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Madison Needs To Support Big, Bold Judge Doyle Square Proposal

August 30, 2015

I still recall the night in 1969 when I ran outside of my grandparent’s house to look up in the night sky. There was the moon where only minutes before man had first made a footprint. My family had gathered around the console television to watch a grand idea come to fruition. I was seven years old and only knew it all to be one big adventure. But for the decades since that memory not only has remained, but turned out to be a lesson.

There has been a shortage of big moments where the power and prestige of government mixes with the needs of the people. Too often this is due to limited resources. But just as often it is caused by those we elect who think small, and then act accordingly.

Come Tuesday night Madison’s local leaders have a chance to breathe life into a big, bold proposal for Judge Doyle Square that will provide great benefits to the city.   The project has not arrived at this point without the usual consternation and loud naysayers hoping to deprive the rest of the city a chance to move the downtown forward in dramatic ways. But if approval comes from the city council a most ambitious investment project of $46 million would signal to others that Madison is able to effectively encourage business development.

While there are many components to the deal one part stands out as precisely what the downtown needs. Exact Sciences, creator of Cologuard, the first and only FDA approved noninvasive DNA screening test for colorectal cancer, would be able to construct a building.   There has been a guarantee of 400 jobs with high incomes and assurances that financial penalties will be applied if agreements are not met.

This is exactly the type of jobs and incomes that we should work to encourage.  Any city that is vibrant needs to have a robust downtown.

When I started working in state government in January 1987 I was surprised that the downtown lost its energy and became a ghost town at the end of the work day. I started listening to the debates among city planners and those who had big ideas for the future of the city. Over and over there was a stated desire for some job-producing business in the downtown. With high-tech jobs at the heart of so much of the dynamic economic growth this nation wants there is no reason for us not to do what is required to now make this proposal happen.

I fully understand that there are tough choices and judgment calls to be made with this proposal.  There are items that I would shape differently but I also would compromise in the needed ways to make sure the end result allowed for this investment to move forward.  We must not lose sight of what we want our city to look like and become as we move forward. If we only listened to the ones opposed to everything we would still be mired down over how to proceed with Monona Terrace.

I strongly agree with using the surplus funds from a TIF district south of the Capitol Square for this Doyle Square project. I understand others have competing visons for this money but let’s be honest about the future use of these dollars.

A $90,000 job created from Exact Sciences will mean more condos and homes in the city. More dollars spent on cars and dinners and shows downtown. The money granted for this project in no other way could produce as much economic bang or multiple returns for the city.  I also am confident this will allow for more like-minded higher tech businesses to move here.  These are the challenges that those opposed to this proposal cannot compete with.

Local investment of this type does make for economic gains and that is why this type of investment is repeated by units of government all over the nation.  I do not want those opposed to this project to be afraid of success or keep wedded to some political talking points that clearly is not where the mainstream of the city resides.  The majority of us want success, jobs, higher wages, and growth.  We get all that from this proposal.

The goal of this enterprise (Hotel/cancer research site) should be embraced and brought to reality. There is nothing but more revenue and prestige for the city and more such businesses that will see what Madison can offer. We should encourage such development. The mature voices in the government and the press need to keep the heat on our local leaders and encourage—no, demand– they do the right thing and pass the Judge Doyle Square proposal.

At some point in the next couple years I want to look up at the Madison skyline and see the building that houses Exact Sciences. Not only will I see a cancer fighting enterprise but also the idea I first witnessed—but did not yet recognize—at the age of seven. That idea being how government can use its power and prestige to boldly meet the future.

5 Comments
  1. May 2, 2018 11:58 AM

    I was very much in favor of the Cologuard downtown business development—but it seems you too were opposed to that idea–and also the hotel. There is every reason for the city to want and assist in making the downtown a thriving area where other business wants to land and then also add to the tax base. Using economic tools to achieve that result is not some under-handed or absent-minded tool. Recall how the downtown had looked like it collapsed onto itself in the late 80s. Now it is robust, Epic employees live in the area, shows are sold out, and the mix between those who live there, and business being well planned, makes for a place people want to head to–as opposed to the blight that made people wish to leave once the work day was done only a couple decades ago. The linking of arms between public and private ventures is not some sinister plot but the best way to make–in this case—a more vibrant city which then meets the needs of those who call Madison home.

  2. The Numbers don't add up Solly permalink
    May 1, 2018 10:59 PM

    One should clearly see that this is the second unrealistic project for this space within 3 years since your original post. Somebody puts forward a pie in the sky proposal and the city “bends” its new TIF policy to approve it. Non-scam proposals should factor in changing economic conditions. It doesn’t help when developers know that the city will fill more wheelbarrows with money when their faulty arithmetic is exposed. And now they’re blaming the glass design that got them approval. George Austin is a scammer in chief. He’s never responsible for bad advice and yet gets no-bid city appointments to oversee the draining of city coffers.

  3. May 1, 2018 9:57 PM

    One could also see the clarity in thinking of doing the project in a timely fashion–this post was written in 2015—and not having the problems which now exist—escalating costs for construction and rising interest rates.

  4. The Numbers don't add up Solly permalink
    May 1, 2018 8:31 PM

    This is what happens when Deke Rivers, Mayor Smuglin and Mike Veneer conspire to build something, anything, no matter what the cost to taxpayers. http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/judge-doyle-square-project-snag-prompts-city-to-weigh-million/article_9eccf6c7-cc70-59a0-b091-b5c0b218b7cb.html#utm_source=host.madison.com&utm_campaign=%2Femail%2Fbreaking-news%2F&utm_medium=email&utm_content=49C976B90E38B1EC49F3A06B7B88DBF38EDB44C6 Oh, it may come from Parking Utility coffers, but what happens when those are exhausted? We’ll just raise parking rates, but not for the corporate welfare rates we gave to developer Beitler Real Estate Services of Chicago or the development on East Wash for the music venue and American Family and the 1000th “incubator.” Pretty soon it will cost $5 an hour to park downtown and the three amigos will wonder why no one comes downtown. It’s very interesting, this post of Deke’s was for a previous iteration of Judge Doyle Square. Back then the three amigos were readying the wheelbarrows of city money for the previous project which collapsed on its own faulty math. Now they have a new project and oops, the numbers don’t add up. Maybe we should send a sample to Cologuard and they can tell us this project, Smuglin & Veneer and the city subsidies are full of crap!

  5. Solly permalink
    August 30, 2015 10:20 PM

    Deke Rivers has never met a corporate welfare queen that doesn’t give him that warm gushy feeling while whispering sweet nothings into his ear and spinning a flashy shiny model in front of him. This shafting of Madison taxpayers, I won’t call it a deal, requires breaking many of the just adopted TIF rules. That should raise alarm bells. One example, it requires $20.8 million in TIF to build “private” parking spaces for JDS. They would be “owned” by the city and leased to JDS for $115,000 a year who will then charge their employes for them. But, JDS “graciously” offers to make the spots available to the general public after business hours, and even more generously, offer 20% of that parking revenue to the city (for spots which the city paid for in the first place). Of course, those spots will be competing for business with the city ramps. After 27 years, JDS can buy the parking spaces for $4 million. Not bad. About $7 million for a $21 million parking ramp and they get to keep 27 years of parking revenue. Now, the whole justification for this subsidized parking is that they can’t attract professionals to work downtown without subsidized parking. Weren’t those highly paid professionals Deke? I’m damn sure that the maids and maintenance people at the hotel won’t be getting subsidized parking. This company has ONE successful product, and the city is betting the farm. So, it touches all the bases to attract Deke’s support, first base, subsidize the risk and privatize the profit; second base, crony capitalism; third base, having the gubment pick winners and losers; and home base corporate welfare as in much of this $42.5 million investment by the city is a grant, never to be repaid to taxpayers. I’m only surprised that Wanker’s WEDC didn’t want in on the action.

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