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Friday, October 31, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  A Few Clouds
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The rebirth of Stoughton Road
East-siders want to put their stamp on thoroughfare

A group of east-side residents has hired a consultant and will begin holding meetings to do land-use planning for...a highway. Not a park, not an abandoned factory, not an entire neighborhood, but a highway.

'What should we do about the Stoughton Road corridor?' asks Fred Arnold, chair of the Stoughton Road Revitalization Project. 'It's time to talk about this.'

Arnold says the group formed after the Wisconsin Department of Transportation began considering revamping Highway 51, which is Stoughton Road through Madison. 'It's part of the neighborhood,' he says. 'It ought to be safe, but it ought to be visually attractive and welcoming, too.'

The Revitalization Project has raised about $28,000 in private donations, and received $32,000 in planning grants from the city of Madison and Dane County. The state kicked in another $24,600. The group will host a public hearing on April 11 at Olbrich Gardens, and, with the city's help, begin holding focus groups with interested parties.

Rebecca Cnare, a planner with the city of Madison, thinks the residents' interest makes perfect sense. 'Stoughton Road acts as a gateway to eight or nine different neighborhoods,' including Elvehjem, Glendale and East Buckeye, she says. 'That's why it's so important.'

The state is considering several options, including adding more turn lanes, relocating intersections and building on/off ramps. No funding has yet been allocated, and the state could decide to do nothing. Cnare says the city and residents ultimately can't tell the state what to do, but that the Department of Transportation 'knows what the neighborhood says is pretty important.'

Arnold won't give a precise vision for the road's redevelopment, saying residents must decide on a plan. But he admits he doesn't like how the corridor looks now, with billboards, little natural landscaping, and tons of retail. He also shakes his head over the lines of cars for sale that people park on the frontage roads.

'This just doesn't speak well in terms of esthetic importance,' he says, noting that the corridor now looks like lots of other roads. 'We want a roadway that's going to be an impression of our city. This [current] roadway is not Madison, Wisconsin.'

Sending signals

If Ald. Larry Palm is defeated in the April 3 election, it could be seen as a repudiation of the 'tax cut' crowd he hangs with on the council. The Dist. 15 incumbent has repeatedly joined with Ald. Zach Brandon in sponsoring budget-cut amendments.

'A lot of this is about priorities,' Palm says of his record, which includes votes against funding paratransit for Metro, a downtown safety initiative, and a nonprofit group that helps former prostitutes. 'If we're spending in one area, we can't spend in another. We need to keep property taxes in check.'

Palm backed the Metro cuts due to his concerns about the agency and its then-manager, Catherine Debo. 'It's not that I don't support Metro,' he says. 'We needed a better system.' By voting for the cut, he was 'sending a signal.'

But Palm's opponent, Vicky Selkowe, is aghast at his reasoning. 'We're talking about thousands of workers who depend on the bus system,' she says. 'This is real for people.'

Selkowe has snatched away many of the endorsements Palm had when he first ran in 2005, including Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell and Palm's former campaign treasurer, Randy Glysch. The Dane County Democrats, which also backed Palm in 2005, failed to endorse either candidate this year.

Palm shrugs it off. 'My focus has always been on the district and [its] residents,' he says. 'I haven't had the ability to focus on what outsiders might want.'

But Selkowe says residents are 'shocked' when they find out about Palm's voting record. 'This is a guy who ran as a liberal Democrat,' she says. 'He's just fallen in with Zach and the more conservative members of the council.'

Warming to his issue

Forget Al Gore. The newest warrior against global warming is Supv. Brett Hulsey. Earlier this month, he got the National Association of Counties in Washington, D.C., to pass a resolution urging Congress to take 'practical actions' to reduce global warming.

'The association is not a liberal organization,' says Hulsey, who spent eight years pushing for the resolution. What changed this year? 'Hurricane Katrina changed people's minds. The Alaskans are coming and saying the permafrost is melting. There's been a total sea change in the group.'

Closer to home, Hulsey is looking into the county's authority to make landlords use more efficient lighting, similar to a measure introduced in Madison by Ald. Austin King. The county is also embarking on an energy audit to find more efficiencies. As Hulsey puts it, 'we need to have the government lead by example.'

Always doublecheck the 'To' box

County Supv. Matt Veldran is helping organize a forum between Dist. 20 candidates Gary Poulson and Thuy Pham-Remmele. A few days back he got an e-mail from Tim Johnson, a Meadowood Neighborhood Association member, evidently meant for Ald. Cindy Thomas, who is backing Pham-Remmele.

'Matt's going to be putting up flyers for the Gary-Thuy forum,' Johnson wrote. 'As I put up flyers for the Summer Youth Fair, I can quietly and surreptitiously take the Gary-Thuy flyers down if I see them, if you think that might be a better idea.' If not, 'maybe Thuy will find her inner strength and be able to think on her feet...and come across well in the forum.'

Johnson later apologized, saying his e-mail was 'inappropriate, overzealous and unfair.... For the record, I did not, have not and will not take down any signs.' (For the e-mails, see

The candidate forum starts at 1 p.m. this Saturday in the Sequoya Library.

Hell, nein, he won't sign

All elected officials in Wisconsin are required to take an oath of office in which they swear to uphold the state's constitution. But in Madison, officeholders may sign a supplemental statement, pledging to work to overturn the constitution's new ban on gay marriage.

If elected, mayoral candidate Ray Allen won't sign it.

'There's no need,' he says, adding that he would still work to overturn the ban. 'I'll advocate for civil rights.' But he dismisses the symbolism of a voluntary statement against the ban. 'Let my actions speak for me,' he says. 'My real actions.'

Allen thinks the Common Council made a mistake when it added the supplemental statement to the oath, since other communities could begin adding political statements to their oaths. 'I don't want some guy in another part of Wisconsin saying, 'I want the death penalty.''

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz coauthored Madison's resolution allowing the supplemental statement and, if reelected, would sign it. His campaign spokesman, Mike Flaherty, says the mayor believes the state's gay marriage ban 'is on the wrong side of history.'

Mayor Dave's goon squad

The main photo on Mayor Dave's campaign blog shows the candidate with some, uh, supporters. Who are these people? According to Flaherty, they're the Blueheels, a rock band. The shot was taken outside Cafà Montmartre, after the band's show. Later that night, the Blueheels performed at the mayor's party, where he announced his bid for re-election.

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