Posts Tagged ‘Madison’

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.

Are craft brews endangered in Madison?

January 27, 2010

Can you think of a mid-sized city less interested in assaulting craft breweries than Madison, Wisconsin? Maybe Portland, Oregon? Nevertheless, that is the suggestion of a recent contributor to the Daily Page forum, who is concerned that an ordinance restricting the sale of beer or malt liquor in four packs or 750 ml bottles will chase craft brews out of Madtown.

The current language of this legislation claims to exempt microbrews, and it is being touted as an attempt to regulate cheap 40s. However, microbreweries are defined as producing less than 150,000 barrels a year. Unfortunately, the following craft beverages will fall under the ban:

22 oz bombers
New Belgium La Folie wood aged.
(Actually any New Belgium brew that comes only in a bomber.)

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Wet Hop Harvest Ale
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Harvest Ale

Sam Adams Chocolate Bock
Sam Adams Utopias (not that it would be sold here – but if the ordinance passes, then it certainly wouldn’t)

Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams are not breweries that need protection, but Madison consumers deserve some chocolate bock if their beer-bellies so desire it.

Damn that alder busy!

January 27, 2010

It’s much more convenient to know alders who run leftist bookstores or who’ve become fixtures at Pizza di Roma. They have no choice but to put up with your interrogation.

With alders whose day jobs (or locations) are less visible from the curb, the task can be much tougher. Here is an email I received in response to a request to meet with Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway:

I don’t hold office hours, but could schedule a time to meet if you like. Right now, I’m booked through the end of February, but could start looking at the week of March 8th.

Wow. She’s messing with the attention span of a 21 year old blogger. As far as I’m concerned, the world could be engulfed by the sun by March 8th.

UW to buy spot on Univ. Square

January 25, 2010

It looks like the multi-layered sports-bar monstrosity, whose absence breaks Ald. Bryon Eagon’s heart everyday, did not die in vain. The university has announced plans to purchase the land the restaurant would have been on. The McBurney Disabilities Resource Center and the Office of Admissions will set up shop there.

In my phone conversation with Eagon, the alder was glad that the land is going to be used for something, but expressed sadness at the multi-age entertainment facility that could have been. As I pointed out to him, Segredo’s, the “boutique bowling bar” which recently replaced Mad Ave, has very much the same schtick, and would likely have never existed had the Univ. Square bar worked out.

Plan Committee approves Mendota Ct apartments

January 25, 2010

The Plan Commission voted 5-2 to send a proposed high-rise apartment complex to the full Council for approval tonight. The only alder on the committee, Lauren Cnare, voted in favor.

The president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which is located on Mendota Ct, came to the hearing to lobby against the eight story apartment building. Gene Devitts, president of the Mansion Hill neighborhood group within Capitol Neighborhoods Inc., had been gathering signatures of opposition in the area during the previous days.

UPDATE: Previously there was some awkward wording that made it look like Scott Resnick, president of State-Langdon Neighborhood Association, was the president of Beta. I apologize.

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.

Neighborhood group mounts opposition to Mendota Ct development

January 24, 2010

Gene Devitts, head of the Mansion Hill district in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc., is circulating a petition to stop the construction of a high rise at Mendota Ct.

According to Scott Resnick, president of the State-Langdon Association (which seceded from CNI last year), Devitts claims to have over 100 signatures. Resnick says both he and Ald. Bryon Eagon, another prominent student leader who lives on Mendota Ct, received visits from Devitts, who is making the case that students in the area are against the development.

The new apartment complex, which would be eight stories and house 28 units, is being constructed by Patrick Properties. CHT Properties, another real estate firm which owns the Roundhouse apartment complex across the street from the proposed development, has also voiced opposition to the project.

The Plan Commission will be meeting Monday, January 25th (today!) at 6:30 to discuss the project. Up until now there has been little public opposition to the plan.

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?