On becoming an accidental Townie

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher

Tuesday’s primary elections in Madison left me with a keen feeling of loss. I’m not just talking about Madison’s tired image as a progressive bastion once again sloughing off like old skin as voters let crustbucket mayor Paul Soglin proceed to another general election against eminently qualified challenger Satya Rhodes-Conway, and gave right-wing school board candidate David Blaska, who has openly denigrated students of color, the chance to face off against the also eminently qualified Ali Muldrow. I’m talking about losing my status as a Madison resident, because within the last few months I accidentally moved into an apartment in the Town of Madison, a vestigial entity strewn about Madison’s southwest and north sides. This meant I could still vote in all three competitive Madison Metropolitan School District board races, and did, but not in Madison’s mayoral or city-council elections. Those are for the City of Madison. The actual thing, not the straight-to-video, Aldi-store-brand, day-old-baked-goods, half-eaten-chicken-salad-sandwich Town of Madison.

There’s really no excuse for having moved into Dane County’s answer to that frog cake that went viral last year. The Town of Madison has already bedeviled local politics this election cycle and I should have been watching out for it. One mayoral candidate eliminated in Tuesday’s primary, comedian Nick Hart, actually lives in the Town of Madison—the same part of it I live in now!—but didn’t realize it until after he’d entered the race. Another, City of Madison equity coordinator Toriana Pettaway, was reduced to running as a write-in candidate, in part because it turned out that some of the nomination signatures she submitted were from Town of Madison residents.

In my defense, it’s not like I’ve packed up and moved to Middleton or Verona, a premeditated act of removing oneself from Madison’s municipal embrace. Madison is home to me, dammit! Before I signed the lease at my current residence on the north side, I did check a map to make sure that it wasn’t in the Village of Maple Bluff—that would be too much to bear—but forgot to check whether this was real or knock-off Madison. I really should have noticed some other red flags, like the fact that I can afford the rent. Well, I guess I commute to Madison now. As in, one feather-light tap of the gas pedal takes me from Town to City.

The Town of Madison won’t even exist after 2022, as the Cities of Madison and Fitchburg have gradually been annexing different pieces of it. The Town has a wordpress.com URL, so even people who are supposed to be aware of these things, like local politicians and journalists, can be forgiven for not always remembering that it’s real. It doesn’t actually form a cohesive geographic unit—there’s a scrap of it here, a scrap of it there, the remnants of an arcane unit of government slowly dismembering itself. It brings to mind China Miéville’s brilliant novel The City And The City, set across two city-states that are politically distinct but located in the same physical space. Residents of either city train themselves to literally not see the other city, even though it’s right there, because that could set off an international incident.

The lesson here is that it’s worth keeping your eye on the particulars of local governments, including their sometimes puzzling boundaries. If you don’t, you might become a political non-entity in a city where you do just about everything except sleep.


New this week:

Gillian Laub discusses Southern Rites, her photo exhibition at the Chazen.

On the third episode of Digital Warmth, producer and DJ Sage Caswell talks with host Jordan Cohen.

Our first podcast short revisits capacity issues at Madison venue Art In.

The Midwest Beat releases its final album.

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Sleep has announced a June 3 show at The Sylvee. Saxophonist Tony Barba and percussionist Michael Brenneis have a new improvised recording. All of this week’s primary election results.

This week’s Madison calendar: Crestwood Elementary students screen an animated short film at the Sequoya Library. Roy Wood Jr. does two nights of stand-up at the Comedy Club on State. Jacques Becker’s Casque D’Or screens at UW CinemathequeAnd more.

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

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