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Home / Government / Madison mulls planning-development split (UPDATE)

Madison mulls planning-development split (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

Madison’s leaders are debating whether to split the city’s top planning-development post into two positions.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and aldermen Tim Bruer and Mark Clear have introduced an amendment to city ordinances that would create an executive director of the Community Development Authority.

Under current city law, the director of Madison’s Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development, Mark Olinger, also is CDA director. Olinger’s contract with the city was not renewed when it expired in January. He is serving through summer on a provisional basis.

CDA member Stu Levitan said the planning and development jobs are too much for one person.

“The head of the planning department and the head of the CDA are both full-time positions,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to think that one person can handle both jobs.”

If the amendment passes, City Comptroller Dean Brasser said, a CDA executive director would not add to Madison’s expenses in 2010. The city budgeted roughly $88,000 last year to create a CDA project manager’s position. The executive director would replace that position and likely would be hired after May.

Brasser said the $88,000 would cover the executive director’s salary and benefits for the rest of the year. If the pay rises above $88,000 in future years — the mayor is authorized to offer a salary of up to $111,000 per year — the additional money is a new expense for the city, he said.

Because city leaders have authorized the $88,000, tacking on up to another $23,000 shouldn’t spur much debate, Cieslewicz said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a big new cost,” he said. “I’d say it’s a somewhat higher cost.”
But others question why any money needs to be spent.

“I’m interested in hearing the discussion,” said Alderwoman Judy Compton. “But as to exactly why we need to do it? I don’t have those answers, and I think it’s because the answer is not out there right now.”

Even though Levitan supports the new position, he said the current system seems to be working.

“I can only speak from the CDA side,” he said. “But considering the projects that are on our plate — the Allied Drive project came in fully on time and under budget, the Villager Mall redevelopment is proceeding along, and we have an aggressive plan in place for the Truax Apartments project.”

Neither Olinger nor Brad Murphy, Madison’s planning division director, was available to comment.

Clear said the amendment was prompted by Olinger’s imminent departure. With the hunt for a new planning department director to begin soon, Clear said, it’s a good time to discuss a separate CDA director.

“I think it eliminates potential confusion and discomfort at the city level if you don’t have one person in charge of both,” he said. “Because you never quite know which hat the person is wearing. And if there’s a situation where the CDA is interested in buying city land, I think you want an arm’s length between the two.

“It’s hard for one person to be an arm’s length from himself.”

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