By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — Three candidates for District 8 discussed vital city topics at Thursday night’s League of Women Voters (LOWV) Candidate’s Forum.
Held inside the Portage Co. Library, residents were allowed to submit their own questions, along with the LOWV, to current District 8 incumbent Cathy Dugan, and challengers Al Prosser and Lynn Schulist. Below are the questions, and notable quotes in their answers from each candidate:
Dugan: “I’ve lived in Stevens Point for 43 years — I’ve lived in District 8 for around 4 years. I’ve raised a couple of kids here; went to UWSP, got a bachelor’s and master’s degree here, and then became a teacher.”
Prosser: “I’ve never been a politician, and this is my first attempt at becoming a politician. I retired as a school administrator having spent 35 years in school districts in Wisconsin. I’m married, father of two children, and a veteran of foreign service.”
Schulist: “I’m a fifth generation Polish descendant of Central Wisconsin, and like many of you, we all care about our community and district. …I do work in marketing and brand strategy for a large national bank, and I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I spend a lot of time in District 8.”
What are unique characteristics of District 8? How are you the best candidate to address the district’s needs?
Prosser: “I don’t know that I’m necessarily qualified to be the best person, but I’m a willing person. The way you best represent District 8 is to get out and meet folks who actually live in District 8.”
Schulist: “I have a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and a lot of desire to really get out and meet with constituents; whatever mode of communication that may be — being a marketer, not everyone wants to be communicated the same way, whether it’s listening sessions, which Cathy Dugan has done a great job with — neighborhoods meetings, email, knocking on your door — you name it. Taking what they have to say and synthesizing it to what the particular problem is at hand.” (Schulist shifted gears into addressing the city’s property tax hikes) “I can’t change what happened in the past, but ensure fiscal responsibility, and that we spend our dollars well.”
Dugan: “I wanted improve communication among District 8 people and the council, and I have indeed done that in a number of ways. Neighborhood associations have taken off — I’ve also had informational sessions, listening sessions — All of them have included getting the word out to people, and hearing what city staff has to say. We want to hear what they have to say. Multiple phone calls, multiple email conversations — all of that goes back to the committees (and council).”
Do you support the city’s plans to build a new city government building on land recently acquired on Water St.?
Schulist: “At this point in time, I do. I had a long conversation with the city treasurer understanding the dollars and cents behind it. Either way, we’re going to put money into the current city county building, or build a new city hall. Both are going to be several million dollars. There’s a good chance that the cost would be higher with the city county building.”
Dugan: “This has been on our agenda for some time now — I voted to purchase property; I voted to take a look at an architectural survey to see what we would build; I also have argued for, but have not voted for looking at the possibility at staying in our city-county building. I am a proud environmentalist and proud preservationist, and that is one heck of a well-built building. You would not really want to see it demolished — however, the county has not proceeded quickly enough for us to see exactly how we can fit into that building.”
Prosser: “I can go either way in terms of the cost, but my concern is that there are two things that are missing here: The ongoing strain between the city and the county and the relationship that exists; and I don’t know that we’ve worked hard enough to try to push that partnership along. The other thing is that if someone is inconsistent in the message the city sends, part of my property tax also goes to the county — so I have to be concerned about the county issues, as well.”
Do you support re-striping lanes into turn lanes and traffic lanes in some areas of Stevens Point?
Dugan: (In regards to the topic of Stanley St.) “In the beginning, because I’m a bicyclist, when this first came up a year or more ago I thought ‘let’s give it a try’…however, after hearing from a number of constituents and after the December meeting, I don’t necessarily think going from four to three would work on every stretch of Stanley St.” Dugan would go on to reference the traffic lane issue on Green Ave. and by the Kwik Trip intersection.
Prosser: “People that I’ve talked to in District 8 – there’s not one person that I’ve run into that thinks the re-striping of Stanley St. should take place. My concern is that I’m willing to give it an opportunity, but while we do that we need to put a sunset date — in other words, we need to revisit the issue in four or five years, and see if it’s working. I also think we need to speak to the major employers that funnel in following through Stanley St. That would be Sentry, the hospital, the university — there are a number of employers that can put people on the road a couple times a day.”
Schulist: “At this point and time I haven’t seen a presentation that I would agree to this. …I’m open to other ideas that would offer a break in traffic on Stanley St.. A few years ago there was discussion on Business 51 to turn a four to a three; similar to Stanley St. At this point I feel very uncomfortable with that option as well. Knowing the traffic during rush hour when school lets out, people coming to and from Sentry; traffic could back up substantially and create a lot of frustration. I would be open to listening to other presentations in Stevens Point.”
Should the city restore the Fox Theater?
Prosser: “There are other theater availabilities within the city, yet at the same time the theater can bring in and help support the downtown and make it more vital. We also have a new hotel with a new restaurant in it — I think any time we can have activities within the city is a benefit to the city.”
Schulist: “This is a jewel of our community…it’s an amazing building. It’s not really that big inside, and I think as a community we should look at the possibilities. Looking at the city budget, I don’t think there’s room for the city to contribute to its restoration. So in short, I’m open to having some sort of revitalization to the building, but have it done on a donor basis.”
Dugan: “I have been a great supporter of downtown renewal — we’ve watched, and watched, and watched to see if the Fox would finally get a start. We had a big event there to say that it will happen – and it hasn’t materialized. Will it? It won’t with city money. We can’t support that, but we can do small things if we have more donors. We need to get the right people together.”
Prosser: “I think if you’re happy with what’s currently going on in the city of Stevens Point, then it’s pretty simple — you can vote for the incumbent and you we’ll continue on in the way we are. However, for the city to continue to make progress we need to move away from what I see as a social agenda that we seem to be following, and move back to the thought of ‘what do people band together and pay taxes for to form a city?’ — That’s essential city services. …as I move around District the thing that’s least understood is the taxes, and why are taxes so high? We haven’t done a good job on educating the citizens about why we have to have the money that we take from them. — we need to better educate the voters within this district. I think that I can help with that. I think many of the questions that we face today have answers that sit in Madison — and eventually, the political change will come about in Madison, and we need to be primed and ready to work with folks down there to help solve some of these problems.”
Schulist: “I feel that I would bring a new lens, and as many of my supporters stated, ‘new blood’, and a diversity to city council. I have a very diverse work experience working in corporate America — business negotiations, managing multi-million dollar budgets, bringing marketing to life, managing multi-functional teams, which I think would be unique and hopefully help the city council. I have a strong desire to serve my community and ensure prosperity for today, and years to come. I have been told that I am a good listener, and will take feedback into actionable results. If elected, I pledge to serve and represent the constituents of District 8 fairly and in a timely manner. I would also promote transparency and communication via multiple modes of communication. I also pledge to bring an open mind, open ears, and listen to all sides of the situation before making decisions and representing the values of District 8. I have no personal agenda — I think we all want to make Stevens Point the best place it can be and that is the reason I am running.”
Dugan: “I want you to know that we have had wonderful economic development in the city; robust new new growth, and I’m so proud to be a part of that. At the planning commission meeting this week the Mayor said that 2017 (development) was higher than the recent three to four years. We have not all big projects — [we have] small projects, and a really big project with the Sentry building going up. We’re doing really well, and when we have robust new growth, we get more city services.”
District 8 primaries take place on Feb. 20.