Madison Ald. David Ahrens won’t seek re-election

November 29, 2018


Madison Ald. David Ahrens, a fierce critic of the $186 million Judge Doyle Square project and city spending priorities, but an advocate for his 15th District on the East Side, will not seek re-election to a fourth term.

Ahrens, elected to the council in 2013, is the eighth of 20 council members to announce retirement after the April elections. The biggest turnover on the council in recent years was nine in the 2007 election.

He said he is leaving largely in frustration over issues “such as the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment fiasco, mega-parking ramps and mismanagement at the Madison Water Utility.”

In 2016, Ahrens and former Ald. Mark Clear proposed to strip some mayoral powers, including removing the mayor as a voting member and chairman of the city’s Finance Committee, and smaller changes that revised titles and committee names. A task force is now examining the city’s governmental structure.

Ahrens has long challenged elements of Judge Doyle Square, which calls for a hotel, apartments, commercial space and parking on blocks that hold the Madison Municipal Building and Government East parking garage. Recently, he has led opposition to a $600,000 city payment to the developer, Beitler Real Estate Services of Chicago, to resolve a legal dispute. The council has twice declined to approve the payment with a third vote expected in early January.

But Ahrens has been a strong advocate for the new $11.7 million Pinney Library, which will be part of the multi-phase Royster Corners redevelopment at Cottage Grove and Dempsey roads, and serves on the Urban Forestry Task Force. He said upcoming task force recommendations, if adopted, would be a major achievement.

He said he’s frustrated the city continues to prioritize Downtown development with grants funded by taxpayers, “under the misnomer Tax Incremental Financing,” and said the city needs low-cost housing for elderly residents on fixed incomes and working families that can’t afford to pay property taxes.

“This should be a priority rather than boutique projects such as the Public Market and Monona Terrace that will continue to need subsidies of millions per year,” he said.

Also not seeking re-election are Alds. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District; Steve King, 7th District; Zach Wood, 8th District; Maurice Cheeks (who is running for mayor), 10th District; Larry Palm, 12th District; Allen Arntsen, 13th District; and Matt Phair, 20th District.

The city primary election is set for Feb. 19, with the general election on April 2.

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