Being mayor is about having the right priorities for the city of Madison. In the current mayoral race, it's obvious who has the right priorities and who does not.
In 2006, violent crime in Madison increased substantially — 16.5 percent more than the previous year. So far in 2007, we have seen multiple muggings and sexual assaults on campus. What has the mayor been doing?
Well, not much, aside from a $100,000 initiative for increased overtime for downtown police. Instead of focusing on something that is a real and immediate problem in the city, the mayor apparently has other, more pressing priorities.
Then there is Halloween. Although the mayor can't be troubled to provide actual resources like more detectives and more police officers to help bring an end to the recent upsurge in violent crime, he had no problem doing so for one night of partying. Along with downtown alders, Mayor Cieslewicz had no problem charging admission to a public street. So the mayor will crack down on rowdy partiers on Halloween, but struggles to come up with a legitimate solution to a rise in violent crime. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Instead of focusing on the problem of crime in Madison, the mayor would rather spend $300,000 on a study to see if we should build a trolley system to ease the downtown traffic problem. The price tag of actually implementing such a system? An estimated $25 million a mile.
That's not all, though. It's recently come out that the mayor is considering proposals for a transformation of the city's parks in the style of Chicago's Millennium Park. He's even had meetings with the architect behind the Chicago renovation — a project that was years behind schedule and massively over budget.
When Madison City Council President Austin King introduced a resolution for full public funding of elections in the city of Madison, Mayor Cieslewicz couldn't jump on board fast enough. He told The Capital Times that even though elections are getting increasingly and almost troublingly expensive, there is still room for taxpayers to pick up the tab. The mayor's position is that campaigns are too expensive, so he'll just have us pay for it.
On the other hand, voters — especially students — should be choosing Ray Allen for mayor. On the issue of crime, Mr. Allen correctly identifies the underlying problem: poverty. In order to combat crime, Mr. Allen has proposed a combination of economic development aimed at improving neighborhoods that have high crime rates and increased police presence to deter crime in those troubled areas. He has also proposed increasing the number of detectives in the city to improve the speed in which cases are resolved. These are just some of the reasons the Madison Professional Police Officers Association — a union that represents 370 Madison police officers — endorsed Mr. Allen for mayor.
On Halloween, an issue many students take very personally, Mr. Allen insists he wouldn't resort to effectively destroying a unique tradition here on campus by adding more and more police officers and charging entrance fees. Instead, Mr. Allen proposes lobbying the Legislature for a one-night exemption of the 2 a.m. bar time. The problem with Halloween has been forcing too many people onto the street with too many police officers trying to clear those streets. With no mandatory bar time, the crowds of drunken revelers would not be so unmanageable.
On his campaign website — www.rayallenformayor.com — Mr. Allen illustrates the dramatic increase in city budgets throughout Mayor Cieslewicz's term in office. Although we are paying more than ever before, the mayor wants us to pay even more. Allen recognizes that it isn't a matter of spending more money at the city level, but rather a matter of priorities that put the people of Madison first.
Allen's priorities are simple: Put the issues of poverty, crime and education front and center at city hall. Start looking at the needs of the most at-risk citizens in the city to help lower the violent crime rate and increase focus on economic development here in the city.
To be an effective mayor, you have to face tough issues head on. Mayor Cieslewicz hasn't done that. He hasn't adequately addressed issues of poverty, crime, education or economic development. Certainly he has focused on a lot of things to try and make Madison look like a much larger elite city, but that's simply the mayor living in a land of make believe. No one cares whether we have a trolley or a fancy new park, if it isn't safe to walk outside after dark or if they're too poor to take the time and enjoy the big city expenses.
Priorities matter. Ray Allen has the right ones and should have the chance to lead our city forward.
Mike Hahn ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.