Last year, City Manager Mark Freitag started his State of the City address with this notion: The state of the city is strong.
This year, he repeated that and kicked it up a notch: The city is not only strong but “booming.”
Freitag’s sixth annual State of the City followed the same positive road map as in years past, with multiple mentions of one of the city manager’s favorite mantras: “That’s a good news story.”
The first bit of good news was there was no polar vortex this year to prohibit people from attending the speech, Freitag said. At least 100 people packed city council chambers for the event.
Freitag’s list of 2019 accomplishments included:
- A 33% increase in the city’s assessed value from 2015 to 2019.
- Rising sales tax revenue.
- A 32% increase in attendance at downtown events.
- An increase in the number of city parks to 65.
- Funding for a new bus fleet.
One of the first improvements in 2020 is the debut of the improved Park Place Performs online dashboard, presented by Maggie Darr, assistant to the city manager.
Park Place Performs launched in 2017 to track city progress on strategic goals.
The dashboard has been updated to display outcomes rather than outputs, meaning more data is available and is accompanied by comparative data and explanations to provide context, Darr said.
Residents can go online to see how many potholes the city fills each month, how many miles of road have been repaired and how much money the city has given to developers through tax increment finance agreements, among other outcomes.
The improved dashboard lets the community see how data shapes the city and helps city leaders self-assess, Darr said.
The city manager listed goals and tasks likely to be accomplished in 2020, including:
- Completion of the east-side town square.
- Focus on redeveloping the former General Motors Assembly Plant site into Centennial Industrial Park.
- Launch of the first citizen satisfaction survey since 2012.
- A new city website.
- A citywide emergency operations plan.
- The city’s first app, “Where’s My Bus?,” which tracks bus routes.
Freitag briefly mentioned a list of challenges, including his frustration over the negative perception of city officials, which he said bothers him most.
City officials work “very, very hard” to serve the community and do exceptional jobs, Freitag said.
He also mentioned the most common challenge cited by Janesville officials: state-imposed revenue caps and a shared revenue system that officials say shortchanges Janesville compared to other cities of similar size.
Challenges facing the city have not changed much since last year, Freitag said. They include the citywide housing shortage, rising costs, small labor pool, employee recruitment and a lack of resources.