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Madison City Council Must Rise Above Alders Sara Eskrich And Mark Clear In Budget Votes

November 13, 2016

We have seen our fair share of ‘I can’t believe it’ moments over the past week.  But the election is over and while the nation and state are in chaos Madison should be able to operate in a more reasonable fashion.  Right?

The Madison City Council will undertake the never pleasant task of shaping the next budget when it meets on Tuesday.  The capital and operating budgets are always filled with some intrigue and unpleasantness.   But what unfolded late last week was just plain off-the-rails.

Alderperson Sara Eskrich landed a punch to common-sense when she proposed an amendment to undo the Downtown infrastructure projects such as surveillance cameras, streetscaping and street repaving.   Those projects would come from TIF district funding.    She has tried to make it sound as if tax payers are coming out on the short end of the deal by having TIF dollars used for needed projects.  That thinking is simply wrong.

As I have noted time and again on this blog I very much approve of government funding which stirs and promotes other economic investments.  I trust those in power at this time to make the best decisions.

It probably comes as no surprise that many, including Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Mike Verveer, are not at all enamored by this late development.  Since there is nothing that any reasonable person would object to with the proposed projects being funded from this source one then has to ask what political ax is Eskrich trying to grind?

If that were the only awful amendment up for debate we could just be amused at the above and move on.  But no, there is another unexplainable idea, but this time from someone who should know better.

Alderperson Mark Clear who looks less able as time moves along to ever resemble a credible candidate for mayor has offered to delay Madison Municipal Building renovations for one year, moving $26.1 million in borrowing to 2018. The reason this amendment is just plain wrong from the start is that the work, in part, is already underway.  Many of the 200 employees have already been moved out of the 100-year-old Municipal Building.  The work needs to be done and by waiting the costs will only mount.

First the rental costs for office space should a delay take place will cost an extra $660,000.   The cost increase to the project itself would be at least $92,000.  That is real money, Alder Clear!

Just this week as James and I walked with a friend to dinner on State Street we were talking about the new location for the downtown post office. None of these moves for the renovation was fun or easy.  It places burdens on employees and residents alike.   Therefore, it is sheer lunacy to think it wise or acceptable to play games with budgeting in the fashion that Clear is attempting with this historic building.

I am one of those who actually watch–from the comfort of home–the marathon budget sessions of the council.  There are always those things we hope to see prevail in the final package, and others that need to be jettisoned.  There is simply no way that any alder could sincerely vote for either of the above two amendments without explaining what backstory drove them to cast such a vote.  That will be worth staying up late for all by itself.

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