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Our View: 'State of the City' would benefit Wausau

4:04 PM, Apr. 12, 2013  |  Comments
Mayor Jim Tipple announces his re-election bid in front of Wausau's City Hall in September 2011.
Mayor Jim Tipple announces his re-election bid in front of Wausau's City Hall in September 2011.
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What's the state of our city? Soggy and wet, for one, colder and grayer than we'd like it to be.

But what about city policies? Is Wausau making progress, investing in the future, conducting business in a transparent way, providing services residents value?

Residents are likely to have different opinions about how the city is doing in these or other categories. Depending on the specifics, so will the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board.

Wausau would benefit from having an annual "State of the City" address by the mayor to help the public understand where the city stands, to outline city officials' goals, and to invite discussion and debate about city policies.

A number of Wisconsin cities - Green Bay, Oshkosh, Madison, Wisconsin Rapids and many more - have a tradition of "State of the City" addresses. Some even make events out of them, with multimedia presentations and expo-like displays by city departments.

We were pleased to learn that Mayor Jim Tipple agrees with our case that Wausau could benefit from one of these addresses. Contacted for a response to this editorial, Tipple said he had no objection to the idea and would plan to give one in 2014.

That's great, and we're glad he's open to it - although we would point out that there are still a number of months left in 2013. Why not start right away, and plan to build on the event in the future?

The benefit of making this an annual event is that it would help City Hall to communicate a vision and a sense of concrete goals to the public - and allow residents to agree or disagree.

There will be plenty to talk about:

? A large number of anti-blight measures advanced by City Council, the city's Community Development and Police departments are working to turn around neighborhoods in the center of the city that have shown signs of sliding into disrepair.

? The City Council last year held a retreat to determine priorities for the public programs and services the city provides. We commended that effort and consider it a help to the council in making hard decisions. But it was not public-facing, and there could be a benefit in greater explanation to the public of their reasoning and prioritization decisions.

? The city's unemployment rate is bad and getting worse. It ticked up in February from 10.7 percent to 10.8 percent, according to data released this month by the state Department of Workforce Development. At 10.8 percent, Wausau has the fourth-highest unemployment rate among 32 cities tracked by the state.

In general, our view is that the city's communication with the public has improved in recent years. The addition of a "State of the City" address would help to further that communication, and it might spark some productive conversations.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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