From commercial development to curriculum, city and school officials have been meeting with Wauwatosa residents and business owners in recent months in an attempt to learn of any specific concerns within the community.
Mayor Kathy Ehley has been spearheading a series of town hall meetings, which kicked off in February and will continue through late May.
Ehley said the meetings are part of a campaign promise she made when she was elected into office two years ago.
"I believe it's important to get out into the community and talk personally, and one-on-one with people," Ehley said. "It's about more than just 'shout-out' emails and putting information on a website."
Ehley held a number of town hall meetings a year ago as she completed her first year as mayor. This year, she resumed the practice, and with collaboration from representatives of the Wauwatosa School District.
Eight meetings are being held this year — one in each aldermanic district. In addition to Ehley and school district representatives, aldermen are being invited to take part in the conversations.
Thus far, four meetings have been held, and Ehley said several concerns have bubbled to the surface, including infrastructure and the specifics surrounding tax-incremental financing districts that are traditionally used to spur new development.
"Another issue we've been hearing a lot about is bad driver behavior," Ehley said. "This has led to a discussion of how our Police Department functions."
While Wauwatosa has many unifying characteristics, Ehley readily points out each aldermanic district also has its own unique share of issues, which is part of the reason she proposed holding the meetings at venues at or near each district.
"The feedback, and the turnout we've received this year, has been good so far," she said, noting attendance at the meetings has ranged from 10 to 80 participants.
Phil Ertl, superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District, said he is pleased to work with Ehley and municipal officials to discuss issues with constituents throughout the city.
"For the school district, it has been an opportunity to connect with people who might not have kids in our schools," Ertl said. "It's been a good opportunity to get their thoughts on our schools, and we can share information on what we do."
From the school district standpoint, Ertl said, oft-discussed topics at recent town hall meetings have hovered around budgetary challenges and the desire to offer students a quality, competitive education.
Ertl said the meetings also have been a good opportunity to dispel a myth concerning district enrollment. Contrary to prior projections, Ertl said, he has been pleased to trumpet the fact Wauwatosa's school system has been gaining, not losing, resident students.
Ehley and Ertl readily admit the city and school district have not always had a strong working relationship. The town hall meetings are one attempt at bringing two governing bodies together.
"We're working together," Ehley said. "We're not in our own silos, and we're not as territorial as we were in the past."
If you go
WHAT: Mayor Kathleen Ehley and other city and school district officials have four remaining town hall meetings planned this spring.
WHEN: All sessions are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
· April 23 at Wauwatosa Women's Club, 1626 N. Wauwatosa Ave.
· May 7 at McKinley Elementary School, 2435 N. 89th St.
· May 14 at Roosevelt Elementary School, 2535 N. 73rd St.
· May 21 at Wauwatosa Women's Club, 1626 N. Wauwatosa Ave.
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