Mayor Dave Cieslewicz began by promising that he would not make a speech and boy didn't he ever.
For 19 minutes at Tuesday's Common Council meeting, he laid out an assessment of the challenges facing Madison and some approaches he'd like to pursue. His organizing device was a simple outline. He was never flashy or pompous, and aside from one reference to doing "a lot more better" -- "that's what I get for not making a speech," he joked -- came across as effortlessly articulate.
Cieslewicz framed his remarks in terms of seven categories.
1) Safety. The mayor declared that the recent unsolved murders of Joel Marino and Brittany Zimmermann were "tops on the public agenda." He professed confidence in the Madison police to solve these crimes, and argued that the extent to which the community took them seriously and to heart was "indicative" of how generally safe Madison is. Violent crime, he noted, fell 14% from 2006 to 2007; crime in Allied Drive is down, and the city has moved to increase the size of its police force.
2) Basic services. Cieslewicz cited several city initiatives, like the "Pothole Patrol" and a new program to monitor the upkeep of parks and medians (he said it was in need of a name and that he'd suggested "Mow Town"). He also announced plans to reduce the percentage of city streets rated on the bottom half of a 1-10 scale from 30% to 10% over the next five years.
3) Schools. You had to know this would make the list. Cieslewicz called for a group of community leaders to help set an agenda for schools. He urged a united front against state revenue caps, which he said "are strangling public education," in Madison and throughout the state. And he talked about housing patterns that concentrate poverty in particular areas, in response to which he suggested merging the city and county housing authorities and using the city's affordable housing trust fund for projects outside of Madison. (This probably should have been a separate category affordable housing but the mayor must have realized this would have brought the total to eight, which is less satisfying.)
4) Being open, accessible and connected. Here the mayor mentioned how, during his recent trip to Japan, he saw a brochure for the Madison company TomoTherapy and visited an affiliate of American Breeders Service. He called for an expansion of Madison's Sister City program using private funds.
5) Green efficiency. The mayor said he could "talk for hours" about the city's efforts to protect resources and reduce its carbon footprint, then mercifully did not. He touted the Natural Step program which encourages city employees to suggest ways to be more efficient, welcomed a community debate about lake levels (see "Getting Too High on the Lake," 6/29/07), and spoke about advance planning for the virtually inevitable onslaught of the emerald ash borer.
6) Be both progressive and pro-business. Cieslewicz insisted, as he has all along, that there's no contradiction between the two. He spoke of the need for more formal and informal communication with the business community, and more outreach to attract businesses to Madison. He put in a bad word for "bidding wars" between communities to see who can offer businesses the most perks, saying the city's greatest incentive is its "very high quality" of life and services. And he touted a Regional Transit Authority, urging people not to get caught up in a debate about buses versus rail. Get the RTA, he urged, and then we can debate what technology to pursue.
7) Build a great city. Here the mayor was able to crow about such new community assets as the Goodman Pool and the Overture Center. The latter's problems, he attested, are "long-term," not immediate: "There is time to think about what we do if the trust fails." Yikes.
Finally, in conclusion, Cieslewicz urged the city not to be afraid to "accept and pursue and discuss new ideas," with the understanding that some will work out and others fall by the wayside. He praised the current Common Council as the best of his tenure, especially because its members "resist falling into hard factions."
And then it was on to other council business.