City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Paying For Progress

July 28, 2010 2:49 PM

I am a liberal and proud of it. I believe that government is nothing more or less than how we solve our collective problems. I think that local government especially can do a lot of tangible good in a community. I also think that we need to grow our tax base to pay for these investments.

Yesterday I wrote about the false ideological split that some opponents of the Edgewater hotel project are touting. I showed that the Edgewater was approved through a complex series of Common Council votes that took support from left, right and center. The project is currently being stalled by a law suit filed by two opponents.

Today I'd like to step back a little and discuss my overall thinking about projects like this one.

It's odd and disappointing that some of the very same folks who like to criticize my support for the Edgewater also forget about the public investments I've pushed for on Allied Drive ($11 million), the Villager Mall ($13.2 million), the Goodman Atwood Community Center ($1.4 million), the Lussier Community Center ($350,000), the Urban League Center for Economic Development and Workforce Training ($1 million), and the new South Branch Library ($3.58 million).

And that's just the bricks and mortar projects. In my time in office, we've also increased support for Community Service and Community Development Block Grant programs by 47% (well over twice the rate of inflation) and created several new programs like Transit for Jobs ($160,000 over the last two years), the Low Income Bus Pass Program, the Emerging Neighborhoods Fund and a new neighborhood center on the South West Side.

I haven't been shy about making public investments in things that I believe will build a stronger community. At the same time, though, if all we do is increase costs for our existing tax base, it means that we'll put more and more pressure on our taxpayers, including people on fixed or low incomes who can't afford it.

So, the liberal answer is to pay for progress by growing the tax base. That's particularly important in a city with so much tax-exempt property. It's the key reason that I supported the Edgewater, and it's why I think we need to look at our development approval processes to make them more predictable, democratic, transparent and expeditious.

I am a liberal who believes in an ambitious public agenda. I believe in making lots of public investments. And I believe that we need to welcome and encourage private investment in our city to help us pay for it.


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