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« What You Need to Know About the State Dance | Main | Francis D. Hole, Agnes Hole And the Wisconsin State Soil »

December 16, 2009

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Nick

There are numerous unelected city boards and commissions that wield considerable decision making power in this city. Are you proposing that the City Council take on all of their workload? Or that they simply invite every aggrieved applicant to appeal by lowering the bar for a Council override?

You had plenty of opportunity to change this system. In fact, when you were mayor, there was no provision for a Landmarks council appeal at all. Why is this a problem now and not then? Does it have anything to do with the fact that you are now employed by developers instead of the citizenry?

John

I have to disagree. A major part of our concept of democracy is that the governed participate in the governing. When the Mayor and Council Members run for election, part of the consideration will be their power to appoint committee members. In fact, part of the reason Dave Cieslewicz won his first race was his stated intent to open up the ALRC to more stakeholders in the community and provide better venues for artists through that committee.

The Landmarks Commission made their decision based on City Ordinance which was created, as I understand, partially because of the the horrible decisions of the 1960's which led to buildings such as National Guardian.

The Council and the Mayor should have listened to Ald. Cnare who made the best case: allow all of the committee to do their work and due diligence. The council would then have all the information before them to make a decision. It strikes as a funny twist on democracy to attack volunteer citizens who have been appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council simply because they followed the law.

As the Goodman Pool effort should show (the community plan was ignored, the pool voted down and 12 years later the community plan was adopted), there is nothing about last night's vote that should stop an Edgewater remodel--it simply won't be the one proposed. If the developers want to actually work with the neighborhood and community, we shouldn't need to wait 12 more years. However, if the Mayor (like a certain predecessor) and developers decide to savor their sour grapes, then it may well take a new generation of leaders to find a workable solution.

james rowen

I'm an outsider to Madison now, but I think Paul raises a valid point about the relative powers of unelected bodies.

This is why I have been raising issues in the Milwaukee area on my blog about the powers of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. It is 100% taxpayer-supported.

And all 21 members are unelected to serve, yet have, like the Vo-Tech boards, taxing powers, and considerable policy impact, too. Without the Commission approval, no major highway or transit initiative can move forward in a seven-county area: its $6.5 billion freeway expansion plan calls for 127 miles of new lanes, but not a dime for transit, and went to the state with a strong recommendation for approvel.

Which is happening - - $2.7 billion is already spent or committed, and the rest of the state will get peanuts in comparison.

And don't get me started on the racial makeup (there is a pending federal civil rights complaint about it) of the commission or its important advisory committees, its highway-over-transit priorities, its failure to advocate for its own environmental corridor preservation recommendations or other internal and external flaws.

But 13 current commissioners, one who was replaced formally earlier this year but had cut his ties to the agency in June, 2008, and three staffers did assertively act a couple of weeks ago - - by spending $995 public dollars on a holiday dinner at a club. The menu: tenderloin, or cordon bleu, with truffle cake for dessert, bringing the total taxpayer dollars spent on such dinners in the last five years to $5,299.

I doubt a board of elected officials, or an agency with an elected leader, would have been so brazenly self-centered, tone deaf and just plain greedy - - with high unemployment and homelessness visible mere blocks away.

But I digress. Sorry.

Plenty of details on my blog at http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/

Ursula Matterhorn

ok we need jobs and construction projects//we need buzz downtown and everywhere//we need buildings ADA compliant//we need to move boldly into the future but at what cost and with what goals and tools? lately it has seemed any construction or development is good and our sense of place, history, and community be damned! I have a good friend from grade school actually who earned three degrees here and is a millionaire, he returns to visit and only stays at the Edgewater because of the connections to a different time and the breathtaking view (which will god willing always be there)we need a project, probably not this one, maybe one of those little boutique things that preserves and cherishes, old and yet living words. Bash Fred but he takes care of his properties, he is a good steward and neighbor for the most part. We should thank him really. ..Madison should have a sense of place and we have lost a lot of that, go to Boston or Philly, you could not just bust any construction move without some hoops to transcend and a nod to history? The construction jobs here are not long term and they don't solve our systemic problems//the process should have moved different from the outset and should have been more democratic. That's my take!! Don'ever underestimate that skyline, it's magic.

Alderman Steve

I speak as an elected official in Middleton who freely acknowledges that much of what is good in our city is a result of our close proximity to Madison. Indeed, the preface to our sterling bond rating report from Moody's says as much. Despite the "People's Republic of Madison" jokes that are an integral part of being an elected official in Middleton, I think Madison is a great place, and I fervently believe its best days are ahead of it. The Good Neighbor City is lucky to have such a great neighbor.

One reason Middleton gets so many terrific development opportunities is because of Madison's perceived unwillingness to recognize such an opportunity when one comes along (such as the Edgewater redevelopment.) The word "stodgy" comes to mind.

I'm a pretty lefty guy on most issues, but there is one quality that I like about a lot of developers that I find lacking in many community activists: they want to get to "yes", and will negotiate in good faith and compromise to get there. All too often, community activists prefer a resounding "No" to a good compromise, as ceding any ground might sully their laudable principles. Compromise, you see, sometimes involves seeing things from the other side's perspective...

Personally, I think the whole region would benefit if Madison could get off the dime and embrace the Edgewater redevelopment and other projects like it. Most of the disputes about scale can be resolved if folks work in good faith to find a workable compromise. I hope the project is not dead.

Michael Basford

With all due respect, The first three of Nick's four questions demand answers. You were Mayor for fourteen years. Mayor Dave, six and a half. These issues were never issues during any of that two decades+ until two weeks ago.

It looks like Michael Schumacher has guaranteed that this will go back to the Common Council and Hammes will probably prevail (after which, you and Mayor Dave will undoubtedly proclaim "The system works!"). So what happens if it fails at UDC or Plan Commission? Unless I'm mistaken, a failed Plan Commission vote will also require a 2/3 vote to override. Will those processes suddenly become "system failures" as well?

What about if it fails to get a zoning variance? You can't complain about a failed city process. ZBA's are state-mandated and have been around a hell of a lot longer than the Landmarks Commission and can only be appealed in court. Will you and Dave then argue that there is now a "system failure" at the state?

If Hammes fails at these levels, will you and Dave continue your scorched-earth rhetoric towards those of us who faithfully serve our community? And if so, what does it say of the leadership of two men who allowed these "system failures" to fester for decades?

Gene Rankin

The Plan Commission's final decisions also require a council supermajority to overturn. It has been that way since Paul was Mayor, too. Were you just as troubled, back then?

I'd be astonished if the Council chose to reconsider and to go through Wednesday night all over again. If they do, they are truly gluttons for punishment.

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