Show of hands: Who in the city of Madison does not feel alienated by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz?
The arts community? No, they're still miffed that Cieslewicz bypassed their choice to lead Overture, Michael Goldberg, in favor of Tom Carto.
Communities of color? Nope, they're still upset that Cieslewicz merged the Affirmative Action Department and the Equal Opportunities Commission into a new Department of Civil Rights.
City staffers? Still grumbling about the mayor's former aide, Jeanne Hoffman, being hired as the city's new (high-paid) facilities manager, despite her lack of facility-management experience.
Now you can add the business community to the list. Cieslewicz's decision to hire Bill Clingan, a former Madison school board member, as the city's new economic development director, has outraged some business boosters.
"I think the mayor has hurt himself pretty severely," says Mark Bugher, who resigned last week as chair of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) because of the hiring. "He's not being as sensitive to our efforts as he should be."
Members of the business community say they spent countless volunteer hours crafting a job description for the new economic development director, reviewing applications and interviewing candidates, only to have Cieslewicz spurn their top choice - Matthew Wagner of the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation in Racine - and hire Clingan instead. The critics doubt whether Clingan, who works as a division administrator for the state Department of Workforce Development, has the experience to recruit new companies to Madison and spur job creation.
The fracas is only the latest in a series of missteps that have plagued Cieslewicz since he won re-election in April. Since then, he's been forced to drop his streetcar proposal because of overwhelming public opposition. He's had to seek the resignation of Water Utility general manager David Denig-Chakroff, after publicly defending him for more than a year. He was clearly blindsided by a west-side neighborhood meeting on crime that drew a purported 700 residents. And now he's lost Bugher, one of his most prominent supporters and his best ally in the business community.
Despite all of this, Cieslewicz refuses to concede he's hit a rough patch. He spins his decisions to drop streetcars, get rid of Denig-Chakroff and hire 30 more police officers as examples of how adept he is at being mayor.
"I actually think we're doing pretty well," he says. "People see that sequence of events and are saying, 'He's listening.'"
But it's clear that the man who was once dubbed "Mr. Teflon" - because nothing bad ever seemed to stick to him - is now taking a few blows. And the marks are starting to show.
After four years in office, Cieslewicz should no longer be having these kinds of problems. But he is, for one simple reason: His infuriating failure to communicate.
Oh sure, Mayor Dave can charm a room full of Rotarians with some dry wit or a self-deprecating joke. But the day-to-day stuff - keeping in touch with, say, his allies on certain commissions - seems to elude him.
Bugher says he did not quit the EDC solely because of Clingan's hire. He did so in part because he felt that Cieslewicz had ignored him one too many times. When the mayor appointed Vicky Selkowe to the EDC last spring, for example, he called Bugher after the fact to tell him about it. While Bugher praises Selkowe, he says she's a "lightning rod" for some in the business community who remember her as the force behind the failed proposal to mandate paid sick leave.
Cieslewicz didn't even call at all when he recently appointed Peng Her to the EDC. Bugher found out about Her's appointment at the commission's meeting last month and knows nothing about the new member.
"I've given a lot to him for the past four and a half years," says Bugher. "I've stuck my neck out and supported him politically. I don't think it's asking too much to have him pick up the phone and tell the chair what he's doing."
That's much the same lament of Ald. Brenda Konkel. Once considered a key supporter of Cieslewicz, she now jokes that the only time she gets a call from the mayor is when he wants to "yell" at her.
And Cieslewicz's interactions this summer with Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk about commuter rail versus streetcars were called "icy." The two, usually friends and allies, were even rumored to have stopped speaking to each other at one point.
Asked whether he has a communication problem, Cieslewicz merely responds, "I hope not."
As an example of effective communication, Cieslewicz says his office did call Jennifer Alexander, head of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, about Clingan's hiring and she was okay with it. It's not a good example: Alexander calls the mayor's characterization "absolutely inaccurate," saying she told Cieslewicz's chief of staff, Janet Piraino, that she disagreed with the choice of Clingan. "I was either totally misheard or I'm being misrepresented," she says now.
The mayor admits he was taken aback by the depth of the business community's reaction to Clingan. "I didn't expect Mark and Tom [Still] to leave the EDC," he says.
Bugher says he could have spared Cieslewicz much of the fallout if the mayor had simply called him before he decided to hire Clingan.
"I would have pointed out that this choice is controversial and gotten him to think about it overnight," says Bugher. "Maybe I'd have changed his mind."
Or maybe not. Cieslewicz can be stubborn. He's been staunchly defending not only Clingan's qualifications but his own prerogative to choose a city manager.
"I don't think I'm supposed to be a rubber stamp," says Cieslewicz. "I think I'm supposed to exercise some judgment. In the end, I'm responsible for the people I hire."
And let's face it, most of Cieslewicz's hires so far have been good ones.
His pick of Lucia Nuñez to run the new Department of Civil Rights has dispelled much of the resentment over the department's creation. No one has anything bad to say about Nuñez. Ditto Tom Carto at the Overture Center.
But while Cieslewicz seems able to clean up the messes he makes, what he truly needs to do is avoid making them in the first place. It's frustrating to watch a mayor who is competent in so many other areas make the same mistake over and over again.
"The city has to function with everyone working together," says Susan Schmitz, head of Downtown Madison Inc. "That's the best part of local politics - it's face-to-face."
And that is how the city of Madison operates, with lots of community dialogue and input that is taken seriously by its elected representatives. By sticking to his "I'm the decider" ethic, the mayor has found himself stumbling lately.
"It's too bad," says Schmitz. "Because I think there are a lot of people who want to help him be successful."
Including Bugher, who, while he hasn't talked to the mayor since his resignation from the EDC, still considers Cieslewicz "first and foremost" a friend.
That's fortunate, because at the moment, Cieslewicz is fast running out of political capital - and constituencies left to offend.