Posts Tagged ‘Edgewater’

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.

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.

Is it possible the Edgewater will fail?

January 19, 2010

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?

Remove the supermajority rule on Council?

January 8, 2010

Most ordinances require a simple majority to pass the Council. However, as we saw with the vote on the Edgewater renovation project, overturning the finding of some committees requires a super-majority of 14 out of 20 (more than 2/3). Joe Tarr writes on Ald. Paul Skidmore’s hopes to change that rule, so that the finding of all city commissions will be advisory, and all decisions will ultimately be up to the Council (on a simple majority basis).

“We should treat this the same way we treat all committees and boards. They’re advisory to us. And we make the decision,” says Skidmore. “I don’t think the Landmarks Commission should have veto power over the council.”

City Attorney Michael May says a number of actions require a two-thirds majority vote on the council, including one regarding decisions by the Plan Commission concerning conditional-use permits. And state law requires that a supermajority is needed to overturn some zoning decisions.

Not everybody thinks undercutting the power of city commissions is a smart move.

“Making it easy for council to willy-nilly overrule things devalues the work of the commissions and makes it more likely we’ll be less efficient,” says Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Rhodes-Conway’s opinion is shared by Mike Verveer, who told me before the first vote that he believes the authority of the experts on the Landmarks Committee is there for a good reason. It will be interesting to see what the mayor says about this idea.

Edgewater: What to expect

January 6, 2010

Last night the Common Council unanimously agreed to postpone a second vote on the Edgewater renovation project. To clarify, after the Council upheld the decision of the City Landmark’s Commission to deny the project a “certificate of appropriateness,” some alders who had been absent during the vote pushed for a second consideration of the project, and scheduled it to take place last night.

According to Ald. Bryon Eagon, the postponement was decided upon in order to give the Urban Design Committee and the Plan Committee more time to hammer out details and propose changes to the developers. Eagon emphasized that while he believed the 12 alders who voted to overturn the Landmarks Commission’s rejection of the plan would remain united in favor of the $100 million renovation, there is hope that more negotiations can win the developers even more support in the Council.

Edgewater live blog!

January 5, 2010

The Daily Page’s live blog can be accessed here. It won’t open until a little before the Council proceedings start at around 6:30.

It will be interesting to see how this time differs from the first go-around. How many people will speak this time? How many of the 57 people who registered to speak at the last meeting will do so again?

Perhaps most interestingly, will any votes be changed? The easiest prediction to make is that the project will be approved by the Council, with 14 or 15 votes (does Thuy support?).

Any predictions? Comments? Any inside info?

Why didn’t they refer it?

December 16, 2009

At Dusty Weis’ Edgewater Drinking Game last night, there were whispers that the Edgewater vote would ultimately be referred to the next meeting. With 54 speakers scheduled, the idea that the Council would nod off at around 2 a.m. sounded plausible. But what interests me is why supporters of the plan didn’t push harder to refer it so that Alds. Michael Schumacher and Judy Compton, who both supported the project, could be present to vote.

The Edgewater needed 14 votes and it got 12. It lost solely based on their absence. I can’t make this stuff up.

Does anybody know why Compton was absent? When I asked Schumacher several weeks ago he tersely replied that he had planned to be out of town. Fair enough – on just about any other day. But a $100 million project of the decade? How is this not being discussed? How did Mayor Dave let this stand? If anything, the absences of Compton and Schumacher seem to indicate that the mayor does not have the meticulous control over Council members that some allege he does.

UPDATE: Schumacher says he plans to ask the Council to reconsider its vote. I don’t understand how that would work, and the State Journal article doesn’t seem to know either.


December 8, 2009

Got that from Channel 3000’s Twitter.

Edgewater fun

December 8, 2009

I can’t make an official projection on the outcome of the Edgewater renovation vote tonight, but I can project that it will bring much folly no matter what the outcome.

Not only will the Badger Herald be hosting a live blogging of the Council’s debate on the Edgewater tonight, but Dusty Weis has set up an Edgewater drinking game at Amy’s Cafe. I definitely plan to stop by there, and I would encourage any loyal members of the Sconz nation to come out and join the fun. Get your studying done before hand. Whatever gimmick Dusty thinks up for Thuy’s speeches alone will have the tequila flowing.