What a year it’s been …
As 2015 approaches, I have been reflecting a lot on all we’ve accomplished, and it’s a lot. Consider:
- We saw big gains downtown, as new businesses like these and these — and this on the way next week — came to South Milwaukee, and Wild Flour Bakery reopened. The farmers’ market returned for another successful season on a reconstructed (and re-landscaped) 11th Avenue. Sorce Martial Arts and Azteca Restaurant completed major renovations. We brought back outdoor movies, thanks to Guardian Credit Union. We held our first downtown trick-or-treat scavenger hunt, with the support of I Can’t Resist Kids Resale (and soon to be B’s Boutique). And we laid the foundation for the future, forming a Downtown Advisory Committee and including funding in the 2015 budget for a downtown plan. I expect to have the committee named in January, and the plan underway this spring.
- And we didn’t stop downtown, when it comes to driving business in South Milwaukee. We also welcomed Dunkin’ Donuts and Planet Fitness in 2014 and approved plans for a new Burger King restaurant. Hickory Inn reopened. Educators’ Credit Union completed its renovation and expansion. We also funded a new economic development coordinator position. This person, once hired in early 2015, will serve as a key point contact for business recruitment and retention and marketing our city — areas where we need to step up our game.
- We also took steps toward enhancing our city services in 2014, including investing in urban forestry and moving toward automated garbage collection. We also opened up our committee selection process, and it’s already helping bring new faces and fresh perspectives to these important bodies.
- We improved how we communicate, adding monthly Meet the Mayor sessions at local businesses, redesigning the city website, and increasing use of Facebook as a communication tool (likes have soared past 1,100).
- We invested in community health, joining the South Suburban Mayors’ Fitness Challenge.
- We built Rocketober, a series of family-friendly events that made October something special in our community.
- And we did all of this while continuing to act as responsible stewards of your money, passing a budget that ensures the city lives within its means while continuing to deliver our city services and investing for the future.
Of course, here’s the fun part: We’re just getting started!
Our promising future – our best days — are still ahead of us.
Consider what’s on the horizon in South Milwaukee …
- Economic development. We’re going all in on our central business district in 2015, when the work of the advisory committee and planning effort will begin to help us build for the long term on a strong foundation of best practices tailored to work for South Milwaukee. As we do this necessary heavy lifting, we’ll also continue to work on bringing new business to South Milwaukee and help our existing ones grow. We can’t, and won’t, let the momentum die.
- Grant Park, Oak Creek and the Mill Pond. 2015 will be a big year for the green spaces that are such an important part of South Milwaukee’s proud past and promising future. Grant Park is seeing significant investment with an $800,000+ Oak Leaf Trail repaving project, construction of new rain gardens at the beach … and a couple additional exciting announcements in the works. (Stay tuned; these will be really cool.) Also, look for more soon on a path forward for improvements to the Oak Creek watershed and the Mill Pond. This is a passionate issue for many, me included. Soon, I hope to share information on a detailed watershed study effort I argue is the necessary road map for future action around this vital resource. County Supervisor Pat Jursik, I and others are making significant progress in building a coalition around this effort. More to come in January.
- Partnerships. As with the work going on around the Oak Creek plan, we’ll continue to look for new and creative ways to partner with our neighbors and other governments in 2015. That includes bringing back the Fitness Challenge (if the other communities agree) and working with the county on shared solutions like police and fire radios and election equipment.
- Enhanced service delivery. Automated garbage collection is just one example of our commitment to looking at new and more efficient ways to deliver our services. We’ll do the same with police and fire dispatch, leaf collection, and others. And we’ll continue to lean in to our critical urban forestry efforts, better managing our urban canopy for the long term with an increased focus on tree replanting. (How does an Arbor Day event sound in 2015?)
- Special events. I am a steadfast believer in how events bring communities together, and build business. We’ll do even more in the year ahead. First, there will be the big “Around the Corner: South Milwaukee” premiere celebration on Feb. 23 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. The South Milwaukee Downtown Market — bigger and better than ever — returns in early June. Guardian Credit Union has already committed to sponsoring three more outdoor movie nights next summer, and we’re moving them to Fridays to give folks another reason (and another day) to head downtown; look for dates soon. We’re also planning to bring back the Mayor’s Picnic and bouncy houses we added to the July 4th celebration last year, and we’ll consider even more enhancements. Then it’s on to Heritage Week, Community Night Out, and eventually October, where we’ll bring back Rocketober and its family fun. And, finally, it will be Christmas. I already can’t wait! In early 2015, we’ll hold a few informal meetings to discuss how we do our Christmas celebrations across the city. The goal: Similar to what we did with Rocketober, we will jointly plan, brand and market local Christmas activities, creating a full calendar of events that will stand out as a true community celebration. We’ll also look at creating a few new events. (Like this?) Stay tuned for how you can help.
What a great time to be a South Milwaukeean! I hope you’re as excited about our promising future as I am.
My request: Join us in these efforts. Get involved. Be part of the conversation.
I close with this: a big thank you to our city workers, volunteer board and commission members and elected officials for their hard work, passion and dedication in the past year — and their efforts yet to come.
It should be a fun and rewarding journey.
Happy New Year, indeed.