Safety First

suppose if we wanted to be Time magazine-cute we could have put a blurred, menacing picture on our cover, called it “The Face of Fear in Madison,” and named it our Person of the Year. And make no mistake, when editor Brennan Nardi, associate editors Shayna Miller and Katie Vaughn, and I looked at 2008 in review we agreed—with all due respect to the economy, the weather and John Wiley—public safety is the story of the year. And no, we did not consult the columnist on the back page of this magazine when making our decision. In fact our choice of Madison Police Chief Noble Wray is as much about the future of our city as it is the present.

Still, when murders, unsolved or otherwise, command more civic attention than smoking bans or streetcars it’s time to step back and look afresh at our remarkable city. The fact that many of us know Madison’s recycling czar better than our police or fire chiefs is actually reassuring in its own quaint way. And there’s no disputing George Dreckman is a rock star. But for the last couple of years perceptions of how safe our city really is have changed. Statistics of course refute claims of an increase in crime. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that the batteries have been more brutal, the murders have been more vexing and there are crimes being committed in more places where there’s been little or no crime before. So, who you gonna call? OK, the Top Cop seems obvious. And he is. But when Noble Wray got the ultimate promotion four years ago his resume included more than the implementation of successful strategic initiatives. In addition to a stellar record throughout his rise through the ranks of MPD, Wray brought a personal history and set of experiences, a leadership and management style, and a world view that suggested he might play a bigger role in what Madison is and what it might become. That’s what we’re anticipating with this recognition.

Wray’s embrace of trust-based policing, community law enforcement standards, and especially information and new technology as crime prevention tools put him in a position to help shape the growth of our city and the quality of life it will hold out to all citizens. I don’t think we’ve heard half of what Chief Wray thinks about who we are, where we’re going and how we might get there and I’m not sure why we haven’t heard more. But I know he thinks about all that and more and if he doesn’t share it in the years ahead this choice will seem less wise. For now we recognize Noble Wray’s got a lot on his shoulders and a lot more riding on the expectations of the citizens of this city. He carries all that—and himself—well. As he should. He’s Madison Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2008.

Domestic abuse is more than a crime. It’s a societal cancer. It’s a hideous blot on our culture that we treat like a cold sore: either cover it up or ignore it. And so it spreads. I have an awful lot of respect and appreciation for Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz for writing our story. It’s not easy to read. You can imagine how hard it was to report. I have as much respect or more for Patti Seeger, the executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for her tireless efforts, and those of her staff and the advocates and volunteers they support around the state. This month they mark thirty years of “making strides to end domestic violence in Wisconsin.” But I am in awe of the courage, the commitment and the spirit of the women who shared their stories with Maggie. I believe that by doing so they will have accomplished their goal—saving the life of someone like them.

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