Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts on the Edgewater and city process

Below is a letter I wrote today to a handful of city alders, ones with whom I feel I have a personal relationship. I got several positive reactions, so I thought I'd post it for the general public, at least those out there that know I have a blog, which isn't many. I made one or two editorial and grammatical changes from the original:

Dear former colleagues -

Although I'm sure you are way sick of hearing and talking about the Edgewater, I'm just dropping you a note to let you know where I stand. And I'm not for or against it!

However, I'm very cautious, bordering on suspicious, about how this whole process has happened. When I was on the Council, I was occasionally bullied by people – both by those that wanted something and those inside city government – to vote for (or against) something with which I was not entirely comfortable.  This treatment generally made me less likely to support the matter. That's what this feels like.

Whatever you do on Tuesday, or in the future, vote your conscience. You are all smart and thoughtful people, and I hope that you will use those skills, your heart, and hard information you may have to make the right decision.

But on a harsher note, I do not like the constant drum beat of inevitability that this project has maintained. I have been told that decent information and drawing were finally presented at the Landmarks Commission meeting on Monday, but I know that several commissions had asked for specific information in the past - such as rendering as to what the project would look like standing on Langdon or Wisconsin Ave, and not just the lovely close-up of the plaza - and yet never received the requested information. It felt like the developers were so certain that they had this thing in the bag, that they viewed commission meetings as a mere formality, not taking the input or requests of the commission members seriously.

We have a city process for a good reason, and it pains me to see both the developer and the Mayor show disdain for it. Yes, it may take awhile to get projects done in Madison, perhaps longer than in other cities our size. But that is because we value the input of citizens, city staff, neighbors, and others with a real and long lasting interest in the city. We don't make decisions in back rooms; we make them out in the fresh air, so everyone can know what is happening. To hear the Mayor dismiss the Landmarks Commission as, "a handful of unelected individuals," reeks of disrespect. I predict that comment will come back to bite Dave in the butt when the RTA referendum comes around.

So, dear friends and former colleagues, do what you think it right, but don't do it because you feel you have to. Don't do it because the Mayor would be mad. Don't do it because the unions are standing there glaring at you, or the press will write nasty things, or you got angry letters.

I'll be watching Tuesday via City Channel on my computer, with a big bottle of wine. Feel free to email or Face Book comments, ‘cause I can’t see all the boring, frustrating, or funny stuff at home.

Glad I'm not getting all the emails and phone calls,


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