An Open Letter to Mayor Robert Mielke, City of Wausau Engineering Department, and the Wausau City Council:
Purple Bullseyes line the map of the Thomas Street Phase II project. Purple Bullseyes designate the homes, apartment buildings, and businesses slated for some form of destruction. Most of the citizens inside these homes and apartment buildings are low income and vulnerable. Each person living inside a home, an apartment building, or business with a Purple Bullseye has a story.
I did an informal, independent survey of some of the citizens on both sides of Thomas Street who will be impacted by Phase II. Over and over the people spoke about the anxiety, the stress, the trauma, and the uncertainty of being forced to move knowing the obstacles before them. The top concerns: lack of affordable housing, difficulties involved with moving, and leaving their home — their place of shelter — and having their lives disrupted.
I will highlight the stories of five women.
- RS* is a young woman who had been homeless for six months. Just recently, she moved into the main floor apartment of a two story home. She was in tears when I spoke to her. She does not want to move knowing that quite possibly she will be homeless again. The stress she was dealing with was very evident through the tears she wiped away.
- DM* has lived in the large apartment building for two years. Her son also rents a room in the apartment building. DM is a dignified, older woman who is handicapped and sat in a wheel chair with a guitar on her lap while we spoke. I asked her if she played the guitar and she said yes. DM spoke of the stress she is dealing with due to the uncertainty. She is in limbo.
- JT* has children and her fiancé died tragically in 2017. The home she and her fiancé bought was repossessed and she is at the mercy of her present landlord. JT also spoke about the trauma to herself and her children of losing her fiancé and then losing their home. Now she and her children will be displaced again.
- CX* is a caregiver for her disabled husband. CX and her husband were students of mine when I was an instructor for the Even Start Family Literacy Program which was a partnership between Northcentral Technical College and the Wausau School District.
- Mary Jane, the owner of Cheers, had this to say. The City Council and CISM will do exactly what they want to do. Input from citizens will not sway them. She thought what is being proposed for Thomas Street is a waste of taxpayers’ money. (Most of the citizens who have spoken up at the meetings agree!) She cited a more urgent need: repairing and reinforcing the embankments along the River.
Mary Jane also spoke about the people in the neighborhood who have had cancer and many of them have died. She and others spoke fondly about their neighbors and many want to remain in the friendly Thomas Street neighborhood.
The human tragedy of these women is replicated over and over by the citizens along Thomas Street who have very little control over their lives at this point because of the cold and heartless decisions to expand a street that does not need to be expanded.
Humans have psychological and emotional needs. One of them is the need for certainty: the need for safety, security, comfort, order, consistency, and control. Sadly, the psychological needs of our citizens are being usurped by CISM, AECom, MSA Professional Services, and the Wausau City Council that only see Purple Bullseyes instead of citizens whom they were elected to serve.
As I have sat through many of these meetings, I keep asking myself:
- What is the ulterior motive of targeting the homes of citizens living along the beautiful Wisconsin River?
- What ever happened to elected officials “serving the people” instead of large corporations and the wealthy? The owners of the auto repair shop have mentioned that several times: Kolbe and Kolbe and big businesses are favored over hardworking small business owners.
At this point, the members of the Wausau City Council are in control of the lives of these vulnerable citizens. Think of that responsibility and your role as a “public servant” elected to serve the needs of ALL citizens of Wausau when you vote.
Joyce Luedke, Rothschild