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The Race For Mayor of Madison

Interview with two candidates for Madison Mayor 2015

Bridget Maniaci and Scott Resnick, both running against Madison's incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin by Rökker
January 2015

The primary election for the mayoral race in Madison is Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The pundits have been analyzing the candidates on everything from economic to evironmental policy beliefs and everything between, except music. It occurred to me that we always find out how supportive, or unsupportive, a mayor is for the music scene “after” being elected to office. There are two candidates that are young, bright, and bring a lot of energy and passion to the table. They are people that I have seen out at shows around town.Those two candidates are Bridget Maniaci and Scott Resnick. I thought it would be interesting to get their viewpoint on four simple questions.

Both Bridget and Scott have attended UW-Madison and served on the Madison Common Council. Bridget left office to complete a Masters of Science Public Policy & Public Management at Carnegie Mellon University while Scott has been Vice President of Hardin Design & Development as well as currently still serving on the city’s common council.

Resnick’s company, Hardin D&D, was named by Madison Magazine as one of the city’s best places to work and Bridget was named in Brava Magazine’s “Women to Watch” in 2014. You can get all the info on both candidates at their websites BridgetForMadison.com and ResnickForMayor.com. Ladies first.

BRIDGET MANIACI

Maximum Ink: How would you describe Madison’s Music scene?
Bridget Maniaci
: Madison’s music scene is vibrant and offers a huge diversity of acts. We’re fortunate to be geographically sandwiched between Chicago and the Twin Cities, because we get the best touring acts in the country. Also, the audience is smart and savvy and appreciates a good show. Shlock & gimmicks falls flat here, but good concepts are rewarded. There’s a number of musicians who create a steady scene of collaborative projects, which I really like.

After being an avid concert goer in Madison for the last 15 years, I know that music scenes in the city will rise and fade. Right now I wish there were more experimental spaces for musicians in Madison. I really valued the E Washington Lussier Teen Center all-ages scene for how it brought lots of musicians, fans and sounds together that then played for young and 21+ crowds in places like Electric Earth, Catacombs and Café Assisi. Dragonfly Lounge is doing a good job of keeping that venue spirit-animal alive. Madison does need spaces for hip hop and electronic music to more fully be present and part of the cultural conversation.

Also, why we can’t cross-pollinate scenes and have a neo-folk act and a hip-hop act on the same bill is beyond me. Happy accidents and collaborations are great for a scene, and you see it in other cities. I’d love to see a “mix-it-up” cocktail series where on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, all the music-lovers in the city come out just to listen to a smorgasbord of musical offerings. We should get out of our comfort zones more and work to break down barriers that segment Madison’s music scene into many micro-scenes.

MI: How does Madison’s music scene fit in with the city’s vision of the future?
BM:
I represented downtown and the east isthmus for 4 years on the City Council. Having a vibrant cultural scene is critically interconnected with all of the work we’ve done to get the Capital East District reinvented. We’re blessed with great community cultural assets (symphony, opera, ballet), now the new growth and development in Madison provides a huge opportunity for an expanding consumer base for club music. Just as we’re building in services like grocery stores and restaurants, we should be building in additional spaces for club musicians. The marks of great cities are their capacity for cultural amenities. Madison is growing, so should our spaces for artists.

MI: How do you see city government’s role or non-role in the music scene?
BM:
On a technical level, the city regulates establishments for capacity, usage, liquor licenses, signage, etc. I’d like to see the city actively work to encourage and support flexible creative spaces that are allowed under city ordinances. Most of the best scenes and shows happen in private, irregular places that may or may not be licensed and zoned for what’s going on, so it’s an active balance between how much involvement or non-involvement the city should have if we want a strong scene. We don’t want “Footloose.” The city also can’t change alcohol license laws set by the Wisconsin State Legislature, so it’s a balancing act. I am against the city getting involved with limiting the number and type of venues in Madison. I’m not in favor of protectionist policy that favors existing venues over new venue concepts.

I went to SXSW this year and spent 10 days wandering Austin, looking at the event with the lens of an elected official. There’s many cities (Austin’s only one) that has demonstrated creative and exciting ways of supporting music and striking a balance between order and chaos to create vibrant scenes. The city has a lot more it can do to support musicians.

MI: Do you have any comment for fan’s and musicians regarding Madison’s music scene?
BM:
We need to have a more vocal community conversation about how to financially support our musicians. We have very low ticket prices to shows, and in the age of digital downloads, selling your music is that much harder. I like the idea of a coordinated “Support Our Scene” (S.O.S.) public outreach campaign.

If we can create strong spaces and a financial market to support artists, I’m confident we’ll see greater experimentation and scenes develop. Nick Woods (of Direct Hit) had a great comment to the crowd at last week’s Punk Fest “If you want to be up here, start a band.” I’m not seeing a ton of new bands or sustained new scenes really taking off in Madison. The folks I saw at shows in high school and college are still the folks I see at shows now, a decade later. To Nick’s point at Punk Fest, it’s frequently the same bands on the bills. We need to encourage new artists to take risks and create.

Part of that process means that folks who love music need to start showing up at City Hall and Neighborhood Association meetings and start advocating on a grassroots level for creating those types of spaces. You don’t want a city where officials on high decree what shall and shall not occur, which is what’s happening in Madison. If you can organize 20 friends to show up to your concert, you should be able to organize those same 20 friends to show up to a planning commission meeting.

Madison could really use a type of musicians’ union. For culinary arts, the Madison Area Chefs’ Network has banded together. I’d like to see leaders in the music community organize something similar. A central activist network and information exchange would go a long way to helping the city’s music scene thrive and expand. Some of that has been happening with the Willy Wash Facebook group, but it’d be great if it went further and was focused city-wide to support venue owners and musicians.

Finally, the most subversive thing you can do to the system as a citizen is show up and vote. Please ensure your voice is heard and vote in the Mayor’s race on February 17.

SCOTT RESNICK

Maximum Ink: How would you describe Madison’s Music scene?
Scott Resnick:
Madison’s music scene is more vibrant now than any time I’ve lived in Madison and I’m told it’s more vibrant than it has been in a much longer time. For a long time, many musicians have received their start in Madison before going on to success elsewhere. But the future holds many opportunities for Madison to highlight what is available for musicians living in Madison and looking to move to Madison - from the proposed 800 block project to the new UW-Madison School of Music facility and other venues. Studios and musical development organizations are popping up and thriving. As an example, the fact that ideas such as Girls Rock Camp Madison are succeeding shows that the future will show a larger and more vibrant music scene. 

MI: How does Madison’s music scene fit in with the city’s vision of the future?
SR:
It would be a substantial part of what kind of city I want Madison to be. The 21st-Century city I talk about is one where all the arts are promoted and we leverage artistic and entrepreneurial opportunities to promote Madison’s music scene - so that there on not just more spaces to create and perform music but more events in non-traditional spaces for performances. It would be a city where more musicians stay and where more musicians would want to move. 

MI: How do you see city government’s role or non-role in the music scene?
SR:
There are many areas where city government can and should positively affect the music scene. Included in them are:

Growing the economy so that Madison is a location for businesses to develop that bring in people who can fill the venues and support artists at their shows.

Keeping a keen eye on development projects that can provide performance spaces and opportunities for artists - such as the proposed new developments on East Washington Ave. One thing I hear is concern that new music venues would mean that the ones we currently enjoy would be in jeopardy of closing. I take the opposite view - new and more venues for performance would provide more places for touring and local acts to play. That would grow the scene and help existing venues. I do have some concerns with national organizations such as Live Nation entering the market, and I believe this will have a greater impact than new venues. One thing we should learn from our currently booming comedy scene is that if you provide great places to perform and supportive crowds to perform for, artists will tell other artists about how great Madison is and more people will want to come here to perform and perhaps stay.

One thing I would like to see less of is musicians having to put on benefits for other musicians. Trying to make a culturally viable Madison doesn’t make sense if it isn’t economically viable for our artists. From affordable housing opportunities for artists in Lafayette, Louisiana to more affordable health care access in Austin, Texas, other communities are stepping up to make living in their communities more viable for their artists. We should be looking into doing the same.

I want to see Madison government be more of a help for people who want to create venues as safe spaces to put on hip-hop and other shows that too often get a negative view in the media and community. There are people who want a place to go for this entertainment and cannot. We must work with these community members with the police and ALRC (Alcohol License & Review Committee) to improve entertainment diversity.

MI: Do you have any comment for fan’s and musicians regarding Madison’s music scene?
SR:
Although I don’t get to see as many local shows as I want to, I enjoy being able to catch artists that I enjoy - particularly Building on Buildings and The Wells Division (I’m excited for their new LP).

Regardless of how this campaign turns out, I will look forward to another summer of excellent musical performances such as the Live on King Street series. The Head and the Heart show last year was my favorite in 2014.

I find it very sad that musically historical places such as the Stax Records studio in Memphis no longer exist. We should be doing what we can to preserve our musical heritage. To that end, I would be willing to have my administration explore what it would take to give landmark status to the Smart Studios (now Clutch Sound) building on East Washington.


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