After business owners in downtown Waukesha told the Common Council last month that they have been ridiculed, bullied, and even harassed in front of their customers by an anonymous member of the Waukesha Downtown Business Improvement District or “BID”, Common Council members were unanimous in their belief that the BID Board needed to be dissolved and replaced with new leaders. A meeting was scheduled, however, before the Council could take action to revamp the BID board, 11 of the 13 BID board members humbly stepped down, citing attacks from business owners and others for their honest attempts to help promote the downtown and run their respective businesses. As a result of the mass resignation the BID board was left insolvent and inoperable.
The BID Dilemma
Due to the mass resignations last month, BID business cannot legally go on with the only two remaining members: Bill Huelsman, a property owner (Berg Management) and Natalie Walters (a representative from Waukesha State Bank). The BID Board represents the self-taxing downtown district and needs a minimum of seven of its 13 member board to operate.
Mayor Scrima is charged with appointing new board members, and last Friday he submitted a letter to the Common Council with his five recommended members. The Common Council will further discuss the Mayor’s recommendation and could ultimately approve it at their next meeting being held tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The Mayor’s Recommendations
In light of the fact that BID needs five more members to reach a quorum, the mayor has made five recommendations – three of whom are former BID Board members who resigned at last month’s Common Council meting. The three former board members are Jim Taylor, Ron Lostetter and Roger Igelski.
Jim Taylor is a property and business owner at the Taylor’s People’s Park restaurant in downtown Waukesha. Ron Lostetter is a chief financial officer at Carroll University. Roger Igelski is a downtown business owner at Allo! Chocolat, and a counselor at WCTC.
The Mayor’s other two recommendations are Ed Henschel and Nick Martinez.
Ed Henschel is the Waukesha City Administrator. The mayor noted that Mr. Henschel would represent the BID as both a city resident and as the city administrator.
Nick Martinez is a downtown resident and property owner with Martinez Law & Mediation Center.
The Million Dollar Question
Will the three prior BID members, and the two others recommended by the Mayor, accept the Mayor’s recommendation to be reappointed to the board should the Common Council approve his recommendation?
The drama and local media coverage involving the resignation of BID’s executive director and other members left much speculation as to whether or not other downtown business owners want to put themselves in the crosshairs of disgruntled downtown business owners and residents. This latest controversy capped many disputes that arose throughout the spring and summer.
Nevertheless, I am confident that there are only a few individuals responsible for stirring up these messes and they hold no power over any one of us. The wonderful individuals that Mayor Scrima has recommended should band and join the majority of Waukesha citizens who support the downtown area.
As a marketing consultant I know opportunity when I see it, and downtown Waukesha is a huge opportunity for any business during the host of events that are held there each year. Despite opportunity some business owners simply are not happy and they have chosen to smear their misery around Waukesha. I am not a downtown business owner yet, but I look forward to the day that I have a storefront smack dab in the midst of downtown Main Street. I am not going to let a couple of bad apples spoil my basket full of treats.
Despite the “golden” opportunity laying right at their door step, a few business owners are frustrated with the way events are managed or how they affect their business accessibility. Some business owners have actually taken steps to thwart downtown activities by taking their litany of complaints to the Common Council. They have tried putting barriers in the path of the advancement that the city of Waukesha is on, but so far they have been substantially unsuccessful.
Unfortunately a lot of their frustrations have boiled over onto other downtown business owners, public forums and the media, with unnecessary controversy erupting amongst them. The drama that has followed a majority of these disputes has been selfish, immature and very unprofessional to say the least.
Throughout my travels downtown I have been able to get unbiased opinions from much of the downtown community. As I stated earlier I am not a downtown business owner, nor am I popular or otherwise “known” downtown, at least not yet. A variety of business owners know me from my frequent visits, but other than that I am substantially anonymous.
I have had ample opportunity to meet many Waukesha downtown business owners on a non-professional level as I made my way around the Guitartown Project, the Friday Night Live events, and even the Farmers Market. Most of the individuals that I have met – including several former BID Board members – were very calm and negotiable when I brought up questions concerning popular downtown business disputes that I have read about. I was seeking their anonymous opinions, and a majority of downtown people share common opinions concerning some of the recent disputes.
One example is the unanimous response I received from business owners concerning the debate of street closures for the Friday Night Live events. The common consensus of the downtown community is that people need to get over it already. The downtown area is thriving and many people, including our Mayor, are doing everything wit5hin their power to help our city and its businesses grow and prosper. I have to humbly agree with the majority that the few disgruntled business owners need to get over it already!
Divide and Conquer
There are a handful of downtown business owners and residents who wish to engage in childish name calling, gossip and other childish activities. My personal opinion is that a majority of the drama is being stirred up by just a few business owners who feel that their personal “wants” should trump the greater good of downtown Waukesha. Because they cannot have their own way they are acting out. On the other hand I do share their concern as it relates to any possible impediment on their business. Surely you can’t tell me that bringing potential new customers and clients to your storefront can impede your business ventures, can you? Maybe I’m missing something…
The Common Goal among Downtown Business Owners
I have personally met with and even know several downtown business owners and former BID members, and I can honestly state that their actions concerning downtown are motivated by passion and a love for Waukesha. They are merely making decisions for the progression of what has been an increase of popularity of our great city. Popularity equals attention, attention draws crowds, and crowds of people equal business success! Speaking of crowds, have you seen the crowds that have come to Guitartown, Friday Night Live, Art Crawls and other events? If anyone can’t manage to harness the availability of these people and draw them into their business, then maybe they are lacking skills or otherwise have the wrong type of business for downtown Waukesha. Sometimes you simply have to diversify your business to meet the needs of those who are there at your door step.
Like any business owner, marketing the geographical location of a business is the key to success. This year I believe that BID, the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, the Mayor, and downtown business owners have done an excellent job in breathing life back into our downtown. I implore them to accept the former BID members to accept the Mayor’s recommended reappointment. Together with the two existing board members, these five individuals can employ their proven talents to keep our city in the spotlight of popularity. Together the positive aspects of our city can overcome anything than moves into the path of success.
The fact that BID board members are business owners has little bearing on their character and judgment in making positive advancements for the downtown or Waukesha as a whole. It just seems to be that no matter what, when something is popular it is sure to be criticized by those who cannot obtain credit or feel inferior to those in charge.
As a life long citizen of this community I have only one thing to say: We’re on the way to success here so if your not “in” then please step out of the way while we successfully move forward.Share this post via: