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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Bring Soglin back to office

Most Madisonians consider Mayor Dave Cieslewicz a nice guy, and we won't disagree. But the city faces a new challenge every day, and we don't want it to lose its unique character. That's why we're endorsing former mayor, local legend and current challenger Paul Soglin on April 5.

Soglin has a long history of strong leadership in Madison. While attending graduate school at UW-Madison in 1968, he represented the student-heavy District 8 seat on the city council. Four years later, he was elected mayor.

He floated in and out of the office over the next 30 years, serving as mayor for 14 of them; each time he left the city better than he found it. State Street Mall, the Madison Civic Center (now the Overture Center) and Monona Terrace are all products of Soglin. Even when he's not sitting as mayor, Soglin has played an advisory role in a number of big projects downtown.

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Cieslewicz is not without his own list of accomplishments, but controversy has accompanied many of his recent endeavors. We felt the city could have handled the Edgewater renovation differently, especially regarding the questionable tax incremental finance structure.

Moreover, Cieslewicz got, quite literally, a free pass on his trip to Europe to study its biking culture. Along for the ride were representatives from Trek Cycling, which later received a no-bid contract to install a bike rental program in downtown Madison. We appreciate the mayor's commitment to cycling, but that does not exonerate him from potential ethics violations.

On most issues Soglin and Cieslewicz take a similar stance, but they do differ in a few areas critical to students. For starters, Soglin recognizes the inefficiencies of the Alcohol Licensing Density Ordinance, which makes it harder for businesses to obtain liquor licenses in an effort to curb crime and binge drinking downtown. In reality, repeatedly extending the plan has only hindered economic development for the city.

Soglin also values revamping city building inspections. Irreparable and unsafe housing should be replaced, but elsewhere we need to enforce inspection codes to maintain affordable, safe student housing downtown.

For one reason or another, Cieslewicz has marched to the beat of his own drum lately—sometimes skirting city customs in the process. We don't mind his initiative, but council members and other city workers are there for a reason, and the mayor should value their insight, not silence them.

The Cieslewicz top-down approach worked in some areas, but Madison is not a one-size-fits-all city. Soglin would bring an open and inclusive managerial style—a welcome change of pace for Madison.

Looking forward, both candidates understand the gravity of Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill and its impact on the city.

There is no easy solution to losing millions of dollars, but we need to be smart in the coming months. Madison should elect a savvy, proven leader who will protect vital city services while working to maintain its uniqueness. Come next Tuesday, Madison should elect Paul Soglin. 

Full disclosure: Paul Soglin's daughter works for The Daily Cardinal.

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