Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

17 February, 2014

Public Subsides for a Public Market in Madison Is an Idea Whose Time Has Come...To Die

I discovered this morning that Mayor Soglin is directing Madisonians to a survey in order to find out what we want in a public market. I began the survey but didn't find a space for indicating that the city shouldn't be spending any money on the project and quit.

Remember when former mayor Dave Cieslewicz lamented that Madison was behind "in the race for coolness" because we lacked a public market? If not, here he is at schilling for Richard Florida:

Many major cities and most of our competitors in the race for coolness have built or are planning to build a public market. Toronto, Minneapolis, Seattle, Milwaukee, Vancouver and a host of other smaller cities have markets.

I thought about this when I read this article about the Governor's Conference on Economic Development which was held last week. One of the speakers was Morris Davis, an associate professor at the UW and its James Graaskamp Center for Real Estate and this bit stood out:

Speculating on what makes Minnesota more attractive than Wisconsin, Davis said it could be that Minneapolis is a bigger draw than Milwaukee. Investing in Milwaukee might help, he said. “We need a place where they’re going to want to live. I think Madison is that place; I don’t think Milwaukee is,” Davis said.

Milwaukee, as our former mayor noted, has this place:



Despite the presence of (a rather nice) public market, it seems that the young and the cool are choosing poor old Madison, sans public market, over Milwaukee. Will someone please tell this to Messrs. Soglin and Cieslewicz? Somehow despite not having a public market, Madison continues to thrive and be the choice of many young, cool folk. Somehow despite not having a public market, Madison continues to, in Cieslewicz's words, conduct community.

Going back to Mr. Davis:

He said Wisconsin should aim toward getting young people in Illinois and Minnesota to relocate here. Michigan’s college grads are also a good target, he said. Every year, 90,000 people leave Michigan, Davis said.

That's a lot of people leaving Michigan and many of them go to Chicago/Cook County. In fact, 56% of new Cook County residents come from Michigan. Does Chicago have a public market which makes it so "cool" to attract that many people? A recent look at census data shows that Milwaukee County is the top supplier of in-migration to Dane County. People are leaving a city with a public market?! Number two on that list is Asia. Presumably neither the Chinese government nor the U.S. government officials that approve H-1Bs are warning immigrants that Madison doesn't have a public market.

Cieslewicz asks, "So, why should millions of your tax dollars go for a market?" and the answer is they shouldn't. If it is true, as two recent studies indicate, that young people are driving less, then perhaps those millions of dollars could be sent over to Madison Metro. As the article linked to above says, "They consider public transportation the best option for digital socializing and one of the most likely ways to connect with the communities they live in." (See, Mr. Cieslewicz, public transportation is also about community building.) Madison Metro is looking at BRT and needs a new maintenance facility. And however nice apps are for tracking your bus, they don't change headway times or add routes to underserved areas. (Plus I'd love to see better signs at bus stops.)

A public market would be a nice piece of middle class bling and if someone like Curt Brink can find millions of dollars from private investors to build one, then I say more power to him. City officials should be helpful and accommodating. But if it's public money that's needed, put it to better use, a use that can benefit all Madisonians.

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|| Palmer, 2:17 PM

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