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Monday, April 6, 2009

Questions for Madison City Commission Candidates

Madison's City Commission candidates meet for their one and only joint public event tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, 7 p.m., at Madison HS. They'll answer questions composed by the Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs committee. Let's hope the kind folks at the Chamber can come up with better questions than the puffballs they lobbed at the City Commission candidates last year.

I also hope we'll hear more questions from the audience. In case you're having trouble coming up with good questions, here's the stack I'll be bringing along tomorrow night. (Chamber, feel free to borrow!)
  1. The LAIC announced a "Main Street and More" program in spring 2008. Nothing has been heard about this program since. What actions should the city take to promote the development of our downtown business district?
  2. How did Arlington land a 75-job call center instead of Madison?
  3. Ken Behrendt of Eagle Creek Software said his company was looking for "a dynamic community that is ready and willing to embrace change." He also said that "the college graduates coming out of South Dakota can compete worldwide." And so, looking to hire 21- to 25-year-old college graduates, Eagle Creek sited its new 200-person software facility in Pierre. How did Madison lose those 200 jobs to Pierre?
  4. Would you be willing as city commissioner to write a weekly blog to update citizens on matters before the city commission and invite and answer their questions?
  5. What specific steps should the city take to make more use of the Internet to provide information and services to citizens?
  6. Would you support using public money to renovate the Masons' building and convert it into a community cultural center? If not, what action if any should the city take with respect to this vacant building standing in the heart of our community?
  7. The LAIC began offering its housing study for sale last spring for $250. Given that the LAIC receives public support and donations, how do you justify that agency charging such a fee for information that Madison's homebuilders and other entrepreneurs might be able to use to improve the city?
  8. Have you read the LAIC's housing study?
  9. Do you believe Madison has a shortage of affordable housing?
  10. What is the city's proper role in creating more affordable housing?
  11. Madison implemented its first Tax Increment Finance District in 2007. Would you support the creation of another TIF District, and if so, where and for what?
  12. Current housing regulations and development covenants make it difficult for Habitat for Humanity and others to build small, affordable houses. Would you support removing or reducing the 1000-square-foot minimum house size to promote more affordable housing?


  1. Good questions, Cory. I'm not a Madison proper resident so don't really have a dog in this show, but many of the questions you ask have a direct and indirect impact county wide also.

    It would seem that with our high tech graduates and students that could be a selling point for Madison. But it doesn't see to be working. Why?

    One other question I have is how the city could help promote Prairie Village. I think that is a jewel in our crown and could be generating a lot more money, tourists, etc for the city.

    One other question might be how the city would be willing to help with a community center/gym. I'm sure this issue will be coming up again, and I'd like to see city/school/community cooperation when it does.

  2. Wow!

    I see a bunch of anger issues here!

    Is Madison such a terrible place to live?

    Why do you expect city government to solve your perceived problems with Madison businesses and housing?

  3. Anger issues? Come on, knock off the efforts to distact from policy with false implications of emotion.

    These questions all have to do with policy issues that the city already seems to claim as part of its policy purview.

    I think Madison is a great place to live. That's why I live here. That's also why I ask these questions.

  4. Anon 8:47, remember that no change ever occurs without some discontent, so while you may perceive Cory's questions as angry, it more likely indicates there's some undercurrent of nepotism or favoritism in key areas of city government. As a taxpayer, I'm concerned that the City housing study didn't make it to our public library so taxpayers can access it. Those were good questions and there are many more that can be asked.

  5. A few years ago, a woman tried to bring in a governor's house and was told she had to go through variance because it was less than 1000 square feet. She did and the home is now in Madison with a garage added and looks great. Total cost was under $65,000 with lot. I hope city commissioners have fixed that 1000 square foot minimum so that more governor homes can be brought in for affordable houses.

  6. In response to the Habitat House. I live in a newer development, currently there is a habitat house scheduled to be built here this summer. At first I thought this would be a bad idea in my neighborhood. I found out that the house would have to follow the same covenants that I had to follow when I built, such as a 2 bedrooms, attached 2 stall garage. Any out building must be built like the house, such as siding, roofing, etc. No clothes lines, or abandoned vehicles left in the yard. Governor homes and habitat homes are allowed in Madison, but there still has to be building codes to follow. You wouldn't place a $80,000.00 home in a neighborhood with $200,000.00 houses in it.

  7. No clothes lines? Seriously?? I am aghast if that really is part of the covenant and if so, it needs to be abolished!

    In most parts of the world, household dryers are unheard of and line drying is the norm. Not only is it better for your clothing, but it is a simple way to reduce energy consumption. No wonder we are heading for an energy crisis with such ecologically irresponsible covenants on the books. But that's right, we wouldn't want eyesores such as drying linens ruining our view of each other's 4,000 sq. ft. McMansions.

    Speaking of energy, I have a question for the candidates. Lake County has been allocated $50,000 for energy efficiency improvements under the ARRA with an additional $9.5 million available for application from the state. How would you work with the county and state to procure these funds for the city and what sort of improvements would you propose we use these funds for?

  8. Anon 7:28: I built a $100K house here on Lake Herman. My neighbors to the west have a $200K house. My newest neighbors are building probably a $300K house. Am I obliged to knock mine down and build bigger?

    People have a right to build the house they can afford, not an obligation to build a house that inflates richer people's property values.

    Anon 11:28: really good question! See you at the forum tonight?

  9. I too am aghast at no clothes line rules. I always hang out clothes all summer, they smell good, saves energy and the lifetime of my dryer (I hope at least), and it's fun to just get out. How does a clothes line hurt anybody?

    I would hope that the city fathers revisit that requirement and remove it. At least allow the kind that fasten to one side of a building and can be pulled out when used, or the umbrella type. But good grief, in this age of "saving the planet" this is ridiculous!

  10. I must note that Anon on Habitat houses isn't talking about building code or city rules; he/she is talking about privately negotiated covenant provisions that have nothing to do with safety or health and everything to do with neighbors' vanity. So to be a good neighbor, I have to buy a clothes dryer? Hmmm....

  11. We have it good in Madison. Many places have a homeowners asociation that polices grass that is half an inch too high.

  12. Madison has the 6 inch grass ordinance. Is it followed? Of course not. Are any of the ordinances really adhered to? Not very well policed.

  13. We have a dog poop ordinance that requires people to pick up their dog do-do when they're out walking, but even City Commissioner Ericsson's doggie walks downtown by the library every day, no baggie. Dog just does his thing and they bring him back to the office. If our own commissioners don't follow the laws don't worry about the lawn being mowed six inches or less.

  14. I really was not trying to open a hornets nest. I think everyone missed my point. In my devolpment everyone knew these covenents and had to sign a contract before they built. Therefore, if someone wants to build a habitat house and can abide by the rules of such covenent I say welcome to my neighborhood. If they can not I say build down south of the tracks where the rest of the habitat homes are. Drive by there sometime, you will notice there are obviously no covenents there!

  15. My, my—I smell classism! Since when did Madison get so pretentious?

  16. My friend Dave explained it to me this way: In California, when you make it big, everyone says good job and you are admired. When he came back to SD, he found that when you had some success, people would bad mouth you because you were doing better than most.

    As an example all we have to do is think about the NE part of Madison. It has been known as "Snob Hill" for years.

  17. Ok Cory, let me put it another way.I want to build a habitat house next to yours. You say welcome to my neighborhood right? Now say I pump septic tanks for a living. I come home at night and my truck is sitting in front of your neighbors $100 $200 and$300 thousand dollar homes and it stinks to high heaven. You have no covenents. Is that Ok with you?

  18. Imagine living across from the clinic on Washington Ave and seeing the mess each and every day.

  19. In response to 8:31 thats exactly my whole point in a nutshell!!!

  20. Wow, you folks really do have a thing against affordable housing, don't you? To equate a house built by Habitat for Humanity with septic tank trucks and messy yards is rather insulting. It also displays a lack of understanding of the hard and honest work Habitat and its partner families do. Come swing a hammer this summer; you might learn something.

  21. If we all have an obligation not to lower each other's property values unnecessarily, then we also have an obligation to ensure that people can access decent affordable housing. I'm on the local Habitat board, and while I understand the concept behind covenants, I also know how difficult it is to find affordable lots to build on in Madison. In fact, they're virtually nonexistent. Contrary to what some may think, there is not a plethora of lots available on "the other side of the tracks". We don't have much of a choice but to look at lots in the newer developments, but they all have a covenant requiring garages, which often makes housing unaffordable. We're able to make it work in the case of our newest partner family, but it won't be possible for it to work for everyone who may need and qualify for a Habitat home.

  22. Oh, by the way, Habitat homes have been shown to improve neighbors' property values.



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