The state of Mayor Dave
I've been rather caught up in being a band coach for the Girls Rock Camp happening this week in Madison (helping adolescents to form a band and write a song is no small feat), so I almost missed the fact that Mayor Dave gave his State of the City speech. Speaking to a meeting of the Downtown Madison Rotary, he did the usual boasting of Madison's strong suits and proposals to fix its weak points.
Because he posts like a maniac (or as someone younger and possessing far more energy than me), my blogging amigo The Sconz has already shared his thoughts on the speech. But I'm going to dig into the same meal because I have different taste buds, after all, and the mayor brought up certain subjects that are near and dear to my heart.
The spiel started strong as Madison's relatively low unemployment rate, decreased crime rate, addition of bus service, Halloween, were all touted. And he's right; we do enjoy a comparatively better environment than the current national average. It's something to be proud of, but we also can't afford to rest on laurels. This all ties in to my last post because I'm clever like that - in which I pushed for the Democratic Party to try harder, to hold itself to a higher standard. Just because I like you a whole lot better than the alternative doesn't mean I don't want you to push yourself to do more.
The same goes for Mayor Dave and the city of Madison.
Because the speech went on to boast of a 4% increase in Metro service, the grand triumph of the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment, and the encouragement of "major infill development in the Capitol East Corridor," among other things. And I felt my uppity blogger rearing her head.
First of all, that added bus service, while in itself a good thing, only followed after a controversial and significant fare increase. And there are still serious flaws with Metro that result in routes and schedules that don't even come close to adequately covering those working people who, for instance, work later shifts in farther flung parts of town. That added cost certainly can't help, either. I'm also still not convinced there wasn't a way to properly fund Metro without hiking rates.
Secondly, the Edgewater Hotel Saga may have ended in a manner Cieslewicz found to be satisfactory but there are still large swaths of the populace who feel seriously stung by the process that led up to the final decision. And with good reason, too! The mayor may lament the bumpy road but he was hardly out there doing his best to fill potholes along the way (well, metaphorical ones, anyway).
According to his speech:
We worked though an approval process that was too long and too difficult, but we got to yes in the end. Bob Dunn deserves credit for his fortitude, but let's not forget that Fred Mohs has been investing in and maintaining his properties on Mansion Hill for decades. The process was arduous, but I respect everyone who spoke up because they all were voicing their ideas about what was best for our city.
Putting aside the absurdity of singling out Dunn and Mohs as shining examples of people with the best interests of the city always in mind (as opposed to their personal investments), let's focus on his criticism of the approval process. Cieslewicz goes on to suggest that "we have to fix the process that made it so hard and took so long to get the necessary approvals for the Edgewater." What I can only assume he really means, of course, is finding some way to get around / rid of the Landmarks Commission, which put up the most fight in opposition.
And that hardly seems sporting. After all, the mayor himself even claims that "Our goal should not be to lower our standards for development. I do not want just anything to go up just anywhere." I agree, but that means everyone needs to be a team player including Cieslewicz, who wasn't terribly forthcoming in the early days of the Saga in terms of, among other things, how often he was meeting privately with the people behind the project. Despite serious flaws and discrepancies in the original proposal, Cieslewicz and other ardent supporters all acted as though it was a done deal from the outset.
Though plenty of folks are still pissed that the thing is happening at all-and with laws rewritten or bent for it, and public funds to back it-we can at least be thankful that the longer process resulted in a slightly more reasonable design plan.
The speech then goes from praising this multi-million dollar city investment to trumpeting the city's "ambitious efforts to encourage major infill development in the Capitol East Corridor." Now see, that's an actual TIF district and an area in serious need of investment. If the mayor and other allies hadn't been so entirely focused on the Edgewater--a project requiring several exceptions to TIF rules and in an already fairly prosperous part of town--maybe they'd be doing less encouraging right now and more actual development.
It's one thing to call for a better business climate (which I support! Why wouldn't you?), and quite another to do so while half-assing its implementation in more needy parts of the city.
I think the overall discomfort I felt upon reading the speech, though, came from the distinct sense I got of isthmus-centrism. Don't get me wrong; I love the isthmus. I live on it! There are many lovely things about this strip of land and plenty of aspects that still need work. But Madison is more than an isthmus now and has been for many years. So while I'm giddy as a school girl over the prospect of the train station at Monona Terrace and a new Central Library, I also recognize that I'm not really hearing anything about big, important projects and sensible infill on, say, the south side.
And I'm happy as hell about the overall decrease in the crime rate, but I'd hate for us to lose site of those parts of town where the statistics are a little different.
Or fail to provide affordable and effective public transit options to people who live a little further out.
Budget, budget, who's got the budget?
I recently criticized gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett for not being a bit more daring and specific in his lengthy budget proposal-and I stick by that-but I would be remiss if I failed to point out the gaping hole of ideas left by his two major opponents in the race.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former congressman Mark Neumann have been doing some serious sparring lately as the latter struggles to maintain relevancy in the face of not being the officially endorsed Republican candidate.
The mud-slinging alone would be enough to turn most people off from voting for either man, but they've both got plenty of bad ideas and poor records to seal that deal as well.
Walker and Neumann may talk ill of one another right now, but there is one thing they agree on: tax cuts for the wealthiest residents are how they'd approach the state's current $2 billion budgetary shortfall. Never mind the fact that neither has explained how they'd actually pay for these cuts.
(Even more ridiculous, the Republican Governor's Association recently released an ad attacking Barrett's record on job creation even though the RGA had specifically previously praised that record in an effort to smear a different candidate in Colorado.)
Meanwhile, Walker's own record of extreme financial and moral failings only continues to grow. A scandal surrounding Milwaukee County's Mental Health Complex and its failure to keep patients "safe from sexual predators" points ever more toward gross negligence on the part of Walker's office in overseeing how the place is funded, staffed, and run. And fees for a private attorney hired by the county to defend itself against possible lawsuits over the issue have cost taxpayers almost $204,000.
The man's just not so good with numbers. In fact, his proposed county budgets have increased 35% since 2003 something Walker tries to cover up through clever weaseling:
...year after year he proposes fantasyland budgets that don't hold up. Either the county board has to add funding (and taxes) during the budget process, or they have to backfill the budget later in the year. Then, the following year, Walker uses this revised budget-which includes the increased spending-for his next budget.
That way, Walker can claim that he's not raising taxes, wink wink.
And, oh ho! What's this? A statement on Walker's own website claims that "Scott had the foresight to take advantage of one-time, low interest federal government Build America Bonds by proposing three years of building in one." That would be the federal stimulus money Walker had initially made a big show of rejecting.
Meanwhile, in Ron Johnson's strange little world...
This is just priceless:
Johnson called the United Nations a joke, mocked the notion of human-made global warming, endorsed dramatically lower taxes and said abolition of the IRS would be wonderful...
Clearly this man has an excellent sense of humor. Jokes! Mocking! Wonderful! And then there was this gem:
[Johnson] supported the Patriot Act but said potential civil-liberties concerns warranted reviewing it every couple years.
"I certainly share the concerns on civil liberties now that you have Barack Obama in power versus George Bush. I wasn't overly concerned with George Bush in power," he said.
Oh Lord yes, G.W. Bush sure didn't abuse or even bad-touch anyone's civil liberties. Massive illegal wiretapping of American citizens, lying to justify war, torturing prisoners-but never mind that, worry about Obama!
Does anyone else feel like someone just found Ron, pockets full o' cash, and attached a GOP Talking Points hose to the back of his head and set him loose at the Republican convention the other week?
P.S. Using Photoshop at two in the morning? GENIUS.