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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Fair
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Mayor Paul Soglin's 2013 committee appointments spark gossip on Madison Common Council
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Bidar-Sielaff: "There were no surprises, but it is disappointing."
Bidar-Sielaff: "There were no surprises, but it is disappointing."

Mayor Paul Soglin released his 2013 committee appointments on Wednesday, and while most of Madison can be forgiven for giving a large collective yawn, for the council members themselves, it is a huge deal.

Alders spent much of Wednesday calling each other to complain, congratulate and gossip about the appointments. This is the epitome of inside baseball in terms of what the appointments mean to political careers and who feels slighted or recognized by the mayor.

"Alders play the gossip game to say who is happy or mad," says Ald. Scott Resnick, who was pleased with his nine appointments.

The Plan Commission and the Board of Estimates (BOE) are considered the most prestigious and powerful committees, as they oversee development and funding.

Veterans generally fill them; surprisingly, Soglin put rookies on both. Ledell Zellers was named to the Plan Commission and Denise DeMarb was put on BOE. But both appointments also make some sense: Zellers has been heavily involved in development issues through the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation and Capitol Neighborhoods Inc.; DeMarb is director of finance at Trek Bicycle Corporation and no stranger to spreadsheets.

Also noteworthy is that two council veterans, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff and Mark Clear -- both of whom are rumored to be contemplating a run for mayor -- were left off of both committees.

"There were no surprises, but it is disappointing," says Bidar-Sielaff, who as outgoing council president now sits on BOE and hoped to remain there. As for whether the mayor was trying to deflate a potential rival, Bidar-Sielaff says that she's never declared herself as a candidate for the job and at the moment isn't interested in running.

"Our concern should be how to best manage our city today and what are the best ways to use the council's talents and passions and abilities. That's how appointments should be made," she says. "They should not be made on politics."

Soglin, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Ald. Marsha Rummel had her committee load lightened somewhat by being taken off the Plan Commission and the Urban Design Commission, both of which meet twice a month and usually have packed agendas.But overall Rummel is happy with her appointments. "If you asked for a bunch of things and didn't get anything you wanted, you'd feel very slighted," she says. "I think Soglin tried to give everyone something they wanted. I think everyone got a fair set of assignments."

Also getting appointed to the Board of Estimates are alders Joe Clausius, Larry Palm, Lisa Subeck and Mike Verveer. The council president also gets an automatic seat on BOE after he or she is elected next week. Chris Schmidt, the current pro tem, is expected to get the post. A number of candidates are said to be contemplating running for the pro tem position, which is second in command.

Also interesting is that John Strasser was not appointed to the Community Development Authority. Tim Bruer, whom Strasser just upset for his south-side seat, sat on that panel for years and used it to attract many development grants to his district.

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