Archive for November, 2010

A Sad Day for Madison Bicycling. A Sadder Day for Good Governance

Friday, November 19th, 2010

It’s budget season, and it gotten ugly. Here’s Traffic Engineering’s personnel budget.

Go down to “Pedestrian Bike Coordinator” (Arthur Ross). Note that it is zeroed out in the Executive Budget.

Now look one line below it and you’ll see — magically — “Bicycle and Ped. Prog. Mgr.” with a salary approximately 10% less than Arthur’s current salary. Apparently this is Mayor Pave’s sneaky way of dumping Arthur. And saving a few bucks at the expense of quality bicycle & pedestrian planning. As I say in my letter below to my alder, Marsha Rummel, there are issues to be dealt with regarding pedestrian & bicycle planning in this city, but this thing stinks to high heaven. There are better ways of getting to where we need to get to (as I discuss below….) than an underhanded, passive aggressive canning. (And it is exactly these sorts of mayoral shenanigans that potential *quality* candidates steer clear from, as we’ve seen in the repeated failures of the planning director searches.)

But had this been even discussed on the local bikies listserv? Nope.

Any cyclist opposition voiced at the budget hearings? Nope.

Did any leading local bike advocates & professionals know about this? Yup. Apparently several.

Did they say anything to the broader cycling community in a timely manner? Nope.

I didn’t find out about this situation until the day before the hearings (completely by chance), and tried my best to mount some opposition (emailing alders, alerting other cyclists, etc.), and we might have gotten a couple of votes from that effort, but it was all too little, too late. The Maniaci/Cnare amendment to restore the funding for the ped/bike coordinator was defeated in a 10-10 tie, broken by Mayor Pave himself. Arthur is soon to be out of a job.  (Brenda has some sketchy details on the testimony Arthur gave at the public hearings on the budget (see at the bottom of the post).)

What we have here is a case of Human Resources Management run amok. Personnel Management by passive-aggressive fiat. A return to the cronyism, sinecures, and  patronage of the Gilded Age. A trip in the Way Back Machine to the 19th century when civil service was routinely ransacked on political whims.

Mayor Pave, Der Über-Decider.

The episode also speaks to the sorry state of local bike advocacy right now.

The moral failures all around sadden me greatly.


From an email sent 11/15/2010

Hi Marsha,
It has just come to my attention that Arthur’s job is slated for slashing. If I understand correctly, it is being replaced by a bike coordinator of a different description. This is dirty pool by any measure. It is the worst of passive-aggressive personnel management.

Look, I’ve had many a disagreement with Arthur over the years. Possibly more than just about anyone in the entire city. But I know that the root of the problem resides echelons above him. The engineers define his job as toeing their line and being their PR flak when things get politically rough on the bike front. His job has depended on him toeing that line, he’s toed it, and now that the bike movement has heated up beyond their intellectual capacity to comprehend, they want to pitch him to show that they are doing something. Anything. And from what I’ve seen, even the engineers’ misbehavior can be laid at the feet of policy makers above them.

Thus, I think the reason that Arthur is being pitched is failure at levels far above him. He’s the fall guy, pure & simple.

Yet, there is no one in the country who is more knowledgeable than Arthur on things bicycle and pedestrian. For years we have had the opportunity to engage that knowledge but have chosen not to. For example, I credit Arthur with first coming up the idea of the pedestrian-bicycle grid. He has tried to get other staffers and policy makers to understand it [to no avail]. I listened though. I tried (usually in vain) to get the ped/bike grid notion implemented on the ground while I served on UDC. I’ve researched it in depth and the concept is still valid, and still unimplemented in Madison in the 21st century. The lack of the ped/bike grid is the #1 reason bicycling & walking lags so miserably out beyond the beltline. But Brad Murphy & Larry Nelson don’t care, so it doesn’t happen.

Ok, so we pitch Arthur and get a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, twenty-something in there. Then what? Set them to the wolves at City Engineering & Traffic Engineering and cheer & jeer as they get mauled? I’m hoping that whatever the outcome, this issue of bullying engineers gets resolved.

It is my understanding that Alds. Maniaci & Cnare are sponsoring an amendment to restore Arthur’s current position. I support their amendment.

Thanks for considering this.

Mike Barrett

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Friday, November 19th, 2010

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