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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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Paging Scott Walker… new governor has yet to return calls from Mayor Dave
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Walker, on the phone with somebody besides Cieslewicz.
Walker, on the phone with somebody besides Cieslewicz.
Credit:Narayan Mahon

It's no secret that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz rooted for the other guy in the last gubernatorial election. Still, now that Scott Walker has gotten the nod to lead Wisconsin, the mayor of Madison would like to talk to him now and then. But the governor has not responded to Cieslewicz's overtures.

"We reached out immediately after the election," Cieslewicz says. "I sent him a letter congratulating him and asking him for a meeting."

Cieslewicz says he hoped to talk about the high-speed rail project Walker had threatened to (and eventually did) kill. But he also wanted to "open a dialogue."

"I don't know Scott Walker at all. I'd like to have an opportunity to establish a working relationship," Cieslewicz says. "I know we're going to disagree. But he is going to be governor for the next four years. I hope to be mayor for the next four years.... We at least should be able to call on one another."

Cieslewicz had a much closer relationship with Gov. Jim Doyle. "As a rule, I'd get a return call within a day or so."

There are a number of state revenue streams important to Madison, the largest of which is "Payments for municipal services." This fund, calculated by the state, is a payment in lieu of property taxes for police and fire services that the city provides. It amounts to about $8 million a year, Cieslewicz says.

"Right now, they're only paying about 60% of what their own formula says they owe us," Cieslewicz says. The figure is not negotiated, and the city is largely at the mercy of the state in terms of what it gets.

Cieslewicz would like to make the case for this funding and lobby for things important to the city, such as stem cell research.

The mayor is determined to keep trying. "I try to avoid feeling snubbed," he says. "In politics, you should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. You should try to have a working relationship."

A press aide from Walker's office fielded an inquiry from Isthmus and promised a return call; but no one from the office called back.

County exec rivals talk transportation

As part of its coverage of the Dane County executive campaign, Isthmus is sending weekly questions to the candidates.

For the initial offering, we asked: "Do you support commuter rail for Dane County? What should the county government do to deal with transportation issues and infrastructure? Should the government invest in one mode over another?"

Four candidates - Zach Brandon, Scott McDonell, Joe Parisi and Joe Wineke - responded to the question; Eileen Bruskewitz and Spencer Zimmerman did not.

Parisi and McDonell support a regional transit authority and would continue to push for transportation alternatives like dedicated bus and bike lanes, while moving ahead with plans for commuter rail.

Parisi advocates a range of options and says "commuter rail should be a part of that approach." McDonell says the Regional Transit Authority "should continue to work toward a high-speed and commuter rail system."

But Brandon says that, in the wake of Gov. Walker's decision to kill the high-speed rail line, "now is not the time" for commuter rail. Instead, he supports working on a "truly regional bus system" and says "we must improve our county's roadways in a systematic, strategic way."

Wineke also doesn't want to rush into commuter rail: "In an era of shrinking resources, we have to get back to basics - and our first transit priority must be to maintain our existing infrastructure."

For the candidates' complete responses, see the election page at

Candidate connections

The spring candidates for Madison Common Council are heavily represented in the education, government and health care professions.

All candidates are required to file statements of economic interests, which list their employers, affiliations and large debts. Of the 41 candidates for 20 council seats, six work in education, including two, incumbents Chris Schmidt and Satya Rhodes-Conway, who work for the UW-Madison and its affiliates. Six work for government, including five for the state and one for Madison Metro.

Four are employed by advocacy groups, such as Lisa Subeck, who works for NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin; and Christian von Preysing-Barry, who works for Access Community Health. Sue Ellingson has been active with the Democratic Party.

Four work for health care agencies. Four are entrepreneurs. Three work for bars or restaurants.

Making the chickens legal

The city of Madison is eying a zoning change to let schools and museums in the downtown area keep up to six chickens.

People can currently keep four chickens in the city's residential zones, but that does not include downtown. The zoning change would allow the Madison Children's Museum - or any other downtown school or museum - to keep six birds.

Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer supports the change: "It seems to me when the chicken ordinance was adopted years ago, no one ever thought there would be an opportunity for chickens to peacefully coexist downtown. But the creative folks at the Children's Museum changed all that, so we want to make the chickens legal."

The museum currently has four birds, used to teach about food production and humanely raising animals. "We allow our chickens to be handled by the kids," says Ruth Shelly, the museum's executive director. "With six chickens, we're able to rotate the love between the chickens."

The chickens did cause some alarm last month by burrowing out of their enclosure on the museum's rooftop. "We were able to coax all but one back in," Shelly says. "Chickens can fly. One of them flew down to Hamilton Street, but was rescued."

The enclosure has since been reinforced.

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