Former Alder has spent years preparing to be Mayor; she’s ready
The most important election for Mayor of Madison is not in April when the next Mayor is chosen but tomorrow (February 17) when the Mayor of Madison is chosen. No this is not a riddle, there are five individuals running to be the next mayor including the incumbent. Voters actually have a real choice now, in the primary, in deciding which two candidates will make it to the final round.
Aside from money infecting our politics, the other problem that is degrading our democracy is a lack of participation or even engagement by the voter. This issue is especially acute at the local level where elections have deep and immediate consequences.
We are very lucky in Madison to have this many choices for mayor and we should pay attention as all of them seem to care about the city and many agree on the issues. But only one candidate, in our opinion, will truly love this job like it needs to be loved: Bridget Maniaci.
We first talked with Ms. Maniaci in the fall of 2012 when she represented District 2, At that time she said she would not run again for Alder and was headed to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to pursue a degree of Master of Science in Public Policy & Management focusing on Urban and Regional Economic Development.
But Maniaci, who grew up in Madison, even then had an eye toward returning to Madison to run for Mayor. In these intervening years she has been splitting her time between the two cities as well as attending other events and workshops around the country that focus on local government, including the Local Government Academy.
We don’t need to restate her entire resume, but one reason has stood out as to why she deserves a vote. Maniaci is the only candidate who has studied, in a critical and organized way, Madison’s past, it’s present and how the future should look.
While Paul Soglin may have a “life experience” degree in local public policy, that is mostly in the past and he seems unable to adapt fast enough to how the city is changing and how it should change. The other candidates in the race, Christopher Daly, Richard Brown and Scott Resnick, have also outlined their strategies for how the city should be run.
Except for Resnick, who does offer a few accessible ideas, Brown and Daly’s visions for the city come across as limited in that their solutions don’t go far enough in explaining how they will effectively address uniquely Madison problems.
During this primary season the candidates have talked most about homelessness, transportation, economic development and race. All the candidates believe that many of the issues are inter-related and will require a comprehensive approach.
On transportation Bridget Maniaci says that utilization is high, but efficiency is not as she notes it is still faster to get downtown by car from the edge of the city; thus a multi-lateral approach is needed other than just buses.
Regarding economic development, Maniaci says we are out of cornfields at the edge of town so density is the new frontier for development along with the tax base which she says is key. She adds that the City can protect its character while making it easier for business to navigate the city portion of the start-up process.
In talking about race, and how to improve our disadvantaged and under-served populations she told Madison.com that this is a physical and human geography issue. She says that while the current Mayor understands there is a problem, there needs to be a reset of the relationship between the Mayor’s office and Madison’s minority and poor communities to “break through and solve” these issues.
But it is this comment during a Madison.com podcast about homelessness that shows Maniaci, at this point in Madison’s history, understands best how all the issues of Madison fit together.
“We need to shift the conversation, because [a shelter] going wherever nobody has a problem with poverty and homelessness is kind of how Madison got into this mess in the first place. We tend to build things on the edge of town or where nobody cares,” Maniaci said.
“We need to build more mixed and dynamic neighborhoods. Much of the City was built post-war and mid-century on a suburban single-use zoning model. And you look at successful cities that zoning model does not flex, it does not function and tends to die out. There’s no reason if you don’t have money you can’t be in nice neighborhoods in the city.”
The backgrounds of the other candidates are not in question and are impressive. However, for Madison going forward, Bridget Maniaci is the only candidate with the specific education required to make Madison successful.
About the endorsement: Willy Street Blog had planned to talk to all the candidates and present individual profiles but personal events with the author derailed this effort. Since we were not able to talk to all candidates it was decided to present an endorsement after careful consideration of candidate statements made to WSB, in the recent candidate forums and in other local media reports.