When Chuck Kamp becomes Madison Metro's new manager on Oct. 16, he'll inherit a system that's had its share of problems. Although ridership has risen steadily for five years, Metro has had to hike fares and propose service cuts to deal with budget shortfalls.
In his 2007 budget, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has pledged a $865,000 increase to Metro. This includes money for a police presence on some routes, in response to ongoing security concerns.
Kamp replaces Catherine Debo, who came to Metro in 2001 and whose contract was not renewed. For the last 15 years, he's headed Appleton's Valley Transit ' a much smaller system than Madison's. Before that, he worked for the transit system in Washington, D.C.
Will you ride the bus to work?
Yes! I think it's easier to use the bus on a regular basis in Madison than it is in Appleton, quite frankly. There's obviously been a greater investment in transit here. My son, who's living in Madison right now, rides the bus to and from school. In the Fox Cities, we don't have bus service that goes to the high schools.
What do you think of the plans for streetcars in Madison, or for light rail in Dane County?
I don't know if I could say we absolutely should have light rail in Madison. We need to study the density of the population [and] the current infrastructure in place for rail. But I'm very encouraged that the questions are being asked.
Wait, how did you get hired by Mayor Dave if you're not in favor of streetcars?
(Laughs.) I'm in a learning mode. If one's open to possibilities, that's better than already having drawn a conclusion.
Valley Transit saw a 2% decline in ridership for the first six months of 2006. Most other state transit systems ' including Madison's ' had increases. What happened?
In the last three years, we had two fare increases. Last year's fare increase was not planned, but diesel prices increased. We didn't want to cut services, but we had to do something. We raised fares. So for the first time in three years, our ridership dropped.
How will you deal with that kind of dilemma in Madison?
The region needs to be part of a solution. In the Fox Cities, the community is beginning to say, maybe it needs to go further. A regional transit authority and some sort of regional taxation structure. No one likes to talk about a regional tax, but let's face it, you have to come up with the funding somehow. Most states allow regional transit authorities, but Wisconsin doesn't. I'd pose that challenge to the Legislature.
How's this for a kick in the head? If you marked 'Independent' on the Sept. 12 ballot when designating a party preference, your vote probably didn't count.
Wisconsin doesn't let voters cross party lines in a primary, so voters who marked 'Independent' had only their votes for independent candidates count. And in all of Dane County, there was only one independent ' Ivan Davis, who's running for the 37th Assembly district, which includes Deerfield.
Stating a party preference allows some votes to be counted if a person improperly votes for more than one party. Otherwise, the whole ballot is disallowed. But John Raihala thinks this practice 'is unnecessary and only serves to confuse voters.'
Raihala, a Madison attorney, represented candidate Dan Jardine in the recount for the 47th Assembly district. Meagan Yost won the Democratic primary, beating Jardine by four votes. And while Raihala says counting ballots marked Independent would not have changed the outcome of the recount, he's troubled that the votes of those who did so were tossed. 'It's likely in Dane County that hundreds of voters were disenfranchised because of this problem with the ballot.'
Dane County Clerk Bob Ohlsen says the state requires 'Independent' to be included on all ballots if the county has even one independent candidate. He doesn't know how many ballots countywide were marked independent by voters. 'We'd have to take out every single ballot voted on to figure it out.'
All the king's pork
Ald. Zach Brandon walked out of last week's Board of Estimates meeting, apparently frustrated that members were adding nearly $2.4 million to Madison's 2007 capital budget. Before he left, Brandon called Ald. Tim Bruer the 'king of earmarks' for having snared $1.7 million for projects in his south side district.
Is Bruer really the king? Yes. The $1.7 million in amendments sponsored by Bruer push his personal total over the last five years to $2.2 million. The next highest is Ald. Mike Verveer ($1.6 million for downtown), followed by Ald. Judy Olson ($566,000 for the near east side).
Bruer says simply reviewing amendments misses the pet projects that some alders get into the initial budget. 'Zach has successfully lobbied for a lot of support for parks in his district,' says Bruer, adding that his recent amendments support a new park and the redevelopment of Villager Mall.
'Historically, the south side was not getting its fair share,' he says. 'It's been neglected for decades.'
Not ready for prime time?
In the past week, mayoral candidate Ray Allen has sent out two press releases ripping Cieslewicz's record on economic development. In the first, Allen says the mayor neglected economic development but 'found time to work on trolleys and the mandatory paid sick-leave proposal.' In the second, Allen lists sick leave among Cieslewicz's 'legislative highlights.'
There's just one problem: Cieslewicz never supported sick leave.
Ald. Austin King, the ordinance's sponsor, says the mayor actually worked against the proposal, which the city council rejected this spring. 'The only thing Ray Allen and I seem to have in common is wishing that the mayor had worked on the paid sick-leave ordinance,' he says.
Allen's campaign manager, Semmi Pasha, insists it's fair to say the mayor supported sick leave: 'He only said he opposed the timing of it, which in our minds is no different.'
But Pasha concedes the press release was wrong to say Cieslewicz supported a proposed lobbying ordinance 'that assumes all contact between the public and elected officials is criminal in nature.' Never mind that no alleged crimes were involved, the mayor actually worked to pass an alternative ordinance that loosened reporting requirements. Says Pasha, 'That was a mistake on our part.'
Sheriff rivals won't endorse
Neither candidate for Dane County sheriff has made an endorsement in the state attorney general race. Democrat Dave Mahoney says he will "support the candidate who will uphold the high quality of law enforcement in Wisconsin." But he won't say who he believes that is -- fellow Democrat Kathleen Falk or Republican J.B. Van Hollen.
Mahoney's Republican rival, Mike Hanson, also won't endorse.
"I'm my own Republican," says Hanson. "I'm not connected to Mark Green or Dave Magnum or J.B. Van Hollen." As a Madison police officer, he says, he can't take sides. "Law enforcement has to be fair and neutral. Public safety first, politics second."
But Van Hollen, who says "a stunning 45 sheriffs and 53 district attorneys" have endorsed him, will get Hanson's vote. Hanson complains that Falk, as Dane County executive, hasn't been responsive to the Sheriff's Office.
"We've been telling her for years that we need additional money for public safety and to build a new jail," he says. "She hasn't even done a ride-along with the sheriff's deputies. And all of a sudden, she wants to be the top cop? I struggle with that."