahara Station, at First and East Washington, and Union Corners, which is also on East Washington.

The mayor supports both an airport stop and a downtown stop. However, Kathleen Falk favors the airport. According to Eagon, at first Mayor Dave was reluctant to support the downtown option for fear of starting a city-county squabble that would scare off the feds in control of the stimulus money. However, now that the contract is official the debate can begin.

Axel is very eager to get as much community collaboration on this project as possible. He wants to talk to Analiese Eicher, WISPIRG, even the College Republicans! Axel believes Republicans can be brought on board if supporters of the plan frame the rhetoric in terms of benefits to small towns and small businesses.

Another Target coming to area

February 4, 2010

Last night the Urban Design Committee approved the construction of a Target store at the Hildale mall. During their presentation the Target team had presented a variety of construction and design techniques to make the store more environmentally friendly.

Ald. Marsha Rummel, who sits on the committee and runs the Rainbow Books Co-operative, resisted my attempts to try and get an opposition quote. She told me she was not against the project although she tends to prefer small, local businesses over large ones. Any opponents in the comments section?

A landlord rating site soon?

February 4, 2010

A coalition of student leaders, including former Ald. Eli Judge, Ald. Bryon Eagon and blogger Danny Spirn are trying to make good on their mission to provide a site which allows student tenants to rate landlords in the area – much in the style of ratemyprofessor or similar rating websites. ASM approved the site as well as its $5,000 price tag last March, however, there still remain bureaucratic obstacles within the university system which have prevented the site from materializing.

In fact, a similar project undertaken by the Tenant Resource Center was allocated $50,000,  showed no visible signs of progress, and was finally effectively killed when SSFC voted to zero-fund its budget on Monday.

The group is scheduled to meet with UW administration officials on Feb. 12 to work out details and hopefully receive the necessary funding for the site.