Genrich talks jobs, justice and joy at State of the City
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Mayor Eric Genrich took stock July 13 of his challenging, but productive first two years, in his 2021 State of the City address at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.
This was Genrich’s first formal address since being elected in April 2019.
“Let’s talk about these last two years,” he said. “It’s been quite a ride, huh? I don’t know if the job description of mayor fully encompassed everything I’ve faced in my first two years in office.”
Genrich said despite the challenges of the past year, the City of Green Bay has remained strong.
“We got far more than we bargained for during this past pandemic year, and yet our community has emerged on the other side eager to move forward to take on the challenges and opportunities we face in a united way,” he said. “Now more than ever it is essential that we come together physically, socially, emotionally to care for one another and reconstruct our community in a way that’s more cohesive, resilient and equitable.”
Genrich’s theme for the evening was Jobs, Justice and Joy.
“That is what I’d like you to remember tonight – jobs, justice and joy,” he said. “Helping to create this city that takes these priorities seriously, engaging in this collaborative project is what motivates so many people to do what we do for this community.”
The address focused on accomplishments over the past two years related to community partnerships, improvements in infrastructure, progress in economic development, enhancements in quality of life and community services.
“Thinking about the last two years of our work in the City of Green Bay, I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Genrich said. “Maybe most importantly, if a little mundanely, we’ve put ourselves on very strong financial footing. Thanks to the support of our common council and guidance of our expert finance department led by director Diana Ellenbecker and assistant director Pam Manley, we’ve made decisions to eliminate the use of one-time spending, identified sustainable sources of revenue, drafted and adopted a five-year capital improvement plan and prioritized the services that our residents need most.”
The mayor highlighted current redevelopment projects, including the housing project in the Shipyard, the former East Town Mall and on Monroe Avenue.
“The projects in the Shipyard and at the old farmer’s market parking lot on Monroe Avenue are exciting news for all residents and taxpayers,” he said. “But this is particularly good news for those of us that continue to believe a vibrant and expanding and inclusive downtown are keys to our community’s success in the long term.”
During his address, Genrich also spoke of the Black Lives Matter protests.
“Here in Green Bay, we were witness to the largest peaceful demonstration the city has ever seen,” he said. “When thousands of people of all ages, races, creeds and backgrounds joined together in Leicht Park and marched throughout our downtown, raising their voices for peace, justice and multi-racial democracy. This was a proud moment for our community. And it’s in this spirit that we will continue to push forward.”
Genrich also touched on the recent donation of more than 25 acres of land and $500,000 from JBS as hopefully the future home of an urban farm, a destination playground and a mixed-income housing project.
“(This) gives us the opportunity to reimagine a corner of our community that has been neglected for too long,” he said. “Taking ownership of a green field of this scale, adjacent to a neighborhood in need of investment, is an incredibly unique opportunity, and it’s one we take very seriously.”
The mayor briefly mentioned the criticism the city received regarding the 2020 fall election.
“Warped and dishonest portrayals of the fall 2020 election continue to live on in conspiratorial corners of our politics, but I continue to be immensely proud of the work our city and community did during this time,” Genrich said.
He ended his address by saying, “I was born and raised in Green Bay and I am proud of who we are as a people and what we are capable of.
“And I know we absolutely have the ability to be an even greater version of our best self,” Genrich said. “Green Bay is an exceptional city, in a great state, in an indispensable nation, and I am lucky to be your mayor.”
He was elected to a four-year term and is up for re-election in the spring of 2023.
District 9 Alderperson Brian Johnson weighed in on Genrich’s first address as mayor.
“An event like this is meant to celebrate accomplishments, and as a community, we have many things to be proud of,” Johnson said. “But we can simultaneously celebrate those successes while also recognizing we have a lot of work to do. Now we need to move from philosophical messaging to the hard work of vision casting and laying out tangible steps to accelerate improvement in areas like better streets, reduced gun violence, affordable housing and lower property taxes.”