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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 65.0° F  Overcast
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Brenda Konkel to rivals: Bring it on
Controversial incumbent has four primary challengers
Konkel: 'It's unfortunate that this has become the focus.'
Konkel: 'It's unfortunate that this has become the focus.'

Brenda Konkel is making the most out of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's admitted attempts to recruit candidates to run against her. She portrays it as an emblem of her independence.

"The 2nd District wants - and deserves - a voice, not a rubber stamp to whatever the mayor wants," says Konkel, who is facing four challengers in the Feb. 17 primary election for Common Council. "It's unfortunate that this has become the focus of some of my opponents, instead of the issues of the residents of the 2nd District."

Konkel's district is perhaps the most interesting of the four Madison districts that have primary elections, which narrow the field to two candidates each. (Overall, in the April 7 general election, seven council seats are contested.)

Her challengers are: Bridget Maniaci, Adam Walsh, Sherman Hackbarth and (his requested form of address) Dennis Amadeus De Nure.

While none of the four were recruited by Cieslewicz, some suggest they would be more successful than Konkel by being less contentious.

"I have better existing working relationships with city staff and administrators than any other challenger in this race, and, I argue, better than Ms. Konkel," Maniaci says in her campaign blog, predicting that relations between the incumbent and the mayor "will not improve anytime soon."

Maniaci, 25, is a Madison native who grew up in Milwaukee and Sun Prairie. She has a bachelor's degree in political science and economics from the UW-Madison. She wants to focus on the district's infrastructure and business district. She's worked for The Capital Times and The Onion, and served as an intern in Cieslewicz's office.

Walsh extends Maniaci's concerns, suggesting that Konkel works poorly not only with the mayor, but with her constituents.

"Many of my neighbors feel that communication between the current leadership and themselves is poor at best," he says. "It will be critical for the new alder to communicate effectively with everyone in the district and, thereby, begin to rebuild the almost nonexistent trust that currently permeates our community."

Walsh, 26, from the Waukesha area, has lived in Madison since 2001, and has a law degree from the UW. He served on the UW-Madison student government and is an attorney at Kelly, Habermehl and Bushaw. He cites development, safety, alcohol, homelessness and the Overture Center among his key concerns.

Hackbarth did not respond to a request for information. And De Nure, who has run unsuccessfully for multiple offices in the past, including mayor and county executive, this time advises, "Do not vote for me." Sounds like a plan.

Konkel, 40, was born in Madison but grew up in Wisconsin Dells, Saukville and Portage. She returned here in 1990 and has a law degree from the UW. Konkel has served four terms on the Common Council and heads the Tenant Resource Center. She's co-chaired the Progressive Dane party on and off.

Konkel describes herself as a "strong advocate and community organizer on many city issues, including the city budget, tax incremental financing reform, affordable housing and bus fares." If reelected, she'd like to work on a transportation plan for the isthmus, park improvements and the concerns of working families.

Konkel's backers include County Board Chair Scott McDonell, former Ald. Bert Zipperer, outgoing Ald. Robbie Webber, and the South Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Konkel blames the mayor for their frayed ties. "I've tried to mend the relationship," she says, "but he clearly isn't interested."

Pols seek answers on suit

Kurt Schlicht wants to know: Who will pay for mistakes that may have contributed to Brittany Sue Zimmermann's death?

Schlicht, a Dane County supervisor, has sent a letter to county Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie, asking how the county intends to respond to a lawsuit filed by the parents of UW student Brittany Zimmermann. Zimmermann was killed after her call to the county's 911 Center was improperly handled.

The wrongful death suit was brought Jan. 13 against Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk, former 911 dispatcher Rita Gahagan and an unnamed insurance company. Schlicht's letter, signed by seven other county supervisors, asks a number of probing questions, including: "What effect would an adverse judgment have on the county's ability to obtain liability insurance in the future?"

It also asks: "What would be the rationale for extending taxpayer-funded legal assistance to County Executive Kathleen Falk or to 911 employee Rita Gahagan in this case?"

While MacKenzie's office will presumably defend the county, Schlicht suggests that also defending Falk and Gahagan could be a conflict of interest.

"This isn't political," says Schlicht. "I just want to get some answers, and boy, we aren't hearing anything."

The letter is available here (PDF), and was signed by Kurt Schlicht, Jack Martz, Dave Ripp, Bob Salov, Mike Willett, Eileen Bruskewitz, Jerry Jensen, and Dave Wiganowsky.

Missing the bus

Apartments and retail are proposed to replace the Badger Bus depot, 2 S. Bedford St. Planning documents submitted to the city by Jim Meier, an owner of Badger Bus, suggest intercity bus service can instead use a "transit hub" that will be part of a new Union South.

Union spokesman Marc Kennedy disputes this. "There are no plans to become a 24-hour bus station at either Union building," he says. "The new south campus Union won't have the necessary space to stage regional or national bus service."

Meier did not respond by deadline.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 1, Jefferson Lines ended its Madison-to-Minneapolis route, popular with students and Viroqua-area Amish. The line had long been known for spotty service; at the end of UW exams last semester, say Union Commons staff, Jefferson skipped its stop at the Memorial Union, stranding ticket-holding students whose dorms had closed.

The portion of the Highway 14 route to La Crosse via Spring Green, Richland Center and other communities was underwritten by the federal government. That money might be available for another provider, via the state Department of Transportation.

"We have received a number of inquiries from some communities in the region as well as from bus operators in relation to replacing at least some of the service lost with this discontinuation," says John Alley of WisDOT. "To date, we have not received any actual proposals for service."

Sustain this!

On Jan. 15, the Drudge Report took Madison to task for "draconian zoning ordinances" that would "dramatically limit free enterprise and personal liberty."

Cited was the agenda of a zoning code sustainability public hearing. It included such doomsday nuggets as "Use zoning to address or mitigate effects, or adapt to climate change" and "Write the code to allow the city to function when automobile travel will be severely limited."

Rick Roll of the city's planning office says these suggestions were garnered from the public at two earlier meetings. The city wants sustainability to be among the things to consider when rewriting the code.

Big man on campus

Gov. James Doyle is getting his own show on the Big Ten Network, of all places. He'll appear on "Wisconsin Reflections," an audience question-and-answer program. It's set to air the second week of February.

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