Cieslewicz: 'I'm just trying to do the work of the people.'
Jane Doe doesn't want to alarm anyone. But the Madison resident doesn't think people understand: The end is near.
"The first year of Mayor Dave's second term is nearly over," she warns. "That means we have only three more years of his self-deprecating humor, modest attire and inspired ideas!"
Cieslewicz easily won re-election this spring, capturing more than 60% of the vote -- 62%, to be exact. But Doe thinks Madison residents are taking their charismatic mayor for granted.
"Look, I've lived in other cities. Their mayors suck," she says. "You want to complain about city streets not being plowed after a snowstorm? About manganese in the water? Trying having your mayor arrested in a drug bust! Compared to Marion Barry, Mayor Dave is a god."
On Tuesday nights, Doe and her friends stay home to watch Common Council meetings on Channel 12. They cheer whenever Mayor Dave appears on screen -- which is often, since he chairs the meetings. They especially love it when Cieslewicz makes a joke -- even the one about how Dane County owns the building and that's why the microphones don't work.
"How does he come up with this stuff?" laughs Doe, shaking her head. "Someone should tell Conan about him!"
Even Rosemary Lee, who has been called Madison's 21st alder because she never misses a council meeting, privately admits she likes Mayor Dave almost as much as she likes Ald. Mike Verveer.
"Mike's great, but he could learn a thing or two from Mayor Dave," says Lee. "Like how to pick out ties. Mayor Dave has the best ties."
Cieslewicz is embarrassed by all the attention. "I'm just trying to do the work of the people," he shrugs. "They deserve the best mayor."
And while Cieslewicz won't reveal whether he's running for a third term, he says Doe shouldn't worry. "There's still plenty of time to revive my streetcar plan, implement automatic leaf raking, and replace half the members of the city council with alders who don't speak unless they are spoken to," he promises.
But he knows not everyone shares Doe's sense of fawning appreciation: "Frankly, there are some newspaper reporters in town who don't appreciate me. Or my fondness for puns. I'm just trying to be punny!"
Doe is not taking any chances on losing Cieslewicz. She plans to launch a "Mayor Dave for Mayor Again" campaign. Sighs Doe, "He's just so dreamy!"
We're Number One!
It's been a banner year for Madison. America's most livable city has racked up an impressive number of Number Ones for 2007. In fact, the city has never experienced such a surge in national popularity -- and it clearly has Dave Cieslewicz to thank.
"We're not only America's best city, I am America's best mayor," says Cieslewicz. "All the plaques prove it."
Among the city's distinctions this year:
- Governing magazine's top pick for city council meetings that party all night long.
- Kennedy Center Honor for "Funniest Midwestern Mayor."
- Self magazine's "Fittest Executive" award.
- Nobel Prize for Physics (Turns out streetcars and light rail are compatible systems! It's almost like you don't have to chose between them! Who knew!)
- Emmy Award for George Dreckmann, for his "Garbage Man/Recycle Boy" commercials.
But one award remains tantalizingly out of reach: A platinum-level designation from the League of American Bicyclists.
"I don't understand," grouses Cieslewicz. "I created a committee to study how we could win that award and everything!"
He hopes Madison will have better luck next year. After all, with $1 million in Nobel Prize money, the city can afford a few more bike paths. "And if we build more bike paths," gushes Cieslewicz, "surely we'll go platinum next year!"
Konkel is won over
Ald. Brenda Konkel spent a lot of time last year ranting on her blog about her former ally, Mayor Dave. She complained about everything from his lack of communication to the fact that he occasionally rides a bike without a helmet.("Safety first! Hellooo!" wrote Konkel. "As chief executive, you have to set an example!")
But now, after taking some time over the holiday season to reflect, Konkel is changing her tune.
"I was wrong, all wrong," she laments. "How could I have been so blind?"
Konkel says the mayor's plan to use money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to pay for Allied Drive's redevelopment was actually "brilliant, pure genius!"
"How could I not have understood that?" she wonders. And she praises the mayor's openness and transparency in hiring city managers.
"I used to think he didn't have enough women on staff," admits Konkel. "But Janet Piraino is so, so smart -- she's like two women!"
Konkel also regrets sponsoring more than 40 amendments to the mayor's 2008 budget, which she now recognizes was already perfectly balanced.
"He so deftly prioritized between the need for more police officers and for increased human services, that there was really nothing left for me to do," she says, adding that next year, she plans to join Dane County Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz on a trip to Las Vegas during budget time, instead of staying around to vote.
From now on, says Konkel, she will use her personal blog to promote the mayor's vision of a perfect Madison. And she hopes the hosts of WIBA will join her. "Talk radio is always so mean to him," says Konkel. "I hope someday they realize -- as I do now -- that he's a great guy. And he's doing his best!"
For the love of trolleys
A new poll by Isthmus/UW-Madison finds that a majority of Madison residents want Mayor Dave to revive his streetcar plan. The poll asked 500 likely voters, "Do you like trolleys?" A whopping 92% of respondents replied, "'Trolley' is a pejorative term used to discredit a fabulous transit initiative. By phrasing the question that way, you are attempting to sway my opinion, instead of eliciting a truthful response. And yes, I like trolleys."
Don Downs, a UW-Madison professor of political science, is impressed that Madison residents have become so savvy. "Most citizens don't pay that much attention to news," he says. "They just believe whatever radio ads or billboards tell them."
But Downs notes that Madisonians were apparently not duped by former mayoral challenger Ray Allen's billboard ad showing the word "trolley" with a red line through it. The ad was ubiquitous during the mayoral race last spring.
"It's clear from this poll response that Madison residents have changed their minds about streetcars and are now willing to discuss this issue fairly," says Downs, adding, "It's great to see them wanting to debate an idea, instead of dismissing it out of hand."
Mayor Dave abandoned his streetcar proposal this summer, under pressure from Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and others who want the region to focus on commuter rail.
Mayoral spokesman George Twigg says the mayor is pleased Madison residents are finally warming to the idea. "We wish they would have realized the benefits of the system earlier."
But Twigg says the mayor hasn't decided whether to bring streetcars back. "Frankly, the mayor's not sure the residents here deserve mass transit," he says. "Maybe a few more years of heavy traffic on the Beltline, Clean Air Action days, and no mid-State Street parking ramp will change their minds."
Attention, dummies: The above column is satirical.