Soglin: 'We look at all of these conflicting values and, as a community, we make a decision as to what is best for our city.'
Mayor Paul Soglin is sticking to his plan to crack down on State Street signage.
"I'm not interested in compromise," Soglin said at a Downtown Madison, Inc. breakfast Thursday when an audience member noted she was worried the mayor had already made up his mind and was not open to outside input.
But the mayor said he was interested in "coming to reasonable conclusions," based on the needs of all who use State Street, from business owners to persons with disabilities.
"There are now places on State Street where one pedestrian confronted by one person with a wheelchair does not allow the person with a disability to pass," Soglin said. "I haven't heard anybody answer the challenge of what [to do] about the obstructions for folks with disabilities."
Soglin said when he first became mayor in 1973, one of the many pending issues was determining the future of State Street. By working with local merchants, people who frequently visited the street, and, most importantly, those who did not venture to the area, Soglin said he and other city officials were able to balance all necessary interests to make the State Street mall into what it is today.
He also applied that balancing of values to explain the recent controversy over cab stands at State Street intersections, meant to prevent taxicabs from driving up and down the street.
City ordinances prevent non-city vehicles from driving on the street, and allow service vehicles to drive only on the blocks they need to service, according to Soglin. Because of that, the city is currently researching whether or not the taxicabs driving on State Street could jeopardize federal funding for the Madison Metro bus system.
Soglin said it would pose a "very serious problem" if cab traffic on State Street were to affect bus funding.
But his main message throughout the 45-minute speech came back to the need to involve all people who have a stake in a given issue, whether it is street signage, taxicabs or economic development.
"We evaluate, we look at all of these conflicting values and, as a community, we make a decision as to what is best for our city," he said. "One cowboy doesn't do it by [himself]."
As for State Street, Soglin said city officials and community members would move forward by getting reacquainted with the reasons the State Street mall was created in the first place.
"We are going to go back and revisit the way we originally designed and approached the street and we are going to decide as a community how we are going to answer these challenges," he said.