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Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Moving the Goal Posts

October 12, 2009 11:00 AM

Up for consideration tonight before the Board of Estimates are two amendments to my capital budget that would essentially make two important projects pass higher-than-necessary hurdles.

The first amendment would require that the proposed new Central Library project be approved in a binding referendum before it goes forward. As a general rule, I don't believe in referenda. I believe the Council and I got elected to study the issues and apply our best judgment in the long-run, best interests of the City, even when that might not be entirely popular. (I do make an exception for the Regional Transit Authority's sales tax only because it would be the imposition of a new tax in a new taxing jurisdiction, and so it rises to the rare level of something that probably should go directly to the voters. Virtually nothing else does, in my estimation.)

The second amendment would remove the tax incremental financing loan for the Edgewater Hotel project. This one would have the effect of making the Edgewater TIF approval a super majority 15 vote item, because it would have to come in as a budget amendment after the 2010 budget passes. The rationale offered by the amendment's sponsors is that this is such a large and important project that a super majority should be needed. But the Edgewater already has a long road ahead of it, including a half dozen different kinds of approvals needed. To raise the bar here seems to me both unnecessary and unfair.

Both of these issues are important, long-term decisions, and they certainly deserve a lot of good discussion. So I expected amendments, and I actually welcome them as a means of having that discussion.

But in the end, both of these amendments are essentially about moving the goal posts further away, making it harder to get these projects accomplished. I believe that the Library and the Edgewater are decisions that should be decided not by referenda, not by unelected citizen committees, not by the courts, not by super hard, super majority votes, but by a simple majority vote of the Council itself, the people who got elected to make these tough choices on behalf of the entire community.

Let's keep the goal posts where they belong. It's tough enough to score in this league.


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