Berg Issues Full Apology
July 29, 2009 1:11 PM
Rick Berg has seen the light. In the last issue of the Isthmus (you can still grab ten copies for your friends on newsstands today!), Berg grovels and begs my forgiveness for a blasphemous piece he wrote about a year ago after I returned from Freiburg, Germany. Having returned from the Mountain Top after a sister city visit there last June, I expressed my admiration for the city in general and the almost auto free Vauban neighborhood in particular. At the time, Rick wrote that I should have had another beer and left the crazy lefty-green ideas back in the Fatherland. He aimed most of his venom at my idea to borrow some of Vauban's car light concepts for a huge new set of neighborhoods being planned on Madison's far northeast side.
But in his article a year later, Berg has very good things to say about Freiburg and even Vauban (which, by the way, has the politics and feel of Willy Street only further to the left). He also notes with apparent approval that "trams" (they are also known in this country as "trolleys" or, God help us, "streetcars") crisscross the city and make the car light Vauban project work. He also points out correctly that a big advantage for Vauban was that the City of Frieburg bought and controlled all the land.
We have neither total control nor a light rail system to serve the Northeast Neighborhoods, where we're trying to transform these 2,500 acres east of East Towne into as green and as car light a new development as exists anywhere in America. But earlier this year I worked with the Common Council to develop first-ever environmental goals for a development in Madison. The goals call for 25% reductions in car use, energy use, water use and storm water runoff. Now the specific plan for the area is working its way through city committees and should make it to the Council for adoption this fall. Without some of the fundamentals that exist in Freiburg it won't be the same, but it will be substantially better than it would have been if we hadn't held ourselves to a higher standard.
OK, full disclosure. Berg didn't exactly grovel, and his request for my forgiveness appears only in my dreams. Nonetheless, I credit the guy for going to see for himself and for being open minded enough to come back and write a piece that fairly describes the place, it's advantages and the prospects for doing something like it here.