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Allen, Wolff, Hexom Running for Madison City Commission

The Madville Times eagerly endorses Ashley Kenneth Allen's bid for the Madison City Commission. He has the youthful non-Establishment mojo that Madison desperately needs to face and fix problems. Allen vows to eliminate crony capitalism from Madison city government... and I give anyone who uses the phrase "crony capitalism" in a Madison city election debate bonus points.

Allen is the antithesis of former mayor Gene Hexom, who ended his seven-year run as top town talker just last spring but now wants to bring his brittle, defensive, "how dare you criticize our perfect little town" attitude back to City Hall as a commissioner.

Now joining the race, perhaps to help Allen fight off the zombies, is Jennifer Wolff. She does education and outreach at East River and teaches yoga at the Community Center (let's see if that mobilizes Madison's fundagelical anti-New Age vote). She alliterates—can you get a better slogan than "We Want Wolff"? And in tech-wisdom that would quite seriously sway my vote, she recognizes that PDFs stink:

Agreed: the Madison City Commission should archive all of its agendas and minutes online. Storage is a trivial issue, but the commission could save memory by using HTML instead of PDF.

Crony capitalism and PDFs: there are two issues I look forward to hearing Allen and Wolff challenge Hexom with in a city commission debate.


  1. DB 2014.02.04

    I'd like some examples of the crony capitalism to educate myself. You know.....recent projects, names, and amounts that I should be upset about.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.04

    #1: Custom Touch Homes getting a million-dollar kickback from the City of Madison, listing a portion of what they charge customers as "sales tax" when in fact it is pure profit handed back to them by the city out of tax dollars diverted from buyers' local communities. This kickback is crony capitalism par excellence, a blatant favor not needed to promote economic growth.

  3. Chris S. 2014.02.04

    I don't quite understand the visceral hatred of PDFs, but to each his own, I guess. They're actually quite good for a lot of purposes. Now, if a website links to an enormous PDF that takes forever to download and doesn't tell me that up front, then we got a problem.

  4. DB 2014.02.04

    Not all money is used to promote direct growth.....but sometimes to help promote where that growth should go.

  5. Jana 2014.02.04

    DB, please proceed. (visual flashback to the 2012 presidential debates)

  6. Steve Sanchez 2014.02.04

    DB, are you referring to Madison's only one-way street when you mention "promoting where that growth should go" or the attempted handout to a couple of guys proposing a one-million dollar second-hand store? The projects, names and amounts are all available right here on MVT.

  7. Jana 2014.02.04

    Spoiler alert. Cory has the first one numbered.

  8. Jennifer Wolff 2014.02.04

    Thanks for the coverage, Cory.

    I appreciate your shared disdain for PDFs, but I do have other "more serious" issues that the general population will probably be more interested in. Stay tuned to for coverage on those. In an upcoming post, I'll discuss electric rates -- something I have a fair bit of experience with.

    And in all fairness to the PDF, I don't think they are all bad. Like Chris S. above, they do in fact serve a useful purpose when used properly. The annoyance I have with the agenda postings is that the PDF is just scanned images. This makes it so the text cannot be searched, copied, etc. Some of the items that are put in the agenda packet are from paper copies, so I understand the need to scan them. Many though, clearly already exist in electronic format and could very easily be exported to PDF so the text remains "live". And it would be a nice courtesy to rotate the pages so they are oriented the correct way, instead of leaving landscape pages in portrait mode.

    Seriously, it is a nice step that the city makes the agenda packets available online to begin with. I just wish they'd leave them there.

  9. Jana 2014.02.04

    [edited]...lose the pdf format.

  10. TG 2014.02.04

    Looking forward to hearing about more experience as Jennifer looks very young. Looking for more substance but might be yet to come.

    SS - what is the one one-way street in Madison? Just curious.

  11. DB 2014.02.05

    Welp, If I'm gearing up for a 30 year housing boom....what's stopping me from expanding my Dickinson location, or even my Pierre location to reduce expenses?

    Steve, this town needs a thrift store for low income and underprivileged families. The number of clothing bins around town and semi truck loads of goods that leave here could be doing more good for the community and surrounding areas. We should be keeping those dollars here and if we can tie that to another publicly funded program, that just means less money out of the taxpayers pocket. That is economic dev I will gladly support.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.05

    #2: The thrift store is an excellent example of crony capitalism, fortunately staved off by public attention.

    TG: that one-way street is the route to power in town, which runs strictly through the offices of the wealthy who expect the status quo to be maintained in their favor.


  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.05

    #2: The thrift store is an excellent example of crony capitalism, fortunately staved off by public attention.

    TG: that one-way street is the route to power in town, which runs strictly through the offices of the wealthy who expect the status quo to be maintained in their favor.

    Jenny, we agree on the proper use of the PDF. Some documents should be preserved and posted in their original format. But agendas would be much more useful in searchable and copyable HTML/text.

  14. Jennifer Wolff 2014.02.05

    Hi TG -- Thanks for the compliment. I am actually about the same age as Ashley. Good genetics, I guess. :) I'm sure I will come to appreciate my youthful looks later in life, but you're right, it is a challenge being taken seriously when people have a tendency to view me as a little girl.

    In a more direct answer to your question about the one-way street, it is in front of East River Electric's headquarters (full disclosure -- my employer) on south Harth. I honestly do not have a lot of information on the decision process that led to the change (it would be nice to look up the minutes from the city commission meeting where that was decided, but alas, the online minutes only go back a year).

    I certainly am not one of "the wealthy who expect the status quo to be maintained" Cory references above. If there are issues, such as this, that present a conflict of interest between my role as commissioner and employee of East River, I think it would only be right for me to abstain from voting.

  15. DB 2014.02.05

    So supporting a publicly owned and operated business, and from which the profits will support another public crony capitalism? Why don't we call that what it originally was....a publicly owned thrift store that was going to get a heck of a donation from a private citizen to get itself going. Instead, you'd rather throw the hundreds of thousands of dollars to Sioux Falls which happens every year as goods leave the area. The store will be built. It will be profitable. Let's just hope they still give all the yearly profits to the less fortunate, but I won't blame them if the put that money in their pockets.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.05

    There was a lot of private profit at stake in acquiring and building the thrift store. There were also negative impacts to be imposed on the capitalists who weren't cronies of the powers that be, as evidenced by the protest of several local business owners.

  17. DB 2014.02.05

    There are very little profits in acquiring and building the new building. If anything, it would have all stayed in the community. Currently, there is no business in Madison serving this market so I doubt any of the local businesses will see a negative impact. The people supplying and buying the goods are already taking their business to Sioux Falls. If anything, more boots on the streets will just mean more people downtown that could possibly shop in their stores as well. Either way, it's going to happen without public dollars so it's rather moot. It's just the public is going to miss out on all that revenue, which I guarantee there will be plenty of profits. Thrift stores are booming and Madison has needed one for years. You can tell just by the numerous bins around town that are overflowing with clothes and shoes, not to mention the yearly visits from other thrift organizations. I have bags full of items ready for the store, because I don't want to consign them and I want to know they are going to the less fortunate at a much lower rate than anywhere in town would offer. Talk to the local churches and they have to ship most of it out before it gets taken simply because they have no room, and frankly, they would be more than willing to support a thrift store like the one proposed. And let's not forget we are removing a dilapidated building and filling a parking lot with a new building that will help brighten up main street. It seems to me that people are more up in arms because you mislead them into believing anyone with money in this community that attempts to help must be doing it to pad their pockets.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.05

    I know you are (misleading people about crony capitalism among your patrons in Madison), but what am I?

  19. DB 2014.02.05

    A moron who hates helping low income people?

  20. Charlie Johnson 2014.02.05

    The corner of SW 1st and Egan would be better enhanced with a new community owned but privately managed movie theatre. Another possible use would be a 3 season(9mths) indoor farmers market. There also is still a 1/4 wide city block sitting totally empty just west and north of that same corner.

  21. The Thrift Store concept was a good one, but there was much controversy because it came out of no where and the community did not have time to digest it or make suggestions on the idea. The vote for funding was abrupt and instead of having forums to discuss what kind of building the town should build, it was brought straight to the commission for input and a vote. It was a "take it or leave it" approach. It came up quickly, and disappeared almost as fast. IF we were serious about it, we could have worked to find compromises to build a new facility that meets more of the community needs.

    I personally would like to see a community ran thrift store happen at some point. It needs to be designed not to cause major competition with the existing consignment and antique shops in town.

    But rather than having just a thrift store, I envision a community owned building that is multi-purpose. A building that can operate as
    1. A thrift store
    2. A small retail shop incubator for niche retailers to move in and start at minimal costs, before moving to other downtown locations.
    3. Home to the Food Pantry for Madison
    4. Space for a "Grocery Co-Op" and "Farmer's Market" - with outdoor covered patio space for having outdoor food and music events on the weekends to bring more people downtown.

    The City and or the Community foundation can own and operate the building. It could be a multi-use facility that meets the needs of many things that are currently under served in our community.

    I have been working on the "Downtown and Beyond" project for about a year and was involved in a recent survey done by the Chamber of Commerce. The #1 thing that everyone wants is another grocery option in Madison. It was the highest surveyed consensus item. Maybe if we compromise, we can add another option in town for groceries.

    Charlie, the movie theater was another item that ranked high as a "want" item in the survey. I agree that a non-profit, like the Community Foundation, could build a new theater in town and operate it to "break even" only and bring better entertainment to Madison in the process. Unfortunately, I do not think anyone will build a theater in Madison "for-profit". The current theater model in this country just wouldn't support the investment for someone to make a living at it full-time. But, we could certainly create some part-time jobs and make enough to break even if we did it as a non-profit and had community involvement. Otherwise, Madison may soon be without any theater options.

    These are the kind of open discussions we need to have to move our community forward. We need to work toward compromised solutions and GET THINGS DONE. No more "I am taking my ball and going home". No more "my way or the highway". Nothing will be perfect, but we need to work towards improvements. Compromise, Compromise, Compromise.

    -Ashley Kenneth Allen

  22. DB 2014.02.05

    I think a lot of people would like the movie theatre idea, but i think the costs on that might kill it. That industry has low profit margins and relies heavily on volume which would be tough for Madison. Indoor farmer's market, sign me up. I frequent that often and would love to be able to get some jams, jellies, and bread in the winter time. Also, I still haven't figured out why there isn't a restaurant here that doesn't capitalize on the locally grown food, as well as the awesome bakery and butcher we have in town. I think some connections could be made to make everyone a little extra money as well as provide something new to the community while utilizing the already well established businesses. If there was a restaurant that actually had a seasonal menu, one that changes more frequent than once every 3 years, or one that shows strong support for community grown and made products......I might be more apt to spending money on eating out. I'll pay a little more knowing I am eating a burger with Jack's beef on a Gary's bakery bun with toppings from the farmer's market.

    Mr Allen, I think we need better locations or opportunities for all those things.....but encompassing them all in one building might require the entire city block. We still have empty buildings on main that may be able to be opened one day a week for a farmer's market, or even work out a subsidized leasing option for new entrepreneurs to help them pay for an initial startup location. I wouldn't worry about creating anything until we have everything full. As with the entrepreneur support, I believe there has been/was talk about that with business owners in town working as mentors in conjunction with the school, but that might not have went anywhere. There are people out there willing to stick their neck out there for those who are motivated and have a good idea. I believe if you open up discussion about this with business owners, you will get a lot of feedback.

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