Last week, when Madison's Community Development Authority dropped its architect for the Allied Drive redevelopment project, Christopher Jaye was not surprised.
"I was frustrated that the city rushed into this project," says Jaye, vice president of the Commonwealth Companies, a for-profit development firm in Fond du Lac. Jaye, a Madison resident, thinks the CDA "is well-intentioned, but obviously not capable of handling such a complex project."
Eppstein Uhen, the architect for Allied, had submitted a $900,000 proposal for design work budgeted at $167,000. Jaye says his company is currently working on two projects similar in size to Allied, and "our design and supervision costs will be in the $75,000 range."
Jaye says the city got snowed on design costs because it didn't follow through on its original plan to partner with a private developer. His company, which has never done a project in Madison, would likely have bid for it. But he insists his concern is not sour grapes, merely taxpayer frustration. "It's going to cost Madison residents more than ever advertised."
He notes that the CDA has no capacity to do any work in-house, and had to hire fee-based consultants, who have no incentive to control costs.
"There is no way any experienced tax-credit developer would have allowed the design line item of the budget to escalate this high and this late in the process," says Jaye. "All the CDA really brings to the table is the city's willingness to keep throwing money at the deal."
Stu Levitan, chair of the CDA, says the decision to dump Eppstein Uhen demonstrates that the city will not blindly fund Allied. "We have adopted a budget, and we intend to live within it," he says. "If we had rolled over, that would have given that theory credence. But we said, 'No, sorry.'"
Losing the architect does put the Allied project in a bind, however. The CDA had planned to pour foundations for the first phase of the project, a new, $9.2 million apartment complex, before the start of winter. "We need to be leasing up in 2009," says Levitan. "Right now, we've got a problem."
The city expects to pick a new firm to draw up project blueprints in the next two or three weeks.
Levitan adds that when the CDA begins redeveloping other sites - like its Truax housing project on the east side - it may partner with a private developer.
"We should take heed of our experience with Allied," he says. "If direct partnering with a company that has all the capabilities in-house is more economic and efficient than contracting with consultants, we should be prepared to do that."
Did Justin Sargent try to dissuade Peng Her from running for the 81st Assembly seat?
A recent posting on TheDailyPage.com Forum claims that Sargent approached Her last winter and promised him funding for a Hmong cultural center in Dane County - if he stayed out of the race.
"That is true," confirmed Her when first contacted. "It happened." Later, after speaking with Sargent, he declined to comment further. In a written statement, Her said, "I am committed to running a clean campaign with transparency, integrity and honesty. I want to focus my campaign on the needs of the people of the 81st District."
Sargent denies the story. "Never did I say anything like do or don't run," he says heatedly. "If [Her] thinks otherwise, he misunderstood."
Sargent says he greeted Her at a party at the Governor's Mansion last winter. He praised Her's work on raising money for the cultural center and promised to support it if he was elected.
"If you can't be nice and say things like that, then we're in trouble politically," he says, adding that he doubts he could have helped Her with the center anyway. "I don't know what a freshman legislator could do to help move things along."
Madison Municipal Judge Dan Koval did not dismiss the $10 ticket Linda Willsey got after being hit by a car door while riding her bike ("Cops Ticket Biker Hit by Car Door," 8/15/08).
"I was dumbfounded," says Willsey. "I thought the whole thing was so absurd that it would be dismissed."
Willsey went to the emergency room with a fractured vertebra after being doored on Henry Street this summer. At the hospital, a Madison police officer cited her for violating a little-known state law that requires bicyclists to maintain three feet of distance between themselves and cars. The motorist who hit Willsey was not ticketed.
At Willsey's court hearing last week, she was told she could avoid the fine by attending bike safety school. "That was not an acceptable option," she says. "Going to bike safety school says I did something wrong."
Mike Rewey, a board member of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, says the group may lobby for a change in the state law. Rewey wants a provision that would make it illegal for anyone to open a car door into any mode of transportation, including pedestrians. "I can just imagine a jogger getting doored," he says.
Willsey is now consulting an attorney, before her next court appearance on Sept. 22. If Koval does not dismiss the ticket at that time, Willsey may appeal his decision and could end up before a jury. She sees little alternative.
"I am not guilty," she says. "I ride my bike safely."
Try, try again
For the third time in a year, the city of Madison is advertising for an economic development director. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's first choice for the position, Bill Clingan, withdrew after the business community objected to his lack of experience. Clingan was later hired as the city's new community development director.
Cieslewicz then offered the job to Michael Zimmerman, Fitchburg's economic development director. He turned it down. (Last week, in an example of the kind of thing that's not happening in Madison, Zimmerman announced that Sen. Russ Feingold would headline Fitchburg's Business Appreciation Luncheon on Sept. 3.)
The city re-interviewed another finalist, Timothy Angell of Des Plaines, Ill., but did not offer him the job. Instead, Cieslewicz decided to advertise again. "It's a tough position to fill," explains Rachel Strauch-Nelson, the mayor's spokeswoman. "It's more important that we get it exactly right than that we get a person right now."
Susan Schmitz, head of Downtown Madison Inc., agrees. "I think the city is kind of learning its way through this economic development thing," she says. Re-advertising for an economic development director "is just part of the growing pains."
Fitchburg Mayor Tom Clauder has made the big leagues. The story of how Clauder last year caught the wife of his opponent, Jeff Nytes, removing his campaign signs, has been anthologized. It's in the 20th-anniversary edition of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, a book whose stories are compiled by the, uh, Bathroom Readers' Institute.
Clauder shows up on page 479, under a section entitled "Election Follies." Clauder is tickled. "Fitchburg got in the toilet book!"
But he's still not laughing about what happened during his last election. "It just brings it to a new level of politics when someone takes someone's sign," he sighs. "You don't touch people's signs."
If you do, you could end up in the toilet book.