Madison, Dane County Consider Naming Government Building After Obama

County, City Resolutions Introduced To Honor 44th President

Shamane Mills/WPR

Local officials in Madison and Dane County are considering naming a government building after former President Barack Obama.

On Monday, Dane County Board supervisor Al Matano introduced a resolution to rename the City-County Building after the 44th president.

Next Tueday, Madison alderman Samba Baldeh will introduce a similar resolution for the common council to consider.

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“We feel that as a community we not only appreciated President Obama for being the president he was and serving eight rather totally free scandal free years, but also the style and grace with which he served,” Matano said.

Obama campaigned several times in Madison over the course of his two terms and even visited the City-County Building, which Matano said bore a name that was practical but bland.

“Virtually no name at all,” Matano said during a press conference outside the City-County Building, which is just blocks from the state Capitol.

It’s also near the Risser Justice Center, named for longtime democratic Sen. Fred Risser. And it’s close to the Tommy G. Thompson Commerce Center, named after Wisconsin’s former Republican governor.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Obama shared many of the values the community holds dear and referred to him as the “JFK of our generation.” Like former President John F. Kennedy, Obama took office when the country was in recession.

“As President, (Obama) lifted us out of the Great Recession, he focused our effort to fight poverty and violence in our communities. He united our nation and the world around the battle to fight and prevent terrorism,” Parisi said.

Parisi also cited Obama’s work on climate change and marriage equality, and pointed out he won elections in 2008 and 2012 in Dane County by large margins.

When asked at the press conference if honoring him might anger those who did not support the former president or his policies, Parisi pointed out former local politicians who are respected but didn’t always have widespread support for their policies.

For instance, there are several structures around the state named after Thompson, including a fish hatchery, a youth center, state government building and most recently The Center for Public Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“And while I certainly didn’t agree with Gov. Thompson on all of his policies, I frankly think the facility that’s named after him is well-deserved,” Parisi said. “He was our longest-serving governor. And he worked hard for the state. And whether we agreed with him or didn’t, I think that recognition is fine.”

There are schools across the country dedicated to Obama, but Dane County supervisor John Hendrick said this would be significant in another way.

“This will be the first seat of government building named after President Obama,” Hendrick said.