August 3, 2009

Dickert: 10-year plan will be incorporated into city budget

We sat down with Mayor John Dickert last week to hear his thoughts on how the first few months on the job are going. Here's a breakdown of the conversation:

On his 10-year plan: "We're going to incorporate it into the budget," said Dickert, who described a new budget process he hopes will focus on priorities such as improving the city's housing stock and improving its parks system.

"Instead of waiting for people to create budgets, we're meeting with them beforehand," said Dickert, who described his budget criteria with a question: "Is it working?"

If it is, Dickert said, it should be supported. If it isn't, it should be cut. All of the decisions should be made "looking long-range," said Dickert, as opposed to making short-term decisions.

"What I talked about in the campaign is what I'm doing," Dickert said.

During the campaign, Dickert said he had a "10-year plan" to make Racine a "Top 10" city.

On stimulus money for three new police officers: Dickert said it would be "irresponsible" to accept federal stimulus to hire three new police officers if there's no long-term plan to maintain the positions.

At issue is $813,000 in stimulus the city received to hire three police officers for three years. The problem is there is no money to cover the fourth year, but a requirement that the city keep those positions filled. Under federal law, the fourth year will cost the city a one-time payment of $250,000 if it accepts the stimulus money. In the fifth year the positions can be eliminated, if needed.

Dickert said staff is reviewing its short and long-term budgets to see if the city can afford the officers. He added the he called the Obama administration to ask them to "loosen the strings" on the stimulus money. "If they can loosen the strings a little bit, we can get the cops on the street," he said.

When asked why the city doesn't just take the money, hire the officers and worry about keeping the positions in three years, Dickert said that was "bad government."

"It makes sense if I was worried about getting re-elected," he said. "But I have to make the best long-term decision for the city."

On city parks: Dickert pointed to Alderman Aron Wisneski's efforts in Lockwood Park as a positive example of someone stepping forward to improve a city park. "He's making his park incredible," Dickert said. "Why aren't they always like that?"

He said the 10-year plan would include figuring out where the city should locate its parks and what services should be there. Should the city build splash pads for kids? How about a public pool?

In most cases, Dickert said he envisioned a public-private partnership, like the one used to build Kids Cove on North Beach, to make improvements.

On hiring a new public health administrator: Dickert met with a search firm last week to begin searching for Janelle Grammer's replacement. The city is also reviewing the entire department and considering if it's possible to consolidate services or make other changes, he said.

On the city's housing programs: Dickert hopes to get aggressive at revamping homes in the city. "I don't want to do two or three homes per year," he said. "We want to do 20 to 30 homes per year."

To get there, Dickert said he wants to study all of the housing programs in the city for "effectiveness and efficiency."

"We want to boost successes and move away from failures," Dickert said.

He said he also planned to re-evaluate city ordinances to take on landlords who are doing a poor job maintaining their properties.

On Tom Friedel as administrator: "He's exceeded expectations." On Friedel's first day he gave Dickert an update on the search for a new public health administrator and worked on several other local issues. "With any other new administrator I would have been driving them around and saying, 'This is Downtown,' this is 'Uptown,'" Dickert said.

Dickert defended Friedel's six-year contract, which is unusual among city, village and town administrators in Wisconsin. He said the city needed "consistency and uniformity" in the coming years, especially with another mayoral election coming up in 2011. Locking in the administrator through 2015 was one to stabilize local government, Dickert said.

"This way we're not recreating the government wheel," he said.

On his new job: "It's overwhelming. I never realized how deep it would go. I love it."

As proof, the new mayor said his blood pressure, checked recently, was 106/52. The nurse said that meant he had a stress-free job. "I told her I had the best job on the planet," Dickert said.


  1. Pretty good answers except for the 6 year contract for Friedel. I'll never agree that 6 years is a good thing. We'll have to see how the budget works out - then I'll have a better idea of John's direction.

  2. Where is the 10 year plan?

  3. Not even one measly detail on the 10 year plan? Not one?

    This is crap. He is going to put the 10 year plan in the budget? So the budget is the 10 year plan now? That's not really what he sold us. I was under the impression this 10 year plan would be some document with benchmarks and goals....something that would be shared with the public for input. Maybe he thought we would all forget and give him a pass.

    We voted for a plan! Get it done.

  4. Why don't you wait until you see what's in the budget as Dickert says - if you don't see it then - then you can whine!

  5. This is a joke, right? I also see absolutely nothing that even remotely resembles a "10 year plan", not to mention anything that will put Racine into the "top 10"! He can't decide to hire 3 cops and doesn't know if he should take the stimulas cash! He doesn't know where the parks should be located? He hired a search firm to look for a Health administrator? But the real winner is, Friedel exceeds expectations, because he didn't get lost in town? This must be a joke!

  6. A plan doesn't come from the budget process. The plan should be published way in advance of a budget because it is the goal - the vision. The budget then supports the goals.

    Read Dickert's comments here and you will find that he didn't answer the question. He could have said there was progress made in this area and that, and that he is working on this aspect with such and such a person.

    He hasn't even (and probably can't) describe exactly what a 10 year plan consists of. He can't even describe the process he is going through to get there.

    I'm getting increasingly worried that we've all been had on this. He needs time but I don't think this is even in process. We're all just supposed to take his word for it. Maybe the 10 year plan was assigned to Friedel to do. The interview should have been with him.

  7. We were all had, plain and simple. I will NOT forget in 2011, NO MATTER WHO HE IS RUNNING AGAINST!!

    That's how disgusted I am.

    He wanted this job as a two year filler because the housing market tanked and he needed job security. That is my opinion.

  8. I think the Mayor owes Racine an explanation on how he is going about developing the 10 year plan since that was the primary issue he was elected on.

    The plan doesn't have to be done right now, but we need to know it is actually being done.

    What is the goal we are aspiring to? And don't tell me Top 10 city because nobody knows what that actually means. Maybe he could start there and tell us what that means. If he can't define it, then how are we supposed to get there?

  9. Maybe Monte, wait no, maybe Bach, wait no, maybe Friedel, wait no, maybe Colt is working on the 10 year plan for the "Mayor" (notice the quotes, for this guy it is simply a title).


  10. Anon 3:28

    If we wait until the budget is done to be critical about the 10 year plan, then it will already be too late. What's wrong with a legit status update?

  11. Anon 3:18, 3:25, 3:36, and 405 are all the same person.

  12. They always are. That's why blog comments have to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if they don't have the courage to attach their names to their opinions. No one respects blogs posted under "anonymous".

  13. Is posting as MJ really any better than anonymous?

  14. Hush up, folks...and let Dickert show what he can do.

    It's easy to sit back and criticize everything.

  15. Michael Kroes8/03/2009 9:34 PM

    I concur with Anonymous 6:20pm.

  16. I'm confused. Does a plan exist? Or is a plan being developed? I do hope at least an idea exists.

  17. Dickert's got some wild ridiculous plans that have many even within city hall questioning: He is in WAY over his head.

  18. Since Dickert announced his "10 year plan" last March, he has offered no explanation whatsoever on it. I, on the other hand, have been telling everyone I could exactly what the 10 year plan is: it is for Dickert to fill out the last 2 years of Becker's term and then get re-elected for 8 more. That's it, plain and simple.

    He hopes that by the end of 10 years the real estate market will have recovered and he can go back to that. And we all know where his ethics are rooted in that, just ask Mark Jossart. Should his ethics be any different for the mayor's job?

  19. Sheboygan just announced a new aircraft plant will be built providing 1000 new jobs, apparently Racine dropped the ball, again!

  20. Dickert, with his ADD, probably can't remember his plan. Apparently, he can't remember that he wasn't going to hire a city administrator as he stated in the forums he participated in. Who's Friedel? What's his background other than serving on city council. Racine city government is a joke.

  21. Anon 9:45 -

    The aircraft plant is an expansion of a company that is already based in Oostburg. Racine didn't drop the ball; we never had it in our hands. Think before you speak.

  22. Does he actually have a 10 year plan on paper? Or just in his head, has he ever PUBLICALLY stated what some of those items are. I was a supported, but I am beginning to think that my vote was worthless. He seems more worried about the housing market and real estate than the people

  23. His blood pressure is fine, he has a stress free job. Mr. Mayor walk the streets of Racine, downtown racine after dark, check out 16th and Taylor. Do this without police protection, do it as a citizen, your blood pressure will soar, you will have stress and you'll probably get robbed. It's a shame that he's not addressing what alot of people are worried about.

  24. P.T. Barnum just called.........


  25. Sailor's Pool Hall8/04/2009 12:08 PM

    There is no plan and there are no jobs coming to Racine.

    Dickert's first order of business was to raise funds for his re-election.

    Just another elitist partying on our dime while his and Becker's buddy is overpaid for running a city he is unqualified to run, performing elected duties he was never elected to.

    The same mafia of insiders run the same scams in Racine over and over. And we the people get to pay for it over and over. I can't wait until Becker is pardoned and the jubilation begins. Tears of joy and wine will flow from city hall.

  26. I hop one part of his 10 year plan to to bulldoze RCEDC into the ground.

  27. There is no plan, nor development of one. If public pressure continues for the plan then what will happen is that you will see something cobbled together at the last minute. It will be incoherent and incomplete.

    I bet Dickert is hoping the plan question just goes away and we all just forget about it.

  28. Now that is a plan, and if he can keep it up for 10 yrs, it becomes the 10 yr plan.
    I am amazed how naive this little community is!

  29. If the plan is going to be part of the budget, then it should probably be released to the public a few months in advance to get feedback and reaction. That would be at the very latest.

    Incorporating into the budget without a separate release is insane. That's not a plan, that is the budget. You can't take credit for the budget (which would have to happen anyway) and somehow call it a 10 year plan.

    I want to see the benchmarks he talked about. I want to see what his definition is of a top 10 city. These things could be released now and there is absolutley no acceptable reason why he has not. Some details he should already have had during the campaign.

    It is great to have ideas but I'd rather have results. Show me something so that I can believe this is actually being worked on in a meaningful way because I actually do believe we need a 10 year plan and long term vision.

  30. And now you know the real John Dickert........

  31. Pete and Dustin:

    Why didn't you ask Dickert about the Bach appointment?? Gives his best buddy a real nice paying position?? Was that a payback, a favor or what?? Simple city, simple minds, they go hand in hand. Ask the tough questions next time. You stink!

  32. What's wrong with re-inventing the 'government wheel'?... last I checked that's why we have elections in the first place.

    Also.. Don't we have parades and whatnot celebrating our right to reinvent our government every year in early July?

  33. 5:19 But yet, we heard whiners complaining that some banners that were flying over the parade were in bad taste etc?

    Were you one of them or not?

  34. We should have voted for Jody. At least she had solid sensible answers when we asked her questions.

  35. A plan to me is something you write down and can follow like a map. It should have long term and short term goals. The budget is such a strange way to get your plan out there. Can he not do both? I would assume that he already had some portion of a plan in mind when he promoted it to get elected. Just reveal it.

    Fine go after landlords. Funny our last mayor did that and now he is in trouble for being a crappy landlord. Also don't forget that the tenants are at least half the problem. We need to be able to enforce that they follow rules of society as well. Why should the landlord be responsible for their garbage thrown about, unwatched vandal kids, and broken furniture in the yard. If we start putting blame wear it belongs then the problem should improve.

    I think it unwise of the mayor to make enemies of property owners. We have a problem in Racine and it is these lazy lawless people waiting for their checks in the mail. Crack down there and we can all work together.

  36. John, If you've got a 10year plan you better start putting it in place or there won't be any city left to manage.

    I can't believe I fell for your BS during the meet & greet just a couple of days before the election. I want my vote back, I have never felt so ashamed and embarassed that I voted for someone, just the same old same old.

    Like others have said, if you want a little stress in your life, get out in the city and see what it's really like, or are you too busy with your plans of how to keep Becker on the payroll? You've got a city with what, close to 15% unemployement rate, people loosing their houses everyday, and what are you doing about it, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, but you got good old Tom a job (behind closed doors).