Doug Diny. Contributed photo

Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.

Dear Editor,

I’m Doug Diny and I’m running for Alderman, Wausau City Council – District 4 in the spring PRIMARY election on February 15th.  My family and I have lived in this East Side neighborhood for 22 years. Below are four areas of emphasis to start some discussion:

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:

The Economic Development Team are key players for Mayor Rosenberg’s 5-year strategic plan.  With our new Director, Liz Brodek, we’re poised to learn from the past and chart a fresh course to match strategic needs as identified by citizen input and surveys (ongoing).  Historically, we’ve prioritized developing our hospitality industry, which supports tourism, a valued component of our local economy.  My involvement in Wausau Economic Development will add emphasis towards attracting industry and manufacturing that bring family supporting jobs.  

One theory posits that if we flooded the zone with amenities, millennials and employers would “come home” to Wausau to live and work. I’m on record pondering that as well.  It’s time to ask ourselves if that “build-it-and-they-will-come” philosophy has born the fruit we desired.  The pandemic has taught us that many people can work from home, but it also introduced us to the challenges of all things virtual.  Physical manufacturing and high paying jobs will support all aspects of growth in the city entertainment and housing sectors. JOBS fuel the amenities, not vice versa. 

We need to get out of the land business.  Buying and selling properties is not a function of economic development.  Tax Incremental Financing was intended for the purpose of stimulating growth of projects that “BUT FOR” city involvement, they could not happen.  It’s not a slush fund for land deals and outbidding neighboring communities for development. Let’s retire Tax Incremental Districts when they’ve succeeded and put money back into the schools and general fund.  I will insist that every development agreement contains a clear definition of payback for the city, an idea proposed by the mayor; I’ll call for a payback statement in the executive summary and a means to look back and gauge our crystal ball moving forward…

PUBLIC SAFETY/City Services (Human Resources)

Retaining and recruiting new talent to the city staff is affecting every department.  The PD is holding its own, the FD and DPW are struggling to maintain staffing.  Previous furlough and city workers’ pay freeze tactics resulted in Wausau lagging area jobs attractiveness; we’re doing more with less, and we are losing highly skilled and expensively trained workers.

The city is working on short-term stop-gaps in pay, but long term, we need several strategies to keep our critical city employees working for the city.

Recruitment Funnel: Let’s team up with NTC and our local trade unions to attract apprentices from area high schools to put city work back in the running for a successful and rewarding career.

Retention: Promote within as aggressively as possible. Train and mentor staff to be qualified as promotion opportunities present.  I would call for a gain sharing effort for city workers – employee and department actions that save the city money should be rewarded with a portion of that savings rolled into a performance pay allotment.  Keeping pay tied to consumer price index seems fair; furloughs and freezes disrupted that pace.

Morale is an indicator of the health of an organization, and it is often most readily healed with leadership that listens.  Every employee and citizen must feel empowered to provide thoughtful feedback that contributes to more efficient city service.  City front line workers are talented and are the backbone of city services and safety; harnessing their skills in the best interest of the city and the worker will boost morale immediately as a Can-Do culture respectfully supports a common vision.  

HOUSING:

I support Mayor Rosenberg’s creation of the Wausau Affordable Housing Regional Task ForceThey’re meeting in February to begin the task of defining “affordable housing” and craft recommendations for Wausau’s economic and affordable housing interests. 

Many people expressed to me they would like to see more emphasis on the under $1,000.00 markets. Affordable depends on the location and demographics but, defining the terms and assessing our housing stock quickly is the first step to integrating actions for the 5-year strategic plan.  

We need to quit rearranging restaurants in town and focus on developing manufacturing and business that create quality paying jobs.  For example, a business looking for city participation to bring in a business to Wausau, the city has every right to know that their wages aren’t going to contribute to needing even more low-income housing.  

TRANSIT:

Our biggest black eye for our “Community for All” status is our inadequate transit system. Public transit is a hallmark of a thriving community, for those who need it, it’s a significant quality of life enhancer. 

Ironically named “METRO-RIDE” is bound by our city borders.  The greater Wausau area needs a viable and robust public transit system; a system that connects workers who live in the city to their jobs in surrounding communities and industrial parks. 

Let’s negotiate with neighboring municipalities to return bus services to Rib Mountain and the industrial parks with extended hours of operation – two easy ways to expand ridership; give people places they can go.  The big box stores and the mall/city spent a lot of money on parking lots to subsidize free parking for cars.  They see that as a value, but currently, bus service doesn’t provide the same perceived value; and as it stands now, they are correct.

Operational expenses should be offset by increased ridership.  Marketing and encouraging memberships is another way to encourage increased ridership.  Much in the way Granite Peak or the YMCA offer memberships as an advantage to single-use, pay-as-you-go ridership, a person with a pass, will have a lower barrier to getting on the bus.  

MISCELLANEOUS:

I miss Large Item Pick-Up:  Re-use, Recycling and less landfill are no-brainer, good steward decisions.  

I enjoy the creative mural on the Whitewater Music Hall and Brew Works, I’d enjoy seeing more of this throughout the city, not just downtown…

I’d like to see an interim recreational use or greening up of the mall area if it is going to remain largely barren and fenced for long.

I used to think running was a good exercise until my knees told me otherwise.  I recently started training the Ripitoe Starting Strength Method and The Barbell Prescription.

I’m a member of the American Cribbage Congress (ACC) and hope to get back on the cribbage tournament trail soon.

I come from a large military family and enjoy hangar talk: Army, flying, leadership, training, traveling, veterans’ issues, and military history. I was an active-duty Army Aviation officer: Overseas Commander of an assault helicopter company (156 soldiers, $100 million in equipment); Commander of an aviation maintenance company where I also performed maintenance test pilot duties; Instructor Pilot at the US Army Aviation Center, training US and allied pilots; Executive officer deployed for humanitarian military missions. 

I’ll provide leadership with candor and welcome it from citizens and city employees looking to make positive, responsible change for Wausau. We’re stewards of this gem called Wausau; our unique and positive blend of cultures, industry, and natural resources will sustain us if we are wise.  I don’t always need to get my way; I will act on citizen feedback that promotes our common vision. 

Doug Diny, Candidate for Wausau City Council Dist. 4

On Facebook here.