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My name is Lou Larson and I am a candidate for District 10 of the Wausau City Council. I moved to the area in 1978 and have been a resident of District 10 since 2002.District 10 is what I call a forgotten neighborhood. It is about eight square blocks that gets no attention from the city. We have no streetlights. We have no sidewalks. We have no curb and gutter for proper drainage off our streets. Every time it rains or the snow melts, we have lakes at the ends of our driveways and standing water in our streets. Over the years I’ve had to call City Hall many times because they forgot to plow our streets. Many times, over the years, neighbors have had to helped neighbors get their vehicles unstuck because streets were not plowed in a timely manner. I know what it is like to own a home and live paycheck to paycheck. I easily could be a senior citizen living on a fixed income in the near future. I worry about how the city’s spending binge is going to affect people like me. I cringe when millions are pulled out of the sky to bail out an unchecked developer for the Riverlife project. I see half a million for riverfront condos on prime land that was given to the developers for a dollar. I see millions of dollars being thrown at the downtown mall with no effect. In total, some $140 million has been spent on the downtown over the past 25 years when a fraction of that could have brought this neighborhood up to city standards. I know we are not the only forgotten neighborhood in this city. None of the downtown spending ever seems to trickle down to the forgotten neighborhoods. Much of the spending has been funded by borrowing. The Wausau Pilot & Review recently reported that this city’s debt has risen from $55 million to $107 million ending last year. That has come close to doubling under this administration. And now, the 2020 budget contains $121 million in additional borrowing to replace both the water and sewage plant at the same time. That means our city debt is set to double again. This time in just one year! I firmly believe this project deserves another look. I believe these projects should be done in increments as the money allows, so the city taxpayers are not hit with a 100 percent rate increase by having it done all at once. The proposed water rates concern me. I’m concerned a property tax increase may be on the horizon because of the growing debt. I believe we need a City Council that’s more accountable to the people they represent. It is not just spending that I am concerned about. I watched for years as the city impoverished the Thomas Street Neighborhood by years of indecision about the road project. We witnessed the city lose $2.5 million in federal highway funds for the Thomas Street Project because the federal government determined that Wausau was violating citizens’ rights in the way it was exercising eminent domain. I have been a member of Citizens for a Clean Wausau since the group’s inception. I worry about the dangers of industrial waste. I too—like a fellow candidate—was at the City Council meeting where our group offered to pay for testing in Riverside Park, and we were opposed by an City Council member who argued that if we found something it might cost the city money to clean up the health risk to people who use the park! That is one of the reasons I’ve decided to run for the seat in District 10.
We have to remember, every neighborhood is a valuable part of the city’s tax base and should be treated as such! It shouldn’t be all about the downtown. What good is our downtown if the surrounding neighborhoods have been forgotten?
The residents of this great city deserve better representation and have a golden opportunity with this upcoming election. I would be honored to be your voice in District 10. I encourage everyone to get out and vote in the Feb. 18 primary and the upcoming April elections!
Lou Larson, candidate, Wausau City Council District 10, City of Wausau