Aaron Frank: What Has Mayor Dave Done for Business?

By Aaron Frank

I recently received an invitation to attend the one-year anniversary party for Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Not only am I lucky enough to be invited but I am informed on the invitation any contribution I would like to make would be "gratefully accepted."

So I decided to review the last year with Mayor Dave prior to accepting his invite or donating any money to his next campaign. Here is what I came up with in my review:

During the last year in Madison the following business changes occurred: Rayovac said it would be moving its world headquarters to Atlanta from Madison, Kraft subsidiary Oscar Mayer laid off 75 workers, Blockbuster Video closed a profitable store in a low-income neighborhood, Bookworks and other local businesses are closing on State Street, Hilldale Mall is now around half-empty, Dean Morningstar dairy announced plans to leave town, Canterbury Booksellers closed downtown and Rundell’s Menswear closed after 115 years of business in Madison. There are more but I think you have the picture.

So what has Mayor Dave (and the city council) done to help solve this growing problem? So far they have raised the minimum wage by more than $2 an hour and banned smoking in all Madison businesses. Wow. Those two items alone should sure help the local small businesses. It makes the small business owner in Madison either move or struggle to stay open. That really helps.

The smoking ban sure helps local restaurants and bars, doesn’t it? Especially since they just had to renovate if they wished to offer a smoking section to fit the city’s already tough smoking ordinance. What happens to the cigar bar in Madison that is only a smoking business? Must they close? Yes. Why? Are they bad? Who gets to judge them? If you don’t like smoke you don’t need to go inside.

Also this past year was the casino referendum, which Mayor Dave was supposedly not getting involved in. After he changed his mind, he did a great job making sure the jobs to build and operate the casino or the revenue from the casino did not get to Madison. Never mind the businesses that would have developed around a casino.

A local television station recently conducted a survey asking if Mayor Dave is a friend or foe of Madison businesses. With 609 votes, the tally was 75 percent foe and 13 percent friend, with the rest undecided.

I have not even touched on the challenges the city is giving to ESPN on bring its events to Madison this summer AFTER the network committed to come, or the bowling conferences pulling out of Madison and taking their attendees and dollars elsewhere. Or other groups taking Madison off their list of destinations for conferences or visits because of the unfriendliness of the city.

With all that I have listed above I think I shall decline Mayor Dave’s invite and save my money for another’s campaign. Maybe a candidate that is more concerned about Madison’s local businesses and their success.

–Frank has lived or worked in Madison for over 32 years.