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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Meeting the mayor

With the recent vote on the capital budget, numerous city projects weighed heavily on the mind of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. In light of the flurry of civic activity, The Daily Cardinal Editorial Board sat down with Cieslewicz and discussed some of the more pressing issues facing Madison.

Perhaps the biggest story of the past several months has been the Edgewater Hotel renovation, a proposal the mayor has championed, which received its first major vote from the Common Council when members decided to keep its $16 million Tax Increment Financing in the budget. Cieslewicz has remained firm in his belief that now is the time to push forward with construction projects like the Edgewater renovation, in major part because of the economic benefits such as construction jobs they will bring to the city.

We agree that now is the time to build, especially when it comes to the Edgewater renovation. The project will bring millions of dollars to the city at a time when an influx of cash is certainly needed. However, it is important to remember that the Edgewater process is just beginning. As Cieslewicz pointed out, the project still needs to gain approval from numerous governmental bodies, including the Plan and Landmarks Commissions and likely the Zoning Board of Appeals. We share the hope of Cieslewicz that the Edgewater renovation will make it through these venues intact and make it to the Common Council for a straight up or down vote.

We have more concerns about the other large project in the capital budget; the new Central Library. Ald. Michael Schumacher, District 18 raised legitimate concerns at this week's budget deliberations about the city's fundraising abilities to complete the project, especially considering the troubles UW-Madison and the Overture Center have had fundraising recently. We continue to support the project, but to use Cieslewicz's words, the economy is a ""double-edged sword."" While the poor economy makes the library project more necessary, it also makes it difficult to find citizens willing to dig into their own pockets. We are much more wary than the mayor about the city going forward with the project without a more concrete image of its funding, with the threat of fundraising shortfalls leading taxpayers to foot more of the bill.

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Outside of the budget, the mayor also expressed his enthusiasm for the recent County Board vote on the Regional Transit Authority and newly released crime statistics, areas in which we feel Cieslewicz deserves credit. He emphasized the improvements that could be made to the bus system and property tax relief while greatly downplaying the possibility of commuter rail, which at this point is at best a distant, far-off dream. Cieslewicz appears to have a sound image of Madison's mass transit future, which he will surely keep in mind when he makes his appointments to the RTA.

However, other appointments are likely more pressing than the RTA, including the new citizen and alder members of the influential Alcohol License Review Committee. We are encouraged that Cieslewicz still intends to appoint a student to the ALRC as the citizen member, but wish the mayor had been more up front on the sort of alder he is considering. The mayor needs to appoint a pragmatist to the ALRC, one who is realistic about the student dynamics that so often take up the committee's deliberations.

Concerning crime, Cieslewicz trumpeted new statistics showing a year-to-day decrease of 9 percent in violent crime and 10 percent in overall crime. We applaud the Madison Police Department and the mayor's office for their efforts to decrease crime. However, it is important to keep in mind some of the threats that still persist, including the apparent boom in local heroin use, especially among affluent young adults.

Cieslewicz garnered several victories over the past week, some rightly deserved and some a bit more questionable. One thing that can be said is that he now has a wealth of momentum going into the final year of his second term. We eagerly anticipate how he will use his clout and for the sake of Madison hope he uses it effectively.


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