Calls Increase For Visions Nightclub To Be Closed–Where Was City Oversight?

I readily admit that Madison City Council member David Ahrens is not my favorite member of that body.  But in the same breath I can say his stock will rise mightily if he can secure the closure of the troubled Visions Nightclub on the East Side.

It was reported above the fold in the morning newspaper–a place where news makers wish to land–that a solid attempt is being made to get the liquor license of the strip club revoked. This is a position I advocate.

The news this week about the business deals with four people being shot and wounded and another stabbed with a knife.

Ahrens did not mince words when describing the business as a “blight on the neighborhood and a hub of prostitution, drug selling, binge drinking and violence.”

There have been a dozen police calls made in 2018 to respond to Visions for disturbances and battery, and another half-dozen reports of vehicles being broken into or stolen from the nightclub parking lot.  Madison Police Department records show more than 50 911 calls from the Visions address in 2018, many for parking complaints or checking on people, but 17 were for more serious problems, including six for disturbances, two for battery, three for stolen autos, two for theft from autos, two for damage to property and one for theft.

I applaud Ahrens for making a stand. 

“Unlike a neighborhood tavern, (Visions) has absolutely no social benefit,” he said. “It degrades both the women who work there and the patrons.

“Visions is an anachronism that exists due to a deal made decades ago to move it out of Downtown, but without any regard to the toll that it would take on the neighborhood where it was relocated.”

One must question how the city’s Alcohol Review Committee has not found the impact of this businesses upon the community worthy of its attention.  It is galling to read Alderman Mike Verveer try to punt the blame game onto the shoulders of the police chief.    Last time I checked Verveer was a member of ALRC, a powerful voice in the council, and a mover and shaker when he actually wanted to achieve something.  It is always painful to witness–regardless the layer of government–when an attempt is made to shuffle blame.    

Residents of houses — where children can play on plastic playground equipment and yard toys in backyards directly behind Visions — said that they’ve long had problems with the strip club’s patrons spilling out from the club and starting fights, being loud or congregating in front of houses late at night.

Visions’ liquor license should have been flagged during the most recent review period because of the ongoing problems.

“I will make every effort in the four months remaining in my term to have Visions’ liquor license revoked,” Ahrens said.

Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, a longtime member of the Alcohol License Review Committee, said in an interview that Visions’ liquor license has not been questioned in recent years.

However, if Police Chief Mike Koval deemed the nightclub to have imminent concerns, he could shut it down.

“The City Council granted the authority to the police chief to implement a security plan which could be implemented immediately,” Verveer said. “It’s seldom used, but it could range from restricting hours of operation to having the business getting a third-party security firm.”

Who Gave Best Soliloquy At Madison City Council Meeting?

Last night there was ample evidence to see why more people do not make an attempt to run for the Madison City Council.  It was most frustrating watching alders gazing at their navels while at times seemingly treating their speaking time as if it were a session with a therapist.  It was truly dispiriting to hear the most outrageous and nonsensical musings of citizens who surely just found a place to warm up from the frigid winter weather and then decided to turn the proceeding into open mic night.

Do not get me wrong.  I love democracy in action and have spent many, many hours over the decades wrapped up in C-SPAN happenings from the floor of congress.  And yes, it can be frustrating, but there is always the knowledge that the national shenanigans were taking place in Washington, far removed from where I live.   But to know that what I witnessed last night was only a few blocks away made the council proceedings almost painful to endure.

Alderman Mike Verveer brought up a motion to over-ride a mayoral veto of a liquor license request for Taco Bell on State Street.  He started out by saying the move was not likely to change the outcome from the first failed attempt to over-ride two weeks ago.  The only thing clear about his move was a desperate desire to carry water for a business interest that never had the votes to pass.   When Mayor Paul Soglin correctly pointed out the council members were being played as patsies over these types of liquor requests Vereer got touchy and irked.  But the mayor scored the win and proved why it never looks good to bring a matter to a vote just to look ‘concerned’.

The rag-tag group of locals who showed up to lodge some of the most dis-jointed and off-the-wall complaints about the police underscored what the vast majority know all too well.  That being it is vital that the grown-ups in this city govern and rule.  With wild and at times even crazy comments the rabble opined on the police and why the council should not allow for the hiring of 8 new officers and the funds to pay for them.  One of the oddest-hatted of the group tried to pin his lack of a degree from UW-Madison on Governor Walker’s policies, but given how poorly he presented himself before a governing body the only question is how he ever first was admitted to our esteemed school?

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For over four hours the alders spoke to the issue of the police.  No one can say they debated the matter as the final outcome was never really in doubt.  While they all took pains to show their intent to have facts presented and the arguments weighed anyone watching at home fully understood this was a stage presentation of “Who Can Present The Best Soliloquy?”  I admit it was a close call but the winner had to be Alder Larry Palm, who in spite of stating he thought his cold was returning, did not limit his time to self-analyse his views while looking like he might fall asleep at his desk.  The vote came near 1 AM, and was 17-2.  The long play acting ended.

For those who care about the police–as I do–this was an important outcome.  It was a good night for those who know Mayor Soglin is a smart man who fights for the city.

But it was not a good evening for anyone who cares about effective governing and putting the best and brightest in focus for the city to watch.  Our council looks like they spend more time preparing to speak for the camera so they can massage and assuage the loudest and rudest elements in the city–based on who showed up to comment–than just cutting to the core and doing their job.

And so it goes.

Alder Mike Verveer And The Wasting Of Taxpayer Money

I may differ with the tone of a few words here and there in David Blaska’s column but I absolutely agree with the foundation from which he stands when it comes to the wasteful use of $400,000 of taxpayer money and the continuing ridicule (and worse) of Madison Police Chief Mike Koval.

I think it hard to argue with the foundations of what Blaska wrote in this column.   The $400,000 should not have been appropriated in that manner, at that time, or for that reason. Those who led the charge in the council  and those who foolishly voted for it need to be held accountable.  I also have no warmth for Progressive Dane—everything they touch is tainted with shades of crazy.   Blaska makes that clear.

So is the entire legalistic offensive against Madison police. Progressive Dane bought a first-class ticket on the Black Lives Matter victim train and now they’re driving it.

Former Progressive Dane chairman and alder Brenda Konkel promotes the complaint on her blog and, more damnably, on Progressive Dane’s own website.

“Support our petition to support our Alders in filing a complaint with the Police and Fire Commission against Chief Koval,” it reads.

Which raises a juicy conflict of interest question. The president of the Madison Common Council, Mike Verveer, has appointed a subcommittee to review citizen-police relations.

Read the rest and ponder what might have been done with the money in this city other than placate the seriously flawed element better known at Progressive Dane.

My Thoughts On Madison City Council’s Anti-Police Department Meeting

It was simply stunning to watch the Madison City Council this week play to the lowest common denominators.    The worst part was they did so gleefully as they proved to all of Madison that they are not desiring to show support for Chief Mike Koval or the force of professional men and women he leads.

The passage of the funding for a purely anti-police department study was most troubling.  From a financial perspective it was using funds from the reserve that should have stayed put.  To know that fund is so depleted after the council vote leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many who do care about the fiscal shape of our city government.
If this matter is of such merit then using the budget process would have been the place for this weak-minded idea to be proposed.  But there was no way for the alders such as Marsha Rummel to make that play with all the other credible and worthy ideas up for consideration and competing at budget time.  Who knows Rummel might need support for more intersections to be painted in summer so the winter salt and snowplows can peel it away in winter.    This is really a matter that the council has weighed in on.
From a squeaky wheel perspective it is most clear who the ones are that the alders hoped to quiet, and for what reason.   Using taxpayer funds to stem the black lives group is most troubling and to have only ONE alder  (Skidmore) who could see the way to cast a no vote sends a clear message about the entire council.
There is no way to have any faith in the city council—from President Mike Verveer, who I had hoped would continue to show sound fiscal stewardship but failed to show any signs of being able to lead or dissuade the council from this massive disregard for taxpayers, to junior member Samba Baldeh, who should feel the heat for the most absurd comments about the police during the meeting (And given all that was said at the meeting my last comment is saying a great deal!)
Taxpayers and those who care about sound governing can all join together and denounce this most lousy action from the city council.  I especially found it disconcerting to see the list of co-sponsors contain names that now and forever will be linked with the most undesirables members when it comes to fiscal reasoning in the council.
I have resided in the city since the closing days of 1986.  I have followed city government for all those years and also worked for a decade in the statehouse where I assisted in helping to craft state budgets through our legislative office.  But I have never witnessed a more poorly reasoned excuse to use taxpayer monies coupled with a method outside of the normal budget process to allow it to happen.
I was embarrassed for the council as I watched the seemingly never-ending meeting.  True to form the council seemed adrift from reality as they showed their continued disregard for the police department and their stunning display of disdain for the taxpayers of this city.

Madison Alder Mike Verveer’s Mother Makes Front Page Of The New York Times

Just interesting.  Read the story this afternoon and saw the quote from Madison Alderman Mike Verveer’s mother about Hillary Clinton.  The quote starts on the front page with the story above the fold.  Rather cool.  The picture was not included with the newspaper story but I suspect many want to know where Verveer got his good looks from–hence this image.

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If there was a single moment that captured what would carry Hillary Clinton to the 2016 Democratic nomination, it came not during her sun-splashed campaign kickoff in New York last June, or in any of her speeches celebrating hard-fought primary victories over Senator Bernie Sanders.

No, it was the unscripted instant in which a blasé Mrs. Clinton coolly brushed from her shoulder a speck of lint, dirt — or perhaps nothing at all — as a Republican-led House panel subjected her to more than eight hours of questioning in October over her handling of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

She may not be the orator President Obama is, or the retail politician her husband was. But Mrs. Clinton’s steely fortitude in this campaign has plainly inspired older women, black voters and many others who see in her perseverance a kind of mirror to their own struggles. And Mrs. Clinton’s very durability — her tenacity, grit and capacity for enduring and overcoming adversity — could be exactly what is required to defeat Donald J. Trump.

As a politician’s wife, first lady, senator and secretary of state — and as a two-time candidate for president — Mrs. Clinton, 68, has redefined the role of women in American politics each time she has reinvented herself. She has transfixed the nation again and again, as often in searing episodes of scandal or setback as in triumph.

“She came on the public stage as someone who was a little different,” said Ann Lewis, a longtime adviser. “She attracted fascination, devotion and attacks — and the partisan attacks haven’t stopped.”  “Even as first lady, it was ‘Who does she think she is?’” said Melanne Verveer, a close friend of Mrs. Clinton’s who was her White House chief of staff.

Mayor Paul Soglin Needs To More Strongly Advocate For Judge Doyle Square Hotel

There are levels of energy that any politician gives to this or that issue.  At times it is prudent to get out front and help educate and persuade the citizenry why there is a need for a certain policy decision.    Other times it is best to let the public interest rise to a certain point and then lead the charge.

It is hard to say which course of action Madison Mayor Paul Soglin feels is the best route to securing a needed hotel on the Judge Doyle Square site in the downtown area. Left as it is there seems to be building consensus–due to the naysayers with mis-leading information–now having a louder voice for no hotel, or at least one that does not require much or any TIF funding, that is gaining leverage in the city.

Not making sure that a viable hotel is constructed on this site would be a major blunder for the city and undercut the growing potential growth for Monona Terrace.  Over the many months I have, and continue to be, a strong supporter of the development plan for a hotel.

While we can discuss the meeting room space or the amenities that will be included in the rooms it is not in anyone’s interest, whether they understand it or not, to miss this opportunity to invest in the isthmus and in the process benefit the economic well-being of the entire city.

While I know Soglin has voiced his desire for a hotel to be constructed and urged those at the table to compromise and make things happen there is at this date a spineless city council–minus perhaps Alders Mark Clear and Mike Verveer–along with a series of opposition voices that seem to dominate the discussi0n.  That is not a formula for moving Madison forward on this matter.

I am deeply concerned that mayoral candidate Scott Resnick seems to want to start anew with the planning process and not even, by his own admission, see a hotel built on the site.   Instead of undermining the process it would be my desire, and I suspect many who have remained silent on this issue up to this time, to see our elected officials, along with those who wish to secure leadership positions to weigh in on the side of finding a way to construct the hotel.  One can only guess where candidate for Madison mayor Bridget Maniaci stands on the issue since she lives in Pittsburg while going to school.

While financing this development project has created weak knees in the council chambers means that it is more incumbent than ever for Soglin to double down on the reasons the city needs to move forward, in some fashion, with a hotel.  There now needs more than ever a strong spokesperson for the hotel, and it needs to be the voice of the mayor that leads the way.

There is no doubt that the benefits to the convention center and the city all lead to the conclusion for the construction of a hotel.  But over time the chipping away of support by the critics has allowed for a disdain for the project to fester and grow to the point that this development is in dire need of life-support.

That is a sad statement for Madison.  No one can applaud it, and at the same time have a sense of what is being lost.

One need not be reminded that in the midst of needed leadership over the hotel is the upcoming mayoral election.  Stepping up the push for the project and bearing down on the naysayers will create heat and headlines for Soglin, but that is what he signed on for when he ventured back into the mayor’s office.  If he wants to demonstrate that he is still up for the job that he wants to reapply for come next April the Doyle project is the perfect place to show his grit.

Not only is his prestige on the line, but so is Madison’s.

Civil War-Era Home Saved In Madison

I was very pleased to read in a newspaper today that one of Madison’s Civil War- era commercial buildings will be saved.  I know this flies in the face of those who have no passion for preserving the past and seem rooted to the idea that nothing old has enough value to retain.

This news concerning the building at 502 W. Main Street will be greeted with much applause and support from those who do understand the importance of making thoughtful decisions about such structures.

To think that some condemned the building and wanted it destroyed was simply unacceptable.  I certainly weighed in with my thoughts to the city and made my voice one of the many who recognized what could be gained by preserving it.  As such I want to thank those who also raised a voice and also to the ones with power over the matter to make the correct decisions.

One has to be glad that downtown Alderperson Mike Vereer was a part of the process to find a solution, and for that he deserves our thanks.   What he said truly underscores what many have been saying for months about this building.

With all of the new development that’s gone on in the Bassett neighborhood it’s wonderful we’ve been able to save one of the city’s oldest remaining buildings and put it in a place where the context is not lost,” Verveer said.

The moral of the story, is of course, that preservationists just need to do what is right, and by so doing make others see the light.

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The real estate company Urban Land Interests has agreed to move the house from 502 W. Main St. about two blocks to a vacant parcel of ULI-owned land at 151 Proudfit St. in front of its Tobacco Lofts apartments.

“This is a valuable piece of Madison history we thought could be an asset for that block,” says ULI’s Anne Neujahr Morrison.

The plan is to move the two-story brick building the last week of August, renovate the interior and eventually rent it out as a two-bedroom single family house.

Constructed in 1866, the tidy building has served as a family residence, a hotel, a grocery store, a pizza parlor and a liquor store. Most recently it’s been home to a florist shop with apartments upstairs.

The building is owned by the Keller Real Estate Group, which is looking to develop a $2.5 million four-story mixed use apartment at the corner of West Main and South Bassett streets.

The 18-unit project with first floor commercial space was approved by the city Plan Commission in June but the panel delayed a demolition permit until Aug. 31 to give historic preservationists a chance to save the building, which is being referred to as the Lannon-Hill Home & Store after its 19th century owners.

Developer Bob Keller agreed to work with preservationists and offered to donate the building and contribute the $30,000 cost of demolition to relocating the structure. ULI is picking up the balance of the moving costs which are estimated at over $60,000.

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

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.