Madison Chamber Sees Opportunity With Nine Council Seats Open

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

Tuesday is the deadline for candidates to file their papers to run for public office in Madison.

The city council stands to lose at least nine incumbents, giving it a whole new look come April.

One alder says new members face a steep learning curve, but a pro-business group sees an opportunity and it plans to do something that it's never done in its history.

"When I was elected in 1995, email was just coming on," Alder Judy Olson says.

How things have changed for Madison's City Council.

"It has continued to get more complicated. There are more committees," Olson says.

However, the longtime alder is leaving the council this election year, leaving her with more free time. "The competition time for anyone working full time is very difficult," she says.

Olson's one of nine incumbents not seeking reelection.

"One thing I do know about many of the candidates is that they do come from very strong neighborhood backgrounds. So they've been active in associations and know the city process, but I still think there'll be a steep learning curve," downtown Alder Mike Verveer says.

However, how will the new council lean politically?

Alder Zach Brandon, who's running again, expects a council that more closely resembles his style: fiscally conservative yet socially liberal.

"The resistance that we've always seen, particularly on fiscal matters from people who've been here for a long time, who say ‘that's not how we do it in Madison’, those types of mentalities will go away because you'll have a new generation of people taking over," Brandon says.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce would like to see more members like Brandon, who is also a small business owner.

Public Policy Director Delora Newton says the chamber will endorse candidates for the first time in its nearly 55-year history.

"When you elect people who own small businesses or at [the] executive level, they fundamentally understand the issues. They understand the intentions of an ordinance might be good, but it's not gonna’ do what the proposers intend for it to do," Newton says.

Take the defeated proposal for mandatory paid sick leave, which was considered a big victory by the chamber.

"But it still has the potential to come back at a local level, and I think they want to be ready for that and make sure they have candidates that are concerned about jobs and wages and what's good for economic development for the city of Madison," Brandon says.

"I do think because of the chamber's potential, primarily to exert political muscle via the checkbook that they're going to be a big factor, one we've never seen in city politics," Verveer says.

The chamber also is mailing out questionnaires to candidates.

It will post the responses of those who reply on its website, and it's inviting mayoral candidates to a debate in mid-March. That's, of course, shortly before the election on April 3rd.

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