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Waukesha BID Board finally has enough members

Council still upset over mayor's lack of options

Nov. 27, 2012

It's been a struggle but the downtown Waukesha Business Improvement District Board has finally reached the minimum amount needed to do business.

This occurred after downtown business owner Sandy Cianciolo was approved by the Common Council at its meeting Nov. 20.

Seven members were needed to have an active board. Finding these individuals, however, has been anything but easy.

The Common Council wanted more options from Mayor Jeff Scrima with a more diverse pool of candidates that included aldermen.

"I don't think I could be more disappointed in the mayor," said Alderman Paul Ybarra. "We have a full-time mayor and over the course of eight weeks he can't give us more than one or two names. He was supplied with 100 to 150 names."

Scrima, however, told the council that they were the ones who had been holding up the process by not accepting his submissions and that he had presented "outstanding" candidates to them.

He also said in an interview on Monday that he will request the appointment of Alderman Roger Patton to join the seven others on the BID Board at the next Common Council meeting scheduled for Dec. 6.

Patton serves constituents in the downtown but was also one of the 11 individuals who resigned from the BID Board in September.

"He was the most appropriate, since he's the downtown alderman and he's also the only alderman that has reached out to me and the only one who seems to care about downtown," Scrima said. "He has the heart for the good of the downtown."

Ybarra doesn't agree with that assessment.

He said that he, along with almost all of the aldermen, would have been more than happy to serve on the BID Board temporarily and was baffled as to why Scrima has yet to appoint any of them after repeated requests.

And as a former downtown business owner, BID Board vice president and someone who has volunteered with his family downtown, Ybarra said he definitely cares about the well-being of downtown.

"I don't know why this mayor is unable to do his job and is playing games," Ybarra said. "It puzzles and confuses me."

Keep the process moving

But Scrima called Ybarra and the other council members out at a recent council meeting saying that they should do their job and contact the individuals that he has chosen.

"Had the council approved initial recommendations, the BID Board could have functioned a month and a half ago," Scrima said. "But now's not the time to attack the past. It's time to move forward together."

The BID Board will attempt to do so with Cianciolo, owner of Mia's Italian Restaurant, Natalie Walters, Bill Huelsman, Jim Taylor, Ed Henschel, Nick Martinez and Ron Lostetter as its members. Patton's appointment would give the BID Board eight members.

"We feel confident that these board members can and will move the BID taxing district forward," Scrima said.

While dissatisfied with the mayor bringing just one candidate to the meeting last week, Ybarra voted in favor of the selection so the process would not be held up any longer.

"I wanted to get the BID up and running," Ybarra said. "I agree the BID should be re-examined, but it shouldn't have taken this long. It's embarrassing."

Two did not resign

Walters of Waukesha State Bank and Huelsman of Berg Management were the only two members who did not resign from the BID Board after former BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager stepped down citing a "hostile work environment."

Taylor, a downtown business owner and Lostetter, the chief financial officer at Carroll University, were previous board members who were among the 11 board members who resigned two months ago. Scrima said those individuals resigned to remove themselves from the controversy.

Scrima also had nominated Roger Igielski, co-owner of Allô! Chocolat in downtown Waukesha, but the council blocked that selection since Igielski had also resigned and because he had put a sign in his business that questioned how the BID tax money was being spent. Taylor did the same at Taylors People's Park.

The BID is a special assessment district that encompasses a 21-block area in downtown Waukesha. The tax assessment that commercial property owners pay ($2.80 per $1,000) funded the BID budget, which is used to provide services for the district that is responsible for promoting the downtown through marketing and events.

Dividing up duties

But since Sprager resigned and released a scathing nine-page letter citing bullying by board members and a list of other grievances over her 16-month tenure, the BID controversy has been front and center.

Those being accused by Sprager said they had no idea of any wrongdoing, while other downtown business owners praised Sprager for standing up and said the "bullying" has been going on for a long time.

After Sprager's resignation in August, the BID's environmental manager resigned and all other BID staff who helped operate the downtown office did as well.

While the BID Board tried to march on during this rocky time and attempted to divide up the BID tasks, resignations from board members soon flowed in.

Henschel, the newly-named city administrator, soon took over the temporary day-to-day operations of the BID. Scrima then began presenting names to the council, while other downtown organizations such as the Waukesha Downtown Business Association helped run some of the BID events.

The new BID Board will be responsible for deciding the BID's structure, how it wants to move forward and whether it wants to hire full-time staff, Scrima said.

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