Conservatives are often ridiculed for their disdain for change. We're told that we are "living in the past". That "society has moved on"--and that we are "dinosaurs roaming the earth". But Progressives can be just as bull-headed about change--especially when it threatens their vision of "social utopia".
A case in point in Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. This week, Soglin berated the Madison City Council for approving a beer and wine license for a Belgian French Fries restaurant along State Street. Soglin opposed the license because the restaurant replaced yet another former retail shop along Madison's most famous avenue. Mayor Soglin believes that the government should be doing everything in its power to keep more of the "eclectic shops" along State--and not have so many "beer gardens". It's the State Street that many of you probably remember from your college days--where you could buy a Grateful Dead bootleg tape in a used record shop, a dusty copy of Beatnik poetry in a used book store, packs of incense in head shop and a t-shirt featuring Bucky Badger doing something wholly inappropriate in another store. All while street performers and protesters kept you entertained along the sidewalk.
Unfortunately for Mayor Sogliln (and other hippie burnouts like him) our old friend Economic Reality is at work along State Street. Those little shops and boutiques can no longer compete in the modern retail world. All of the Dead bootlegs, books of '60's prose, t-shirts and "smoking accessories" can now be ordered using your computer, tablet, smartphone and even your watch. And those items can be delivered--for free--in just a couple of days to the 50-thousand students in their dorms, or rental houses, or frats or apartments literally just blocks away from State Street--and to the faculty members in their historic homes around the arboretum and the zoo--and to the McMansions owned by the long-time State employees outside the beltway in Verona. And all of it likely at a lower price and with less hassle than fighting the traffic and trying to park to shop on State Street.
What also irks Mayor Soglin is that the city spent millions to upgrade State Street--widening the sidewalks and adding benches and planters on every block. Now, the restaurants, bars and coffee shops that he hates are using that space for café style seating--allowing their customers to enjoy beautiful days outside while eating and drinking. That is not what the Mayor envisioned. He wants that space used for the "discussion of ideas" and for the "discontent to have a platform" to air their grievances. But here again, modern society has moved on from Soglin's vision. All of those "social activists" are now on the blogosphere and social media--and handing out poorly-copied pamphlets to everyone that walks by has been replaced by hashtag activism.
Sounding like the Socialist that he is, Soglin told the Council that allowing the bars and restaurants to use the improved State Street "“soaks the rest of these people to create that wealth in private hands. There is a larger commitment to the larger community and you are failing it.” His solution to the "problem" is to offer taxpayer-funded rent credits to retailers along State Street--but not restaurants, bars or liquor stores (a little something we like to call "crony socialism")--so they can stay open, even if they have no customers.
I understand that Mayor Soglin and his Progressive supporters love what State Street used to be about--and they have a tough time letting go of that fantasy. But they should now let it be a mile long stretch of reality inside of 77-square miles surrounded by reality.