It was said that if you crossed Lyndon Baines Johnson you lay awake nights fearing your barn would burn down.
Back in August, the Wisconsin State Journal (my favorite local morning read) published a strong editorial supporting the mayor’s “effort to stop young drifters from distracting drivers who should be watching the road.” The ban on median strip panhandlers …
… deserves strong support from the public and city council.
So what happens if you vote the opposite? What fate awaits the office holder who strongly opposes the mayor’s ban on median strip scammers? Double cross the morning newspaper with impunity — as District 10 alder Maurice Cheeks did — and you are rewarded with an endorsement.
No thanks to Cheeks, the ban passed by a 12-8 vote at the February 7 Common Council meeting. Regrettably, Mo Cheeks is the only one of those eight with an opponent in Tuesday’s (4-4-17) election. One would think an election-eve reprimand might be an opportunity to reinforce one’s editorial clout. A denial of the coveted endorsement as the stick instead of the carrot. One would be wrong.
In fairness, one could make the case that a Madison alder confronts a smorgasbord of issues, possibly off-setting the apostasy of the median strip panhandler issue. In that vein, incumbent Cheeks, the State Journal tells us, “wants to encourage smart development and upward mobility for all residents, including the homeless.”
One way to encourage “upward mobility” would be to get the scammers off the median strips and into jobs, it would seem. But this is Madison. Claim you’re a victim and good-hearted but gullible Madison falls to its knees.
But on to those other issues. Cheeks, the morning newspaper praises, “helped bring low-cost internet to Allied [Drive] and is working with the city to lure a much-needed grocery store.”
Two grocery stores shoplifted out of existence
In the early 1990s we bought our provisions at a supermarket just north of Allied, on the east side of Verona Road. It’s been torn down. In its final throes, the pharmacist located in the middle of the store told us that too many high-end groceries were walking past the checkout lanes on the five-finger discount plan. Same thing happened to the Cub food store built a few years later on the other side of the road, at the same time Home Depot was constructed. It, too, closed down. The structure now houses a U-Haul outlet.
Given the number of my neighbors moving out of town, it must be doing a good business.
Some policing might have kept either food store in business. But the State Journal assesses demerit points to Cheeks’ challenger — that would be Steve Fitzsimmons — of “running a one-issue campaign touting support for police.”
That misses many of the complex and pressing issues facing the West and Southwest sides.
I have seen the notes Steve Fitzsimmons used in his interview with the State Journal’s editorial board. It contains several issues. Policing was only at the head of a long list.
Now, the indentured servants last November marked their 25th year of residence at the Stately Manor in leafy Orchard Ridge. So we feel we know something about the southwest side of town. Policing is the key to the complex and pressing issues facing the southwest and west sides. The yin and the yang. The warp and the woof.
Crime is the common denominator, the every day subject of neighborhood discourse, the subject that keeps the NextDoor social networks buzzing. Currently, our part of town is enraged that a pre-sentence investigation is recommending only 90 days in jail for a chronic home burglar and bail jumper. (“Catch and Release, Madison edition.”)
It is telling that, of 25 candidates for all 20 aldermanic seats, the Madison police officers’ union endorsed only 4 of them (and 2 were unopposed incumbents). The police union endorsed Cheeks’ challenger, Fitzsimmons.
There is a reason 640 residents joined the citizen crime watch Steve Fitzsimmons organized in one neighborhood alone — that being Midvale Heights, adjacent to Odana Hills golf course. HINT: It weren’t low-cost internet!
Cheeks talks a good game
I’ve been around elected officials all my life. I can recognize a bullshitter when I see one. Maurice Cheeks is one high-level bullshitter. It’s a special skill, memorably lampooned by the corrupt governor in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. A master of the word salad. Give Mo Cheeks this: the man interviews well.
Cheeks and his Common Council soul mate Matt Phair conducted a neighborhood listening session at the Meadowood Community Center last September. Except that they weren’t listening. Cheeks and Phair asked residents to walk to either side of the room to indicate their support for or opposition to the $13 million “public market” way over on the East side of town. Nearly everyone — your Humble Squire included — walked to the side in opposition. Cheeks and Phair voted in favor, anyway.
When it comes to putting actual boots on the ground, Mo Cheeks is a classic no show. Fitzsimmons tells about a pedestrian struck and killed by a car while crossing Odana Road last year. Fitz says he sought his alderman’s assistance in improving the street’s safety. No reply. Fitz says he contacted the city engineering department directly.
“As a result, we’re making improvements without his help.”
It’s a story I’ve heard as I knocked on doors on my side of the Beltline. “We called our alderman but he never responded,” said a homeowner on Whitcomb Drive.
She said she relayed that observation to a proxy campaigning for Cheeks. The proxy responded, in her telling, “I know, we’re trying to work with him on that.”
Suffice to say, my neighbor was not seeking low-cost, high-speed internet.