Candidate questionnaire: Wagner believes community square ‘linchpin’ of downtown development
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — This week Hub City Times continues its series of interviews with candidates for local office by interviewing Alderman Ed Wagner. Wagner is running unopposed for the district five common council seat.
What should be the No. 1 priority of the common council?
I know this is boring, but I think we need to find a better way to manage city debt, both general obligation and tax increment. The reality is that we have a great many “needs” and almost as many “wants.” We need to discipline ourselves to fund more needs and less wants.
More importantly, once we prioritize projects we should stick to it and not vary based on the passions of the moment or the “cause of the day.” Unfortunately, even with this kind of discipline there are still too many “Number 1” priorities to fund under our present methods of managing debt. We need to find creative ways to develop new income streams that will not overburden our residents
As an incumbent, what do you believe the council needs to do better moving forward?
1. Become more transparent with the public.
We need to instill trust in the council with our constituents, and we can only do that by being as open, honest, and transparent with the public as possible. We can do this by limiting “closed sessions” and reporting out of them in more detail. Town Halls, call-in shows on radio, and frequent letters to the editor by aldermen will also help. A city public information officer would also help.
2. Involve more new faces in city government.
We need to encourage citizens who have never participated in city government to step up and step into the process. We need new faces on committees, boards, and commissions to add to the debates, bring fresh eyes to the problems we face, and kick start the next generation of leadership in Marshfield city government.
Is the downtown community square a good idea? Why or why not?
I do not think Marshfield needs any new “parks.” Statistically, we have more than enough to serve a city of our size. Does this sound like I support another park downtown? Certainly not, but this is about downtown redevelopment, not parks.
Our downtown is in a Catch-22 situation. We cannot get the businesses if there are no people, and we cannot bring people downtown if there are no businesses, so we need to create a reason for people to be downtown.
I do not want a “park” downtown. I want a “place” downtown that will create traffic for retailers and service providers, who will buy/rent existing buildings, renovate those buildings, add to our tax base, and end the cycle of deterioration and abandonment that has been going on since the 1980s.
Will this plan work? I cannot guarantee it any more than anybody else, but consider this: I personally know of three different developers who have looked at the 200 Block site and turned it down for development. It simply is not economically feasible to turn that small parcel into a profitable retail/residential/mixed site.
This lot represents an unusual opportunity, and it may be our last opportunity to create a reason for people to come downtown. We cannot waste it. I believe this site is the proverbial “linchpin” of a greater development in downtown. As Alderman Rich Reinart noted, if we waste this opportunity, another like it may not come along for another decade or so.