It looks like Mayor Paul Soglin isn't hesitating to suggest cuts to the capital budget, an area of city finances that many believe has been out of control in recent years.
A decision approved by the City Council last month to spend $250,000 on planning for a proposed Downtown public market was reconsidered by the council Tuesday night at the request of Mayor Paul Soglin, who wants more time to study the project.
Curiously, the State Journal did not mention the association between the public market and the now-deceased high-speed rail station. Although the train was not the sole catalyst for the idea, it was a powerful justification for even more investment in the area around the Capitol and Monona Terrace.
In fact, according to Brenda Konkel's rundown of the Council discussion on the issue last night, only Ald. Marsha Rummel referenced the "synergy" between the train and the market.* None of them seemed to suggest the death of the train as a justification for killing or moving the market.
What many alders did say, apparently, was that they would vote to delay the project out of "courtesy" to the new mayor. It will be interesting to see how far alders will extend that courtesy as Soglin targets other capital projects to save money. As one former alder told me, members of the Council all agree that the capital budget needs to be restrained, but few are willing to forfeit projects in their districts for the cause of fiscal prudence.
But Soglin appears bent on some serious cost-savings. Right out of the gate he has drawn a line in the sand over the reconstruction of the Central Library, demanding $8 million in private fundraising to finance the project. It's a tough, but plausible goal to set. Libraries attract donors, including corporations who want to beef up their image in the community.
Other projects, however, will not be so lucky. I wonder if the $250,000 earmarked for the renovation of the bicycle elevator at Monona Terrace will survive. The city engineer at last night's discussion of transportation policy said the renovation would address the unbearable heat that riders complain of in the summer. Here's the way to protect it: Are you pro or anti-heat stroke, Mr. Mayor?
*Correction: Earlier I interpreted what Rummel said to mean that the high-speed rail line played a role in determining where the market would be. As Rummel has since pointed out, the market's location was decided on before the train station location was.
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