Posts Tagged ‘Brenda Konkel’

Dane County coming back?

March 8, 2010

The State Journal ran an article suggesting that Dane County’s economy is rebounding. They list a bunch of facts, the following of which was the most impressive:

• Unemployment hit a peak of 6.3 percent in June; by December it was down to 5.4 percent.

But 2009 as a whole was particularly tough.

Social service programs, including local food pantries, say there’s been a big jump in the number of people who need help.

“Every day that we’re open, we have new people that are just laid off,” said Jenny Czerkas, director of The River Food Pantry, 2201 Darwin Road.

The pantry had 21,680 household visits in 2009, up from 13,380 the year before. Each family can get food once a week. “A two-hour wait (to get inside) is not uncommon,” Czerkas said.

I certainly don’t think cutting unemployment benefits is the answer to drive these people away from food pantries, as some suggest. When unemployment spikes, it’s not a spike in laziness, it’s a spike in desperation.
Brenda Konkel weighs in, optimistic but skeptical.

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.

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


Bad news from the mayor’s office?

January 25, 2010

As many of you know, the Edgewater project has prompted alders in support of the plan to propose amendments to existing zoning regulations. I’m not going to go into the details, but the idea is that changes to existing law are necessary for the Edgewater renovation to go forward.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, who voted to upheld the project’s rejection by the Landmarks Committee, asked that a proposed amendment be referred to the Zoning Board of Appeals. However, the city attorney responded that the Zoning Board of Appeals does not have the authority to advise the Council on proposed changes to the city zoning code because it is a judicial body, not a policy panel.

But this apparently does not make sense to Brenda Konkel, who is suspicious that the city did not release this “bad news” until the end of last week.

Brenda has a much stronger point on the next item in her arsenal of conspiracy theories (I’m just kidding Brenda). The city has determined that Zoning Code Rewrite Advisory Committee does not have the authority to advise on a proposal to rewrite the zoning code…I can’t make this stuff up. The legal justification given in the memo from the city makes sense to many-a-lawyer, I’m sure, but it also displays a nauseatingly cumbersome policy process in City Hall, where much of the important stuff is done on an informal basis.

What do Madison alders do?

January 13, 2010

Brenda Konkel had an interesting post on what Ald. Marsha Rummel has done since she was elected to the Council in 2007. Konkel’s discussion of the issues Rummel has addressed highlights the nitty gritty of city politics, from tree protection to street repairs.

A good read for anybody looking to learn more about city hall.

Is city government accessible?

December 28, 2009

There’s been some talk recently about inaccessibility in local government. The State Journal ran an editorial (which I can’t find now!) criticizing the city council for having meetings so late in the night, when most people in their right mind aren’t going to attend or even watch on TV. The vote on the Edgewater finally took place a little after 5 a.m. Minutes before Ald. Judy Cnare had a yoga class (one of these days I’m going to try the early bird thing).

Meanwhile, Brenda Konkel, comprehensive as ever, grades all the alders on their use of the internets. Although she takes alders to task, she makes clear that they’re not the only ones to blame:

They get no support whatsoever. It’s pretty sad for a city our size. The primary council office staff are too busy gossiping and playing solitaire to be bothered with being helpful to the alders.


She gives Bryon Eagon, Steve King, Mark Clear and Chris Schmidt F’s for their use of the city webpage. The explanation for Clear’s F is a bit sketchy, and hints at an alternative motive Brenda might have had in failing him.

Granted, some of those members, including Eagon, could easily say that there communication with constituents is better served by a blog, which is easier to manage and a little bit sexier (have you seen Bryon’s blog!) than the city website. On this issue though, the Council still fails. So few of the alders update their blogs enough to maintain any traffic or dialogue, and as a result, they probably don’t come up in search results easily and people stop referring to them. The most bizarre example I found was Larry Palm, who for some reason has a private blog that readers must be invited to. Why?

So what we seem to have is a lot of alders who aren’t using traditional or new methods of outreach, and many constituents who are out of touch with the happenings of city government.

Nevertheless, many of these naughty bloggers found their way on to Brenda’s blogroll, while certain scrappy, citizen reporters were (ahem) mysteriously bumped off it months ago. Let it be known: the Sconz is not vengeful nor impatient. Just a little puzzled.

Brenda Konkel vs. Mayor Dave

December 10, 2009

From Brenda Konkel’s Facebook:

Just decided the Mayor is nuts. If he wants the Landmarks Comm. to be advisory, does that mean CC approves all Cert. of Appropriateness?

This is the same debate that defined the bus fare increase last Spring. Mayor Dave wanted to raise the fare by 50 cents to fund Madison Metro deficit, but the Transit and Parking Commission only approved a 25 cent increase. He then got approval from the City Attorney to ask the Council to overturn the Transit Commission.

Konkel not down with Maniaci development plan

October 19, 2009

The other day I linked to an article by Joe Tarr, which outlines Ald. Bridget Maniaci’s plans to turn the James Madison neighborhood into a Tax Incremental Financing district. I discussed how Maniaci’s proposal is consistent with the trend of requesting TIF for any development that will bolster the economy, even though TIF was originally designed to prop up “blighted” areas.

Today Maniaci’s predecessor and vanquished opponent, Brenda Konkel, expressed outrage at the idea, writing that TIF districts “encourage tear downs and large developments.”

Most ominous part for Maniaci: “I was leaning towards not running again, but shit like this just makes me mad.”

The political question, of course, is how much of an advantage incumbency is for municipal elections? If Konkel wants to go back to the Council, which she pretty clearly does, what would she need to do to win? I think the answer is to find one issue. Find one issue that gets people to vote against the incumbent. However, it would not be in her advantage to run during a mayoral election year. More people would be interested, and therefore, more moderates and fans of the mayor would be voting.

David Blaska: Entertainment from another era

August 24, 2009

Because Madison is a left-leaning town, you’d think most of the political comedy would come from the left. And there is plenty. But don’t count the right out until you’ve read Blaska’s Blog, a blog at the Daily Page authored by former Tommy Thompson press secretary David Blaska. Of course, what is most interesting about Blaska is that the entertainment he provides us today is actually the tragedy of another era.

I bring Blaska up because he fits so perfectly into the narrative of a book I’ve been reading, Nixonland, a book that examines the deep social divisions that came out of the 60’s over the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a book that challenges your faith in the American political system. It chronicles the birth of the modern Republican Party, an organization whose political success is based on tapping into deep-seated American resentments, especially on the issue of race. From Ronald Reagan, the charismatic California governor who won election campaigning against open-housing laws and “filthy speech” (free speech) advocates, to Richard Nixon, the president who confided in private that the Vietnam War could not be won but continued it because it was so crucial to his “silent majority” coalition.

To see remnants of that era all you have to do is read Blaska’s blog post on Section 8 housing. It is repugnant – but take comfort – it is meaningless. To support his position that housing vouchers for the poor threaten the general public’s safety, he points to a handful of hateful comments left in an article about Section 8 housing. For instance:

You think I am going to rent to Section 8? Hell no I’m not. When the Gov’t starts paying my taxes, fixes my damage caused by these tenants, and gives me good meds for all the headaches, that’s when I will rent to these people.

Is that a plea for government health care? Mind you, “these people,” simply refers to poor people. You of course wouldn’t learn that from reading Blaska. He would have you think that Section 8 is a program that mandates landlords become temporary wardens for convicted criminals. It’s subsidized housing…for poor people.

Blaska, for all his buffoonery, is nothing more than a dinosaur in an age of homo sapiens, or at least neanderthals. The election of a black president, the gradual repeal of the destructive crime policies his boy Tommy Thompson burdened this state with – it all goes to prove that our generation has jumped beyond the lines some of our Republican forebear’s drew for us. Blaska and his kind will live on. They grumble at Thanksgiving dinner about the new family down the street and they high five their TVs when Glenn Beck unleashes his latest conspiracy theory. But most of all they age. They fade away. They become irrelevant.

Sure, they might bring down health care in the process. But hey, doesn’t everyone deserve one last hurrah?