Count the city of Madison's Odana Hills golf course among the potential casualties of the American Transmission Company's proposal to build a 345-kilovolt power line along the Beltline. The city says the plan would force it to move seven holes.
"We'd have to relocate the holes because you can't build anything within 60 feet" of the transmission tower, says Mike May, Madison's city attorney. "A good chunk of the golf course is going to be gone."
To make way for the tower, the city must also remove a stand of trees that insulates the golf course from the Beltline. These trees, says May, "hopefully kept a few balls from banging into cars."
ATC spokeswoman Sarah Justus says "this is the first we've heard that [the city] would have to relocate any holes." The city opposes the Beltline route.
According to May, redesigning the course would cost about $1 million, and the city would lose another $500,000 during construction. It's not clear whether the city or ATC would pay for the needed changes.
May says the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources left out the impact on Odana Hills, as well as a number of other issues, in its draft environmental review of the transmission line project.
"This is a very different project than what the PSC is used to dealing with," says May, noting that the Beltline has a mix of urban and residential uses, as well as a wetlands area. "They missed some things they should have looked at."
This includes the line's economic impact. The city has been encouraging development along the Beltline, including the $40 million Arbor Gate project at Todd Drive. Michael Gay, of the city's Office of Business Resources, believes a transmission line will depress commercial property values.
"When people are making large investments, like Arbor Gate, I don't think the transmission line has a positive impact," says Gay. "I don't see it as anything but a detriment."
Justus disputes this, saying other ATC power lines have not affected commercial property values: "We just haven't seen it."
ATC has submitted two potential routes, one along the Beltline and the other through rural Dane County. But the city of Madison wants the PSC to consider a new route, one that would follow an existing transmission line from the town of Christiana, past Lake Kegonsa and up through Middleton.
Justus says that route was "evaluated extensively" but eventually dropped because it traversed too many wetlands. And placing two transmission lines side by side is not ideal.
"We have to look at the potential of something happening to that line and taking the other one out," says Justus. "If that happened, what is our capability as a system to keep the lights on?"
May suggests that if the Beltline route is chosen and the state has not addressed these overlooked issues in its final report, the city of Madison could sue.
"One potential grounds for a legal challenge," he says, "is if the final environmental impact statement is inadequate."
In the running
This spring, the Madison school board has one contested race: Donald Gors versus board president Arlene Silveira.
Gors, a 58-year-old father of three, has no beef with Silveira's performance. "I don't really know anything about the people on the board or where they stand," he admits. He chose to run against Silveira because she's in Seat 1, which was at the top of the list of incumbents. (Also on the ballot and running unopposed is Seat 2 incumbent Lucy Mathiak.)
Gors attended MATC and the UW, but never got a degree. He now runs two businesses out of his west-side home, washing residential windows and distributing air purifiers. He doesn't believe his lack of a degree will hurt his chances.
"It's who we are as people," he says, adding that he struggled in school. It wasn't until a teacher offered him special lessons that he was finally able, in sixth grade, to read a book on his own. "I understand the power of someone who cares."
Gors decided to run after spending several years as a parent active in his children's schools. "If you listen to the school board, they always say if you have ideas, you ought to get involved," says Gors. "You can only have so much effect from a distance."
But Silveira argues that the district needs consistent leadership as it begins a strategic planning process. "I think we are at the point where we're able to get things done," she says, noting a school spending referendum that passed in November takes some of the pressure off the board to cut costs. "Now we can focus on what to do in the future, instead of struggling to get by."
For three days later this month, the board will convene a group of 60 to 70 community leaders to conduct long-term planning on a variety of issues. Silveira doesn't know what will come out of it, but predicts "a very good dialogue."
The meetings are open to the public. They will be held Jan. 29-31 at the Goodman Community Center, starting each day at 8 a.m.
It's been six months since the state Department of Children and Families decided to review Dane County's actions in a child welfare case. But the department has still not issued its report.
The state is looking into why Dane County allowed 3-year-old Deshaunsay Sykes-Crowder to be given to Linda Sykes, her aunt. Sykes had a violent background, including hitting a woman over the head with a gun and stabbing a 15-year-old cousin during an argument. After Sykes got custody of Deshaunsay, she moved to Ohio, where she was charged this summer with murdering the girl, then 6.
Dane County officials have refused to discuss their actions, citing confidentiality rules. And the state still has no answer.
"It's a very involved process," explains Ryan Reszel, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families. "The death of a child is certainly a serious matter. We want to make sure we're not overlooking anything."
Something to blog about
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz recently started a blog on the city's website, at says it's unfair that the mayor can use city resources to blog, when alders can't.
"It's just frustrating," says Konkel, who notes that city policy prohibits anyone from using its website for blogging. "I don't mind if they changed the rules. It just would have been nice if they had informed all of us."
Sarah Edgerton, the city's webmaster, says the city bans blogging because it doesn't have the staff to moderate comments.
But since Mayor Dave's blog doesn't allow comments, it's okay. "What the mayor is doing is not a true blog," says Edgerton.
The city may let alders have "blogs" on the website, too, if they follow the same simplified format. Edgerton says the city is revising its policy.
Konkel wonders whether any politician should use city resources to blog, since it could be considered electioneering. "Every post you'd have to think, is this something intended to help my next campaign?" she says. "There's going to be a chance for a conflict of interest."