La Crosse council using changes to focus on future

Council creates new City Planning Meetings

The La Crosse City Council is looking to the future.

Recent changes to how the council operates is giving council members a chance to focus on a long-term plan.

The council recently voted to do away with the Committee of the Whole, which met one Tuesday a month. In it’s place, they’ve created a City Planning Meeting.

They say it will, for the first time in a long time, give the council a chance to chart the city’s future. “This is very significant,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat. “It’s almost an opportunity for us to say, ‘What do we want to be when we grow up?'” said Kabat.

The meetings will be a chance for departments to give the council updates and for council members to chart a clear path about the future of the city, in hopes of being proactive. “We have a tendency to kind of react from one challenge or one problem solving exercise to the next, what we’re looking for and hoping for in the planning sessions is to able to actually look a few years down the road,” said Kabat.

Steve McCombs, a training consultant at Western Technical college, calls it an exciting move for the city.  McCombs has been brought in to help with the transition.

“It’s kind of like taking a trip, if you don’t know where your destination is it’s kind of hard to get there, so that’s one of the things that we’ll look at is where does this city want to go, how big do they want to be,” said McCombs.

“For the first time, really in a very long time that the council and the Mayor as a group,” said Kabat, “will have the opportunity to start to talk and think and act more strategically as far as the long-term well being and functioning of the city government.”

While both men admit it will take some work to get these meetings off the ground, the Mayor thinks they could one day be more productive than the Committee of the Whole. “I do think that there’s an opportunity to really again, engage with the departments and the community to make a much bigger impact, I do,” said Kabat.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Mayor will give council members a chance to share their hopes for the new meetings. That will give the Mayor a better idea of who will be involved every month and what types of issues they will discuss.

Along with the new meetings, the city has also reduced the size of the council, and they are looking in to cutting some of the 60 committees they currently have.