Brad Clark is aware of the buzz and acts proactively to dispel it: "I'm not going to tell you that the mayor's office has pictures of me in compromising positions."
Nope. In fact, Clark, the station manager of Madison City Channel, says the mayor's office had nothing to do with his initial decision not to cover Monday night's informational meeting for Common Council members on the city's planned $16 million TIF subsidy to the Edgewater hotel project. There was no pressure, no threats, not even a phone call or email.
What about an encounter in the hallway, like maybe mayoral aide Mario Mendoza going all Tony Soprano, throwing Clark against a wall and growling a warning that if translated from HBO to regular cable would make prodigious use of the word "freaking"?
Um, apparently, that didn't happen either.
Okay, what about the other rumor, that there was an email from Ald. Mark Clear, the new Council president, instructing Clark not to cover the meeting?
Clark denies even this. There was no email and no directive. Just an innocent conversation in a hallway last week, in which Clark asked Clear, "Is there any point in our covering this?"
Based on the feedback he received, Clark decided against it.
"It was completely my decision," he says, explaining his reasoning. "Covering Edgewater -- in all of these six- and seven-hour meetings -- has been killing us in terms of resources." He calls it "Edgewater fatigue."
Moreover, the informational meeting Monday night on the TIF subsidy will be followed by a presumably longer and largely repetitive must-cover council meeting Tuesday night -- a meeting that if it doesn't run well into Wednesday morning (and even if it does) might be followed by another meeting on Wednesday night to wrap things up.
"Everything that's going to be said tonight is going to be said several times tomorrow," notes Clark Monday.
And yet, after hearing from several citizens and mulling it over, Clark has decided that Madison City Channel will indeed cover Monday's meeting.
Why the change of heart? Did an angry mob of citizens threaten to protest Clark's decision by lighting themselves on fire in front of the City-County Building?
Um, no. It's just that some people argue in favor of coverage, and Clark takes such input seriously. But an even greater factor was his realization that Madison City Channel has "covered this saga every step of the way," which among other things has created an online archive of virtually everything that's been said for or against the project at a public meeting over the last year.
Clark says the decision to cover, like his earlier one not to cover, was "completely my own." Indeed, while he occasionally solicits advice from the mayor's office or council members on whether it makes sense to cover a given meeting or event, Clark insists that "nobody has ever told me, 'I don't want your cameras there.'"
He says that while the station receives city funding, in terms of its operation "we might as well be an independent entity. Nobody tells us what to do."
Monday's informational meeting, which will feature presentations by city TIF guru Joe Gromacki, Assistant City Attorney Anne Zellhoefer, and City Comptroller Dean Brasser, is in Room 260 of the Madison Municipal Building, beginning at 5 p.m. Or you can just watch it on TV. (Madison City Channel can be seen on Charter analog channel 98, digital channel 994, AT&T U-Verse channel 99, or at www.madisoncitychannel.com.)
"Hopefully," says Clark, "it won't last more than a few hours."
A station manager, like a salesman, has got to dream.