Last night was the last of the three listening sessions for Wausau’s Housing Task Force. Now the real work begins.
Later this week or early next week, there will be a very long blog post coming. I attended all three meetings and took notes on comments made. I know that there will be minutes of these meetings prepared by the City, but I will also prepare my own “minutes” and also add my thoughts as to which comments and ideas were actually really good and had a great deal of merit.
But, as I said, now the real work begins. The Task Force has to reform (some of the aldermen on the task force are no longer aldermen) and go over the hearings and translate that input into ideas that work. I did not plan on testifying last night as my testimony was on record from week 1. However, near the end of the meeting, I couldn’t resist standing up and again indicating that stake holders’ input needs to go beyond these hearings. The Task Force should not take this information, draft something, then have another set of hearings for input. That stake holders’ should be included in the process of drafting.
Here would be my suggestion for the make up of the task force…
1) Since all this will eventually go through the Public Health and Safety Committee, the Chair of that committee should chair the Task Force as well.
2) There should be one other alderperson on the committee, someone whose district is experiencing a great deal of blight, I am thinking District 2 or 3.
3) Someone from the inspections department needs to be on it, either Roger or Cliff.
4) Ann from Community Development needs to be on it.
5) We need someone from the police department, not officer Max LaPorte. Don’t get me wrong, I like Max, he is a great officer and I wish we had more people like him. But, I want someone on the committee who can not only listen and provide ideas, but I want someone who can set policy. Someone fairly high up that has the power to make things happen.
6) We need a landlord, a property owner. It doesn’t have to be me. Don’t get me wrong, I would be honored if asked and will serve if requested. But the hearings have demonstrated that I am not the only property owner who can approach things with an open mind with a desire to help solve the problems. One person who impressed me was Larry Sommer of the Wausau Area Apartment Association. Having an Apartment Association member also helps expand the amount of input that member will get.
7) We need a tenant advocate. There was a Judicare attorney that testified last week, and my good friend Attorney Andrew Schmidt testified last night. Either of these would make a great voice for tenants.
8) Finally, we need a home owner. Not just any home owner. We need a home owner who lives in a troubled neighborhood who cares enough to try to solve the problems. A number of such owners testified in the last three weeks, I would approach one of those.
That would be my housing task force. It would be represented by City Leadership (2 aldermen), by City staff that deal with this on a daily basis (inspections and police), it would include a city department that has resources available (Community Development), and it would include landlords, tenants, and home-owners. Any solution that this Task Force comes up with would be very likely to 1) get public buy-in because the public helped to create it; and 2) actually be effective without causing unintended consequences.
My two cents.