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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Troy Thiel vs. Robbie Webber for District 5
Questions and answers with the candidates for one of 14 seats contested in the spring 2007 elections for the Madison Common Council
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Grad student heavy, Madison's fifth district covers an area just to the west of campus from Lake Mendota to Regent St. Incumbent Ald. Robbie Webber was elected with significant backing from Progressive Dane in 2003 and will face challenger Troy Thiel on April 3.

Thiel graduated from Illinois State in 1987 with a B.S. and in Political Science and subsequently earned an M.S. in the field in 1990. He has lived in the district for four years and been active in the Regent Neighborhood Association and Franklin/Randall PTO in various capacities. He's a realtor.

Webber is a 20-year Madison resident, owning her home for 15. She works for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin in outreach. She studied Latin American Studies, Sociology and Geography at UW-Madison and credits her education for influencing her career in community activism.

The Daily Page conducted an email Q&A with each candidate, asking them for responses to six basic questions and eight quick-fire responses to simple choices. Their responses follow.





Troy Thiel


The Daily Page: Please identify what you consider to be the most important issue in your district and what you are going to do about it.
Thiel: There are many important issues that have arisen in our area in the last four years that my opponent hasn't addressed effectively. Public safety is first, with needed improvements to pedestrian, cyclists and vehicle safety as well as growing crime in the area. Adequately handling development pressures, code enforcement, needed park renovations, improved public services, business vitality and many more advocacy needs exist. They will be priorities for me.


What's one thing the city can do to address criticisms of its business climate?
City leaders need to recognize that our progressive business community is a valuable ally in the creation of a long term sustainable and successful Madison that enhances our quality of life, increases good jobs and promotes excellent economic development. Some on the existing Council, including my opponent, have helped create the anti business perception. We need to move beyond that and work together as a community to improve Madison for the near, and long term.


Two wheels, four wheels and rails. Where should the city go?
Our city has a real commitment to addressing transportation trends and future needs. I look forward to being part of the conversation to improve our efforts at creating a great multi-modal system that includes pedestrian, bicycle, auto and public transit in an efficient and cost effective manner. We've got a real opportunity to improve Metro with our new director. I'm not sold on trolleys or light rail, but will keep an open mind to options.


What one thing can the city do that it's not currently doing to increase the availability of affordable housing?
Focus on effective strategies that make affordable housing creation a reality. Inclusionary Zoning has closed only six units since it's inception nearly three years ago, when several hundred a year were projected and over 90% of units in the program have "passed through" back to market pricing. It also does not address rental market issues. We need to concentrate on being cost efficient and effective with our strategies and improve good paying job growth too.


List three things you think the city should spend less money on, and three things on which it should spend more.
The city should be more cost efficient and effective in creating affordable housing opportunities, improving our public transit system, providing public safety improvements (including police needs to pedestrian safety), supporting our public education and child support systems so that they best prepare our children for their future, providing quality public services, and assisting in appropriate economic development that helps our future sustainability and policies that protect our environment. There are always ways we can invest better.


Do you foresee a situation where you might vote contrary to the express wishes of your constituents?
On major issues that affect my district, I will hold "listening sessions" and communicate with my neighbors to get a sense of how the neighborhood feels about the issues at hand. I feel very comfortable that my policy desires and positions for improving public safety and public services, improving representation and advocacy, and championing appropriate development for our neighborhood are very similar to what my district feels they need in a great alder.


Name the thing you like least about Madison
The growing movement of an "us versus them" component of the public discourse that if it continues, will make creating good public policy that respects the diversity of our community and is effective in its goals much more difficult.


Who is your favorite ex-mayor?
Paul Soglin, whose commitment to appropriately addressing Madison's issues has not waned since his time as mayor.


Do you think rates for parking tickets are too high or too low?
I think the real discussion should be focused on whether the rates for parking are too high or too low, and how we can better address marketing and other strategies to make our parking supply as effective as possible.


How often do you take Metro?
My family use it almost everyday to get to school, the UW and downtown, but I prefer cycling when possible.


Wisconsin State Journal or The Capital Times?
The Wisconsin State Journal, Chicago Tribune, Isthmus, The Daily Cardinal in print and online versions of The Capital Times, The Daily Page, the Badger Herald, the New York Times, Channel 3000, and area forums and blogs... I'm a news junkie!


Madison Mallards or Mad Rollin' Dolls?
As a baseball and softball player all my life (I currently play in MSCR as a Harmony Gearhead), I have to say Mallards and still hold out hopes that I have a shot at making the Cubs opening day team as the starting center fielder.


Would you rather spend Halloween with the crowds or cops?
I love the crowds of kids in their great costumes that come to our door every year and handing out the treats (sorry, no tricks), and realize that I'm just too old to hang out with the crowds on State Street, though back in the day...


Name the most botched public issue in town.
There are many close "seconds" (ineffective affordable housing policies, lack of efforts to create more jobs through economic development efforts, the "odd" pursuit of the trolley discussion to name a few), but the primary botched issue was the mistakes made in communication to the affected citizens and necessary and quick-service delivery improvements surrounding the poor water quality issue because it was an urgent and immediate public safety crisis to those areas.


Robbie Weber


The Daily Page: Please identify what you consider to be the most important issue in your district and what you are going to do about it.
Webber: Our district is just beginning to see redevelopment pressure. This has the potential to significantly change our neighborhood. We just beginning a corridor plan for University Avenue with a grant that I helped secure from the city. This plan is essential to set guidelines for neighbors and developers regarding our vision for the future. I am committed to hold early neighborhood meetings and keep neighbors informed on every new project and the emerging corridor plan.


What's one thing the city can do to address criticisms of its business climate?
Complete the economic development study that was finally authorized in the budget. Until we know what the most important factors are for businesses looking to locate in Madison, it will be hard to evaluate whether we actually have a bad business climate.


I voted for this study in the previous year's budget, but it did not pass. The same people that voted against it the previous year brought it back this year.


Two wheels, four wheels and rails. Where should the city go?
We need to move away from prioritizing single occupancy vehicle travel wherever possible. People of all ages, abilities, and incomes should have choices for transportation. The bus system will remain the mainstay of our system. Rail -- streetcars or commuter rail -- can add capacity in certain corridors. Walking and bicycling infrastructure is inexpensive, easy to build, and ideal for many trips. Road expansion and maintenance is eating up all the funding for these alternatives.


What one thing can the city do that it's not currently doing to increase the availability of affordable housing?
Increase funding to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Originally, this fund was supposed to be funded at $1 million per year, and built up to $10 million over ten years. That principal would then generate permanent funding to be used for affordable housing projects. We fight every year over putting $200-500,000 into the budget, and often even this meager amount is contingent on sales of land or remaining money in the Contingent Reserve.


List three things you think the city should spend less money on, and three things on which it should spend more.
Less:

  • Road expansion
  • Attracting business (our business climate and employment rate is excellent)
  • Halloween

More:

  • Transportation alternatives to driving
  • Affordable housing initiatives
  • Energy efficiency and environmental concerns


Do you foresee a situation where you might vote contrary to the express wishes of your constituents?
It would be difficult to imagine a situation where I would vote against the wishes of my constituents, although I hasten to add that there is almost never an issue on which there is 100% agreement. For the last four years, my personal values and votes have closely matched those of the majority of my constituents, based on communications I have received every day and on controversial issues.


Name the thing you like least about Madison.
Perennial whining about winter weather.


Who is your favorite ex-mayor?
Otto Festge, for showing up at the outdoor sesquicentennial celebration in horrible weather (when another famous former mayor was a no-show.)


Do you think that rates for parking tickets are too high or too low?
Depends on the offense.


How often do you take Metro?
Because I bike most of the time, about two times a week in winter, once a month in summer.


Wisconsin State Journal or The Capital Times?
The Capital Times


Madison Mallards or Mad Rollin' Dolls?
The Mallards because they're outside.


Would you rather spend Halloween with the crowds or cops?
Crowds


Name the most botched public issue in town.
The discussion of streetcars versus commuter rail versus buses.


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