Engineer Mike Clark is one of three candidates seeking to succeed retiring Ald. Isadore Knox, Jr. in Dist. 13, which includes the central and southern neighborhoods of Madison. Clark, a 36-year-old UW graduate, has lived in Madison for 13 years, and became a homeowner in the Bram's Addition neighborhood in 2004.
Clark is a founding member and current co-president of the PrairieFire BioFuels Coop, which provides retail biodiesel (B99.9), installs converter kits and provides service and maintenance on diesel vehicles. He is also a board member of the new Wisconsin Biodiesel Association, a trade group that promotes biodiesel fuel. Clark also serves as the secretary for REAP (Research, Education, Action and Policy on Food Group), which works to build a sustainable regional food system.
"Especially now," he says, "a technical person with an analytical approach would be an excellent addition to the Common Council."
A brief interview follows.
The Daily Page: What kind of development along Regent Street would you support, and what do you envision for the neighborhood a decade from now? What about Monroe Street?
Clark: The development along Monroe and Regent streets needs to be synergistic with the increasing population density in the area. There will always be the struggle to keep the character of the neighborhood 'small town' versus 'big city.' However, there is no end in sight of the need to use land more carefully and efficiently than ever before.
I like the mixed use of commercial and residential space that we see proposed at Regent and Randall, and at the Monroe Commons projects. I would require big box stores and grocers that reside on Madison's periphery to open outlets with equal prices in the high-density urban Madison areas to offset the traffic pressure and to make downtown neighborhoods really work. I would not discourage any but the noisy or freight-intensive businesses from the commercial space that is below residences.
Madison is fortunate to have people who want to redevelop property, but the standards must be high. The structure needs to minimize energy burden, following LEED guidelines, for example. Buildings must be built to last.
We need to take stronger action about traffic density and pedestrian access. Each new building needs to incorporate improvements on other new buildings in the area, so the opportunity to learn is not lost. Our cityscape will continually change as a reflection of Madison's population, and the things we like most about Madison -- all that it has to offer -- comes with the propensity to change more rapidly.
What kind of transit must the city foster to assist commuters from and passing through Dist.13?
Metro needs more frequent bus service in Dist. 13.
I am opposed to the streetcar proposal.
In general, one of my top three priorities for Madison is to expand Metro services to attract more riders and prepare for future emissions standards. For public transportation to realize its potential to be efficient for the city as a whole in terms of energy and time, people need to know that they can get anywhere, any time. Buses need to travel more main streets (within four blocks of anywhere in the city), and adequately serve third-shift workers.
These changes should reduce traffic congestion as well. The bus service needs to be a convenient choice for everyone (every 10 minutes or so), so that people choose the bus over their own car when vehicular travel is needed.
I would urge the city to run the buses on biofuels, and to replace old buses with diesel electric-hybrid buses. The new buses will be more popular, because they pollute less and don't smell like petroleum diesel fuel. A one-size fits all bus may not be needed for the city in lower density parts of the district.
As the Park Street corridor is redeveloped, service from the south transfer station directly up Park Street will need to increase. Also, we don't use enough communications technology to accomplish the goal: Moving people safely from point A to point B with a minimal amount of waiting and travel time. The status quo of bus drivers not knowing if riders are waiting at stops and riders not knowing where buses are located is rather 20th Century to me.
You are interested in growing "broadly based, vibrant modern business" in the city. How should the city pursue attracting and supported these kinds of businesses, and where would District 13 fit into this?
I envision Madison being the leader in showing the world a more efficient, cleaner, closed loop way to conduct manufacturing and service functions in terms of energy and materials.
Businesses will be incentivized to partner to form manufacturing cells that consume byproducts and emissions internal to the cell. Business that produce long-lasting, high-quality products and returnable or recyclable packaging will be sought after, because they will be resilient to the worldwide changes that will affect the ability to pollute and exploit workers.
Madison will lead an initiative to make compostable, zero-landfill packaging, and eventually require vendors who sell in Madison to provide the same. Technology transfer from the University of Wisconsin is the heart of its success, and the redevelopment of the Park Street corridor, including the Villager Mall area can be the home for this new work.
What kinds and how much planning should the city devote to developments along Park Street?
The Park Street corridor is an exciting opportunity for Madison.
I envision a similar mixed use of space several stories high along Park Street combining commercial and residential, similar to the future of Regent and Monroe streets. In addition, though, I envision a business incubator on Madison's south side that provides emerging companies with a place to grow and take advantage of the close proximity to new technology coming from the University of Wisconsin.
I envision significant improvements in safe pedestrian crossings, so the Burr Oaks neighborhood isn't bisected from the Bram's Addition neighborhood, for example. We have the space to locate a new kind of community center that expands activities from athletics, arts, and academics to the trades, manufacturing, skilled repair, and sciences. An innovative community home for the homeless and others in need could be an important addition in Dist.13 to the functionality of Madison as a whole.
You say you support "community education for all ages" in your campaign platform. Would you elaborate on what you mean by this, and explain how you would implement it?
My vision is to have a skill sharing and workshop facility that gives youth and adults a place to educate one another. Hands-on skills (home maintenance, mechanical/automotive, industrial) would be emphasized, but lectures in sciences, arts, civic responsibility, and electoral politics will be available too. By the time a youth is 18 years old, they should at least have had the opportunity brought to them to learn all these things in a workshop setting.
This initiative would be city facilitated, but privately funded. The construction of an open-architecture facility to house this mini-university in the south part of Dist.13 would follow an initial number of years operating in ad hoc spaces in the district. The model integrates with higher density housing that will be a part of Madison's and other urban centers' future.
District 13 and the parks within it abut Lake Wingra, Monona Bay, and Lake Monona. How should the city approach keeping these and our other lakes clean and friendly for recreation and fishing?
We need to continually monitor the water quality and biodiversity to understand what is happening in the lakes. Fishing and recreation put pressure on the lake environments, but there are sustainable levels of both activities. Increased periodic public education in schools and in the media and well-designed painted signage at storm sewers about water quality is the long-term solution for city residents. Water quality, and other environmental metrics of health need to be available in a dynamic way on the city's online and broadcast news. These things are the basis for a healthy economy because a functioning environment provides services more cost effectively than engineered solutions.