Engaging influences on Madison
(page 5 of 5)
When you list the people who deserve credit for the economic renaissance of the East Washington corridor, names such as Brink, Gebhardt, and Salzwedel are among the first that come to mind. Attorney Angela Black deserves to be mentioned right along with them, for it’s this partner from Husch Blackwell who has represented Gebhardt Development for years and was a crucial player in various building projects coming to fruition.
Whether it was the Constellation, the Galaxie, or the new Cosmos and Spark developments now under construction, Black’s knowledge and determination were indispensable in getting the projects approved. As noted by Beth Prochaska, vice president of Potter Lawson, East Washington was a bit of a business ghost town for years. Without Black, a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School, we might still be arguing about how to proceed.
“Her razor sharp intelligence, nuanced understanding of the complex set of laws and plans that govern the East Washington corridor, and her seemingly endless tenacity to see a project through to completion was key to the successful completion of the Gebhardt buildings you see lining the 700 and 800 block of East Washington today,” Prochaska states. “It takes a strong, patient, diplomatic, creative, and knowledgeable person to successfully navigate the City of Madison process. From the neighborhoods, to the staff, to the politics of the [Madison Common] Council, she was instrumental in making it all happen.”
The Village of DeForest, already home to some of Dane County’s largest employers, is growing by leaps and bounds, and while Village President Judd Blau is quick to share the credit, he is the ringleader.
By day he’s a sales manager at TDS Telecom, but his sales efforts on behalf of local economic development have helped to bring $65 million in new assets to the community. They include Bell Labs, the Little Potato Co., American Packaging’s new plant (and 300 new jobs that come with it), the GRB Baseball Academy, and the continuing progress of residential developments such as Rivers Turn, Heritage Gardens, Chapel Green, Fox Hills, and Savannah Brooks.
Adding to DeForest’s busy year were the Renewable Energy Group’s purchase of Sanimax biodiesel (with an additional $7 million in improvements), the awarding of a $945,000 Department of Transportation grant for improvements in TIF District 6, the expansion of both the Village Hall and Public Services buildings, and the Upper Yahara River Trail boardwalk expansion.
Along the way, the village closed a highly successful Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District that attracted companies such as American Girl, DEMCO, and Ball Corp., and improved the quality of life by successfully passing a pool referendum.
For all this, Blau also credits Steve Fahlgren, village administrator, and Sam Blahnik, community development director. You also could cite the village’s location between Sun Prairie and Waunakee, which also are experiencing growth, or its proximity to freeways that invite an estimated 60,000 vehicles daily, but it takes leadership to leverage those assets. Blau provides it.
Wisconsinites who point to Chicago’s gun violence and sniff, “That could never happen here,” are not only mistaken, they might already be in denial. Perhaps it could never get to that level and frequency, but Madison Police Chief Mike Koval knows that Madison is not shielded from the tragedies that occur in many communities.
In April, Koval issued a necessary wake-up call about growing gun violence in the community after an evening of unprecedented gun-related crime, and he has called for more police and community resources to deal with the problem before it grows out of control. “We are no longer immune to what we see taking place on a national scale,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Despite some aldermanic calls for his ouster, many in the community are already heeding Koval’s words and actively trying to head off escalating violence. A coalition of Madison community and faith groups — which last year presented a 15-point plan to address violence and racial disparities — have been talking to city officials about city funding for a rapid response, peer-support program aimed at reducing violence and supporting victims of violence. Mayor Paul Soglin wants the Police Department to pursue a federal grant to hire 15 more police officers and expand community policing.
Recent violent crimes have demonstrated the importance of effective policing in Madison — the kind of policing that requires community support. For injecting a dose of reality into law enforcement controversies, and pointing out that Madison could be approaching a dangerously violent tipping point, Koval has once again done Madison a service.
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