second of two parts
When society is blamed no one is responsible. Which is why Madison’s Progressive Dane-dominated city government has condemned once-vibrant State Street to struggle. A Midwest version of war-torn Beirut. All in the cause (incredibly) of racial equity and social justice!
Former Isthmus editor Marc Eisen lays out a case we and others have been making for nine months now. He puts it all together in a two-part series for InBusiness magazine.
Much of State Street remains shut down. “Frankly, I have no idea where the new tenants will come from,” one commercial property agent tells Eisen.
As this blogge recounted in Part One, the coronavirus pandemic and on-line commerce wounded the seven-blocks between Madison’s capitol and the University of Wisconsin campus.
Reparations paid with busted glass
Last summer’s “mostly peaceful” protests resulted in a local kristallnacht of destruction and looting. Eisen recounts city alders’ refusal to enact a local Marshall Plan to help those businesses recover. Why, because State Street must be made to pay reparations, not the other way around.
So said, in effect, Alder Rebecca Kemble (Progressive Dane), as the council on July 21 decisively rejected an aid program for the 75 State Street businesses damaged and looted by rioters following the death of George Flloyd.
“This is quite literally institutional racism. That the whitest and the wealthiest neighborhoods receive the most resources.”
Kemble — white as Wonder Bread herself — is on path for re-election, having received over half the votes in February’s three-way primary. Her common sense opponent is Charles Myadze, son of a Nigerian immigrant.
Eisen quotes the ironically named social justice warrior Justice Castenada: “The history of Madison’s downtown is one of exclusion, corruption, and of boosterism and land-grabbing.” This Justice fellow was instrumental in getting cops expelled from the city’s four public high schools.
And of course Ald. Max Prestigiacomo (Progressive Dane), who infamously encouraged attendance at the next scheduled riot with the exhortation: “F-bomb that S * * *”
Not the right kind
Eisen points out that State Street is among Madison’s most ethnically diverse commercial zones (along with Park Street). Eisen counts Chinese, Pakistani, Portuguese, Nepalese, Mexican, Greek, Korean, Laotian, Turkish, Syrian, and Colombian. But no American Black. Whose fault is that?
No pedestrian mall, as proposed by the WI State Journal, will cure the chronic social dysfunction. Madison’s progressives will shame customers who would rather go elsewhere than endure the shakedowns, public drunkenness, and crime. Amanda Chen, owner of Fugu Asian and a single mother of three, tells Eisen:
“Safety is the big issue.” She details several safety incidents I suspect would worry women. The plunge in foot traffic has been ruinous for walk-in business.
We will pay for Progressive Dane’s virtue
With business traffic slowed or shut down altogether, expect property values to crater and with it, tax revenue. Commercial properties downtown include Capitol Square, which is similarly boarded up. They account for 10.5% of the city’s entire tax base. Eisen quotes former mayor Paul Soglin Soglin predicting downtown properties will decline 15% to 25% in value. The city’s hotel room tax may decline to $7.3 million from $19.6 million.
Soglin … suggests its newer members will learn a harsh lesson in municipal finance when they put together the 2022 budget: Alders will likely find themselves between a rock and a hard place — either cutting neighborhood programs or saddling homeowners with a big tax increase.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Vote for these guys on April 6.