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How Will Madison’s Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer Vote Tuesday Night On East Wilson Apartment Issue?

February 1, 2014

Part of my fascination about reading history and following politics is learning how politicians navigate the rapids and try to miss the rocks in the process.

At the present time I am much enjoying Hot Time in The Old Town by Edward Kohn.  It is not only a grand narrative concerning the dreadful and deadly heat wave in New York City during the presidential election of 1896, but also the story of how Theodore Roosevelt worked to dodge the pitfalls of being police commissioner and position himself on safer grounds for his further ambitions.   Time and again much can be learned about the character of a politician by watching if an issue is tackled head-on, or artfully maneuvered around.

We see this play out in congress, most recently in New Jersey politics, and all too often at the State Capitol, just a few blocks from where I live.  Come Tuesday we will also see it play out when the Madison City Council meets and considers another controversial development project that has strong supporters and opponents on both ends of the debate.

The central issue the council will deal with concerns a rezoning and conditional use permit for a proposed 14-story project which will overlook Lake Monona.  To add flavor to the proceedings adjacent neighbors who live in high-rise condos have filed protest petitions that would force a three-fourths majority approval on both questions.  Readers might think again if they feel this might be just a fight over Robert’s Rule of Orders.  There are some very strong feelings that have been exhibited over this development, and frankly an objective person might be able to see both sides to some of the issues.

The condo owners in the 14-story, 55-unit Marina condominiums bought their homes with a fantastic view of Lake Monona.  The proposed development would limit that view, and most assuredly lower the value of their condos.  While it is understandable that no one would want a view diminished, I am less concerned about the value of their home.

Several years ago I wrote a rather long post about what is wrong when people think their home is an investment, rather than a place for raising a family and storing warm memories.  I grant the fact I come at this from a whole separate point of view than the majority, but I can say for that I am grateful as my parents allowed me the perspective that has long proved to be correct.    As I have listened to some of the debate from the condo owners over the East Wilson matter it reminds me of the fact that for many the condo became a mere building, nothing more than an investment.  A warm place reduced to a cold financial transaction.

It might also be argued that no one who bought at the Marina could have possibly thought, given the fact they had moved into a new development, that another like it someday also might not be constructed nearby.  This is after all downtown Madison.  But having said that I am still mindful of how I might feel if a view I cherished was in any way limited.  For me that is the most rational ground these owners can stand on when making their case, but still an argument not strong enough to stop the proposed plans.

Which takes us to Tuesday night and the council’s action on the matter.

The track record of Alderperson Mike Verveer has been in line with those who advocate for more dense urban designs.  As I noted in a past post the whole idea whether this is a good idea as a general rule or not has likely been passed, and such urban policy is now settled in its favor.  For the most part I agree with that outcome.

But how does a politician who has tried to work with both sides to broker the best outcome on the East Wilson apartments finally take a stand knowing that there will be very hard feelings left in the dust of his vote?

It is not too late for Alder Verveer to pick up Hot Time In The Old Town and take a lesson from TR.

4 Comments
  1. February 5, 2014 1:26 PM

    During the past days it was clear they were going to punt on the East Wilson issue, but did you notice how abbreviated the explanation was for the delay to March. Brevity hides nothing for those who are really paying attention to what is happening.

  2. Solly permalink
    February 5, 2014 11:39 AM

    Just as I predicted, the council delayed a decision until March after the condo owners next door(s) submitted a petition against the project. In other news, the city council is fixin’ to pour $600,000 down a rathole for a community center in the Allied Drive area. They bought a $140,000 duplex and thought they could fix it up for another $150,000, but “Oops” now it looks like it might take another half mill. Meanwhile the school district is asking the city to close out the TIF district downtown (Judge Doyle Square) which is about to be redeveloped which will provide a $7.5 million payout to the school district. Of course, the city would have to create a new TIF district to provide the subsidy for the developers of the redevelopment. When asked what the school district would spend the money on, Board President Ed Hughes (who is on the ballot unopposed this Spring, anyone else thinking of writing-in David Blaska???) said they didn’t have a plan for the money, but were thinking of pissing it away on new urinals, or a down payment on a tablet for every MMSD student, which is estimated to cost $30 million. (I made the new urinals part up). The TIF payout wouldn’t count against the state spending limits. Of course we wouldn’t want to replace the 1912 boiler in one of the old schools that the board trots out every 5 years when they want to renew the $30 million bond issue to “catch up” on maintenance, because, you know, it’s for the children. After about $90 million, you’d think they’d have “caught up.” BOHICA!

  3. February 1, 2014 11:21 PM

    Solly,

    Many times it is best to be clear about where one stands on an issue. Living here on the isthmus allows for lots of conversations to be heard, and there is real anger from both sides about this project, and that makes me think that perhaps hedging and dodging by a politician is not the way to have proceeded. It might seem nice to have the comfort zone of making people think you still have an open mind on the matter, or perhaps that lack of commitment allows for the role of broker to be played. But there are times when a definite response to policy questions allows for citizens and voters to be treated as adults, and not pawns in the process. This one–given the intensity of the debate–was played wrong.

  4. Solly permalink
    February 1, 2014 8:17 PM

    I predict he will start out by saying there have been many meetings and praise both sides “and staff” (leaving out the “the) and say he sees both of the viewpoints, and say he’s not going to rehash everything that’s been said, and then rehash everything that’s been said, and say briefly a number of times, and then speak lengthily and talk all around the issue for about another half hour, then propose a delay so that both sides can reach a compromise. Perhaps the first 10 floors on both sides of the building can be all un-tinted windows and the city can mandate that the blinds or curtains be left open so that the condo owners views can be maintained.

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