Stu Levitan, minister of central planning in the people’s republic, will see you now

You’ll have to take my word for this, folks, but I wrote the bulk of this blog last Saturday before the Wisconsin State Journal’s excellent editorial today. The incident I am about to describe deserves further and sustained opprobrium.

What incredible chutzpah for Stu Levitan to offer up his vision for the redevelopment of the triangular-shaped 100 block bounded by State, West Mifflin, and Fairchild streets! Complete with a scale model! Let’s call it “Stu Levitown.”

Why? Cuz it ain’t his property. He don’t own it. Belongs to Jerome Frautschi and his missus, Pleasant Rowland. Stu got no skin in the game. That land, contra the Woody Guthrie song, is not his land nor is it our land. Stu, get your meddling self off their proppity!

Stu Levitan is no sidewalk superintendent with too much retirement time on his hands. He is not a construction site kibbitzer. He is a city of Madison official; he chairs a committee with oversight of the project, the City Landmarks Committee.

Levitan ultimately recused himself, but no wonder Frautschi-Rowland withdrew their $10 million plan. Their property, their initiative, must yield to an appointed city bureaucrat’s dictum. This IS Madison, after all.

I’ve crossed swords with Stu for many a year now. Like him personally but he is a Big Gummint type from the get-go, imbued with more wisdom than the average bear.

The 100 block fiasco is what some of us mean when we yearn for limited government, a proper respect for property rights, individual risk, and initiative.

Frautschi and Rowland were not planning to locate a foundry on the property. No open pit mining. They were sensitive to the historicity of some of the buildings on the block, preserving, for instance, the ornate white marble facade of the old Castle and Doyle building. These public-spirited philanthropists would have created a public plaza to open up a sight-line between their $200 million gift of the Overture Center for the Arts and the State Capitol.

Too bad. Not good enough for Stu and the other sidewalk commissars.

If you want to do something with your property in Madison, it had better conform to the vision of an unelected city government appointee! That is top down, socialist central planning uncut and fresh from the bakery.

Let’s remember that some of the most intriguing parts of the city were constructed BEFORE city zoning took effect early in the 20th century — including that very block!

If Mr. Levitan wishes to get into property development, he should chat up some financial backers and gird his loins to run the gauntlet of city bureaucracy and citizen committees. Madame Brenda Konkel and her Progressive Dane cadres will curse you as a capitalist running dog; 20-something, newly elected aldermen will lecture you on green sustainability; neighborhood groups will quibble you to death, and someone will declare the existing eyesore a landmark.

When hoodies are outlawed, only …

Let us stipulate that, while we do not know all the facts, it appears that the black teenager Trayvon Martin did not deserve to be shot to death in Sanford, Fla.

Let us also recognize something that Mother told us when we were young: it really DOES matter how one presents oneself to the world.

Geraldo Rivera is an acquired taste, but he’s getting a bum rap for this: “I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies,” Rivera said on Fox & Friends. “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” (Geraldo: Martin killed due to 'hoodie'.)

“It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-Eleven, the kid’s wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it’s a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta — you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace,” he said.

We send conscious and subliminal signals by how we present ourselves to the world. Police and bus drivers wear uniforms for a reason. Business people dress to show they mean business. To pretend that how one dresses is immaterial denies the importance of fashion in our culture (or cultures, plural). Why the near-riot over the premier of a pair of sneakers? Or the attention to the red carpet at the Oscar awards ceremony.

The whole hoodie and pants on the ground thing apes prison culture, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray told me. Think about it. A hoodie — in Florida? There's a reason charter schools that cater to minority students demand a sports jacket, pressed pants, dress shirt, and tie.

That said, George Zimmerman cannot avail himself of Florida’s stand-your-ground statute; he pursued his victim and should be charged. Or, so it appears.

Owen-Withee girls can’t jump?

A most curious paragraph in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal sports page, well buried in the girls’ state basketball tourney coverage under the subheading, “The Final Word.” Owen-Withee, from central Wisconsin, had just been eviscerated by Milwaukee Heritage Christian, 79-51.

“I’ll just say one thing,” said O-W Coach Al Guthman. “I noticed their (student) fans were different from their players.” The sports writer adds, “He did not elaborate, but others noted the student section was not as diverse.”

The Secret Word, Groucho, is “Race.”

President Obama stimulates one economic sector

My favorite revolver manufacturer, Sturm Ruger, Inc., is selling so many semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and long guns that it can’t keep up. In the first quarter of the year, the company has received orders for more than 1 million units, outstripping its capacity to produce the guns in its two factories, one in Newport, N.H., the other in Prescott, Ariz. So it’s not taking new orders for a couple of months.

In other news, the National Rifle Assn. has named President Barack Obama “salesman of the year.” (Made that up but it should be true.)






God bless the doughty people of Clintonville, Wis., named for our 42nd president, as they cope with nature’s wrath.