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We appear to be at a crossroads in Wausau government. All over the city, challengers to sitting city council members have emerged. For years, the opinions and priorities of regular folks in town have been dismissed or discarded, and people are getting fed up. I am one of those candidates, and I hope that together we can change the culture at city hall.
I live in the Thomas Street Neighborhood of Aldermanic District 3. If you follow the news, you know our neighborhood has had its run-ins with city hall. The Thomas Street Project turned into a costly boondoggle that displaced residents and destroyed much of the neighborhood. And years of citizen concerns over residual industrial contamination on the southwest side remain unresolved. In fact, at one point, I attended a meeting where citizens offered to pay for the testing of soil samples in Riverside Park out of their own pockets. The offer was actually opposed by one alderperson who stated that she did not want testing because, if contamination was found, the city may be liable for further testing and a potential cleanup. Imagine that!
Clearly, some on the city council have their priorities wrong. We can seize this opportunity to make a change and make things right.
District 3 and Wausau deserve a bright future, and it is time that citizen needs and expectations be at the forefront of that future. This includes fundamentals that are often as simple as sufficient street lighting, properly updated infrastructure, and sidewalks that are monitored for maintenance in the winters to make sure all residents can use them. This should not include future recurrences of past debacles like Riverlife, the mall deals, or Thomas Street.
We can prioritize the success and safety of residents over tax-subsidized metal birds or neon bridges on the riverfront. This includes municipal anti-gentrification and anti-displacement policies to ensure that senior citizens, families, and veterans who are longtime home owners are not forced out of their houses for something as unreasonable and unpopular as the Thomas Street Project, that property rights are protected, and that affordable housing is safeguarded and promoted. This includes requiring that state environmental standards are always recognized and enforced on city-owned property. And this includes supporting the prosperity of existing and often longstanding local businesses, rather than funding their new competition with taxpayer dollars.
We need to pursue good paying jobs and a lower cost of living for our people. This requires lower taxes, and it requires that we rein in habitual TIF subsidies and incentives to developers. The people should be the fiscal priority of their government because — in legitimate settings and democracies — the people are their government.
In upcoming months, through electoral and democratic means, we can welcome in representatives, ideals, and goals for our community that cast this unacceptable status quo into history. We can welcome in representatives that serve the citizenry rather than the established ruling class, and who serve new needs instead of old money. Keep your heads up and we can welcome in something better.
Welcome home to Wausau.