Joe Tarr's article "Build, Baby, Build!" (5/23/2014) raises the important question of whether the new Planning Department director has found the best balance between neighborhood preferences and developers' natural desire to maximize private returns.
Imprudent development can be needlessly destructive to the character of Madison. But the manner in which the city's own engineers replace existing streets and infrastructure also can be corrosive to our neighborhoods if blindly and dictatorially done to homogenize Madison and erode its neighborhoods' special character.
One of Madison's key strengths lies in those unique neighborhoods like the Willy Street, State Street and Monroe Street neighborhoods. And there are less well known but also special neighborhoods, like Crestwood, two miles west of Hilldale, where we reside. Begun in 1939 as the Midwest's first cooperative housing, Crestwood is six cul-de-sacs nestled into the eastern edge of Owen Conservancy, without sidewalks or curbs, giving it a rural character further enhanced by narrow roads and a canopy of trees.
Because Crestwood's sewer lines and water mains are beginning to deteriorate, City Engineering wants to replace them, which makes some sense. However, Engineering also demanded to widen the 22-foot road by three feet to increase traffic speeds, without regard to the threat that poses to the trees, and even though skinny streets provide natural traffic calming. Moreover, 22-foot-wide streets were retained in other recently reconstructed neighborhoods with concerned alders; many of the traffic-calming islands installed in Madison to deliberately obstruct traffic provide less clearance; and 22 feet is increasingly the standard in the Livable Streets Movement for Green Cities.
Worse, City Engineering manipulated the process, dissembled and fostered the impression that it was threatening reprisals in order to impose its outdated engineering rulebook on a neighborhood where probably 70% objected.
Our town will be the worse if Engineering's vision of a homogenized car-centric city continues to be allowed to perpetuate itself, without debate, by a bureaucracy that interprets political inaction as acquiescence.
Peter Anderson, Frank Lenoch, Bill Herman, Molly Plunkett, Tim Dierking, Sylvia Marek, Bill Van Kaas, Gale Martinson
A lovely dream, "no political parties" ("Imagine There's No Parties," 5/30/2014), but dreams are good! I've been imagining the dream group I would affiliate with, and much of it is like Dave Cieslewicz's: gun control, strong public schools, reproductive rights, workers' rights, voting rights, sustainable agriculture, and climate change action.
With the recent media attention to climate change and more and more people appreciating the seriousness of the problem, I believe the political will exists to do something, but not in the context of the current party system. Spurred by my imaginary group, we might even achieve a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which ought to please both parties! Such a tax would be a real incentive for other steps, all based on the goal of leaving fossil fuels in the ground.