Happy 9.02.10 day! Celebrate by reliving this classic moment in cheesy teen soap history.
The golden arches of eminent domain
It appears to be a debacle, all around. I talked about this issue briefly in my last post, but wanted to get a bit more in-depth now that I've had more time to read up on the controversy over the city of Madison's $312,000 settlement with the McDonald's on E. Washington.
The decision has, rightfully I'd say, caused a lot of raised eyebrows around town. It's also brought to light some interesting opinions on the usefulness of the pedestrian bridge itself.
From what I can tell, there are major problems both with how it was decided to locate the bridge at that spot and McDonald's pushing for such an enormous settlement.
Let's address the latter issue first: What piques my curiosity is the fact that McD's waited two years between the city's initial payment of $56,000 in 2006 before filing a complaint that claimed $408,900 in damages. The difference between the two numbers is, quite frankly, startling. All of it stems from the fast food chain's contention that construction of the bridge disrupted the flow of drive-thru traffic and obstructed the view from the road of its big ol' golden arches.
It's not surprising that the appraiser hired by the company came up with a higher number than did the appraiser hired by the city. What's surprising is the enormous disparity between the numbers. I would have liked to seen a neutral study of actual impact on business at the restaurant before the city threw in the towel -- especially since we're talking about our public tax dollars at work here (on a somewhat petty, personal level, I've been making a point not to give any of my money to McD's for over a decade now).
Also troubling is the idea that the city clearly felt pressure to capitulate because of the threat that McD's would have pursued the lawsuit to the point where lawyer's and court fees would have cost more than any settlement. That smacks of blackmail by a well-funded corporation to me.
Plus, let's be honest, how much does McD's really have to worry about "losing visibility" when many people have an easier time
On to the former issue, though: the location of the bridge and the city's use of eminent domain to build it. Several people who live in the neighborhood have now told me (and there's a whole TDP forum thread on the topic) that the pedestrian overpass rarely gets used. It was put there ostensibly to provide a safer way for people to cross busy E. Washington, but apparently the extra few feet of walking it takes to go up and over deters most folks, who still dash across four lanes and a median to get to where they're going.
Maybe an underpass, like the tunnel at E. Washington and Fair Oaks, would have been more well-suited? Whatever the case, there are concerns that the city unnecessarily pushed the bridge through when it could have been built elsewhere and avoided the problem with McD's entirely.
All of this ties in with our city's love-hate relationship with fast food. There are many who would be perfectly happy if that branch simply closed up shop and disappeared. But as much as I dislike McDonald's personally, as a legitimate business they have just as much right to be treated fairly in these matters as does anyone else. What I have a problem with are their tactics and the precedent they might set for other large corporations looking to fight city improvements.
I'm also curious -- if it had been a small, independent business filing the suit, would the city have settled for such a high payout?
Johnson outspends Feingold, proving he thinks money speaks louder than actions
Sadly, there are probably too many people who agree with him. A recent report shows that Ron Johnson, in his bid to oust incumbent Senator Russ Feingold, as now spent upwards of $4 million on TV ads. This is compared to Feingold's $1 million spent.
It's troubling because advertising saturation can make a big difference come election day. People often vote for the person whose name they've seen more often, more recently.
What kills me, though, is that so much of the money Johnson is spending is coming out of his own bloated pockets, whereas Feingold is one of the lowest income members of the Senate, reporting a net worth of just $441,737 on his 2009 personal finance statement. What money Feingold spends on campaigning comes primarily from actual donors. Johnson just dips into his own reserve to prop himself up.
I don't know about you, but I wish there were more Feingold's and fewer Johnson's in the senate. I'm sick of money equaling might. You shouldn't need to be a millionaire (or billionaire, in Johnson's case) to even have a shot at winning public office. It should be about your experience, your stance on issues, and your effectiveness. Feingold has a pretty stellar record when it comes to all three of those things.
Johnson? He'd just like to dupe you into believing that he's someone he's not.
He'll rail against federal subsidies to businesses on the one hand while taking $4 million in low-income government loans to prop up his company with the other. And don't get me started (again) on his nut job view of global climate change.
Madison continues to struggle with its serious homelessness problem. Downtown police have apparently been stepping up efforts to shoo people off benches and out of doorways around the capitol since their numbers have spiked this summer -- but where will they go? We need to do some serious soul searching about the issue, and decide whether we as a city want to tackle it with real compassion and real answers. It takes more services than punishments.
The City of Madison is conducting a survey regarding organic waste and composting in order to gain a better understanding of whether or not providing curbside composting service would be beneficial. I think it would be outstanding! Help out and take the survey here.