Friday, December 28, 2007

Comments on Mayor's State of City Speech

I just read Mayor Beckers state of the city speech at http://www.racinedemocrats.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=1442&styleid=3 and thought I would offer a few comments.

First the good news. The city has eliminated 100 full time positions. Normally politicians don't list increased unemployment as an accomplishment, but I am with the mayor on this one. Has anyone noticed a decrease in services? I haven't.

The mayor is proud of the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team, noting that we now have only 12 boarded up buildings whereas before there were 50. Fewer boarded up buildings is good, of course, but how much did it cost us? Did it take six full time staff members at $80,000 per year for four years? Would it have been cheaper to condemn the properties, bulldoze them and then call it a rain garden?

The mayor acknowledges that the city is not growing and the major initiative to reverse that trend is the uptown artist initiative where they hope to have a thriving artist center. I am still waiting to hear from the mayor about the specifics here, but early indications are that it will cost a fortune. Would it be wiser to spend the money on more police officers or to lower the tax burden on the productive members of Racine?

But my basic problem with the speech is a philosophical one. Government can solve all our problems was the general theme. If that were true, the last fifty years of liberal rule in Racine would have resulted in a thriving and growing population with little crime and much employment. What we actually see is just the opposite. Look for more of the same.

22 comments:

Ald. Helding said...

Denis -

The UNIT does more than go after those specific buildings the Mayor mentioned. They make sure sidewalks are cleared, garbage is taken care of, and properties are maintained to our codes. While some property owners may disagree, I believe this is good for our neighborhoods.

To your point regarding severely neglected properties, the administration has stepped up efforts to comndemn and raize them.

The city just adopted specific policies supporting the Uptown Artist program. You can find it here: http://legistar.racinenet.org/Attachments/91195f5c-73c3-4cef-a7f3-527bbc06a247.pdf

As for government philosophy, there is a difference between failed welfare programs that doom people to generation poverty and the city government revitalizing a neighborhood.

colt said...

The unit helps a lot in the W 6th St area. When the Land lords will not maintane a building the Unit will. Our Watch group loves the Unit.

Ald. Helding said...

Thanks for the positive comments, colt. The UNIT is a very important part of keeping our neighborhoods clean and safe. It is unfortunate that some people have to be dragged kicking and screaming in to caring about their neighborhoods. When the city takes an interest and cites people for poor upkeep, it bolsters those of us who do follow the codes and take time to take pride in our homes and our neighborhoods.

The W. 6th Street area is really coming along, and it is due in part to the repair and restoration of some of the properties.

Another thing that helps an area and the city is when committed citizens stay in their neighborhoods and work to make them better, like the 6th St. watch group and others.

Kcin97 said...

I am so glad to read that Becker is still excited to be Mayor of this city. Afterall, we do have the highest unemployment rate, one of the worst school systems and crime is going through the roof. Here's my favorite gem though, "To have a city with nothing memorable about it, is like being a suburb with cookie cutter strip developments, malls, too much traffic, and nothing to make you ever remember you were there." Racine, is that you? Sounds like it to me.

Denis Navratil said...

Ald. helding, thanks for your comments. I realize that the UNIT does more than what the mayor cited in his speech, but it is still wise to ask whether the benefits are exceeding the costs. I have my doubts. As I see it, we have a unit of government that is cracking down on mostly cosmetic matters, and probably also harrassing landlords for the sins of their tenants. Ultimately, this may well drive up the cost of being a landlord, such that many will just give it up, leaving more boarded up buildings. Some might applaud that result, but the landlords will not be miraculously replaced by responsible homeowners.

Thanks for your link about the uptown artist program. I will check it out. In the meantime, do you know if my previous post entitled "Rumor" is accurate? If so, would you support a $600,000 loss to bring in two artists as a wise economic stimulus?

Re government philosophy, I don't see the distinctions. There is still an underlying belief that it will take government direction, spending etc... to turn things around in Racine. The role of government, with respect to the economy, is to create the conditions which would allow economic growth to occur. Those conditions, in my view, would involve less meddling in the economy, smaller government, and lower taxes. This would allow individuals to keep more of their own money that they would hopefully invest here. If Racine adopted a more investment friendly mindset, perhaps the productive members of society would stop leaving Racine. Instead what we have apparently embraced is the very questionable notion that artists are going to descend on Racine and turn things around. It is possible that many artists will be drawn to Racine by the largesse of our city leaders, but how many others will leave Racine for the same reason?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Kcin97 said...

I am so glad to read that Becker is still excited to be Mayor of this city. Afterall, we do have the highest unemployment rate, one of the worst school systems and crime is going through the roof. Here's my favorite gem though, "To have a city with nothing memorable about it, is like being a suburb with cookie cutter strip developments, malls, too much traffic, and nothing to make you ever remember you were there." Racine, is that you? Sounds like it to me.

12:23 PM
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And I wonder which past industrialists and wealthy citizens made Racine the city you describe.

Anonymous said...

Ald. Helding said...

BTW, Mr Helding;
don't you have a conflict of interest between your broadband association and being on the committees which bring in these bids?

Nemo said...

Anon (12:33) said:

"And I wonder which past industrialists and wealthy citizens made Racine the city you describe."

I wonder which high tax or over regulation drove away the productive people that had the resources and desire to improve Racine.

colt said...

With Respect Denis

You can not blame tenits as an excuse for landlords such as Michael J. Miklasevich his properties around the 6th St area give slum lords a bad name.
MM has the ablity to screen his renters before he rents to them as well the City will help kick them out.
As a property owner near one of his homes I battle lower proprty value as well as dealing with Vermen due to how he maintaines them.
Mind you at 260 Jones is now making Michael J. Miklasevich (my laywer disagrees but I still think a great TV show for CAR 25 would be to film his homes with a list of police calls and Unit write ups I would win the court case but be a pain) houses look good and we will be calling Unit next week to see what can be done.
Thank God we have other great Land Lords who care about the area and go out of there way to put in great folks.

The Unit is helping make West 6th St a good place to live.

Denis if a landlord is going to rent a home he needs to insure the home is maintaned by someone. I should not have to clean up the streets or fight vermen due to poor rental pratices.

___________________________________

I have lots of issues with the Uptown art project myself among them why is Racine using out of State Venders to provide marketing when we have Racine companies that can do the work?

Denis Navratil said...

colt, thanks for your comments. I can't speak to specific situations concerning rental properties, but let us look at the business generally. Being a landlord in the inner city must certainly be a challenge. For starters, the homes have been sold to landlords because of the absence of people willing to live in the neighborhoods. The flight of the people is not caused by landlords. Rather, landlords are the result of the flight. So the landlords are trying to make a business out of buying homes in areas where many people do not want to live. Not a business I would want to venture into that is for sure. Anyway, these landlords have a problem. If they pour too much money into a property, they will not get positive returns on their investment. If renters can't pay more than $400 per month, what would be the point of plowing $80,000 into a rehab? I don't think it would be wise or fair to expect landlords to operate at a loss. If we chase away our landlords, I doubt we will be happy with what replaces them.
Once again I think this issue demonstrates our tendency to blame the wrong people. I can't imagine anyone wanting to rent to irresponsible people who will trash their property. And let us not forget they face the prospect of discrimination lawsuits if the rejected tenant is a member of a protected subset of our population. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

colt said...

There are many good landlords who take the time to screen who they rent to something that RPD will help them do.
If you get good renters you have few issues.

Pariah Jeep said...

Uptown art project marketing? MARKETING???

How much are we paying for all of this ? ? ?

Denis Navratil said...

I suspect that there are more rental properties than good renters. If all the good renters are already renting, do you leave your place empty or do you choose a suspect tenant? It is easy for us to say that they should hold out for a better tenant. They have to think about their business, the property taxes that are due whether they have tenants or not, and the potential lawsuit if they don't rent to someone.

colt said...

\
I talk to the Racine Housing Dept all the time. If you keep records there is no way you can be touched. No job no stable work history drug crimes no rent.
Yes it must be tempting to rent to anyone that is what happened early at 260 Jones the owner rented to whomever my understanding is that before they left they stoled everything to include the lights.
I would not want to be a landlord any more then you do, but if your goin to do it please do it right.

Ald, Helding said...

"BTW, Mr Helding;
don't you have a conflict of interest between your broadband association and being on the committees which bring in these bids?"

I work for Wisconsin Internet, Racine's only locally owned and operated ISP. I assume this is the "broadband association" to which you refer.

What committees and bids are you referring to?

Pariah Jeep said...

Alderman Helding - it looks like you responded to an anonymous post. "Anonymous" is the provider of occasional drive-by defecation. There are a number of other legitimate posters here who have genuine concerns and comments.

Anonymous said...

I work for Wisconsin Internet, Racine's only locally owned and operated ISP. I assume this is the "broadband association" to which you refer.
----------------------------------

WRONG.

RootCom on Main Street has been around for years.

The article with your picture that graces the front of the Journal Times a few months back about wireless in Racine, with your comapny.

Anonymous said...

The Connection...

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=584453

...but hopes to seek grants to pay for expanding the service...

Two firms sign up to bring broadband to Racine County

Two southeastern Wisconsin companies, E-Vergent of Mount Pleasant and Midwest Fiber Networks of Milwaukee, signed an agreement last week to help Racine County achieve its goal of having wireless broadband services available countywide.

The goal is to have countywide wireless services available in two years, but officials say that will depend on the availability of money for the services. The county is not using any tax dollars to pay for the system but hopes to seek grants to pay for expanding the service.

Ald. Helding said...

My apologies to Rootcom. I should have said "broadband ISP".

To answer your question, there is no conflict because:

1) I do not own the company, I just work there.

2) This is a county project and I am in city government.

3) The grants the article was referring to are possible federal grants to expand wireless into rural areas. The population density in those areas does not always make it cost effective to build out service, even though people need it. The feds did something similar years ago with the rural electrification projects.

Anonymous said...

Just like Racine has always been...connections, connections, connections...

THIS is why Racine always stays the same...

I have know many small businessmen from Racine and Kenosha over the years...they never played the 'who knows who' game, and thus, never got any of the gravy and pork.

Anonymous said...

Ald. Helding, I think what anonymous means to say is, thank you for clarifying your position.

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