Mayoral candidates answer questions: Jim Romlein

February 13, 2019

Mayoral candidate Jim Romlein responded to questions posed by the Daily times to help inform voters about his candidacy. The responses follow:

1. If elected mayor, what would your priorities for leading city government?

Day one: Start Operation Culture Change - Initial elements will:

Reverse the Watertown practice of encouraging low wage employment intended to improve the ability of local business to compete on price. This practice has plagued our community with many unintended consequences that include lowest property values in two counties, the highest rate of unemployed and underemployed persons in our two counties, an educational system where over 50 percent of the students qualify for the subsidized National School Lunch and Breakfast Program and a municipal budget that cannot meet the annual maintenance needs of our streets.

Nullify the gag order which restricts the comments by citizens at council meetings and invite Ms. Ina Trummer, a long time commentator at council meetings, to speak at the meeting on any subject for as long as is needed to communicate her message.

Nullify the dip netting restriction on the Milwaukee Street bridge.

First: Establish an effective, efficient, municipal operating environment lead by a professional city administrator with the following initial tasks:

-- Initiate an Alderman Excellence Program: Develop an educational plan, service manual, conflict of interest protocol, and provide a Constituent Relationship Manager application for aldermen.

-- Start Zero Base Budgeting training for all managers.

-- Establish centralized purchasing.

-- Revise the Comprehensive Plan: Recruit a representative from each of the 16 wards for this one task to participate in the development of a new comprehensive plan that reflects the needs and citizen desires for their unique community, a new land use baseline, and a consensus of the electorate. This project to be led by our engineering department with participation by the aldermen.

Second: Develop a sound operating baseline. Repurpose the buildings of the south side of the first block of West Main Street except for the two easterly buildings that would be demolished and used for outside services from the adjoining restaurant. Review or establish measurable benchmark objectives for all municipally funded entities.

Third: Start the process to develop a Vision of Watertown and a strategic plan to achieve the objective.

Fourth: Initiate the economic development process coordinated with the Vision and strategic plan.

2. What can and should city government do to continue the revitalization process in downtown Watertown?

I believe that revitalization without a plan and community support is destined to fail. We have seen many attempts at the “Silver Bullet” solution wither and die. In my opinion, and that of over 2,040 citizens, the south side of the first block of West Main Street project (originally the Hotel, Park and Riverwalk project) is not revitalization.

Although individual citizens and groups are purchasing properties because the sale price is far below the actual land value, this is not revitalization. City government should not interfere with or use taxpayer money to enhance individual speculative initiatives.

City government should provide the framework of justice, municipal services, utilities, governance, security, and enabling resources that will support future needs of a rapidly changing environment. Business must see that these needs will be in place and available when needed to plan and commit to revitalization initiatives that are business owner driven.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has changed and will continue to radically change the way we run our lives, conduct business, spend our time, and the values we hold.

A community revitalization program must have a central coordinated theme that builds on the coming 4IR changes and is socialized with and supported by the citizens. It should also focus on attracting the age group that will become our community and business drivers, our future leaders.

3. There has been talk of implementing a city manager or city administrator style of government for Watertown. What is your position on this topic?

For background information, the options and process for Watertown presented below are from the Wisconsin Statutes. Administrator form: Cities remaining under Chapter 62 can establish the position of administrator by charter ordinance (two-thirds vote) or by simple ordinance. …The position of the mayor remains, except that responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the city is transferred to the administrator.

Council-Manager form: Cities adopting the council-manager form of government under Chapter 64 must do so by charter ordinance. Chapter 64 describes the major responsibilities of the manager and the council … Chapter 64 makes a clear distinction between the administrative role of the manager and the legislative role of the council. The manager is hired and can be dismissed by the council by majority vote.

A Comparison: The administrator form has the advantages of retaining the position of mayor and of being more flexible regarding specific community needs.

The council-manager form has the advantages of a clear separation of administrative and legislative responsibility and of being statutorily recognized.

I support the administrator form. As the mayor my responsibilities would include: visioning, strategic planning with program development, marketing, and technology adoption. The day-to-day operations of the city would be the responsibility of the administrator.

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