Candidate forum held tonight
WGTD 91.1 hosted a candidate forum at the BioScience Center at Gateway Technical College tonight. Len Iaquinta was the moderator. Present were all of the candidates for mayor, and also the city council candidates who are on the primary election ballot.
First, the four mayoral candidates were asked the following questions:
1. What is your vision for the Kenosha community? What are the goals that you’d like to meet during your term as mayor?
Jeff Baas: Kenosha is a “city of schools.” We’ve lost 150 years of auto manufacturing, but we have three colleges and four college extensions. We have a 52% rate of people in post-secondary education, and we need to develop our “knowledge workers.” We need to market ourselves as the “city of schools.” Increased tourism will bring in more dollars.
Keith Bosman (Incumbent): We have two major projects: 1) The downtown study. This is a blueprint for redevelopment over the next six months. We need people to live and work downtown. 2) Chrysler. We have a 109-acre site. The buildings will all come down in the next one and a half years. I’d like to see an industrial park there to replace the lost jobs.
Jesse Downing: We need to make Kenosha a destination spot. We have the best looking lakefront in Wisconsin, but it’s underutilized. We need an arena or a public arts center. Corporations want to invest in Kenosha, but they haven’t been approached. An arena would bring in income and create jobs. We need to get companies to move to Kenosha. One example is Pacific Sands, which is now hiring. We can’t wait for the companies to come to us; we need to go to the companies. We have the programs like the JOBS NOW Program, and the WET (Water Employment Trade) Program to entice companies.
Nasser Museitif: We need to communicate with the legislative body. We need to become fiscally responsible and business-friendly. When I dial 911, I want to make sure that a response is forthcoming in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve been an employee of the city since 1995. I drive around all over the city and all I see are vacant homes. No one is addressing this. We need business-friendly ordinances.
2) What is your plan for downtown rejuvenation? How will you make sure your plan is accepted and implemented?
Bosman: We have a plan to use focus groups. We need more people to live and work downtown. What hasn’t been done before is a feasibility study. We overlook the harbor. The last three years, there hasn’t been much development anywhere.
Downing: We need to draw people downtown. I disagree with the mayor in that there is no development going on. I traveled all over the state, and cities with arenas or performance arts centers are seeing development. Yes, we need to move city hall; it’s old. A hotel chain would love to move onto that property.
Museitif: We have downtown as a main artery. We need to make it a destination point to attract people. The museums and the trolleys are not doing it. We need a major hotel with a water park, where we can draw people from Milwaukee, Racine, and Illinois.
Baas: Urban land institution publications tell us that we need “urban tools” to bring people in, like sports facilities and theaters. These are called “people pumps.” We need this in the business district. I have experience in studying this. That’s why I purchased the Kenosha Theater thirty years ago.
3) Are you comfortable with the current form of city government?
Downing: If I were elected mayor, the first thing I would do would be to eliminate the position of city administrator. We don’t need a salaried position like that. I could see if the mayor was in Washington. Then, he might need someone to run things while he was away. An assistant in the mayor’s office would suffice.
Museitif: There is no communication. Departments are being micro-managed. I’m not happy with city government. I would fix communication and still provide services for the city.
Baas: I’m happy with the community’s situation now. The city administrator could become a deputy mayor’s position. We need better communication. We never had a lot of lopsided voting in the past like we do now.
Bosman: Back in 1992, the issue of the city administrator came up. Back then, we thought it was a valuable position. I’ve been in office four years now. The set-up works well for the city. Even though the county supervisors decreased in number, I think the aldermen number is good. Each serves on several committees and represents about 6,000 people. To reduce the number would make representing the people a more daunting task.
4) What’s the single most important quality that you possess that makes you the best candidate for mayor?
Museitif: I have good people skills and common sense. I have good business sense. You can’t spend money. You need to get more response. I know how to do that. I would get the city fiscally responsible. I can do that.
Baas: I have experience in building little cities. I know how to get revenue for the community. I take the large concepts and encapsulate them. I have good communication and technical skills. I have a 21st century skill set.
Bosman: Two things. I’ve been in government more than twenty years. I was here during the first Chrysler closing. I spent time on the Finance Committee. I have a wide experience in government. The second thing is my ability to get along with people. I’m endorsed by both the building trades and the contractor’s association.
Downing: I would have to say my communication skills. I can talk to anybody about anything. I don’t lie. I tell it like it is. I can work with anybody. I can talk to corporations. I have people skills that I’ve gained with my twelve years in government.
Next up were the three candidates for the 8th District alderperson seat:
1) How would you make Kenosha a thriving downtown?
Kevin Mathewson: I would make it more attractive for business. I’d get rid of the red tape, and encourage people to go downtown.
Bobby Nash: That’s the wrong question. The question should be how to help the business in the uptown area, our district. I would want to help that area grow.
Paul Trombino: I went today and counted 24 buildings that are closed downtown, and that is not counting the eight-story condominium complex or Wells Machining Shop. It’s a great place to go, all the summer activities. We need to add to that. We have great water, good utilities.
2) Do you think we need to take downtown and uptown together or analyze them separately?
Nash: Having a thriving downtown will help the uptown. Using the same strategies should work for both.
Trombino: Number one is downtown. People go down there for the beach, the water. When the Tall Ships were here, there were plenty of people who came down to see them.
Mathewson: In the summer time, we have the lake and the water. We also need to help the uptown. People can’t use the lake all year round. It’s just basic geography.
3) People have made comments about the lack of decorum at city council meetings. How would you handle yourself during these meetings?
Trombino: I talk all day. I would calm things down. Some people talk 45 minutes at these meetings. Meetings last til 11:30 pm. They’re not accomplishing anything. You need to be a man, give your version, and compromise.
Mathewson: I agree with Paul. Talking for a long time won’t change people’s minds. I would be brief, friendly, and open-minded. I’m willing to compromise. People can disagree, and then go out for a burger afterwards.
Nash: I would be collegial. There’s no reason the meetings should go so long. I hear the problem is that there is a lack of communication between the administration and the aldermen. Things are then brought to them at the last minute.
1) With the budget being so tight, what cost savings would you come up with?
Andy Berg: I would bring businesses to the city. We have all these vacant buildings. We need to bring revenue to the city, fill the houses and bring tourism. I would think a line item review might be necessary.
Anthony Kennedy (Incumbent): I would continue to look at things like the community services officer project. That saved a huge amount of dollars. Trash is a huge issue, especially the large item pick-up’s. People get large item pick-up’s as many as five times. After the second or third time, we should start charging for additional pick-up’s.
Alex Shehadeh: The incumbent voted to increase taxes and take out police officers. We need a fighter for the 10th district, for the city of Kenosha, an advocator who can fix things. We need to increase services with decreased taxes. Our incumbent voted against that.
2) Do you support the current mayor and administration? Why or why not?
Kennedy: I would let the record speak for itself. The current mayor was elected by a huge number of votes. I support the current mayor. But, if you’re asking me if I endorse him for the future? I’m not ready to say yet. There have been issues that he’s supported for the 10th district and the city which have been counterproductive to things for the city. If it was detrimental, I voted against it.
Shehadeh: I support those in office. I’m a small business owner, and I think we have to work together and try and get things done.
Berg: I support the mayor, whoever is in office. What you have to look at are the man’s decisions and ideas. We need to look at whether or not the decisions are good for the citizens, for better growth of the city.
3) What’s the most important issue for the 10th district?
Shehadeh: An advocator is needed. Someone who can fix things, the streets, and the roads.
Berg: The infrastructure. We have 39th Avenue split in two. The least used part will be fixed first. 52nd Street is a main artery. There we have the old Wal-Mart, Arby’s, and other vacant businesses.
Kennedy: A sense of community. I’m trying to knit the homes and buildings to work together. Like on 32nd Avenue. I’m trying to get the people to come out to the Public Works committee meetings. They need to come and tell of the problems they face in order to reduce crime.
1) What more would you do in the 11th District?
Amy Crucianelli: There is not a lot of business on 52nd Street. Businesses provide work and for people to have fun. Also, job creation in the 11th district. I’m not sure where to start.
Anthony Nudo (Incumbent): I’ve championed several programs while on the council, JOBS NOW and the WET Program. We are competing with the surrounding communities for jobs.
2) What issue do you feel is the most important in the 11th District?
Nudo: Most definitely, the closing of McKinley Middle School. They’ve invested millions into that building. It would be a detriment to the neighborhood to close that school. I’ve been fighting against it adamantly. It would only bring blight to the neighborhood.
Crucianelli: I agree. I live a few blocks from the school.
3) People have talked about the lack of decorum and mutual respect at the Common Council meetings. How would you improve the situation?
Crucianelli: I listen, I communicate. Anyone would tell you that I don’t like to argue. I would keep the snide comments out.
Nudo: The council is divided at times. Why is there all this fighting? If there’s a tax increase on the table that’s not necessary, I am going to fight it.
1) How would you advocate for Highway 50, 52nd Street, 60th Street?
Kim Bell: How would I make it better? Add businesses to 75th Street.
Steve Bostrom (Incumbent): I’ve worked on those initiatives. Early on, we passed a non-conforming property ordinance which allowed the barriers to business to be removed. I’ve been recruiting businesses on 30th Avenue. One of them is DC Design, a small CNC company, next to Block. They brought 20 jobs to the district.
Mary Magdalen Moser: I would decrease regulations on existing businesses. Like mine, which has been hanging on. I would cut spending. Mine is an unregulated industry. There are not many compliance issues. I have had freedom and flexibility in this recession.
2) What is the big issue in the 12th District?
Bostrom: We have a large and diverse distribution. On the south end, on 85th Street, we have the potential Wal-Mart store. On the north end, where I live, it’s Lincoln Park and the safety issue. I voted for the three police officers and ten paramedics to be put back in the budget. On the east end are the vacant gas stations. I took the lead there to seek and repair.
Moser: I would decrease the needless law suits. The redistricting map is the best example. People who want to draw the boundaries for his/her benefit. The county had to sue us; we lost. We had to pay $250,000, plus the County’s legal fees, which amounted to a total of half a million dollars.
Bell: On 84th Street and 14th Avenue, there is a three-way stop. There is no yield sign. I’ve lived there for 16 years. The annex for Wal-Mart. It’s hurt the community. It would be taking out a small business that’s been there for years. The debate over that.
3) What grade would you give the current city administration on their job performance?
Moser: I’m not happy with how it’s working. But, I’m here to answer questions on issues; I’m not here to bash others.
Bell: It could be better. We need to compromise.
Bostrom: I would give them a “U” for “Unfinished Business.” There have been many initiatives, like the JOBS NOW Program, and the WET Program. We need to do more.
1) What would be your primary action to improve the city?
Robert Jensen: I would get jobs. There are companies fleeing from Illinois to come to Kenosha. It’s such a horrible business climate there. Like Caterpillar going to South Carolina. We need to scout out the companies and have them come to Kenosha. We need to be proactive and search out the “jobs of tomorrow.”
Ray Misner (Incumbent): We’ve been working on this for years. It’s been frustrating. The partnerships are not there. They’ve done nothing to improve the job climate. The WET Program, for example. Administration should be pushing these programs, to do more.
Curt Wilson: We need a coordinated effort by all government units to create new jobs. We have a rebounding economy. We need to let the common council work together, not be obstructionists. We need to market Kenosha in a positive manner to attract jobs. Government is not working together.
2) Why would the voters select you?
Misner: I’ve been in office since 2006. I work with my colleagues in a respectful manner. The previous administration worked well. We need to get back to that. I’m capable of doing that. And, it’s not obstructionist. I encourage work with . . . (he got cut off).
Wilson: We need to stop this nonsense at the common council meetings. I love the city of Kenosha. I’m fed up with the tactics of the current aldermen. They are being petty, and they need to be about the interests of the people.
Jensen: I am not a “yes man.” I stand up for what is right. I would make an excellent alderman because I would have a voice for all, not just a select group of people. I have a business background and can work with all people.
Lastly, there were two special guests present. Mary Schuch-Krebs, county clerk, and Leslie Stephens. Iaquinta asked them several questions about voting issues.
1) What’s the process to get registered to vote?
Schuch-Krebs: There is still time, if you haven’t registered yet. You would obtain a registration form at your municipality. You can also get registered on election day. You would need a proof of residence and a photo ID. Proof of residence could be a utility bill, a driver’s license, a State ID, a lease, or a piece of mail with your name and address on it.
2) For individual people in homes that can’t get out to vote, are there any special changes, accommodations?
Stephens: For people who live in assisted living, seniors are able to vote. No photo ID is needed. The person responsible (like a staff member of the assisted living facility) acknowledges that that person is who he/she says he/she is.
3) Are the polling places set up already?
Schuch-Krebs: People can obtain absentee ballots at city hall. Polling places are starting to get set up. But, you can’t go vote until Election Day.
4) What about those people who are in their own homes and can’t get out to vote?
Schuch-Krebs: A person can vote via absentee ballot before this Friday. They can go to the city website, download, print, and complete the form, and mail it in, with a copy of their photo ID. On Tuesday, on Election Day, you will need a photo ID, a driver’s license, a State ID, or a college ID within the last three years. (To obtain the form, go to Kenosha’s website: www.kenosha.org.)
The seniors are asking certain questions. Are they able to vote? Are they registered? What types of ID’s? How can they get absentee ballots? We’ve covered all of that so far.
5) What kind of ID will be needed at the polling places on Tuesday?
Schuch-Krebs: A driver’s license or a State ID. If you don’t have your ID with you, you would get a provisional ballot. You would then have until Friday at 5 pm to come back with your ID and cast your ballot. If you don’t show up by Friday at 5 pm, then those provisional ballots would be destroyed.
Iaquinta urged everyone to vote on Tuesday, February 21st. Polling hours will be from 7 am to 8 pm.