Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Boats, business, and breakfast

Wauwatosa, Mayor Didier

There may have been more city staffers and elected officials at this morning's 7:30 am mayoral meet 'n greet at the FlatTop Grill. But the result was a chance for Mayor Didier to engage in a more relaxed conversation than usual.

The topic was the budget. Perhaps the small turnout was an indicator that people are aware Tosa's in a better situation than many communities.

The city has saved half a million dollars on healthcare costs. And it's avoided layoffs by not filling vacant positions. A "rolling vacancy" plan combines attrition with scrutiny of department needs to selectively fill positions, which sounds more sensible than the furloughing others are adopting.

Didier mentioned using technology to create efficiencies without increasing staffing. When the new website is up, we should be able to pay our bills online. I might still take my blue envelopes to the clerk's office, but it's a nice option to have.

The subject of recycling came up. I missed most of what was said, partly because I was in shock from learning that our recycled trash gets sent to China. I should have known that: it's one of the things, like what goes into the sausage, we try to keep below our conscious level of knowing. And it raises important questions about what the down-the-line environmental costs are of some of our locally prudent economic decisions. But that's for another day.

I asked how declining housing values affected property tax revenues. The answer was very little, in part because Wauwatosa housing stock, overall, has held its value--at least at 2006 levels. There are other more complex reasons, but  for that you'll have to ask city administrator James Archambo.

The conversation turned to development, the revenue side of the budget coin. Last night the Community Development Committee approved an ordinance forming the new Economic Development Advisory Committee, and there was some discussion of creating a staff position to move the work of the advisory committee forward. Like some of the Community Development committee members, Didier thinks that's putting the cart before the horse.

I asked who would be on that advisory committee and didn't get an answer, but then I didn't press for it. I'm guessing the mayor and community development staff know who they want and are waiting for the official approval to move ahead. Much responsibility rests on these volunteers, so who they are matters.

The mayor spoke of ongoing development efforts by the city and the county, including the FlatTop Grill that graciously hosted the event and provided fruit and muffins. Alder Robert Dennik cautioned about the coming crisis in commercial real estate that will mirror what happened with housing.

Wondering about the boats? Last night the Committee on Legislation, Licensing, and Communications agreed to remove the city's restriction against launching people-powered water craft (you know: canoes and kayaks) from county land into the rivers here.

Who knew? That's why I go to meetings. Maybe next time, y'all will come, too.

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