Downtown alder Mike Verveer was elected to serve as the president of the Madison Common Council during the first meeting of its new session early Tuesday afternoon.
In a paper ballot vote following the swearing-in of the mayor and all 20 members of the body, Verveer received 11 votes while 9 were cast for east side alder Lauren Cnare. This will be second time as council president for Verveer, last having served in the position over its 2003-04 session. He has the second highest seniority terms of years served on the body.
Southside alder Tim Bruer -- the longest serving alder -- was subsequently elected as president pro tem.
"Several alders asked me to consider serving," Verveer says, "and after thinking about it long and hard, and weighing my other obligations, I decided it was important to have an experienced person at the helm of this inexperienced city council."
Verveer also mentions the public and sometimes vituperative lobbying over the position that has been occurring in the last two weeks since the election. "As commented upon by retiring alders, the amount of rancor is getting to me," he says, "and this presidency race epitomized that with outsider forces lobbying on this internal leadership position."
The new council president points to his twelve years on the council as a primary motivation for his accepting the position. "I've devoted much of my life to this institution, and I don't want it to get even worse with the partisanship and incivility occurring," he says. "We have a wonderful opportunity to get off to a fresh start in that regard."
A live account of the swearing-in of Mayor Cieslewicz and the new Madison Common Council follows.
A new year
Room 201 of the City-County Building in downtown Madison is buzzing with activity this early Tuesday afternoon. Every member of the Madison Common Council, along with all nine new members elected on April 3 are in attendance.
This is an official council meeting, one that begins a couple of minutes after noon. Mayor Cieslewicz begins the session by asking the room to stand for a moment of silence in memorial to the shootings on Monday at Virginia Tech.
Mayor Dave's second term
Immediately thereafter, Mayor Cieslewicz takes his oath of office and receives a standing ovation from most in the room, before embarking upon his inauguration speech.
The speech begins:
First, let me say that while I respect out State Constitution and the right of the majority to amend it, I cannot in good consciene take office without noting my strong opposition to the recent amendment that so blatantly discriminates against my fellow Wisconsinites who are gay and lesbian.
Cieslewicz subsequently breaks from his prepared remarks (which is available in the related downloads at right), to specifically thank three of the nine outgoing alders for their service to the body. Beginning with Golden and refering to him as the dean of the council, Cieslewicz also gives nods to near east side alder Judy Olson and downtown alder and council president Austin King.
The mayor returns to his remarks, and embarks upon introducing his second term agenda to the outgoing, current, and new council members. Here are a few of his desires:
- Public safety and health:
- A new fire station in 2008
- A third ladder company for the fire department
- Possibly an eight ambulance
- Possibly more police officers, but "with the guidance of a new police staffing study that moves us away from population-based formulas, and towards outcome-based goals for reducing crime."
- Economic development and neighborhoods:
- A new Office of Neighborhood Services
- Possibly rewriting the economic development plan and zoning code
- Approving a redevelopment proposal for the city-owned properties on Allied Drive
- Redirecting TIF: "It is my belief that the pump for downtown housing has been primed sufficiently using TIF, and it is time to let the market work and to focus TIF primarily on job creation and the rebuilding of basic urban infrastructure."
- Social justice:
- Increasing childcare assistance
- "I believe strongly that we need to continue the spirit of last fall when business and progressive leaders came together on the issues of economic development, child care and public transportation. We have demonstrated that we can work together, and in the next term, it is my goal to demonstrate to the nation that a city can have a thriving economy not in spit of, but because of, it's progressive policies. We can be both progressive and pro-business.
- Working to "fight for reform at the state level" on financing
- Creating a new City-School Distct liason
- Combining Fit City Madison activities with academic programs for summer enrichment programs
- Major civic projects:
- A second pool on the north side
- Break ground on a new Central library
- Guiding the redevelopment of the Villager Mall
- Deciding the future of the Garver Feed Mill
- Set "realistic goals" and assign responsibilities for a Central Park
- "It is time to put the Mid-State Street Parking Ramp in mothballs and focus instead on better marketing of the ample parking we already have downtown."
- Developing a consensus on a comprehensive transportation plan based on the work of four city committees
- Working with Milwaukee and Chicago to develop high-speed rail, particularly in the light of the latters' bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics
- Completing the State Street and East Washington rebuilding projects, and moving forward on the state Department of Transportation's plan for the Beltline and Verona Road intersection
- More street sweeping
- Following through on the construction planned in the 1,000 rain gardens program
- "We must continue the trend towards greater height and density"
- Moving forward on a "10-point plan for the improvement of the Water Utility"
- Fiscal management:
- Continue to apply Madison Measures, TRIM, and The Natural Step programs
- "We should never succumb to the temptation to adopt one-size-fits-all forumlas, either locally or imposed from the state."
- Asking the new city elections task force to create a campaign finance system "built around voluntary citizen contributions, not general tax funds."
Cieslewicz subsequently concludes his speech, continuing his campaign message of adopting policies that manage the city's growth. "We will embrace growth as a positive that makes our culture more vibrant, our economy stronger, and our city a more interesting place," he concludes.
Goodbyes for alders
With Mayor Dave now officially into his second term, the Madison Common Council now turns to honoring its outgoing members. Downtown alder Mike Verveer -- who now has the second-longest term of service on the body -- takes the lead on the agenda.
The first to be honored is Austin King for his service as council president over the last two years. He keeps his remarks brief, considering that there will be nine more speeches from outgoing council members (including a second from his position as alder). Primarily, King notes high levels of attention given in the media to the selection of his successor, and self-disparagingly jokes about the realities of the job.
Judy Olson, the outgoing alder from District 6, takes the podium on stage right of the council chambers. She discusses her ten-year tenure representing the Marquette and Schenk-Atwood neighborhoods, focusing primarily on the development in each since the early '90s. Olson also singles out Verveer -- her only remaining aldermanic classmate from 1995 -- thanking him and the council for working with her as the near east side of the city has been completely transformed. She gets a standing ovation.
Austin King is next. He gives a long but focused speech, reminiscing about his achievements and failures over the last four years on the council. King zeroes in on poverty as his singlular focus as an alder, discussing his continuing interest in a paid sick leave policy, castigating the State Journal and other media outlets critical of him for ignoring this segment of the city's populace, and noting his two most memorable experiences working to help poor city residents. King give a tearful farewell to the council, and receives a standing ovation in return.
Ken Golden is introduced by south side alder Tim Bruer, the only member of the council who has served for more years. Instead of giving thanks and recalling his 18 years of service, Golden gives a commencement speech that's largely directed towards the incoming alders. Looking at his record of fulfilling promises made on campaign literature from 1989 -- the near west side alder notes that he would have been batting .200 in baseball and says that changing positions is a necessity of a succesful tenure as an elected official. Golden also calls for more respect between alders, more respect for city staff, an earlier end to council meetings, and more fun. "This is Pluto," he concludes to laughs and a second round of standing applause.
Brian Benford, a two-term alder on the north side, is the fourth alder to give his farewell remarks. Known as a quiet alder, he asks the room to bear with him during his longer comments today. Benford thanks his family, friends, and role-models in the community, and subsequently turns to contradictions of wealth versus povety he is increasingly noticing around Madison. "As a politician, I should have played more of a role in raising awarness of the needs of a lot of these folks," he says, and subsequently apolgizes to council members he crossed in the past during his focus on these issues. Benford ends with thanks to the council, mayor, and city staff, and steps down with a standing ovation.
Isadore Knox, Jr. a one-term alder on the near south side, thanks his political supporters and the neighborhood activists he has worked with over his term. Knox emphasizes minority business development, services for his constituents, and his interest in representing the breadth of his constituents. Knox concludes with thanks to city staff and the remaining alders, along with well-wishes for the new class, getting big laughs when he promises incoming alder Julia Ker that he will be giving her as many calls as a constitutent as she gave him. Knox concludes with a thank you to his family, urges the council to remember the unnoticed and underrepresented to applause.
Santiago Rosas, who represents the north side of town, has two persons registered to speak on this issue: former school board member Juan Jose Lopez and MuÃoz campaign manager Dan Guerra. The latter notes that the new council will have 19 white members (two more than previously), and requests that it remember to represent minority communities in the city. Rosas emphasizes the work of city staff, and gives special thanks to Judy Compton as a fellow east side alder and Tim Bruer as a mentor. Rosas emphasizes the city's growing diversity and urges the council to be the voice of all communities as he steps down to an ovation.
Noel Radomski, a one-term alder representing the northwest section of the city, is excused from the meeting. Mayor Cieselewicz nevertheless reads the official resolution listing his accomplishments, and the outgoing alder receives applause in absentia.
Paul Van Rooy, a three-term alder representing the north side, was honored at the last council meeting in March. He too is excused from the meeting.
Cindy Thomas, who served for four terms as an alder for the southwest side, begins with thanks for her husband for supporting her during a demanding and busy term on the council. She ends with thanks to her constituents for support, making it this the briefest farewell speech of the departing alders.
Adjournment Austin King takes his final act as council president to adjourn the body in advance of the swearing-in of new members.
The new council
At 1:38 p.m., all twenty members of the new council take their oaths of office. The state in unison:
I [state your name] do affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United STates, the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, and the Charter of the City of Madison, and will perform the duties of alderperson in and for the City of Madison to the best of my ability I so affirm.Mike Verveer subsequently nominates Brenda Konkel to serve over the committee as a whole in advance of elections for its leadership.
Roll is called, and all twenty alders are present.
Verveer then turns to the constitutional amenmdent banning gay marriage and civil unions, stating that all alders have an opportunity to attach a supplemental statement to their oath of office documents they will be signing.
Elections for the position of president is the new council's first order of business. Alds. Lauren Cnare and Mike Verveer are nominated for the position (by Larry Palm and Tim Bruer, respectively.) The room goes silent as the vote is subsequently conducted on paper ballots. Council assistant counts the votes shortly thereafter, and announces that that the new president will be Mike Verveer.
Verveer subsequently nominates Tim Bruer to serve as president pro tem; as there are no other nominations, the new council votes unanimously in favor of the south side alder.
Roll is called for a second time, and the meeting is recessed until 6:30 p.m. Everybody in the room is excited to go to lunch, but the business of taking a council photo takes precedence lights are prepared and alders gather in the front of the room.
The next cycle of Madison city government begins now.