Posts Tagged ‘Mike Verveer’

Verveer: Edgewater should re-apply

December 2, 2009

In an interview with me, Ald. Mike Verveer said he could not make a prediction on the prospects of the Edgewater renovation that was rejected by the Council Landmarks Commission on Monday. However, Verveer noted that there was a circle of Council members, including Council President Tim Brueur, President pro tempore Mark Clear, and Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who have been working with the mayor and potential Edgewater developer Bob Dunn to get the project approved.

According to Verveer, Brueur and Clear – neither of whom have districts near the Edgewater – have become the mayor’s point men on getting the project approved. Maniaci, whose district does cover parts of the concerned neighborhood, has cited support from her constituents as the reason for her voting to approve the renovation. As of this time, Maniaci has not responded to an email in which I asked her if she believed the project would be moving forward.

Verveer is reluctant to override the Landmarks Commission’s rejection of the renovation plan. “Never in 30 years has a certificate from the Landmarks Commission been overturned. I have a hard time believing the Council, in all its wisdom, should overturn the decision made by the experts on Landmarks,” he told me. In addition, he cited historical preservation as a priority. However, he emphasized his hope that the project would live on, and that it would change its plan to fit the expectations of the commission.

Dunn has until noon tomorrow to decide whether he wants to try and push the project through the Council. Bruer says he believes the project is dead.

Meanwhile, the mayor is strongly urging the Council to resurrect the renovation, emphasizing the public amenities (the improved lake view), the job opportunities and the tax revenue. On his blog he criticized the commission’s interpretation of the zoning restrictions on height.

The Pub to be sold

October 19, 2009

According to Ald. Mike Verveer, who sits on the Alcohol License Review Committee, The Pub is in the process of being sold. The transfer of its liquor license from the family that has owned the establishment for decades, the Schweglers, to an unnamed new owner, is scheduled to come before the ALRC in November.

Hence, the renovations and the low-price promotions the current owners oversaw in August were all part of a plan to demonstrate the bar’s continued potential to possible buyers.

Madison needs new benches

October 5, 2009

Property assessors notice things that I don’t. I’m not surprised. However, in an interview with Ald. Mike Verveer, I was surprised to learn that apparently every property owner in the area, including businesses and residents, have a higher level of aesthetic appreciation than me.

Take benches, for instance. According to Verveer, replacing some of the old benches on the Capitol Square is a development priority worthy of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). He explained that some of the current benches, which have recently been adorned with controversial “dividers,” harken back to the 1970’s and 80’s, when Madison underwent a series of city planning developments centered on the exclusion of vehicular traffic from State St and the creation of Library Mall, both of which were given “brick designs.” The problem, according to Verveer, is that the architect was an out-of-stater who failed to appreciate the threat posed by the Wisconsin winter – and much of the brick, including the brick bus shelters, has since been removed. Moreover, the wood seating on the benches is old and prone to splinters. In sum, they’re ugly and unpleasant to sit on.

However, benches are only a smidgen of Verveer’s development ambitions for the area. He wants to redo the sidewalks, which he currently finds embarrassingly uncoordinated, plant more trees and redo much of the grass on the sidewalks, as well as renovations to the Children’s Museum. He projects his plan will cost a maximum of $1.8 million, and he is cautiously optimistic about its chances of approval next week.

Verveer plans to use TIF funding for the whole project. Anybody who has paid attention to development politics in Madison has noticed that the use of TIF has expanded far beyond its original intent, which was to prop up “blighted” areas through investments that would raise property values and therefore pay for themselves by increasing property tax revenue. In Madison there are currently three TIF districts that roughly coincide with the following areas: State St, South side of the Square and the North side of the Square. The Square itself does not fall into any of the districts, however, because of a state law passed several years ago, TIF can be used to finance projects within a half mile radius of an approved district. Hence, each part of the square qualifies.

Using TIF allows the city to spend without incurring general obligation debt, as most projects in the capital budget require. As stated before, community members have voiced confidence in the effect Capitol renovations could have on property values.

As mentioned in a recent Isthmus article on the subject, Verveer’s new benches would have no dividers, which makes them likely to win the support of advocates for the homeless, such as Ald. Marsha Rummel, who has been a vocal critic of development efforts that attempt to discourage transient populations from certain areas, such as the renovation of Peace Park, which is already a popular hang out for panhandlers. The Peace Park plan would include the installation of an ATM, which, because of a city ordinance, would make panhandling within a certain distance illegal.

Another voting member on ALRC?

September 1, 2009

The Alcohol License Review Committee – easily the most politically important committee in the Council. No, it has nothing to do with approving the $100 million renovation of the Edgewater Hotel or the development of “car light” neighborhoods or city trolley systems, but alcohol is the only issue to a fair number of voters, especially if city elections don’t take place during spring break.

Today the ALRC is considering adding another voting member, which would bring the total number of votes on the committee to eight. Currently there are two alders, Michael Schumacher and Mike Verveer, as well as five “residents,” some of whom have technical expertise on the issue, and some of whom are selected by the mayor because…well, he thought they would be chill additions.

In another discussion with Schumacher about alcohol policy, my favorite German on the Council expressed tentative opposition to the proposed plan, mainly because he believes eight voting members would be harder to manage than seven, considering the likelihood of tie votes. Nevertheless, he did indicate support for an alternative plan, which would replace one of the resident members with an alder but keep the overall number at seven. His point is that although many like the idea of resident members, and see their participation as evidence of a keen sense of civic activity in the city, they are still appointed by the mayor, meaning they are less democratic than alders, who are elected officials and are held accountable by their constituents.

But here’s another idea that may be thrown around – how about making Mark Woulf, the non-voting student rep on the committee, a voting member? It’s an idea Bryon Eagon has thrown around. Add Woulf and an alder and bring the number up to 9? That way students get a vote on their favorite issue (I guess some care about book theft) and the committee has an odd number of reps to prevent ties.

Is that possible? No, at least not according to Schumacher, who says he fought a tough political battle just to get a non-voting student rep on ALRC in the first place. Despite that success, the student rep is still only a temporary position that must be re-approved in three years.

What is most surprising about the alcohol politics in this city is the opposition to student participation from, of all places, the bars! It’s the alcohol industry that doesn’t appreciate the presence of a policy maker who represents but mere customers (students). Does that make sense? Why would bars shun a reliably pro-bar vote on the license committee? Schumacher doesn’t quite understand. Would they rather have an anti-alcohol soccer mom?