City Times Staff
Cathy Dugan is challenging Ald. Tony Patton for the city’s eighth district. Dugan previously taught English and women’s studies at UW-Stevens Point.
Why are you running for office?
CD: “I have been watching and observing and commenting on city and county activities for quite a while, since 2007 when I started my first monthly column. I’m a longtime advocate for the city, I’ve been living here for four decades and I’ve enjoyed being here. It’s such a good combination, that three-legged stool of having all of the white collar joba, a good educational system and the university. My husband was also a great advocate for local government; my dad as as well, so I’ve always paid attention.”
What kind of municipal experience do you have?
CD: “I’ve got a kind of rather long term experience from the public’s point of view. Now I’m getting an insiders view through the RA [Redevelopment Authority]. It’s been interesting to see it from both sides and that’s a perspective that’s a bit unique. Because of that perspective in my role as a public observer and commentator, I have a lot of empathy for the average Joe, the guy on the street and how they see city government, whether they’re looking or not. But I enjoy talking with the people; I enjoy the door-to-door thing. [If elected] I would like to do listening sessions, town halls.”
How important is business growth in the city?
CD: “Well, the mayor says it’s his number on priority, I asked him the other day. And retaining the ones we have is important. The city development director tells me there are businesses here in town coming to him saying they want to hire but there aren’t enough people, frequently in IT.
“Recruiting new businesses that appeal to young professionals and have been trained and educated is a way of providing for the next generation in Stevens Point. It’s a way of going forward in business and employee employment. Or as Sentry [Insurance] is doing, training those who are here. For me, it’s that the jobs pay good. There’s no way we could regulate that in any way. But when there’s an opportunity that should be a priority. We should also maintain that tax base.”
Mayor Mike Wiza has plans to propose implementing merit pay for city workers. What are your thoughts on that?
CD: “It seems to be one more piece of the private sector coming into the public sector. And I think that I can do that. That’s one of my major beliefs, making things more fair.
The city recently reintroduced “just cause” language back into administrative policy. What was a good idea?
CD: “It was important because it’s a part of getting city workers their just due. If there’s a disciplinary problem if they need to be dismissed, there’s a due process. It means one gets a kind of hearing with a representative, another association member. We don’t have bargaining rights anymore, but the union still exists and they need someone there for morale support. The other part is that you follow a list of standards and make sure the reason is serious enough.”
But didn’t the city already have a disciplinary policy in place?
CD: “According to the mayor, it was important to solidify something that would protect the workers. It needed to be firmly put in the language. I think it certainly does not mean lifetime tenure for anyone but it means a lot being there.”
Why are quality of life issues so important to the current council?
CD: “The former councils, during [former Mayor Gary] Wescott’s and [former Mayor Andrew] Halverson’s administrations, were very pro business. Halverson made it a point to appoint as many business people as he could. It should fall in the middle; I have no doubt we need good businesses here. All of us need that for our support and livelihoods. We need business that treats the community well and treats employees well.”
What is something the city should address that it has not?
CD: “I’m very much an environmentalist. This mayor, and Andrew [Halverson], too, have their hearts in the right place but did’t put a lot of the city’s heart behind the city’s eco-municipality task force. It hasn’t really been worked. I was really very excited when [Wiza] started an ad hoc committee to take another look at that, and he knows this stuff, but he hasn’t focused on it. I think the sustainability committee is in limbo right now. I would be very happy if that sustainability committee were codified and reported to the plan commission and city council, and that it have a director.”
But wouldn’t that be an additional expense to the city?
CD: “That would cost some money, but that would be a good idea. I understand that it would cost money, but if some pressure could come to bear on the eco-municipality task force it would be worth it.”
What do you see as some of the big issues coming before the city?
CD: “There are some big ticket items that are coming up. We’re doing Sixth Ave. this year. [The overpass at] Hoover [Ave] is well along. After the main focus is taken off that, probably within a year, the focus will be back to Business 51, and the discussion will be about whether we dig it all up as we need to, and make the turning lanes where they ought to be, and put pedestrian and bike lanes in, and save 14 blocks of the historic district. It’s a lot harder than Hoover. Michael Ostrowski [community development director] just wants to take it off the hot-seat for awhile.
“I think the city council may be able to get some of these things done, though. I think they’re interested in alternate means of transportation. We’re in the city without a high median income compared to Plover. We can’t overtax our people; they can’t afford it.”