Among all this recent excitement generated by proposals to redesign the mall, I need to ask : “While making Wausau a hot spot for young urban professionals to drop a planter for a few years, what is the mechanism by which a significant proportion of our rooted citizens will benefit from the millions spent on these projects with our tax dollars?”
I asked this question of the (Wausau City) Council last year while heaps of accolades were being made over the success of Riverlife. Only one member of the council appeared to understand the paltry extent to which such successes have addressed the rampant inequalities in our city. Millions of dollars were handed to business and development: now-departed Younkers; high-end condos at Riverlife; and million-dollar ice cream stands while the working people of Wausau faced a poverty rate 50 percent above the state’s average. A poverty rate exceeding Milwaukee’s, across every racial group, over double the rate for Latinos, at 55 percent. But, as long as poverty is considered a racial issue, it will never be adequately addressed. It’s a class thing. And multiracial rank and file action is needed to make our needs a priority. Our median income ranks as low as 383 in the state. Median income is falling while mean income rises, so it’s the richer class that continues to benefit from the Madisonification of Wausau. Making your hot spot is throwing working people out into the cold.
What kinds of things can the council do bring them back in? 1. Boston has implemented a transfer tax on property sales which brings in millions for affordable housing construction. Tax more the ones who’ve benefited the most from this inequality. 2. Mandate union workers for all city developments. 3. Resolve that you will strive to mandate a living wage for workers in Wausau. 4. Develop an equality agenda for the city of Wausau for the Decade 2020 to boldly address this immoral reality. Set benchmarks for improving poverty, homelessness, dispossession, engagement, quality-of-life indicators for people of all incomes, through the benefits of all future city development.
This new council has before it a golden opportunity to break from business as usual. They can now assure that working people finally benefit significantly from what has traditionally amounted to more sheets being added to the golden parachute of the rich and powerful in Wausau.
Bruce Grau of Wausau
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