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Thursday, February 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 7.0° F  Fair
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Is the Edgewater a 'cool' trolley for Cieslewicz?
Mohs: 'Earlier than we knew, Dave latched onto the Edgewater project because it gave him a new project that was 'cool.''
Mohs: 'Earlier than we knew, Dave latched onto the Edgewater project because it gave him a new project that was 'cool.''
Credit:Carolyn Fath

Shortly after he was elected mayor, Dave Cieslewicz incorporated into his stump speech ways in which Madison could look "cool." The basic assumption is that productive young people have been going to the coasts or big cities that they feel are "cool."

He identified, and perhaps correctly, that Madison needed to get into the "cool" business. I agreed, particularly with a part of the stump speech where he used me as an example of "cool," probably not fully comprehending that my style is really not retro. I just haven't changed it in 50 years, and it has nothing to do with trying to look like Don Draper.

We had lunch a few times -- another lamb chop aficionado -- and shared ideas. We were on the same wavelength enough that he even asked me to help him. Dave asked me to appear as a moderating influence at a meeting at St. Maria Goretti Church where he was worried about a meeting with neighbors critical of social problems in the Meadowood and Orchard Ridge Neighborhoods. I registered to speak, but it became clear that only pissed-off neighbors were going to be called upon. The constructive give and take that we had hoped for didn't happen and the Mayor had to sit there while a couple hundred people chanted, "No more trolleys! No more trolleys!"

Only on Friday, when I read Dave's piece on The Daily Page, did I realize how much "cool" was driving the Edgewater process. Earlier than we knew, Dave latched onto the Edgewater project -- which at the time was a tower blocking the lake view on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue -- because it gave him a new project that was "cool."

Notes from his aide, Mario Mendoza, show that he was conspiring with the developer much earlier than had been known and was willing to overlook egregious behavior such as developer Bob Dunn's misrepresentation that he had my agreement as a result of a meeting that took place on October 20, 2008.

A supposedly disappointed Dave told Dunn and the neighbors, "this project isn't going anywhere without approval of the neighbors." He then proceeded to conspire with Dunn to redesign the project and begin a competing neighborhood association populated by non-resident landlords, all the while isolating the neighbors and historic preservationists from the process.

It was more important to have a "cool" project on his watch than to be a steady steward of our government processes.

Fred Mohs is a lawyer, real estate developer, iconic downtown supporter, former UW Regent and board member of Downtown Madison Inc. He lives on Wisconsin Avenue, near the Edgewater Hotel.

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