The City Council unanimously approved a resolution noting Monona Terrace, Yahara Station and the Kohl Center as viable rail station location options in a vote Tuesday.
The three favored locations for a station — the Dane County Regional Airport site having been deemed unfavorable — meet the necessary standards of the resolution, which include providing easy access to the downtown area, facilitating efficient Madison to Milwaukee service and offering multi-modal development options.
Supporters maintain the station’s location provides the greatest opportunity for economic development and multi-modal connections. Retired University of Wisconsin history professor Stan Schultz said locating the station at an airport would be “laughably absurd” in terms of potential development.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he hoped the resolution would send a clear signal that based on the outlined criteria the airport is not an appropriate location for a station.
Furthermore, Yahara developer Barry Gore said both the Kohl Center and Monona Terrace are problematic potential station locations, neither of which would offer enough space for station development.
Patrick McDonnell, co-chair of the Campaign for Yahara Station, said it is imperative the city actively engages in a process of selecting the location.
Supporters also called for swift action and proactive involvement on the city’s part, saying Madison has fallen behind other cities in developing concrete plans for high-speed rail.
“We have other cities in our state — Watertown and Oconomowoc — that are very on the ball,” Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said. “We haven’t even begun to look at this.”
Maniaci added the resolution represents a good first step in the process.
New council leadership was also elected at the meeting.
Council President Pro Tempore Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, was elected to the role of council president, currently held by Ald. Tim Bruer, District 14. Clear’s sole opponent in the election was Ald. Marsha Rummel. District 6. Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, was elected to replace Clear at the position of president pro tempore.
The council also approved a 12-month suspension of the vending licenses of Jeffrey Okafo, owner and operator of Jin’s Chicken and Fish.
The proposal revoked both Okafo’s basic street vendor license, which allows for vending throughout the city, and his late-night vending license, which permits operations at specific downtown locations for vending at late hours.
Okafo, who usually stations his cart on Library Mall, had his license suspended in 2008 but continued operating his business. Okafo has since received seven citations for vending ordinance violations.
Throughout Verveer’s 15 years in city government, Okafo has been a habitual violator of city ordinance and has shown a “total lack of respect for the laws,” Verveer said.
Okafo spoke in his own defense, asking the council to revoke only his late-night vending license, but to allow him to keep his basic license. Okafo said he needs his license to make a living.
“This is what I do for a living,” Okafo said. “I have put 20 years into this business. I know this business.”
Verveer acknowledged Okafo’s business is popular among downtown residents, but said if his customers were aware of his vending ordinance violations, they would agree with the council’s decision.