Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Nov. 15

Downtown project will be needed after pandemic

What will Madison look like after the pandemic?

A reassuring view of our city’s future is the $125 million office tower proposed for the Capitol Square. The city’s Plan Commission last week wisely approved Urban Land Interest’s revised and improved plans to dramatically revitalize the 10 block of North Pinckney Street.

The Madison City Council should give its final OK to this exciting and worthy development. So should the city’s Urban Design Commission. The ULI project will provide Downtown with a shot of private investment just when it’s needed most.

The ULI proposal respects history — including the landmark American Exchange building — by erecting its glass and stone tower toward the back of the block, away from the Square. The project also looks to the future, catering modern workspaces to technology companies that encourage innovation and contribute to the entire region’s prosperity.

Another vision of where Madison is heading, after the virus finally recedes, is more concerning. Look at boarded-up State Street, where small businesses continue to struggle if they haven’t closed. It’s a sad sight. COVID-19, which is keeping more people at home, has sharply reduced foot traffic and sales in the city’s premier shopping and entertainment district. On top of that, senseless vandalism and looting that followed protests in Madison over police misconduct in other cities further diminished State Street’s health.

The City Council has done little to help the central city recover, which is disturbing. The council repeatedly rejected solid funding to help business owners repair their properties after costly damage from unruly crowds. The city failed to protect these businesses from rioters, then failed to help make them whole. Many business owners are local people, including women and people of color.

Madison can’t take the future of its Downtown for granted. Following the upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s — when demonstrations for civil rights and protests against the Vietnam War shook State Street and the UW-Madison campus — Downtown Madison struggled to rekindle its vibrancy. It wasn’t until the building and tech booms of the last two decades that the Capitol Square and most of Downtown thrived.

Nothing guarantees that the central city will come roaring back after this year’s double dose of disease and violence.

But the ULI project certainly provides some hope. The developers will retain the historic scale of facades facing the Square while providing 22,000 square feet of first-floor retail space. The project’s tower, which abides by Capitol height limits, will add more than 300,000 square feet of office space, with 840 underground parking spaces.

A wine bar at the top of the nearby AC Hotel is worried its views of the Capitol will be blocked. We understand its concern. Yet views of the Capitol are constantly changing as Madison grows. That’s inevitable. And the ULI project should provide businesses around it with more customers.

Besides the ULI project, the Madison Plan Commission last week approved LZ Ventures’ stylish, 10-story housing redevelopment on the 400 block of East Washington Avenue. More people will be able to live Downtown near where they work, reducing traffic congestion and urban sprawl.

We see great things ahead for the Madison region and the heart of Downtown. The city must help make that happen — not assume a rosy rebound is inevitable.


The Journal Times, Racine, Nov. 16

Should social media sites tells us what is right and wrong?

Go onto Twitter and below the president’s tweets you’ll find disclaimer after disclaimer.

“This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

“This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

“Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process. Learn more.”

Many of the things the president Tweets are disputed and some are blatantly false. But is it really Twitter’s job to put a disclaimer next to everything the president says?

This is about a lot more than the president and some of the things he alleges. It goes beyond him and beyond Republicans and Democrats for that matter.

The question at hand is: should Twitter—and Facebook and other social media sites – be telling people what is right or wrong?

Legally, are they publishers or platforms? The reason that matters is because if social media sites are platforms, simply places for people to post content, then they don’t have some of the same legal obligations as publishers, which cannot have slanderous content, among other requirements.

One of the reasons people migrated to Twitter and Facebook is because it’s a place they can go to express themselves.

For politicians it’s their chance to express exactly how they feel on an issued too, without wondering what part of their quote may actually make it to print or online.

Once Twitter started manipulating that – they are stripping people of their right to express themselves and becoming a filter.

It’s one thing when it comes to public safety. We don’t want any death threats out there or calls to action for people to harm others. Similarly, if posts are coming from a strange Russian or Chinese account, it would make sense to investigate those.

But that is different than a real person expressing an opinion and Twitter or Facebook deciding what opinion is valid.

In explaining its decision to flag some of the president’s Tweets, the a Twitter link stated, “The public conversation occurring on Twitter is never more important than during elections and other civic events. Any attempts to undermine the integrity of our service is antithetical to our fundamental rights and undermines the core tenets of freedom of expression, the value upon which our company is based.”


That makes no sense because what they are doing is the exact opposite. By censoring what opinions people can put out there they are taking away freedom of expression and the integrity of the company.


Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Oct. 13

Body cameras for deputies the right call

It’s surprising that it’s taken so long, but the Rock County Sheriff’s Office is getting body cameras for its patrol deputies and jail correctional officers.

It almost didn’t happen.

Sheriff Troy Knudson had applied for a $40,000 federal government grant that would have provided body cams for 20 deputies plus storage equipment and training. He learned the last week of October—after the Rock County Board was deep into its budgeting process—that his grant application had been denied.

“It might be easiest to put this on the back burner until next year’s budget process, and yet there’s been a lot of interest in us having this type of equipment, and it may justify moving forward before that,” Knudson said at the time.

Thankfully, a hot flame was kept under the issue.

Knudson last week addressed the county board during the public hearing on the budget and asked the board to add money to the 2021 budget for body cameras.

Mary Beaver, chairwoman of the board’s public safety and justice committee, worked with Knudson on the budget change.

People wrote letters to the county board.

“As a citizen of the county, I fully support this measure to ensure that we are prepared to avoid any use of excessive force and add a layer of important legal protection for our officers and citizens,” wrote Ron Watson, Beloit College professor of political science and health & society.

“Our community deserves this protection for officers and the public!” wrote Tracy Buck of Beloit.

“They can be instrumental in solving crimes and keeping people safe. Please amend the budget to include the sheriff’s proposal,” wrote Jessica Fox-Wilson, Beloit.

The county board Tuesday night added $454,000 to the 2021 budget for cameras to outfit 105 deputies and 91 correctional officers and for storage of the recordings. The amount also covers pay for an analyst to oversee the recordings, maintain the ones needed for evidence and edit videos for public records requests.

Knudson hopes deputies will be wearing body cameras by February.

The importance of body cameras is difficult to overstate. Kenosha police didn’t have body cameras, so there was no police recording when officers Aug. 23 shot and wounded Jacob Blake. The city erupted in protests.

The Janesville police officers have been wearing body cameras for years. Chief Dave Moore said this week body camera video helped the department sort through an Oct. 17 incident that resulted in a 16-year-old suffering a broken rib after being taken to the ground by an officer.

Moore said he was able to watch the video frame by frame to evaluate if the officer led to the ground with his knee and held the girl’s head and torso on the way down to minimize the risk of injury. Bottom line: Moore believes the video proves the officer did everything right.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office has had cameras mounted on squad car dashboards for years, but they often miss the details of incidents.

Body cameras will provide an additional layer of protection for deputies and the people they deal with.