Wisconsin Mayor Not A Supporter Of Publicly Funded Stadiums

Change Agent: Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, Wis.

Madison, Wis. is planning a variety of public infrastructure improvements in 2018, including:

  • Constructing new parking garages
  • Building fire and police stations
  • Installing new roofs and upgrades to public health offices
  • Developing energy-efficiency and renewable projects in partnership with Focus on Energy

Don’t look for Madison, Wis., Mayor Paul Soglin to approve public funds for stadium upgrades for pro sports teams anytime soon.

“My own personal opinion is that it makes no sense to rip off the public when banjo hitters are paid to bat .237 and strike out 124 times in the course of a season while raking in $3.4 million,” Soglin says.

“To expect a family of four to spend $550 for four mediocre tickets, horrible food, parking and the experience of watching a pitcher post a 4.86 ERA, losing 14 games for the season while taking in a five-year, $30 million contract with taxpayer-funded subsidies for the stadium is outrageous.”

Soglin adds that researchers who analyze public financing of professional sports facilities overwhelmingly conclude that the public does not benefit from that funding.

“Any industry that pays its football commissioner $50 million a year while neighborhood centers need funding, behavioral health is underfunded, and players abuse drugs, wives and their minds and bodies does not need public money,” the mayor adds.  

Soglin says his private sector work experience at a technology firm reinforces his conclusions that public infrastructure in the U.S. is woefully underfunded.

“Whether its conventional funding for roads or public transportation, we are falling dangerously behind – from a safety standpoint and an economic standpoint,” the mayor reiterates.

He adds that crumbling public works systems underground are in scary shape.

“The sanitary and stormwater sewers in many parts of the U.S. are leaking and offer inadequate capacity,” Soglin says. “Thanks to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Houston is just the beginning of an annual series of disasters at great public and private cost.

“It is so stupid to pay for recovery when 90 percent of the damage is avoidable.”

Soglin has approved numerous water infrastructure upgrades in Madison over the years. By April, 2018, Soglin will have served 21 years as mayor in Madison. He was first elected mayor in 1973. Soglin is likely to announce he’s running for governor of Wisconsin in early 2018.  

Madison is planning a variety of public infrastructure improvements in 2018, including new parking garages, fire and police stations, roof replacements and upgrades to public health offices. Municipal funds will pay for all of the projects. Funds from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program will also be used to help pay for some of the infrastructure projects. In partnership with 108 Wisconsin electric and natural gas utilities, Focus on Energy works with businesses, farms, school districts, local governments and other property owners to install cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Artist rendering of the Capitol East District parking garage in Madison, Wis. under construction.

One infrastructure asset under construction in Madison: the Capitol East District Parking Structure at 800 E. Main Street in the city. The project’s construction start date: October 02, 2017. The facility will have upwards of 600 spaces and room for two to four retail shops. The facility will provide leased private parking during the day, but public parking during evenings, and weekends. See the artist’s   rendering of the structure below.

Madison has submitted a proposal to become Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. A total of 238 communities have submitted bids to host Amazon’s 2nd HQ, HQ2. Amazon will announce its decision on HQ2 sometime in 2018.

Mayor Soglin emphasizes he is no fan of Amazon’s business model, which he describes as “undermining local retail.” He, however, adds that the RFP for HQ2 should be mandatory reading for every public official and administrator, particularly elected officials.

Regarding the HQ2 RFP, Soglin says, “That is the future of development. Ninety percent of the communities that submitted the proposals do not have the infrastructure to support modern business development. I refer specifically to transportation, fire protection for a development of this size, communications (most Internet download and upload capacity is woefully inadequate), as well as the capacity to develop housing for the significant population increase that will result from Amazon’s HQ2.” 

Imagine Madison, the city of Madison’s Comprehensive Plan update, is midway through the third phase of public input, which covers prioritization. The Comprehensive Plan is used when considering everything from city services and infrastructure to proposed development projects. Imagine Madison provides stakeholders with an opportunity to influence the city’s direction over the next 10 years.

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