Getting My Priorities Right For the City of Madison

August 11, 2011 11:37 AM

A reader wrote into the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday, Todd Van Fossen: Soglin should focus on crime, not signs:

As a nearly lifelong Madison resident, I was baffled and appalled by Mayor Paul Soglin's interview with Shawn Doherty. It was either a case of bad mayoral priorities, bad reporting and interviewing, or both. I have tremendous respect for Soglin, but the city has real problems that require real leadership....

...Crime is rampant. It's a problem. It happens under the shadow of the West Side Police Station on McKenna.  Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, the problem is not with signs at Johnson and Mills that impede your bicycling. The problem is crime and the declining home values and quality of life it causes in neighborhoods that are a primary tax base of our city...

Frankly, I cannot blame Mr. Van Fossen. Clearly it is time for me to return to blogging to make sure that Madisonians know that I hear from them, what is important to me, and what I recommend we do.

The first and most important challenge is to tackle City of Madison budget issues. We took several blows from the state in lost shared revenues, transportation aids, and recycling funds. In addition we have our own problems created by a series of decisions that lead to too much borrowing, borrowing for operating expenses, and relying on grants that required the city to step in with significant expenditures to maintain required service levels.

After we stabilize the budget we will be able to get into a position where we can tackle the problems of many Madison neighborhoods. We are well aware of the challenges rising poverty, increased crime, particularly violent crime, and needed employment opportunities. We are not waiting. Certain areas of the city are getting heightened police coverage, attention for violence related to substance abuse and mental illness, and issues related to neglected property.

At the same time there are still the 'broken window matters'. Some are aesthetic, such as illegal signage. Others are more serious such as carelessly parked bicycles and scooters on sidewalks that make the way impassable for anyone using a walker or a wheelchair.

I love the challenge of solving these problems. Some commentators prefer to gossip about my attitude in addressing these very sobering and serious problems. I am serious about them. But I also get great joy when we solve these matters and I see an open government engage residents and public officials in a process that improves our quality of life.

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