Letter to the editor: Reader calls for city to address needs, not wants
Now that the citizens have overwhelmingly defeated the street referendum, it is time to move forward. I believe the citizens who voted no did so because of their perception that the city is spending money on wants rather than needs. In my 26 years as a municipal attorney, I have had the opportunity to observe what works.
In my opinion, a city thrives when the common council addresses the five primary needs of its citizens, the first of which is to provide police and fire protection. I believe our city does a fine job of that. The second is utilities — providing clean water, adequate sewage disposal, and reliable electric service. Once again, I believe our city does a good job with that.
The third is maintaining the city’s streets — repairing, replacing them when necessary, and plowing snow during the winter. The fourth is maintaining city property, buildings, equipment, parks, etc. The fifth is city administration — finance, building services, clerks, economic development, city planner, zoning, etc. Our city needs to examine how it is meeting those last three needs.
Meeting the five priority needs must always come first. Everything else is fluff. It is only after those five needs have been satisfied do you spend money on anything else. I believe all citizens want streets maintained and want their city government to treat that need as a priority.
Establishing a budget that satisfies those needs is the first step. When the city reviews its next budget, there should be no sacred cows. It is not a matter of tweaking the budget. We will need to take a meat cleaver to it.
Is city administration bloated? For example, according to the city budget, our city spends approximately $750,000 annually on economic development. Do we receive that amount back in additional property tax revenue? If I had an employee I was paying $100,000 a year, and he or she was only bringing in $50,000, that employee would quickly become unemployed.
Do we really need a city planner for our small city? We survived for years and years without one. Most people who live here do so because they like living in a small city. They do not want Marshfield to get bigger and have the problems associated with larger cities.
The second step should be to get serious and establish a strategic plan. As of today, our city does not have a strategic plan in place. As a result, the vision of our city changes with the wind.
If the first five needs are not met, the city should not spend money on what everyone agrees are nice things: wants. I realize that it is easy for a common council to spend other people’s money. However, the common council needs to prioritize and spend our tax dollars on needs, not wants. I urge all of you to attend the Aug. 23 common council meeting at 7 p.m. to share your ideas with the common council on the way forward.
John Adam Kruse