2014 State of the City Address
Seeing through on my belief in a more informed and engaged citizenry, I gave my second annual and 2014 State of Our City address last Wednesday. I am thankful for the League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids area for sponsoring the event and to the Library for hosting. Watch it here.
I am pleased by the broad participation of residents whether in person, on TV or online. Further, this year we introduced the concept of ‘bringing City Hall to you’, where City Department Heads were on hand to distribute information about their departments and to interact and engage with residents at the reception before my remarks.
The focus of the event was to update residents on where we have come as a community and where we are heading. In the last year and a half since I took office, I’ve spent a great deal of time finding ways to strengthen our community – by way of making Wisconsin Rapids a more attractive and competitive city positioned for growth. This goal requires a strong foundation and, in many respects, significant shifts from our traditional ways.
I highlighted some of the accomplishments from 2013 including:
Ways of “getting our city on the map” such as receiving certification of the largest piece of land in our Rapids East Commerce Park. See Announcement. With the ‘shovel ready’ designation it is now marketed to site selectors and prospective businesses around the world.
Proactively identifying vacant and possibly contaminated parcels to prepare for redevelopment. Through our Brownfield assessment program, we’ve identified over 80 parcels, many of which are in progress or completed. This positions property owners and prospective property owners piece of mind in selling or buying real estate for redevelopment, more quickly.
Further, I highlighted efforts in community involvement through the RapidServes initiative over the last year, as well as significant impacts realized from the Rapid Improvement Initiative, which empowers all employees to identify areas of improvement and gain new perspectives in streamlining government operations to be more efficient, effective and customer friendly.
I also made several announcements for the upcoming year. They focused on three areas: growing our local economy, enhancing the quality of life for residents, and the modernization, effectiveness and efficiency of city government.
Wisconsin Rapids is excited to be partnering with Google in 2014 to help get all Wisconsin Rapids businesses online! Small businesses grow twice as fast when they are online. At no cost to the city or businesses, if one small business gains one new customer, it is a success! More information will be available in the coming weeks.
Two initiatives aimed at cutting the “red tape” for prospective developments and projects. First, the creation of a Citywide Business Advocacy Team (CBAT): a cross-department team with a mission to serve as ‘problem-solvers’ to proactively review ordinances and policies.
The second, “Grow Rapids”, a simple, easy to use one-stop-shop available 24/7, 365! Businesses and prospective businesses will have access to resources on-demand, on their schedule, without a trip to city hall with information on business planning, loans, ordinances, etc.
The 3rd space – where we spend our time beyond work and home. I drew attention to the areas for improvement, particularly our parks. The natural beauty of our city on the river can be a destination for visitors and further, a more attractive place for residents and future residents. I called for a multi-year investment in our parks that involve input from you – our residents.
Our people are our greatest asset. Whether they are our employees or our residents, people possess tremendous potential when they are engaged and participating. With one, well two, successful Love your Block initiatives completed in Ward 1 last year, I look forward to more. Residents will have the opportunity to apply in early 2014. Further, I will be inviting residents to participate in a Mayor’s Council on Beautification and another on Sustainability. There is much to be done in both of these areas, and I believe residents must be involved.
I encourage you to watch and share the State of Our City presentation with your friends and neighbors. I welcome your feedback.
It is both a privilege and an honor to serve this great city. I can confidently say that progress was made in 2013 and 2014 is off to an energetic and exciting start! I thank you for the opportunity to be your mayor.
January 2014 Urban Alliance Meeting
Last Friday afternoon, I joined mayors from cities around Wisconsin for the January League of Wisconsin Municipalities Urban Alliance meeting. The recently announced anticipated $912 million state budget surplus has created a dialogue on how it might best be used. It is without question, the surplus has been generated as a direct result of growth in Wisconsin’s cities and towns. I believe the state should invest at least part of the surplus in local communities to spur further job creation and economic growth and put Wisconsin on the road to permanent financial stability. Rick Chandler, Secretary of the Department of Revenue joined us to update us on tax reform and to hear our perspectives on the surplus.
It is no question that thriving cities are key to Wisconsin’s long-term success and sustainability and that a strong state and municipal partnership is crucial to having successful communities.
Stressed the need for our state to restore the 2012 cuts to shared revenue and other municipal programs so municipalities can attract and retain employers that create jobs. Cities do not have the option to plow snow, collect garbage or invest in infrastructure. As such, restoring the $30 million cut made in 2012 to general transportation aids that go to cities to maintain local streets is a start.
Discussed municipal objections to proposed legislative initiatives interfering with local control, like PILOT legislation, the Room Tax bill, etc. As local elected officials, we are closest to the people and subsequently issues. Maintaining local control is imperative.
These topics, all very important to our city, reminded me that Wisconsin Rapids is not alone in many of our challenges – economic and others. Meetings such as this with the Urban Alliance affords us the opportunity to have conversations with other city leaders on their approaches and advocate for further investment in our cities.
In closing, I invite you to join me for coffee Wednesday, February 12 from 8 – 9 a.m. at From the Ground Up coffee house. If not there, I am available in my office, by phone, email, Facebook, or Twitter.