As reliable as the seasons, it’s election time and city projects are politicized: the long needed sewer and water plant improvements, the purchase of the mall by the city and our local foundations, and other important and long-delayed infrastructure projects and the financing to do them. During the last election cycle, just two years ago, there were at least six opinion articles with a variety of city attacks. It’s a new season, but nothing new.
Also déjà vu. In the last election cycle, one of those opinion articles targeted me and my family. I responded then writing a letter in the Wausau Pilot & Review noting that my wife and I would travel between Arizona and Wisconsin for our jobs. We did that for over two years, but my schedule is conveniently an accusation now 30 days before the election. All of the city’s directors work well over their 40 hours. Our department is no different and the city’s human resources department has been clear in documenting all of my extra hours. My time in Wausau will end sometime soon, but the work of the city is not about me or any one of us. Many of the projects I have been proud to continue and to complete were started by my predecessors and forward-thinking leaders before us. The city of Wausau has an outstanding record of supporting local businesses, redeveloping problem properties (which sometimes takes longer than we like), and welcoming new investors for development. Most importantly, with record investment in future planning, all-time high new taxable growth, and significant projects completed, like the expansion of the Business Campus and over 400 units of new housing under construction, I am confident that we have helped set a strong foundation for Wausau’s future.
The Riverlife Park and trail connections is a good example. It took over a dozen years to complete from the first land acquisition. The effort needed the support of six different councils, many of our generous foundations, and a strong community commitment to reclaim our urban waterfront. The mall for example, just the latest politicized issue, was discussed extensively and approved in October 2019. Not only was the mall acquisition highlighted as a top strategic element in the new regional economic development strategy which we worked on with the chamber, at one council meeting over 50 business and civic leaders attended and, of course, the meeting and presentation was all publicly broadcast. Yet the mind-boggling critique that the mall purchase was somehow done in secret, or that the terms were not clear, has been conveniently saved for the last 30 days of campaign season, a full six months later.
Although the Pilot and the often same contributors have frequently been unfairly critical of the city, as a media organization they have the right and even duty to be critical. Yet the barrage of articles and commentary attacking city decisions and staff (both personally and professionally) during election times just brings to light the intention to actively participate in the campaign rather than report on it.
Wausau Economic Director Chris Schock
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