The first person to announce plans to run for the District 6 aldermanic seat was Marsha Rummel. She's lived in the district for 25 years, and served on Marquette Neighborhood Association board since 1994, acting as its president since 2002. Rummel, 49, has managed the Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative since 1991, and was one of the founding members of Progressive Dane. She currently serves on numerous city committees, including the East Washington/Capital Gateway BUILD Steering Committee, the Inclusionary Zoning Advisory Oversight Committee and the Tax Increment Financing Policy Committee.
A brief interview with Rummel follows.
The Daily Page: District 6 is rapidly becoming denser with the growth of developments like Union Corners. What is the ideal level of density that you would like to see on the near east side, and how can housing be made affordable?
Rummel: The 6th District has seen a series of infill development projects ranging in scale from a two-flat house on the 1000 block of Williamson St to the downtown equivalent of a new plat at Union Corners which lays out brand new streets. New developments are generally built at higher densities than the underlying zoning allows. I'd hesitate to define an ideal level of density for the district until we rewrite the zoning code.
The first phase of the Livingston project on the 800 block of Williamson St, a 4-story rental apartment building, was built at 90 units per acre. Willy St is zoned C2 which allows for 32 units/acre. To put this in perspective, the 12-story Nolen Shore project downtown, is less than 90 units/acre. The apartment building fits the historic scale of Willy St and conforms to height recommendations in adopted plans. But a 12-story building would not fit the scale of the street even if it fit existing zoning. Some newer developments create a canyon feeling because of massing and their proximity to the sidewalk. Good architectural design can improve how density feels.
The Inclusionary Zoning program has the potential to create hundreds of owner occupied units every year for residents who earn 80% of area median income but it is a market driven program. With the slowdown of the housing market, we can expect fewer IZ units to be built. Other tools to create affordable housing are the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, TIF 10% Set Aside, WHEDA Section 42 tax credits, Section 8 vouchers and city developed public housing.
What do you think the status of the Central Park concept will be by the end of this decade?
In three years, Central Park will be under construction, with most of the land secured. The mayor just announced and the council approved a Central Park Design and Implementation Task Force to plan how to raise the money and transition the park to public ownership. The 12-person committee has not yet been appointed by the mayor or approved by council.
A report to the council must be made by January 2008 (see this PDF file) that will recommend final plans for the park. The report will include a draft memorandum of understanding between the city and Urban Open Space Foundation to describe fundraising, implementation, management and maintenance of the park.
You identify one of your issues as ensuring community input on the futures of the MG&E Blount street generator and the Madison-Kipp plant. What would you like to see in the future of these facilities?
I would like to see MGE, the State and the UW agree to build a co-gen facility at MGE's Blount St plant. The study launched by the DOA should include the feasibility of replacing the UW's Charter St coal plant with a co-gen plant. I expect there will be extensive community input about the future of both the MGE and the Capitol plant. Should a new co-gen plant be publicly owned? And while reducing CO2 emissions is a huge improvement in our air and water quality, we must also be mindful that natural gas is also a scarce and politically contested resource.
Madison-Kipp recently requested an increase in chlorine usage and air emissions for two aluminum melting furnaces. The DNR will be reviewing a construction permit application for increasing the height of the smokestacks and an operating permit renewal. While the increase in the stacks will reduce the discharge for immediate neighbors, it will also trigger compliance with the city's noise ordinance and building inspection. If Madison-Kipp decides to close the plant, I would like to see a comprehensive planning process for the site.
I would like to try to retain blue-collar jobs at living wages.
What kind of transit must the city foster in order to assist commuters from and passing through District 6?
An affordable and dependable bus system is my top priority. Metro must accommodate a 24/7 workforce. I support a bus pass purchasing pool for small employers and express routes to link transfer points. I think we should review the success of the transfer system. Many district residents support a regional bus system, but not at the expense of existing service. If bus stops had better street signage, we might be able to eliminate the need for a three-inch booklet and encourage new users.
As Dane County continues to grow, there are obvious economic and ecological benefits to a regional system. I am interested in rail options but so far I am a streetcar skeptic. Much of the motivation for streetcars is an economic strategy to promote infill development. Many residents fear being 'developed' out of their homes already.
We should improve bike connectivity for the periphery of Madison, examples like the pedestrian bridge under the Beltline at Stoughton Rd help make bike commuting an option for all residents. I support efforts to implement more traffic safety measures for pedestrians on our neighborhood arterial streets, such as removing rush hour parking restrictions on Williamson and Atwood, which turns our business districts into a part time highway.
What kind of resources to you want to see provided to the Atwood Community Center?
The city has already invested resources into the relocation of the Atwood Community Center to Waubesa.Street. The Center expects to break ground on the Kupfer site this year. This is faster than the city expected, some issues will need attention sooner than planned, and budget items may need to get shuffled around. For City Engineering, this means installing a new storm water inlet this year to coincide with construction at the Center. The inlet will connect Waubesa Street to Starkweather Creek. A budget amendment may be required. The city is negotiating with the Center over the use of the city's Right of Way to improve access to the project from Waubesa Street. The Mayor has committed $650,000 from the capital budget for 2008 and 2009; this money will need Council approval each year it is allocated.
As the Center sells the properties it owns, the city's share of the profit resulting from CDBG funding will transfer to the new building as 'silent debt.' This is a very exciting project and if elected I would urge the Council to continue to invest in the Center.
What kinds of developments would you like to see in the East Washington corridor between the Capitol and the Yahara River? How should TIF be used in any projects suggested for this area?
I would like to see a mix of low and high-rise buildings that allow for a mix of users and uses. East Washington has been identified as a place for taller buildings. I support the height recommendations adopted in the East Rail Corridor plan.
Jane Jacob's insight that cities need old buildings to nurture new businesses is profound. We need to preserve the stock of historic commercial buildings. Business retention is an important part of the strategy as is keeping graduates of incubators in the corridor. "Small cap" TIF funds could be used for faÃade improvements, to write down high land costs, and to create affordable commercial space.
The city has identified Main Street as the front door of the employment district and recommended streetscape improvements to improve its pedestrian character: burying transmission lines, planting street trees like gingkoes and creating outdoor public places. I would love to see more of Dr. Evermor's sculptures located in the area; they could become a tourist destination.
I have spent hundreds of hours talking about economic development strategies in the Gateway corridor with neighborhood residents, business owners, developers and city staff. We created a stakeholder process to create TID 36 that I found to be a valuable collaboration and a useful tool for planning.
The industrial character of the corridor has left an environmental legacy of contaminated soil, underground storage tanks, and a water table close to the surface that carries contaminants to the aquifers and the lakes. I would use TIF funds for environmental remediation and implementing LEEDs certified green building standards before I would use it for streetcars.