Two years ago, we Madisonites had all sorts of fun discussing one group's plan to spend $1,050,000 to build a big community thrift store on South Egan Avenue on the site of the old Jensen Motors building. Confronted with unexpected public opposition, based in part on the fact that the private developers wanted a six-figure public subsidy for the project, thrift store backers folded up their card table and went home...
...where they went back to doing things the Madison way: keep things secret, line up money from our pals, and forge ahead to do what we want without having to ask the public's permission.
The Madison Daily Leader announces the new thrift store plan in tonight's paper. I'm pretty sure MDL reporter wrote it, because if they had, they would done decent journalism and sought contrasting opinions from some of the business owners who figured prominently in opposition to the last thrift store scheme. No, tonight's article reads more like a press release from the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, all smiles and cheers. There's a even a little rebuttal from thrift store booster Jerry Johnson, who says his group (yup, pretty much the same group that backed the 2012 plan) has secured $400K in corporate and private pledges (not cash in hand, mind you) toward the project
This financial support, which is well over half the projected cost, shows that many agree with the task force in their belief that the project is "absolutely worthwhile," Johnson said [press release, Madison Daily Leader, 2014.03.05].
Absolutely, meaning how can anyone disagree with the unnamed many who we say have promised us money? Take that, you naysayers! Money talks!
The thrift store will be better than the dark, empty Jensen building. A few more people will have the chance to work for $7.25 (wait! $8.50! 'cuz we Dems are going to win!) an hour. Madison shoppers will enjoy expanded offerings of second-hand stuff. The $650K price tag, a full third off the original proposal, is a sign that regular folks got through to the thrift store boosters in 2012 and convinced them they didn't need to lock up valuable public resources in their private vision of downtown grandificence.
But the community thrift store still fails to live up to its name, in that it hasn't been used as an opportunity to build community. After receiving all sorts of suggestions for alternative downtown development ideas with popular support, the thrift store boosters' big plan for downtown is still a thrift store. A smaller thrift store. This proposal did not grow organically from the conversations of the downtown development task force that arose from the fires of the thrift store discussion in 2012. It's not the community's idea; it's one group's idea, hatched in private, modified just enough to avoid the need for messy public participation and approval... which, since the backers are now spending their own money and not everybody's, is just fine... as long as they put "Community" in quotation marks.
Backers hope to begin construction around June and have the store up and running by fall. To learn more or to contribute, "contact a task force volunteer. Members of the group include Clark Sinclair, Don and Donna Amert, Jeff Bloom, Jerry and Mechelle Johnson and Jon Knuths. Donations may also be sent to Madison Community Foundation, 820 N. Washington Ave., Madison, S.D., 57042."