Many longtime Madison residents can remember when we were known as the city that couldn't put two bricks together ("Is Monona Terrace a Place?," 9/27/2013). Now, we're learning to resign ourselves to the fact that once-pristine views of the state Capitol have been obscured by the ever-growing collection of high-rise building projects that dot the city's skyline.
What changed? Well, 20 years ago Madison voters put aside years of controversy and approved a referendum to build the Monona Terrace Convention Center. This project seemed to jumpstart the long-dormant downtown real estate market, and the look and feel of our city has been transformed as a result.
Now the city finds itself at a similar crossroads. We're being asked to underwrite a new convention center hotel, which would enable Monona Terrace to attract more convention visitors and the dollars they'll bring with them. But to do so, we'll need to buck the trend that urban planner Fred Kent has found elsewhere: a troubling disconnect between convention centers and the communities that are asked to support them.
The final approval of the Monona Terrace project resulted from a remarkable coalition of local business, community and political leaders (at the time, it was one of the few things that then-Mayor Paul Soglin and then-Gov. Tommy Thompson seemed able to agree on). In this era of chronic political gridlock, can we reassemble the same coalition? I wonder.
Warren J. Gordon
If Fred Kent had taken a few minutes to check the fall schedule of free events at Monona Terrace, along with the numbers of people who take daily tours and eat at the rooftop restaurant, he would have quickly changed his ideas. The Terrace is an invaluable asset for the community, with its wide array of dances, musical events, tai chi classes, etc., as the community well knows.
A bar of one's own
In your article "Straight People in Gay Bars" (Nightlife, 9/27/2013), aside from business owners, most of the people chosen to comment on the issue were seemingly random straight people. I'm afraid that in his attempt to report on the issue, Bennet Goldstein unwittingly demonstrated the most powerful reasoning behind the existence of gay venues in the first place: to provide access to a social space that doesn't cater to the heteronormative bias that the rest of society doesn't seem to notice.
Do straight women have a valid point in wanting to feel safe when they go out? Of course they do. But maybe hijacking gay bars -- thereby deflecting the focus from gay issues and refocusing the attention again on a "hetero struggle" -- isn't the answer. Maybe it's time for a women-centric bar.
I want to thank Erik Ness for writing such a beautiful and thoughtful article about biking and helmets ("Helmet? Hell No!," 9/20/2013). Sigrid Leirmo was my friend and mentor. I still vividly remember the day of her death. Those of us who knew and loved her have really never recovered, for the reasons Erik wrote about: a freak and random accident took our generous, brilliant friend with so much promise and poise.
So I am left watching the kids on campus pedaling furiously, wildly, in a hurry to get to lecture, to the dorm and back, flying through stop signs and red lights, making crazy transitions between the sidewalk and the street and around each other; they are rarely wearing a helmet. It's their choice, I think. But I want them to continue to be a friend and mentor to others, as they surely are even if they do not know it yet themselves.
Judith Davidoff asserts that the profound racial disparities found in Madison are a "contradiction," an "incompatible truth" and a "paradox" ("Report Catalogs 'Extreme' Racial Disparities," 10/4/2013). How can it be that in educated, progressive Madison the black community is characterized by high rates of incarceration, educational failure and poverty? This can only be seen as a paradox if one starts with the assumption that progressive school boards and government naturally produce black communities that are educated, prosperous and safe from crime.
It is no secret that most large cities in the country are run by liberals and have been for decades. They have schools and government unencumbered by conservative thought or policy. Yet the cities are a mess and getting worse each day. The black communities are the epicenter of crime and poverty, and being a high school dropout is the rule rather than the exception. But it never occurs to the liberal ruling class that it quite possibly could be their own policies that are the source of the problem. Though impossible, I would suggest that the progressives begin this analysis with some serious introspection.