Recently Mayor Scrima answered a series of 10 questions that were presented to all four of the 2014 Waukesha mayoral candidates. As a supporter of Mayor Scrima I am republishing the questions and answers so visitors of Around Waukesha can see where our mayor stands on issues that really matter.
1. Discussion of the Waukesha business community tends to focus on downtown. While downtown is important, there’s a vibrant business community throughout the rest of the city. How would you engage this community and work to attract and retain businesses outside of the immediate downtown area?
First, our largest employers have expressed to us that one of the ways we can help them attract and retain employees, is to create a fun and family-friendly place for their employees to live. The downtown is the heart of the city, and the only area of the city that is specifically zoned for culture and entertainment. Therefore, during the last few years, we’ve encouraged the growth of our community family-friendly events including Freeman Friday Night Live, the Farmer’s Market, Gibson GuitarTown National Art Project, Waukesha Reads, and Fiesta Waukesha along the Frame Park River Walk. These events draw thousands of people, and thousands of smiles. We want our city to have a healthy heart. We want our city to be an attractive place for employees to live and raise a family, which they are proud to call home.
Second, during the last four years, we’ve delivered proven results in terms of increasing the vibrancy of business throughout the body of our community. As Mayor and as Chairman of the Plan Commission, my proactive approach and fluency in business language (as a business owner) was a driving force in bringing unprecedented growth to Waukesha – resulting in over 700 new family supporting jobs. This job growth was one of the primary reasons Money Magazine ranked Waukesha as the only Wisconsin city in 2012 on their list of “Best Places to Live” in America. We’ve also added over $100 million of new assessed value, and updated our city website twice in order to showcase our community and business strengths.
Specifically during the last four years, with city assistance, our expanding economic engines include Gaco Western, SPX Waukesha Electric, The Shoppes at Fox River, Weldall Manufacturing, and Woodman’s Food Market. Additional expansions include Carroll University, GE Gas Engines, ProHealth Care, and more (all throughout the body of our community). In sum, these employers have added over 700 new family supporting jobs.
This is the result of having a proactive Mayor’s Office that knows how to connect with business leaders. For example, in 2010, as Mayor I invited and encouraged Woodman’s to join the corporate citizenship of Waukesha. Clint Woodman, Vice President of Woodman’s Food Market, later publically stated, “Mayor Scrima has been a driving force behind Woodman’s decision to locate a store in the City of Waukesha.”
Peter Davis, Chairman and CEO, of Gaco Western Manufacturing put it this way, “The local financial support for Gaco has ranged from community development bonds that lowered our construction costs considerably to Tax Incremental Financing that leveraged our capital investment. Mayor Scrima was instrumental in opening these doors for us. With his leadership and the business friendly climate he has fostered, we have increased our company revenues ten fold while growing our local employee base five fold. Waukesha and Mayor Scrima have been extraordinary partners in helping Gaco experience the success we have today. And this is just the start.”
As Mayor, I will carry on this proactive approach to reaching out to businesses and investors, and continue to make the process swift, simple, and certain for them to meet their goals in the City of Waukesha. This proven method has worked the last 4 years.
For proven results in job growth, and a relentless pursuit of future business, re-elect Mayor Scrima.
2. What is the greatest challenge facing the City of Waukesha, and what are your ideas for addressing it?
The greatest challenge facing the City of Waukesha is continuing to provide tax relief and value. As Mayor, I understand that our businesses and residents pay the bills (both tax bills and water bills). As Mayor, I also understand that the city is a business – we are in the business of creating an environment that’s easy to do business in, and the highest quality of life, at the best price. And as a city we are competing with, and advancing beyond, other cities in doing just that.
As Mayor, during the last four years, I have casted a new vision for fiscal responsibility, vetoed city budgets with unnecessary spending, took a lot of heat for it, and prevailed. Therefore, for the first time in the history of our city, our tax levy has been flat – on average under inflation – resulting in tax relief and a better value for our businesses and families.
Note that by comparison, if we had we followed trajectory of the previous administration, our taxes would be over 20% higher today. But we didn’t.
For proven results on tax relief and value, and for a future of financial stability, re-elect Mayor Scrima.
3. Why should members of the Waukesha County Business Alliance vote for you?
Business owners count on and deserve proven results. During the last four years we have:
1. Held taxes flat (as described in answer #2).
2. Moved forward toward Oak Creek for water (as described in answer #7)
3. Over doubled our investment into road restoration (as described in answer #5)
4. Created over 700 family-supporting jobs (as described in answer #1)
5. Grown our sense of community pride (as described in answer #1)
For a future of financial stability, affordable and clean drinking water, smooth roads, continued job growth, and more fun, re-elect Mayor Scrima.
Business owners count on and deserve proven results.
Business owners know best.
4. The West Waukesha Bypass has been in the planning stages for 50+ years. Do you support its being built?
Yes, as Mayor I support the West Waukesha Bypass being built, and City of Waukesha has already approved it. For businesses and families alike, this would provide for better vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian safety along this corridor, as well as quicker time travel to and from I-94. Moreover, this would open up the possibility of developing a new business park on the west side of Waukesha. Hopefully the State and County can give this a green light, with the appropriate environmental sensitivity, so that we can move forward.
5. There is $100 million+ in road repairs already required in the City of Waukesha, at a cost of $2 to $3 million per year, which is a huge economic development issue. How can we improve our infrastructure faster to demonstrate that the City of Waukesha is truly open for business?
First, your $100 million + figure would be for making all of the city roads absolutely perfect in condition all at once. This is not needed, as many of our roads are in good condition and have many years of life left in them. Moreover, there is no city that would pay for all of their roads to be under construction all at the same time. This work of renewal must be done annually in small pieces, for affordability and ease of traffic flow.
During my term as Mayor, we have forcefully advanced road repair, and have literally over doubled our investment (compared to the previous administration) into road restoration. As Mayor, I advocated strongly for investing millions of dollars more into this part of the budget, and even went out and worked with roads crews as an example. Therefore, for the first time in decades and with the support of the Council, roads all around the city are being resurfaced and replaced double time. Also note that, for the sake of fiscal responsibility and according to our Finance Director, we are not able to invest money any faster than this new rate because doing so would affect our city bond rating. In 2014 alone we’ll be investing 5.2 million, not including additional outside grant money.
Here’s a list of roads that have been restored: W. Sunset Dr. and S. West Ave. Intersection, Dunbar Ave., Franklin Ave., Hamilton Ave., Marshall Ave., N Grandview Blvd., Grandview Ct., MacArthur Ct., MacArthur Rd., West Ave., Grand Ave., E. Newhall Ave., S. Grand Ave., Larchmont Dr., Michigan Ave., Richard St., E. Sunset Dr., Tenny Ave., N. Grand Ave., Buena Vista Ave., NW Barstow St., Riverview Ave., Moreland Blvd., Kathy Ct., Minot Ln., Cheyenne Dr., Cambridge Ave., Chapman Dr., Spring City Dr., Spring City Ln., Cottonwood Dr., Hemlock Ln., Sycamore Dr., Center Rd., Corporate Dr., Corporate Ct., Venture Ct., Mohawk Ln., Guthrie Rd., and Arcadian Ave.
Expect even more road restoration in 2014, including: Windsor Dr., S. Charles St., Genesee St., Lincoln Ave., Eales Ave., Chicago Ave., Clinton St., N. Hartwell Ave., Arcadian Ave., Ellsworth Pl., N. Moreland Blvd., W. Moreland Blvd., Pewaukee Rd., Wisteria Ln., Cottonwood Dr., Dixie Dr., Hemit Ave., School Dr., Sycamore Dr., Irving Pl., Kensington Dr., Burrie Ln., and Canterbury Ln.
Note that this does not include the roads that the State and County own, fund, and restore within the City of Waukesha, which has also been significant.
Again, during the last four years, we have forcefully advanced road repair, and have literally over doubled our investment into road restoration. Those who drive the city regularly have seen and felt the positive difference.
For proven results on road restoration, and a future of smooth roads, re-elect Mayor Scrima.
6. The City of New Berlin recently joined the countywide emergency dispatch system (at a cost savings of approximately $900,000 per year). The City of Waukesha is estimated to save that much, or more, by joining the county system. Facing one of the highest tax levy increases in the county, would you support the City of Waukesha joining the Waukesha County Communications Center?
City of Waukesha businesses and families highly value having a safe and secure community, and doing so requires a solid commitment and financial investment. The simple truth is that because Waukesha has a larger population density than any other part of the County, our Police are called more frequently into more serious situations than what other law enforcement agencies experience in the smaller Waukesha County communities and rural countryside. In addition, the majority of the County Administration and County Board Members may not understand this, because they do not live in the City of Waukesha.
Notwithstanding the several documented problems with the County Communications Center, our City of Waukesha Police Chief and Command Staff have clearly articulated their current need to control their own radio system in order to keep our businesses and families safe. They are on our streets on a daily basis stopping serious crime and they know best what they need to do this. Their dispatch radio system is their most important tool. Therefore I support our City of Waukesha Police Chief and Command Staff in maintaining our City dispatch radio system at this time. Our Police Department is the bedrock of our community. The safety and security of our businesses and families is worth this investment.
7. Do you support the City of Waukesha’s application for Lake Michigan water?
Yes, as Mayor I support the City of Waukesha’s application for Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is currently reviewing it.
Initially, City of Waukesha business owners and families were concerned over the hidden costs of water from Milwaukee, because Milwaukee had resolved to use water sales to help balance their budget and to control suburban businesses, jobs, housing and transportation (Milwaukee Resolution File #080457). My in person meeting with Milwaukee Aldermen confirmed this.
However, the City of Waukesha has since redirected and we are moving forward towards Oak Creek for our future Lake Michigan water source. We met with the leaders of Oak Creek, and I signed the Letter of Intent to purchase water from Oak Creek immediately upon receiving it on November 30, 2012 – an agreement with no conditions related to additional economic compensation, nor our businesses, jobs, housing or transportation. This agreement can be found on the DNR’s website.
For straight answers, transparency, and a future of affordable and clean drinking water, re-elect Mayor Scrima.
8. How important is it for the City of Waukesha to have a good relationship with the City of Milwaukee? How would you improve that relationship?
First, having a good relationship with all of our neighbors is important, whether it’s New Berlin, or Brookfield, or Pewaukee, or any other municipality. Open two-way communication and collaboration is key to creating win-win partnerships.
Milwaukee is a beautiful city with vibrant people. It offers the amenities of a larger city in areas like the arts, athletics, and a larger airport. I’ve personally contributed to and benefitted from this, while singing as a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chorus for 10 years, and loved it.
However, when it comes to an intergovernmental agreement with Milwaukee involving money, we ought to view this like we would a business partnership. For example, if your company were to enter into a serious partnership with another company that was over 8 times larger than your company (Milwaukee is over 8 times larger than Waukesha), surely you would carefully evaluate the financial condition of that larger company, as well as their reputation, intentions, the fine print of the contract, and the chances and costs of potential future litigation. In the same way, the City of Waukesha should take their time and carefully evaluate any such agreement – with any neighboring community – on a case-by-case basis, within ample City of Waukesha business owner and family input. Why? Because our City of Waukesha businesses and families will be footing the bill, and these types of agreements generally last for decades, if not forever.
Also note that the Waukesha County Business Alliance does not exclusively represent the City of Waukesha, as the majority of their business members exist outside of the City of Waukesha. Is the Waukesha County Business Alliance asking this same question to New Berlin, Brookfield, Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, Chenequa, and so on?
9. In what way, if any, do you think the City of Waukesha should support the Waukesha County Museum?
We can agree that we value our history and want to see it preserved. Many people and organizations, including Waukesha County, have invested thousands if not millions of dollars into the County Museum over the years to keep it afloat. I even personally donated money to the Gibson GuitarTown project, and advocated for that project to donate $45,000 to the museum in 2012, which it did.
However, remember that over 10 years ago Waukesha County decided that it wanted to get out of the museum business and turned the museum over to an independent board. Since that time, this independent board has repeatedly floundered and lost money. We continue to read about it in the newspaper today.
As Mayor, my proposed solution was to sit down with the museum board and discuss the possibility of merging the museum with our award-winning city library. With the advent of digital books, leading libraries across the country are moving towards consolidating with museums and other cultural institutions, as a means to thrive and grow better communities. This could save money and make the library and museum more of a prime destination. However, the independent museum board would have nothing to do with this.
Therefore, until the museum board publically presents a new and credible approach, with a solid business plan, I cannot support throwing good money after an old plan. I have hope that the independent museum board can turn this around, and will be here to assist them in doing so. We value our history and want to see these artifacts preserved.
10. What are your top three ideas for making the City of Waukesha a more attractive place for businesses to locate and grow over the next 10 years?
Mayor Scrima’s top three ideas for moving Waukesha forward.
1. Responsibility: Relentlessly pursue tax relief and value.
2. Reliability: Secure Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek, and forcefully advance road restoration.
3. Growth: Invite and aggressively assist businesses in meeting their goals, including growing a fun and family-friendly community for their employees.
Help move Waukesha forward.
Vote February 18 and April 1.
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