The Real Deal


 

I’m thinking about the Best of Madison, and all that means, having just returned from a news conference where Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and DMI prez Susan Schmitz have outlined “shared standards of behavior” that define our community’s expectations for public safety. It’s a delicate balance, for our business and civic leaders—including elected officials—and for those of us who write about these issues. The numbers tell a story: Madison is a safe city with a relatively low crime rate. But we’re only as safe as we feel, and clearly stated shared standards are one way for a community to express what is acceptable and what is not in terms of public life, safety included.

It’s becoming increasingly popular to suggest there’s no difference between reality and perception. You’ve heard it too: “Perception IS reality.” It’s true up to a point. At some point we have to do the hard work of differentiating between the two and put our energy and resources into the reality, knowing that’s how we change perceptions. For example, I have come to the conclusion that the cyclists who wear the little outfits with the tight pants, colorful shirts and funny shoes are far more likely than folks wearing regular clothes to barrel by hikers with no regard to our safety. Perception or reality? All I know is one nice couple on bikes slowed behind us as we approached some other bikers on Military Ridge Trail with the reassurance, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.” On that same walk a Lance Armstrong wannabe decided the best approach to navigating two passing couples was to keep his speed and zip right between us with an arrogance that could have landed any of us in the ditch. Guess who was wearing the little outfit?

But I digress. By and large I give our community a lot of credit for sticking to reality when we assess what makes us one of the best cities in America. We have so much to be proud of. I include bike/hiking paths among those assets. And our local businesses. Increasingly the readers of this magazine are demonstrating their support for “buying local” in their voting patterns for Best of Madison. This is important for the Madison brand these local businesses create, and for the fact it is the owners of these businesses who stand with DMI’s Schmitz and the mayor in supporting the community standards that’ll keep our city safe, healthy and thriving. And of course there are the people, the Madisonians we honor each year with our Editors’ Choice awards. Thoughtful and talented writers like Rob Zaleski, community minded entrepreneurs like radio and newspaper executives Luis and Lupita Montoto, visionaries like Miriam Grunes, and community activists and public intellectuals like Eileen Mershart, Carol Lobes and Judy Adrian. We honor their contributions to our city, each in their own way putting the reality to the perception be it our lakes, our food, our diversity, our social and racial justice, or our citizens striving to be heard.

The staff of this award-winning magazine has just returned from the City Regional Magazine Association conference in Memphis with our plaques and certificates. You can read about them in editor Brennan Nardi’s blog. Brennan, along with associate editor Katie Vaughn and a few other must-reads like our back-page columnist, have joined our regular bloggers associate editor Shayna Miller (shopping and retail) and circulation director Kent Palmer (beer!) at madisonmagazine.com. The Memphis conference was all about the web and we’re all over it. With the new blogs we’re getting mighty close to a fresh reason every day to visit our site. Katie’s writing about the city’s vibrant arts scene. And Brennan’s writing about Madison … people, places and things … from her unique, informed and thoughtful perspective. It’s especially good stuff. The more she writes the better we are, on the page and online. And that’s reality.

Neil P. Heinen, Editorial Director
Comments and letters can be sent to P.O. Box 44965, Madison, WI 53744-4965 or e-mail nheinen@madisonmagazine.com. Letters we publish may be edited for space and clarity.

Madison Magazine - July 2008
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