In yesterday's post Growing Poverty in Madison Part I, I noted that to further soclal justice a municipality needs revenues. Unfortunately, too many leaders, in and out of government, either fail to acknowledge that money, that is tax dollars, needs to be raised, or they address the problem by talking a good game but failing to fund the required investment in human capacity.
Yesterday, while I was posting about poverty, long time buddy at The Capital TImes, Dave Zweifel, knocked my socks off praising Tim Cooley. Questioning city’s process is a good thing
Frankly, although I disagree with some of his views, I find Tim Cooley to be a breath of fresh air. He was appointed economic development director by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz last January in an effort to assist businesses and developers to navigate the sometimes mysterious paths through city hall and, hopefully, attract new companies to locate here.
One public official who gets it is Tim Cooley. Cooley flatly states that to fund Madison's community programs a tax base is required - that means competitively attracting investment into Madison, not its suburbs.
Cooley was featured in a Wisconsin State Journal article last week, City's economic development director rattles cages in push for change
Since taking the $107,673 a year job, Cooley's pushed to make Madison more competitive, questioned the city's rigorous approval process and moved to loosen rules on public aid for businesses. He's mused about installing a city manager-style of government and downsizing the council, likened the use of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) to playing poker, and offered radically different ideas for the redevelopment of the Edgewater hotel and neighboring property.
I may disagree with Cooley on the need for a city manager, but he is certainly in step with my feelings regarding the need to economically expand Madison. That is why I found it curious that some said,
"But he doesn't understand Madison's culture. He's not making an effort to balance what makes Madison special with economic development.”
What part of Madison culture does he not understand? That we are soft-spoken? That we resist new ideas?
Perhaps growing up on Madison's east side and graduating from East High School is the problem. That certainly makes him the exception rather than the rule in this town, where outsiders have held sway over government for forty years. Mea culpa.
Cooley is one of the few people who not only knows the balance but is prepared to make it work.
If this city wants to combat poverty it had better understand what Cooley is saying about the need to make Madison competitive with the rest of Dane County. Epic Systems Corporation is in Verona because of attitude as much as TIF policy. It should sicken every Madisonian to see that Madison-born company building a billion dollar campus fifteen miles from where it was founded and spent its first twenty years.
Imagine what those property tax revenues would do to combat poverty.