Independent mayoral candidate Jim Schwall is frustrated with Madison politics, because he does not feel politicians are meeting the needs of all Madison residents.
“Madison officials should be public servants, but they’re politicians,” Schwall said. “They are so out of touch.”
He said his motivation to run for mayor originally stemmed from the city’s condemnation of the buildings on the 100 block of State Street to make way for the Overture Center.
“Without even thinking twice, they blew small businesses into oblivion,” Schwall said.
He said the large sums of money spent on the Overture project and the “destruction of State Street” would be better spent on more efficient and cheaper transit, cleaner lakes and more affordable housing.
“They waste six to seven million [dollars] a year,” Schwall said. “The money’s there, and it should be used for what helps the most people.”
Ald. Santiago Rosas, District 17, said allocating so much money to the State Street Redesign Project may not be the best way to revitalize the area.
“Schwall has good reason to be concerned, and I applaud him for bringing these issues to the surface,” Rosas said.
Ald. Tom Powell, District 5, said the State Street Redesign Project is important, because it is the symbol of Madison, but he agreed with Schwall that money could be better spent in other areas.
“There are other areas we are frivolously spending money,” Powell said. “I trust Jim to have better priorities for the lower-income population than our current mayor.”
Schwall said his broad experience makes him the best candidate to manage the city.
“Because of my wider background, I can’t see any way I’m not more qualified,” Schwall said.
Schwall is a teacher and has taught students ranging from the third-grade level to the graduate level. Currently, he substitute teaches high school and runs Housing Initiatives, Inc., which helps people who are chronically disabled or homeless obtain housing.
Schwall has earned a collection of degrees, including a doctorate in music and composition from the University of Wisconsin. He has performed blues, folk and jazz on guitar for 10 years with the Siegel-Schwall Band and has written compositions performed for theater and ballet. He said today he plays socially conscious songs.
“When I am playing by myself and I can play whatever I want, every song is about social justice,” Schwall said
Corky Siegel of the Siegel-Schwall Band said Schwall would be a good mayor because he is genuinely concerned about the city.
“He’s not doing it for attention, recognition or to be on the news,” Siegel said. “He’s doing this because there are issues he really believes in and feels need to be talked about. He’s the non-politician we all wish would be president of the United States.”
Schwall would like to end the proposed drink-special ban currently considered by the City Council. He said if the drinking age were lowered to 18, bars would be willing to halt drink specials two hours earlier.
“Most 19 to 20 year olds drink anyway,” Schwall said.
He said drink specials are the bars’ way of coping with the loss of revenue after the drinking age was raised in Madison.
Schwall also disagrees with the proposed smoking-ban ordinance, which would ban smoking in restaurants with less than 50 percent of their total revenue from alcohol sales. Schwall said smoking preferences should be each restaurant owner’s personal choice.
Powell disagreed, saying there should be a total ban on smoking.
“This is much more than a private business owner’s concern; it is a public health concern,” Powell said.
Schwall also approves inclusionary zoning measures to require a certain percentage of affordable units in all new developments. He said his job housing needy people is rewarding and that affordable housing should be a higher priority in city government.
“When everything goes right, the people are so happy, and 98 percent of the time the results are stable,” Schwall said. “All groups would be a lot bigger part of the picture under my leadership.”