The state of the city is cold.
The frigid weather has been all-consuming this week, and it permeated the opening line of Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag’s State of the City address Thursday night inside the council chambers.
With the impromptu weather report out of the way, Freitag launched into a roughly 45-minute-long speech that lauded the accomplishments of 2018 and described the work to be done in 2019.
His remarks followed a similar theme to last year’s address. Janesville continues to make progress despite persistent challenges—some of which are out of the city’s control—and can look forward to more growth in 2019, he said.
Perhaps the biggest piece of new information came after the presentation. Freitag told reporters that the city’s homelessness task force is considering a plan to provide a parking lot for those who live in their cars.
The lot would have restrooms and security. The task force hopes to make the idea a reality by May, he said.
In his speech, Freitag highlighted downtown revival as one of the city’s strengths, which was no surprise given the projects completed in 2018.
Last year, Janesville opened the ARISE Town Square and the adjacent festival street downtown. A local artist unveiled a new postcard mural at the end of a revitalized Doty Mill Alley near the town square, and construction crews began demolishing the Milwaukee Street bridge to clear the way for a replacement.
Freitag also directed praise inward.
He applauded city staff, especially those who work outside, for continuing to do their jobs despite low temperatures. He presented two employees—Deputy City Manager Ryan McCue and Management Information Specialist Molly Nolte—with “coins of excellence” for the work they did in 2018.
While much of the address was optimistic and upbeat, Freitag did bemoan state-imposed revenue caps and a shared revenue system the city manager said shortchanges Janesville in comparison to other cities of similar size. City leaders would continue to lobby state legislators to modify the policies, which have been in place for years, he said.
Lobbying for change is about all Janesville can do. Those issues represent the “erosion of local control,” he said.
Freitag turned his attention to the future as he closed his speech. Upcoming projects include the installation of a pedestrian bridge over the Rock River between Milwaukee and Court streets, restoration of the river’s shoreline near the former Monterey Dam site, and completion of the Milwaukee Street bridge.
He also issued a call to action to the public.
Freitag revealed a new campaign called Park Place Pickup, an effort to encourage residents to pick up trash when they see it. Doing so is a simple way to help beautify the city, he said.
Janesville will roll out the initiative soon, Freitag said.
Maybe by then the weather will no longer be conversation worthy.