I have been trying to read the tea leaves when it comes to the relationship that is building, or the tensions that are being created, between newly elected Mayor Paul Soglin and members of the Madison City Council.
Some of the unease seems to be making its way to the top of the pile, and now making news.
The reports that Soglin wants to revamp or perhaps redo the Overture agreement is sending some members of the council who actually worked on the matter last year into defense mode. Rightfully so. There were many leaders of this city who painstakingly worked to fashion an Overture agreement that most think is viable and smart. To come in at this time and want to tear apart a finalized agreement is not good news for Overture. In addition, the strains that are put on the working relationship between Soglin and the council are needless.
First, Mayor Soglin told the press that he is powerless to change an agreement ironed out over Overture, one that he predicts will fail, without council backing.
Soglin, in comments published online Monday, predicted a deal between the council and Overture officials late last year for private operations and ownership of the $205 million arts center will fail and said he’s powerless to change that fate without council support.
Second, members of the council weighed into the storm that Soglin seems intent on starting.
Council members on Tuesday criticized Soglin for raising uncertainties that could undermine Overture’s transition to private, nonprofit operations.
“I respect the mayor’s doing his due diligence to look at some of the big issues he’s inherited,” council President Lauren Cnare said. “(But) the council has made a decision. We’ve got to give it a chance.”
Ald. Mark Clear, 19th District, who led a special work group that forged the deal, said, “His statements are extremely disrespectful to the council and the very, very difficult decision the council came to last year. It really causes damage to fundraising efforts at a critical stage. This is not the kind of leadership the city elected.”
Overture officials also disagreed with the mayor.