Sunday, April 28, 2019

Oshkosh mayor unveils hundred-day action plan

Mayor Lori Palmeri is proposing to hold regular office hours once a week at City Hall.

By Miles Maguire
Mayor Lori Palmeri, who campaigned as “the choice for change,” has issued a 30-point action plan for her first 100 days in office.

The specifics of her plan range from some ideas that would seem largely uncontroversial to others that, if implemented, would challenge some of the assumptions about how business gets done at City Hall, mostly by calling for greater visibility for certain activities.

Common-sense, “good government” elements of her plan include her holding regularly scheduled office hours in City Hall and meeting with representatives of all 16 of the city’s recognized neighborhood associations.

Other proposals that might cause some bureaucratic discomfort include a call for a comprehensive audit of special events. Another one is a request that the Redevelopment Authority disclose what it wants to do with properties it has acquired outside of areas targeted for investment and consider whether some parcels could be transferred in a low-cost way to potential homeowners.

One element of the plan that has already been adopted is a modification of the Common Council agenda format to include status updates from staff to follow up on previously discussed issues.

The idea of a hundred-day plan is traced to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the sweeping initiatives he proposed to get the country moving from the depths of economic Depression. Palmeri acknowledged that Oshkosh is in a different situation.

Oshkosh “is a small city, relatively speaking, with a part-time council and mayor, and it’s not necessarily something that requires a hundred-day action plan,” she said. “I just thought it would be a good idea to show that I’m serious.”

Palmeri has mapped her ideas over the city’s 2019-2020 strategic plan and its six focus areas: strong neighborhoods, public safety and health, effective government, infrastructure, quality of life and economic development. In each area she has then identified plans or proposals according to the principles the city has adopted, such as accountability and transparency.

Many of the items on the list are actions Palmeri could take on her own, such as proposing “a Welcome Committee for the purpose of engaging/educating new residents.” But it’s unlikely that City Hall staff would take on additional tasks without direction from a majority of the council.

Palmeri’s election as mayor created an at-large seat on the council, which will not be filled until May 14. In the meantime other council members are taking a wait-and-see approach to her ideas.

Palmeri distributed her draft action plan by email to council members late last week, but none of the current councilors provided an immediate response to her. Deputy Mayor Steve Herman declined to comment for this article.

One potential source of controversy is over how far city government should go in promoting diversity and inclusion.

The city’s largest private employer, Oshkosh Corp., highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion as a key element of its corporate strategy, and Palmeri has included this topic as part of her approach to economic development.

But in previous discussions some council members have expressed unease about how best to address this issue.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the city is significantly less diverse than the country as a whole. As of July 2018, Oshkosh was 91.1 percent white while the United States was 76.6 percent white.

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