The three Democratic council primaries on August 3 each have their own issues–core services, the Stadium bridges, and flooding among them. But beyond the incumbents’ loyalty to current mayor John Hieftje and the challengers’ support of his opponent, Pat Lesko, the big issue is the budget.
First Ward challenger Sumi Kailasapathy says she’s walked all her precincts and found “the biggest issue is the neighbors feel they have no control” over their city, citing council’s approval of the Near North affordable housing PUD and the unmowed parks as examples. Incumbent Sandi Smith supports Near North despite the neighbors’ objections, saying it will replace a small portion of the 100 supportive housing units the city lost when the old Y went down.
Kailasapathy, a CPA, says that “when core services have been eroding, it’s not good to be throwing money at things we don’t need.” Asked about core services, Smith, co-owner of Trillium Real Estate, replies, “You mean police and fire? The crime rate’s going down. Fires are going down. And the mowing schedule is last year’s schedule–nineteen days.”
“The biggest issues in Ward Four are the city’s budget priorities,” says challenger Jack Eaton, a labor lawyer and Lesko supporter, citing the rising police-courts building and the decaying Stadium Bridge as examples of misplaced priorities. “I would urge council to stop waiting for federal and state funding to repair the bridges,” Eaton says. “Float bonds to pay for the bridge, and repay the bonds from the city’s road repair millage.”
Fourth Ward incumbent Margie Teall supported the police-courts building–“it was past time,” she says–but agrees the bridges have deteriorated precipitously. She says that if the feds do kick in, as she believes they will, it could save the city millions to use on road repair. But with or without them, she says, she is confident that “the project will begin next March.” Teall also agrees that “the major issue faced by the city is the budget,” and says her “proven record over the past eight years” makes her right to meet the challenge.
“One of the biggest issues is the threat of flooding in the Fifth Ward,” says challenger Lou Glorie. “We’ve become vulnerable because of the impervious surfaces built over and around the Allen’s Creek.” As one solution, Glorie suggests “a policy of using pervious pavement in replacing streets and perhaps giving homeowners a property tax credit for the extra expense of replacing sidewalks with this more expensive material.”
Carsten Hohnke likewise says flooding is a problem, but the Fifth Ward incumbent has a different solution: “How we get the most community benefit out of city-owned parcels along Allen Creek, First and William, and 415 West Washington, is key,” he says. “To that end I’ve co-sponsored two resolutions to make them anchors of a potential greenway along Allen Creek.”
“Going forward, I think the city’s budget process is a mess,” says Glorie, a Lesko supporter. “Part of the problem is the reorganization of the city. I’ve been studying zero-based budgeting [and] it might be a good way to clean house.”
Hohnke, a Hieftje backer, agrees with Smith that the budget is already clean and open. He flags development on the fringes of downtown as an important emerging issue. “One of the biggest challenges we have is striking the right balance,” he says, “keeping us rooted in quality of life in the community while still allowing for development.”