Cardinal View: Soglin is still the right choice for Madison

Paul Soglin is the best choice to lead Madison for the next four years. 

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In the fall of 1967, 22-year-old Paul Soglin and his UW-Madison peers were engaged in a peaceful sit-in to protest the campus presence of Dow Chemical Company, one of the leading producers of napalm during the Vietnam War. When Madison police attempted to remove the students from the building in which they were protesting, the confrontation turned violent and many students, including Soglin, were beaten by officers. Soglin was later chosen to lead the student strike that followed the incident.

Nearly 48 years later, when 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed on Williamson Street by a Madison police officer last month, now-Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was standing quietly among the crowds, solemnly grieving the loss of a young life and mourning the suffering his community was enduring. “It’s an unspeakable tragedy,” Soglin said at the scene.

Soglin’s passion for Madison and its people has been mistaken for stubbornness, even arrogance, in the 18 years he has led the city since first taking the mayoral office in 1973.

But it is Soglin’s doggedness in the face of emerging adversities, his unrivaled knowledge of the city’s inner-workings and his paramount focus to give “a new urgency to old questions” regarding poverty and equity, as he stated in a letter to The Cap Times, that has earned him The Daily Cardinal Editorial Board’s endorsement in the April 7 mayoral election.

The incumbent Soglin and his intelligent, zealous challenger, Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, share many of the same views and offer similar solutions to issues in and around Madison. However, this board believes Resnick is not prepared to handle the challenges of leading Madison’s city government as well as the difficulties the city will face when Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015 budget is implemented, slashing funding for the UW System, environmental organizations and rural health care programs.

Resnick’s promises to improve the city’s technological framework, including implementing city-wide access to high-speed Internet and working to attract young entrepreneurs and startups to the area, are noble. However, they are overshadowed by his lack of experience.

Soglin proved his ability to manage the city’s finances responsibly by rejecting the TIF money for the Edgewater, saving taxpayers millions when the project proceeded without the grant, and opening the Judge Doyle Square project up to new developers when it was found to cost much more than originally planned.

Soglin told the board that he admires Resnick, however, for the fact that he has stayed in Madison and that his business employs fellow Madisonians. This allegiance to preserving and promoting local businesses is a necessary aspect of our city’s leader, especially as apartment developments like The Hub and its chain-filled storefronts are coming to fruition.

A focus on making the city’s IT industry a force to be reckoned with isn’t enough; Soglin’s creative proposals to incentivise stores’ use of sidewalk space and to create an online search engine for all stores and products in the Madison area, for example, would allow the city’s cultural, social and economic landmarks, like State Street, to prosper.

Soglin’s hyper-awareness of the issues his community is facing extends to UW-Madison students as well. As a project manager at EPIC Systems for four years in the 2000s, Soglin hired humanities majors for the software company because they knew how to think critically; he is a staunch believer in the idea that college is not meant to simply train students for a profession, but to teach them how to contemplate and debate about the environment, equity and economics intelligently.

As the UW System faces massive budget cuts that could raise tuition dramatically when Walker’s tuition freeze is lifted in 2017, and student loan debt develops into a crucial, life-altering issue for college graduates and anyone considering college, this board believes Soglin’s experience as both a public and private employer provides him with the necessary perspective to make decisions that are conscious of these developing issues.

Finally, some of Soglin’s biggest critics have said he oversimplifies the issue of homelessness and even promotes racial divisions with his legislation. Soglin vows to continue to make solving the city’s racial issues a priority by seeking to reintroduce a program from his previous terms, which was cut by his successors, that dramatically reduced black infant mortality rates. Annexing Madison’s south side, which contains the area’s greatest concentration of people of color, is also a primary concern of Soglin; annexing the area and deeming it part of the City of Madison, rather than the Town of Madison, will allow the local government to have more influence in improving citizens’ quality of life there.

And just last fall, Soglin’s plan to create approximately 1,000 housing units for the homeless and low-income workers by 2020 was approved by the city council, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Madison has been anything but stagnant with Soglin at its helm. Though Soglin’s goals for his next term may seem lofty, our board is confident that no one is more prepared to take on the city’s issues and join us together in the city’s evolution. We proudly endorse him in the mayoral election.

We want to know what you think. Please send comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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