Citizen Wausau

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Stop the 400 Block Madness

by on October 29th, 2008

This week Citizen Wausau explores the considered updates to Wausau’s City Square on the 400 Block. For your reference, have a look at these plans. They are not final, but they give a good idea of what is to come.

One of the joys of being a small town fighting its big town future, is we still have interesting little pockets of personality that have tremendous influence.  Whether it be Janet Herring and her ad hoc ‘committee’ trying to band teenagers and skateboards from downtown, to the guy who wants electric cars, to the small group of insiders who want 400 Block redesign.

It is an amazing time for Wausau.  The economy is in the tank in this country, local dude John Noell got a little of the bailout money, factories are closing, local cultural icons are being led by bad business people…and the city wants to spend a half of a million on a park.

The position has been taken that this money is needed for tourism improvement, and then that position was further explained away.  For a while I read that this was State of Wisconsin money, but that appears to not be the case now.  This appears to be money that the city is CHOOSING to spend on the block.

If you read the WDH, or even worse, the WDH forum, you see the amount of vocal dissent about this very issue.  While I am not one to hold up the wisdom of mobs, at a certain point the mob is telling you to stop this process.  To save the money.  No one is upset with current layout of the park.  No one has been vocal about NEEDING to change it.  Yet we have a push from a very small group of people, and alderpersons who want this to go through.

It has become a cult of personality.  We have read extensively from Councilman Rosenberg talking about how it will be like a Parisian park, and it will only grow the city.  How it is better to fix something before it breaks.  How the people who are saying no, just simply do not understand urban planning.  All valid, if somewhat argumentative from an elected official.

So right now the 400 Block is the place where The City Pages/Wausau Area Events concerts draw thousands of people each week.  The farmers market draws a giant amount of vendors now, and hundreds of people to buy…wait for it…produce.  The balloon thing is so pretty.  Those dogs and the Frisbees, pretty cool.  It is also a place to sit during the day, to sit in the grass and just sort of let it go during the day.

Yet we choose to change it.  We choose to go against the will of the people once again.  Our elected officials have sought to, and continue to seek to thumb their nose at the people by doing something people do not want.  Recently the people were vocal about the 8 Million dollar pool rehab or something, and it went away.  At what point will this stop.  It seems every few months these folks try to push this through.

We choose to add trees, which diminish space so less people can come to events.  We choose to add concrete structures; once again less people can come to events.  We seek to put what appears to be a water fountain in front of the stage, because not only is that limiting space, adding water to electrical instruments is a bad idea.

In 2008 we have no money as a country.  Wausau is part of that country.  We need to conserve our resources.  Let us not spend money on something like this now.  A strong enough case has not been made, the design is not available to the public on the cities website, the people have no idea what is going on.  Make this discussion public, at the very least embrace your City Council plank of transparency, and show us the plans.  Bring in real voices of change on this like Jim O’Connell, or Leah Alters, or Tammy Stezinski from the City Pages.  Bring in event planners through out the state to give testimony on the idea of what the plan is now, versus what you want to make it.

More than that though, let this idea be in response to the needs of the people.  The people are everyone, not just people we share drinks with at Loppnows, or at the Golf Club.  Let us not be lobbied by the people who do not use the space, but you know socially.  Let yourselves hear the voices of everyone.

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