Welcome to my new blog.
January 6, 2009 2:45 PM
Let me admit three things upfront. This was my idea. It's probably a bad idea. I'm going to do it anyway.The very things that make blogs worthwhile also make them dangerous. Blogs allow their authors to go on at length and instantly. But when it comes to public policy I've always thought it was a better idea to say only what needs to be said and then only after a fair amount of consideration. Rambling on off the top of my head is not my style and rarely is it a good idea for anyone.
So why do it? Those who know me know that for a long time I thought Google was one member of a late 1980's girl band from Britain. When it comes to communication, I'm an old-fashioned guy. I like newspapers. I like to send letters. I don't like email, and I rarely text anything. But I've also discovered through hard experience that the world goes on regardless of what I like. People will communicate the way they choose and lots of people communicate these days via blogs. So, there it is and here I am.
The blog gives me a chance to provide information and analysis and explain my point of view when the topic or timing doesn't lend itself to the more formal outlets like a state of the city speech, a Council meeting or a press release or news conference. It's just another way to communicate.
So, here goes. Topic one is what's up for 2009. In a word it's all about the economy. Last year I laid out seven goals for my administration. We want to keep the city safe; provide excellent basic services; be both pro-business and progressive; have great public schools; stay open, accessible and connected to the world; and build a great city.
All those goals still apply, but we're moving our goal to be both pro-business and progressive up to the top of the list. As many of you know by now, I'm recommending that the Council approve Tim Cooley as our Economic Development Director. Council members, members of the Economic Development Commission and others will get a chance to meet Tim in the next few weeks. Assuming a confirmation at the second meeting in January, Tim should start his new job in mid-February. We'll let him get acclimated (literally he's moving here from California) and then we'll sit down, go over our Economic Development Plan, pick out some projects to focus on in 2009 and get to work. Tim will be part of the management team and he and Mario Mendoza and I will meet regularly to stay on task. Speaking of Mario, economic development was always on his plate, but now it assumes an even greater emphasis.
Of course, a lot of other things are already underway. Our third Small Business Conference is set for May. New positions at the Community Development Authority and in the Planning Department will help in the development of key parts of our city. The zoning code rewrite is moving forward. The Thrive regional economic development entity is starting to define itself.
And there's no question that Madison has advantages. The University and the high tech industries that spin off from it are incredibly important. But we aren't immune from the recession, not by a long shot. I'm a big believer in making lemonade out of lemons. So how can we use the downturn to position ourselves for the recovery that is sure to come? I'm eager to start working with Tim Cooley to answer that question, but for now here are three ideas:
Use the federal stimulus package to maximum advantage. We can be sure that there will be a sizable stimulus package, perhaps approaching one trillion dollars, and much of it will be invested in infrastructure. We need to be ready to go with as many "shovel ready" projects as possible. I recently submitted a wish list of projects to the U.S. Conference of Mayors at their request. You can access it at https://www.cityofmadison.com/news/view.cfm?news_id=1262.
Become more energy independent. We can't be fooled again. The recent dip in gas prices is just a mirage. The long-term trend is still up. If we continue to build buildings, transportation systems and neighborhoods as if cheap fossil fuels were endless we'll find ourselves vulnerable to another recession in a few years. We need to do everything we can to build a city that is as energy independent as any in the world.
Buy local. We know that every dollar spent in a locally owned store will kick around the community about seven times before it leaves. And buying local gives you that good feeling of helping your neighbors and fellow citizens who own those stores and employ people you know.
So, while we won't ignore our other important goals, the economy will be our focus in 2009. And if we do it right, we won't just ride out the storm. We'll come out of it stronger then we were before.