Mayor Soglin's Blog

Wanted: Journalists With Substance and The "Sixty Minutes" Rule

September 6, 2012 4:02 PM


Years ago when I first watched the CBS news magazine "Sixty Minutes" there were plenty of stories featuring people who knew things had gone awry but failed to act. From that I came up with my Sixty Minutes rule.

When a reporter asks, "What did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it?" I wanted to always be able to answer that I had taken responsibility.  I did not want to be in the situation where I had knowledge of a problem and failed to act.

This point is lost on Madison's own local CBS affiliate, Channel 3, ?WISC. Check out this story:

Records indicate few complaints spurred Soglin's State Street plans

??Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has pushed against downtown business owners, taxicab operators and panhandlers largely on his own, with few written or electronic complaints from city residents, records revealed.

The focus is on the lack of complaints, not the substance of the issue.

The story ignores the fact that 'A-frame' private signs are illegally placed in highly trafficked pedestrian areas, posing a danger to visually handicapped pedestrians and narrowing otherwise wide sidewalks so that individuals in wheelchairs cannot get through. In at least one instance a sign was chained to a fire hydrant blocking access. (Seattle also faces this challenge).

I guess that does not count since the open records request failed to reveal any email record of the offense.

The Channel 3 story ignores the fact that the panhandling on State Street is complicated with dangerous, expensive life-threatening consequences. Many of the State Street panhandlers have serious substance abuse problems. Unfortunately the financial gifts often are spent on liquor and cooking sherry. There are at least two panhandlers with significant criminal records and their contacts with police  and fire rescue are so frequent that the costs run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I personally witnessed one panhandler, "M" a well-known State Street regular passed out twice in a week. The first time he was so lifeless, fire rescue was called to see if he was either drunk or in a diabetic coma. In the second instance he attempted to rise from a bench, stumbled, and crashed face forward to the pavement.

Sorry but millions of dollars spent each year on dealing with possible life threatening intoxication does not count since there are not enough emails.

The taxicabs cruising State Street are operating in violation of city ordinances and the city's previous grant agreements with the U.S. Department of Transportation. One of the reasons for the restrictions on vehicles on State Street is to ensure that city buses are not delayed. If Madison is serious about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), additional delays on State Street are not going to win any million dollar grants from Washington.  This is not to say that some alternatives to the present ordinance will not work; is it too much trouble to evaluate the situation and work on legislative reform rather than wholesale violation of city traffic regulations?

Sorry, no emails. I guess the future of BRT and millions of dollars in transit grants do not count since there were no emails.

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