Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Student workshop report basis of Madison budget proposal for development services

The $1.6 million for a one-stop Development Services Center that is wending its way through the City of Madison's capital budget approval process is based on a recommendation from a 2005 report by six La Follette School students.


La Follette School students talk about their report with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz before their presentation to the Madison Economic Development and Plan commissions.

The students prepared the report, Evaluation and Analysis of Madison's Development Review and Permitting Process, for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and his Department of Planning and Development. In requesting the report, city officials were responding to frequently heard criticisms that the city's development process was cumbersome, overly lengthy, and, in some cases, too heavily influenced by the preferences of neighborhood associations.

In evaluating Madison's permitting process, the students conducted detailed case studies of development review and permitting procedures in eight American cities that are similar to Madison and that had recently reformed their permitting procedures. Based on the other cities' experiences, the students made a number of recommendations for streamlining Madison's development review and permitting procedures.

One of the report's recommendations was that the City of Madison establish a one-stop shop for developers and other members of the public wanting to initiate development projects. Officials from agencies involved in the development review and permitting process would be housed in one location.

According to the city's capital budget proposal, the lower level of the Madison Municipal Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard would be remodeled to create a center with a larger lobby, counter area, conference rooms and work stations for 68 employees.

"The advantage of having a one-stop shop is its capacity to provide a more uniform and consistent process across the entire development path," the report notes. "Additionally, a one-stop-shop fosters efficiency, as it prevents the customer from having to fill out various applications in multiple locations throughout the development process. This physical change in the development process emphasizes an important goal: serving the customer."

Madison's Common Council is likely to approve the capital budget in mid-November.

The six student authors were all completing the La Follette School's master's degree in public affairs. As part of their degree requirements, all La Follette students enroll in a public affairs workshop in which they gain practical experience applying the tools of political, economic and statistical analysis acquired during their coursework to actual problems clients face in the public, non-governmental and private sectors.

"It is particularly gratifying when students can hone their skills as policy analysts and simultaneously provide advice that helps facilitate economic development in Madison," says Andrew Reschovsky, the La Follette professor who ran the 2005 workshop.

Madison's Capital Budget Approved, November 15, 2007, Wisconsin State Journal

Villager Tops City's Capital Budget, August 31, 2007, Wisconsin State Journal

Students present final workshop projects to clients, June 22, 2005, La Follette School News

Business Hopes City is Listening, June 12, 2005, Wisconsin State Journal