Thursday, March 29, 2007

DMI and the Mayor

I’ve been reading recently about Downtown Madison, Inc. (DMI) and the failure of their organization to make an endorsement in the Mayor’s race. I wanted to respond to this criticism as a candidate for City Council who recently went through their interview and endorsement process. Entering this race, I was completely unprepared for the number of questionnaires, interviews, forums, and organizations whose endorsement I’d need to solicit. The vast majority of these have been professional, dignified, and, despite being a great deal of work, have been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the numerous organizations with which I’ll need to work if elected.

DMI’s process was among the very best in which I’ve participated. The questions were sent in advance, but I wasn’t required to submit written responses. I showed up at the agreed-upon time and found three DMI members and their president, Susan Schmitz, awaiting my arrival. It was more discussion than interview, more joint learning experience than one way interrogation. All four members of the panel were positive, responsive, and exceptionally professional. The questions were right on point and focused on real issues that matter to the vitality of downtown Madison.

I do not always agree with DMI but wholeheartedly support their mission to protect and enhance the central city of Madison -- the economic, cultural, and social hub of all south central Wisconsin. A vibrant inner city benefits the entire region, regardless of whether we live in Madison’s suburbs, in Middleton or Sun Prairie, or even if we live in Mount Horeb or Cambridge. That’s why I’m disappointed that DMI was unable to support Mayor Dave despite his hard work and effectiveness on many downtown issues important to the entire region.

However, DMI’s endorsement process, like that of other organizations, is democratic among its members. Its members should voice their concerns and vote their conscience, and there is little that an “organization” can do if its members are unable to generate the votes necessary to make an endorsement. Obviously, I can speak only to one aspect of the DMI endorsement process (my interview), and on that part, DMI definitely got it right.