Fitchburg Mayor Tom Clauder has changed his mind about smoking. Last summer, Clauder threatened to veto a citywide smoking ban if it passed the city council. It didn't. But now Clauder is supporting a new ordinance that would ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
'I've heard from more citizens who want it than those who don't,' he says, admitting he's 'come around.'
The new proposal, introduced last week, is not as stringent as Madison's ban. Fitchburg's ban would exempt an existing cigar bar, bowling alley and two taverns ' Monkeyshines and Schneid's ' 'the smaller, blue-collar bars,' says Clauder.
Fitchburg rejected a proposed ban last summer because 'it had Madison written all over it,' says Clauder. The ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Steve Arnold, even lifted language directly from Madison's ordinance. 'It wasn't a good fit.'
There may be another reason for Clauder's about-face on smoking. He's being challenged in the spring election by Jeff Nytes, an occupational health and safety specialist at UW whose platform calls for a citywide smoking ban.
Nytes was out of town and did not return phone calls. But Arnold says it's clear the smoking ban is 'very important' to the election: 'Tom Clauder has an opponent because of it.'
Arnold doesn't like the new ban, calling it 'weak' because of its many exemptions. And he says Clauder's support is too little, too late. 'We have been pounding the pavement for more than a year to get support for this ordinance,' he says. 'We're going to be talking to people as frequently as possible about this in the lead-up to the election.'
The Fitchburg city council will likely vote on the ban March 27. If it passes, the mayor will have 10 days to either sign the ordinance or veto it. Arnold wonders if Clauder will wait to act until after the April 3 election, then veto it.
Clauder is offended by the suggestion. 'I don't like that kind of politics,' he says. 'I wouldn't do that.' But, if the ordinance were amended to make it stronger, as Arnold wants to do, 'my mind could be changed,' Clauder admits. 'But right now, I'm leaning in favor of not vetoing it.'
Clauder prefers a statewide smoking ban, as proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle. Arnold does too, but thinks Doyle's ban is unlikely to pass, which is why Fitchburg must act. 'The best way to show the Legislature we want 100% smokefree is to pass local ordinance after local ordinance.'
Green light for Arb project makes neighbors see red
Last month, the Dane County Board of Adjustment granted developer Darren Kittleson a variance to build two new houses in the Arboretum neighborhood, after others shot him down. But some residents are calling foul.
'I think they were under enormous political pressure,' says Ron Kalil, chair of the neighborhood association. 'The moneyed interests in the county saw this as a test case. They wanted the board to send a message ' that they were going to be Realtor-friendly.'
The board required Kittleson to come up with an environmental mitigation plan, since the development is near Lake Wingra. But Kalil says Kittleson's proposal to plant rain gardens and use pervious pavement won't prevent harmful stormwater runoff. He notes that Dane County's stormwater management manual says pervious pavement has 'limited use in cold climates.' And the manual recommends against using rain gardens on steep slopes; the development site is on a hill.
'It was just a complete fraud,' says Kalil of the plan.
Kevin Connors, director of Dane County's Lakes and Water Resources Department, doesn't agree. 'Based on what I saw, they seem to be doing an adequate job,' he says of the plan, which his staff is still reviewing.
Kittleson, whose plan still needs approval from the state Department of Natural Resources, is exasperated by the process.
'All along, I've been painted as a bad guy who's destroying Lake Wingra,' says Kittleson. He notes that the county has never before asked for such a stringent environmental plan. 'What we're doing is going above and beyond what's required to quell concerns of the neighbors.'
Kittleson complains that Kalil is a professor at UW's School of Medicine and Public Health ' not an engineer. 'What's his training?' he demands, adding that his plan was devised by an engineering firm. 'These are professionals.' Of the neighbors, he sighs, 'I really lose patience with them.'
By any other name...
For 53 years, it has been the Atwood Community Center. But the recent $2 million donation by Irwin and Robert Goodman will change that. When the new community center opens next year on Waubesa Street, it will be called the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Community Center.
Changing the name 'was an emotional thing at some level,' says Becky Steinhoff, the center's executive director. But the new name 'better communicates that this is a facility for everybody, not just the Atwood neighborhood.'
Most of the project's $12 million cost is already in hand. But money is still needed to cover operating costs, and the new name may make fund-raising easier. 'Because it's not 'Atwood,'' says Steinhoff, 'it won't be geographic.' Having a link to the wealthy and well-respected Goodmans won't hurt, either.
But just in case some people are upset, the center is holding a meeting on March 13, at 7 p.m., to discuss the name change, and the larger plans for the center, in the old Ironworks foundry.
Ald. Judy Olson believes residents will accept the change. 'Most people just want to see a new community center, whatever its name is.'
In that case, how about calling it the Anonymous Community Center? After all, anonymous donors gave $1.8 million to the cause.
Not on board
County Supv. Jack Martz wants Dane County to send Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz a clear message about streetcars: 'We're not interested in participating in this. They should do it on their own.'
Martz is sponsoring a County Board resolution to bar county funds from going to a Madison streetcar plan. He says his constituents are 'not enthralled with spending their tax dollars on this. That's money that might be better used for developing roads or a countywide bus system.'
Mayoral aide George Twigg calls Martz's resolution 'premature' and adds, 'There's no proposal that actually exists yet.' The city's Streetcar Study Committee and the Transport 2020 committee have yet to come up with a proposal. Says Twigg, 'There's just a lot of unanswered questions at this point.'
Twigg adds that it's 'unlikely' Madison would ask Dane County for funding. A streetcar system 'is conceived as a city circulator,' he says, not a county project.
Martz begs to differ: 'It's unimaginable that they won't come and ask for money from every source they can.'
In the two weeks since a blizzard dumped 15 inches of snow on Madison, Cieslewicz's office has sent out seven 'snow updates.' These include warnings about sidewalk clearing, potential flooding from melting snow, even new potholes. A cynical journalist might wonder if Cieslewicz is a tad worried about voters angry that their streets are not plowed quickly enough.
Not so, says Twigg. The storm 'was a major weather event ' our biggest snow since 1990,' he says. 'We saw early on that cleanup work was going to be more challenging than usual, and wanted to make sure that was communicated to everyone.'