Meet the Candidates 2019

a rundown of Eau Claire City Council contenders

Tom Giffey, photos by V1 Staff

A slew of hopefuls are competing for seats on the Eau Claire City Council – including the presidency. Here’s who they are and what they think.

The spring election is Tuesday, April 2. And, while we did have an election last November, that was for partisan offices at the state and federal level (governor and U.S. Congress, for instance). In the spring — in Wisconsin, at least — nonpartisan offices are on the ballot. This time around, that means city councils, school boards, and judicial races. Here in Eau Claire, 10 candidates of varying philosophies, backgrounds, and experiences are running for five at-large seats on the City Council. Because the seats are at-large, voters anywhere in the city, regardless of ward, can vote for them. Two of the candidates (Kate Beaton and Catherine Emmanuelle) are incumbents, while the rest are first-time council contenders. Meanwhile, a special election is being held for the post of City Council president. While not as powerful as a mayor – which Eau Claire hasn’t had for decades – the council president nonetheless presides at council meetings, helps set the council’s agenda, and represents the city near and far. This job is currently being filled by Councilman Andrew Werthmann, who became acting president when then-President Kerry Kincaid resigned last summer. Now, Werthmann is running for the presidency in his own right against Terry Weld, who himself is an at-large councilman. The winner will serve the final year of Kincaid’s three-year term, and will face re-election in the spring of 2020. The biographies, question responses, and issue rankings on the following pages will help you get to know the candidates both as people and as politicians.

NOTE: Candidate David Klinkhammer (challenger) was not able to respond to our questionnaire, but more responses may be added at a later date.

WHERE DO I VOTE?

The myvote.wi.gov website will also tell you where your polling place is: Just select the “Where Do I Vote?” icon, input your street address, and you’ll be directed to your polling place. There’s even a handy map! The same website can also help you find out if you’re already registered to vote (this will save you some headaches on Election Day, although you’ll still need to bring a photo ID to the polls) and who your current elected officials are.

WHAT ELSE?

Want to find out what else is on your ballot? Visit myvote.wi.gov, click on the “What’s On My Ballot?” icon, and plug in your address. You’ll see all the races where you live, including city council, school board, judicial seats, and more.

WHAT DO THOSE NUMBERS MEAN?

As of way quantifying the candidates’ priorities, we gave all of them a list of categories and 100 points. They were asked to assign more points to the categories they would emphasize and fewer points to those that would take a lower priority if they were elected. Candidates didn’t have to assign points to each category, and they were given an “other” category if they felt the options we provided didn’t cover all their priorities. We also asked the candidates to explain why they arranged the priorities the way they did. You’ll see that as the last question in the Q&A.


City Council Candidates


JOHN LOR (challenger)

Age: 52
Years in Eau Claire: 30 years
Family: Wife, 4 children, and 4 grandchildren.
Occupation: Entrepreneur in real estate, life insurance agent, and real estate agent for KW Realty.
Education: Globe University of Minnesota School of Business (2011).
Political experience: President of Lo/Pha of Wisconsin. (See more below.)

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

The unique qualities that set me apart from my opponents is that my public service commitments, my business experience and degrees, and my prior leadership experiences has prepared me well to serve and represent the city as whole.

Below all the political experiences I held:

• President of Lo/Pha Branch of Wisconsin 2015-2017
• President of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, Inc. 2011-2015
• City of Eau Claire: Campaign Manager for City Council member Michael M. Xiong 2013 and 2016
• State of Wisconsin 91st District Assembly: Co-Campaign Manager for Thomas Vue 2018

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

The role of the City Council is to foster the economic development, business maintenance, and commercial growth in the city. To do this, the City Council must continue to provide an adequate inventory of planned and zoned locations for future growth needs for industrial, office, and retail. The council members shall continue to strengthen the economic vitality of Eau Claire and guide public in economic development. The city should continue (to be) open to new ideas that can innovate a creative economy and develop an even better community. The small businesses in the area play an important role in this community.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

Today, in a global economy where businesses can locate anywhere, we must capitalize on their strength to attract good-paying jobs and make sure EC County not only stays competitive but is a model community and continues to be a special place where business and community can successfully strive. I will continue to promote both local businesses/new business development and the retention of a skilled workforce by maintaining and expanding educational, healthcare, recreation, and cultural resources. I will encourage the success of small/local businesses, especially those which offer competitive hourly wages and hire persons with disabilities and nontraditional workers.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

Affordable housing is a major concern for our community. As a city, we can do things to permanently establish and expand affordable housing for all. Creative zoning, land trusts, and expanded public housing are all ways that the city can ensure that all residents have access to a safe, adequate, and welcoming home for their families. To solve these problems, we need to encourage landlords to step forward and provide more access to housing for those who are experiencing the crisis in affordable housing.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 10%

Public safety: 10%

Public transportation: 8%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 7%

Recreational and cultural opportunities: 10%

Public health: 10%

Economic development: 20%

Environmental sustainability: 5%

Affordable and available housing: 30%

Other (please specify) : 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

Eau Claire has more than 70,000 residents who living in the community with diversity populations. All City Councils shall need to be nonpartitioned. I know that affordable housing is a major concern for the Eau Claire community. I will listen to all concern brought to my attention. I will work hard to continue building this community being safe, and where people have access to affordable healthcare and drug treatment programs. I believe that a healthy community will attract more workers and businesses, promote a living wage for hard-working people, and will reduce violence. Our city has accomplished and grown so much in past few years. Eau Claire has created more than 3,000 jobs and reduced unemployment from 8.8% to 2.2% because of the current City Council’s leadership, private businesses, and publics partnership working together. I will measure all services priorities to meet all residents needed. I will continue to work hard to reduced the homeless population in EC by provide more access to affordable housing.

 


KIRK AUSMAN (challenger)

Age: 66
Years in Eau Claire: 64
Family: Susan (wife), Logan (son), Alexandra (daughter).
Occupation: Self-employed brick and stone mason.
Education: Eau Claire North High School 1970, UW-Eau Claire 1974.
Political experience: Chairman of the Eau Claire Housing Advisory Board, President of the North Side Hill Neighborhood Association and President of the West Side Neighborhood Association.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I have experience in both business and public service. In my early career I worked for a Community Development Block Grant Program, inspecting substandard housing. I have firsthand knowledge of both affordable and safe housing needs. More recently I worked in the regional office for the U.S. Census Bureau. The information gathered during the census affects grant proposals for the city. I also was president of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council during the Confluence Project. This allowed me to understand how the arts scene helps economic growth and meets the needs of a growing professional population.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

The city must create a climate that is welcoming to business and job creation. This requires a safe place to live with superior police and fire protection. Good roads, a clean, healthy environment and affordable housing are also important. But employers also need qualified employees. To attract and maintain a qualified workforce, parks and recreational venues are required to allow us to enjoy our beautiful city. Access to the arts and entertainment is also necessary to make Eau Claire a vibrant and fun city in which to live.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

The redevelopment authority has done a good job setting the stage for new development. The North Barstow and Cannery District redevelopment are good examples. It is critical for some city action in order to remove dilapidated structures and clear space, provide updated sewer and water lines and streets that meet the demands of traffic flow. Some of this can be done by private initiative. But it often takes public action to create the initiative, particularly in blighted areas.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

The city, in conjunction with the neighborhoods, has been working to address this issue. A task force has studied affordable housing and presented recommendations to address improving the older housing stock. Collaborating with landlords and providing options for available loan and grant money is already starting to facilitate the transition from rental properties back to single family home ownership. My neighborhood in the Historic Randall Park area has been blessed with an influx of families moving in and revitalizing it. The private sector has also incorporated ideas from the task force in new development, providing for low rent units.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 25%

Public safety: 25%

Public transportation: 5%

Maintaining / reducing taxes: 5%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 5%

Public health: 10%

Economic development: 10%

Environmental sustainability: 5%

Affordable & available housing: 10%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

I believe that if a city does a good job creating a safe, clean, and enjoyable climate other areas will begin to take care of themselves. Many of the best things happening in our city are the result of the private and public sector, nonprofits, and faith-based groups working together. The Confluence Project will be studied by communities all over the country as an example of private and public cooperation in a major endeavor. Parks and recreational facilities are one of the best ways that a city can facilitate the kind of environment that attracts and keeps people in the city. Healthy communities require clean air, water and natural resources. When I was young, the rivers were polluted and eagles didn’t fly over the Lake Street bridge, but due to legislation on the federal level things have greatly improved. I believe environmental sustainability is important, but beyond the scope and boundaries of a city. Public transportation works best when large numbers of people are using it. Eau Claire needs some public transportation, but the current number of users is too low for an extensive system.


KATE BEATON (incumbent)

Age: 27
Years in Eau Claire: Eight
Family: Single
Occupation: Western organizer for Wisconsin Conservation Voters.
Education: UW-Eau Claire 2014, bachelor’s degree in social work, minor in environmental science.
Political experience: Three years on the City Council, experience on various city boards, committees, and commissions.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I’ve served on the City Council for three years and if re-elected would be the third most-senior member. I bring experience and historical knowledge but what sets me apart from the field most is an unwavering set of values: 1) We all do better when we all do better – we must ensure that everyone in our city can thrive, not just survive; 2) We are all stewards of our city – it’s up us to protect our natural resources for future generations; and 3) Our democracy only works when everyone has an equal voice and chance to be heard.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

I’ve long supported an economic strategy focused on creating a community where people want to live by investing in parks, infrastructure, and quality of life as a key way to draw workforce, employers, and industries to our city. As a young professional who moved to Eau Claire for college and decided to stay here, work here, and buy a home here, I know this strategy is working! The city should play an active role in continuing to foster that pro-growth business climate and a pro-resident city climate that has led us to the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the state.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

In my day job with Wisconsin Conservation Voters I advocate for the protection of our water resources across the state. I have seen firsthand how they add financial and cultural value to communities. In the last decade our downtown has seen a renaissance, all thanks to investment from our city and local businesses and because we’ve reclaimed our rivers with projects like Pablo Center and Phoenix Park. The city should continue its smart investments that highlight our natural resources across our city as a way to build our culture, economy, and health.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

It’s unacceptable that there are 300 homeless children in Eau Claire and 46% of families who struggle to cover basic living costs. I’m proud our City Council is working with builders, housing advocates, and other stakeholders to champion bold action to change the way our city facilitates development of housing to make the process faster and cheaper. This coalition has recommended over 20 different policies the City Council is currently considering, from changes to zoning to community benefit agreements and more to begin to meaningfully address local housing issues and ensure everyone has an affordable, safe place to live.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 10%

Public safety: 10%

Public transportation: 10%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 10%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 10%

Public health: 10%

Economic development: 10%

Environmental sustainability: 10%

Affordable & available housing: 10%

Other (not specified): 10%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

At its foundation, our city government exists to keep people safe and improve quality of life – a big umbrella of responsibilities ranging from responding to emergencies with our police and fire departments to taking local action to mitigate climate change to ensuring family-supporting jobs and everything in between. This foundational work of the city is best done when the city is well-balanced. Each category works together to achieve the larger goal of keeping people safe and improving quality of life. So I prioritize the categories equally. That said, the way we work within these categories is important. Our city government must do its day-to-day work with a lens of equity and compassion. As we work on development, we should always ask, “What about affordable housing?” As we build and oversee our police department we should always ask, “Does our police department treat everyone equally?” As we organize polling for elections we should always ask, “Does our local election system give everyone an equal chance to vote and be heard?” I’m proud our City Council and city staff has done the work of the city with a compassionate lens and hope to see that culture codified into the future.


LAURA BENJAMIN (challenger)

Age: 38
Years in Eau Claire: 20
Family: Children, ages 13 and 3
Occupation: Entrepreneur
Education: UW-Eau Claire (2004)
Political experience: None

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I offer a unique perspective to City Council. I’m an entrepreneur, invested in the local startup community, and I am always looking for ways to innovate solutions to situations. I have nine years in management and leadership, with experience with operations, creating alignment, budgeting, and strategic planning. I understand how to work with multiple parties and interests for positive outcomes. I am a do-er. If I see a challenge, I get to work gathering input and visioning an end goal, and then working with the parties necessary to achieve win-win outcomes whenever possible.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

By nurturing start-ups as our “farm system,” city leadership can incentivize big thinkers looking to grow and stay local – and hire local – while growing the reach of their business beyond our borders. We can unite public and private resources for those looking to innovate and grow an enterprise. Attracting outside employers must be handled strategically to ensure deals aren’t over-leveraged and cost our city opportunity, like the recent Foxconn deal disaster. Reasonable incentives, plus a community of skilled workers retained by local amenities and cultural opportunities, will attract expanding businesses who will be good stewards of our community.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

City Council sets a vision, a mission, and a series of values and goals as representatives of the people of Eau Claire – and then works to enact policy and build alignment within that framework. To that end, the city is empowered through the City Council representative and city manager seats on the Redevelopment Authority to work with the commissioners to ensure project proposals align with the goals of the city as a whole. Great projects like the Cannery District are made possible by the RDA aligning public and private interests to benefit our community.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

The city can create a public-private partnership commission which brings together experts in creating affordable housing along with members of the City Council and private enterprise with the goal of alleviating the downward pressure on lower-income individuals and families and still empowering businesses to be profitable. Looking for win-wins – for builders and landlords to be profitable, and for lower-income tenants to feel secure in their housing – is going to be critical for Eau Claire to move forward and ensure that people of all walks can continue to live here and contribute to our community.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 11%

Public safety: 9%

Public transportation: 6%

Maintaining / reducing taxes: 5%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 8%

Public health: 5%

Economic development: 20%

Environmental sustainability: 9%

Affordable & available housing: 17%

Other (fight discrimination): 10%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

My top priority is to work toward a strong, local, and entrepreneurship-minded economy that creates the next generation of businesses, jobs, and living wages for Eau Claire. I will work to create a culture in Eau Claire where people challenged to afford housing through circumstance – not lack of work ethic – aren’t squeezed out of our city, and can continue to live, thrive, and better their lives in Eau Claire. I believe that through a focused commission, private businesses will be able to find common ground with public interests and be able to address the demand for housing units affordable for people making under $15 an hour. My next priority is to fight discrimination and the federal attempts to dismantle Title VII. I will work to enact policy that protects LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination, as Appleton, De Pere, Milwaukee, Madison, and other Wisconsin communities have done. Beyond these priorities, I believe it is important to listen and learn. The role of alderperson is one of servant leadership, to represent the voice of the people of Eau Claire, and as I learn the challenges faced by different sectors in the categories noted, my priorities are likely to change.


CATHERINE EMMANUELLE (incumbent)

Age: 39
Years in Eau Claire: 19
Family: Husband, David Jones; children Reya, Siena, and Nico.
Occupation: Area extension director for UW-Madison, Division of Extension, Chippewa, Dunn, and Eau Claire counties.
Education: Bachelor’s in women’s studies and economics, UW-Eau Claire (2011). Master’s degree in advocacy and political leadership, University of Minnesota-Duluth (2014).
Political experience: Appointed to City Council 2012; elected 2013, 2016.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I am a mom, wife, daughter, and granddaughter – the best roles in a community by far! While on City Council, I’ve been able to lead through board service on the following: Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Eau Claire Inc., Economic Policy Advisory Committee, Visit Eau Claire Board of Directors, chair of the Destination Development Committee (Visit Eau Claire), and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Policy Advisory Council. Aside from city service, I have previous community experience of serving on the Clear Vision Eau Claire Board of Directors, Western Dairyland Parent Policy Committee, and the Luther-Midelfort Family-Centered Care Advisory Council.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

The main component of fostering new jobs is creating an authentic community where employees want to be, which in turn attracts employers who know that they can hire a workforce that loves and stays in their community! I sponsored the food truck policy – a successful initiative that helps start small businesses, benefits local food suppliers, and brings people together around yumminess! My voting record shows I support key components that attract employers: recreation, arts, civic engagement, smart growth, and responsible land use – in a way that is unique to Eau Claire’s identity and helps our community thrive.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

I am an experienced champion for strengthening redevelopment that emphasizes lifting people up. I am the City Council member who serves on the Redevelopment Authority, voted yes for early plans for “block 7” and the “liner building” on North Barstow. This plan will bring high-paying jobs, spaces for small businesses to incubate, an outdoor space for people to gather, and will support the new partnership between the Children’s Museum, The Family Resource Center, and early learning through the Eau Claire School District. If re-elected I’ll continue to support initiatives that improve social conditions, improving lives – for the long run!

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

I’m proud to demonstrate long-standing political courage and collaboration that works toward solutions for our neighbors who struggle to keep a roof over their heads. I’ve supported the city’s efforts to be part of the Affordable Housing Task Force and the first-ever affordable housing listening session. I support a systems-based approach that connects resources for families of all sizes. This includes a tenant and landlord resource center, reinvestment opportunities for neighborhoods, and funding a library social worker positions that help people navigate complex housing circumstances – which was recognized by Gov. Tony Evers as an innovative example in Wisconsin.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 10%

Public safety: 10%

Public transportation: 10%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 1%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 9%

Public health: 10%

Economic development: 10%

Environmental sustainability: 15%

Affordable & available housing: 15%

Other (library & civic engagement initiatives): 10%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

Eau Claire is no exception when it comes to having tight financial resources. Years ago, state leaders restricted local government’s ability to keep up with rising costs, which is why there are so many referendums and wheel taxes. If not for “net new construction” (how a city can increase the levy limit), resources would be more scarce. Net new construction happens with new building/housing development and/or improvements. In 2018, the City Council, staff, and community supported strong economic conditions that resulted in over $187,178,517 in valuation, an increase $39 million above the 15-year average. Reducing taxes may sound politically sexy, however, it is not a fiscal reality once governing due to the inability to keep up with rising costs. Within the budgetary restraints, however, I have and will prioritize sustainability and affordable housing (they are strongly interconnected), protect and lift up core services such as public workers, who keep us safe, connected, and help to facilitate a city we can love. I placed 10 for “other” which includes supporting the library and civic engagement initiatives – such as participatory budgeting that empowers neighborhoods to get involved and helps to create more inclusive and equitable budget-based decisions.


KATE MARTIN (challenger)

Age: 49
Years in Eau Claire: 15+ in the Eau Claire area
Family: Three children – 17, 19, and 21 years of age.
Occupation: Legal secretary at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Klemp.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Northern Iowa.
Political experience: None.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I am a single parent, homeowner/taxpayer, and full-time employee. I am very efficient and fiscally responsible. Setting priorities and making informed decisions are among my highest qualities. I have no personal agenda in running for City Council.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

The city has approved items that have allowed growth. With growth comes opportunity. There are currently job opportunities in Eau Claire.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

The city’s role is to be mindful of all citizens. The city should work with developers so that appropriate projects are initiated.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

Affordable housing has multiple meanings. Often people are really talking about subsidized housing. There is currently a housing inventory shortage in Eau Claire. I envision a development of starter homes – think post-World War II. Simple, owner-occupied, two-bedroom, one-bath homes with just enough basement for storage and shelter. This would allow young working individuals to own property and literally have an investment in our city. In time, these people would start families, get better paying jobs, and upgrade to larger homes. They would also remain in Eau Claire, contributing to local businesses and establishing their roots.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 30%

Public safety: 30%

Public transportation: 7%

Maintaining / reducing taxes: 15%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 2%

Public health: 5%

Economic development: 5%

Environmental sustainability: 1%

Affordable & available housing: 5%

Other: 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

My support has been and will continue to be for the core services of our city. Our city has grown physically, but not in regards to city staff or emergency personnel. This concerns me. These departments have not increased in decades. We are 21 police officers below the state average per capita, and nine officers below the national average. This results in longer and longer wait times for emergency call responses, as they have limited resources and must do their best to prioritize the calls that come in. With growth also comes the need for additional maintenance from our street and utility departments. Safety and maintenance are two things the City Council should not continue to put aside.


DON MOTZING (challenger)

Age: 66
Years in Eau Claire: 30
Family: Spouse, Deb for 38 years; sons Graham (Caitlin) and Noel; two grandsons, Lyle and Sidney.
Occupation: Retired/Part-time sales and logistics consultant for North American Trading, Strum.
Education: Bachelor’s of arts, Oral Roberts University (1974), master’s of arts, Wheaton College (1982).
Political experience: None.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

Common Sense Problem Solver. Collaborative Listener. Consensus Seeker. Engaging Personality. Curious Thinker. Forty-plus years working in wide diversity of positions both the public and private sectors.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

A healthy, growing business community needs much of the same public support as growing, healthy families. This support comes in the form of adequate funding/leadership ensuring the core services of police and first responder protection and publicly provided infrastructure, such as streets, water/sanitation, parks, zoning/planning leadership, etc. Current/future business prospects also require a tax burden that allows for an enterprise to flourish in a competitive business location marketplace. As policy makers, City Council decisions must be made, in consultation with business leaders, in order to balance tax/regulatory implications with the cost of publicly supported infrastructure to current/future business organizations.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

Support redevelopment efforts through the private sector through planning/zoning variations if appropriate, targeting those areas that fit best with the strategic plan of Eau Claire and/or where developers have investment interest. Public financing of infrastructure in redevelopment must be carefully weighed against the cost of such financing to the wider taxpayers’ ability to bear such increases in their taxes, i.e. is the cost in increased taxes to the citizen worth cost of publicly financed infrastructure improvements?

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

By comparison to other municipalities, housing in Eau Claire is relatively affordable. As wages increase due to low unemployment levels, housing will therefore become more affordable. Job growth (economic development) will move that needle. Council can also work with the private sector by implementing appropriate zoning changes to make alternative housing more attractive to develop (twin home, smaller homes, mobile homes, mixed income apartments), thereby increasing the inventory of affordable housing. Eau Claire should not become an investor in public housing. The private sector has met the need of creating housing for over 100 years, it should not start now.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 20%

Public safety: 25%

Public transportation: 5%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 20%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 5%

Public health: 5%

Economic development: 20%

Environmental sustainability: 0%

Affordable & available housing: 5%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

1) Highest priority of any governing body is protecting its citizens. 2) Next priority is fully providing services taxpayers actually pay for and expect. 3) Robust economic development provides the enhanced tax base to fund local government. 4) Minimize tax increase to match citizens’ ability to pay them. 5) Public health is a public good, due to the aggregate citizen protective characteristics, but also has some redundancy with the county funded public health program. 6) Public parks should be maintained, cultural amenities should be privately funded. (Who defines what is “culture” and what is not?) 7) Affordable housing should be addressed by the private sector and supported by planning and zoning cooperation. 8) Public transportation should not be expanded since it is such a extraordinarily high (80%) taxpayer funded program. 9) Environmental sustainability will take care of itself as energy saving and alternative energy sourcing technology evolves to be cost effective (i.e., LED lighting).


DALE POYNTER (challenger)

Age: 60
Years in Eau Claire: 29
Family: Wife, Jane; sons Christian, Stephen, David.
Occupation: Architect
Education: M Arch, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) 1982; BS-Arch Studies, magna cum laude, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), 1980.
Political experience: Vice-Chair of Eau Claire Landmarks Commission (appointed, 3 years).

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

Parent, homeowner (taxpayer), businessman. I possess (and rely on) common sense, and believe in the importance of fiscal responsibility and personal accountability, for politicians and citizens alike. I believe my background and life experiences have prepared me for positions of leadership. Implementing creative problem solving with groups is exactly what I do for a living. I am a good listener, and I recognize the need to have input from others in order to make use of their experience and understanding. I believe that the first and highest priority of government is to protect its citizens and preserve their rights.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

Government can best foster economic growth and business development by placing the fewest obstacles in the way of a free market, while affording protection from theft, fraud, etc. It is not the responsibility of government to assure certain outcomes. It is the role of government to act as an impartial umpire or judge, working to assure an “even playing field” – equal opportunity for all participants. While I do not think it should be a requirement, I think the city should consider giving priority for local services whenever possible – or at least not exclude them out of hand.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

It is certainly within the scope of good city government to support the efforts of existing businesses in our area, as well as to attract responsible business and commercial interests by promoting our community as the outstanding city that it in fact has become. Although I think the recent efforts of public, private and higher education working together for our community have been successful, and have served as a positive model for other communities, we must be more careful about our use of TIF districts and the extent to which our public coffers are utilized to subsidize private ventures.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

There has been a great deal of recent publicity regarding “affordable” housing, and while it is a pressing issue, I am unsure that the data has been fairly represented. Eau Claire’s housing is more affordable than that in most other cities in our state, but incomes are lower. Encouraging growth in business to allow for higher earnings should be part of a broader solution to the larger problem. Addressing housing specifically, I believe that making some thoughtful changes regarding how we define single-family homes and their related size, lot size, and other zoning requirements might be a helpful strategy.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 20%

Public safety: 25%

Public transportation: 8%

Maintaining / reducing taxes: 12%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 12%

Public health: 5%

Economic development: 10%

Environmental sustainability: 4%

Affordable & available housing: 4%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

My prioritization was simply an attempt to quantify what I believe to be the proper functions and scope of local government. The principle functions of city government include providing Law Enforcement, Fire Protection Services, and Public Works; helping to develop a strong local community by promoting a robust business climate and developing healthy recreational opportunities; and providing other services promoting public health and safety. With respect to a specific list of defined services, state and county governments have been assigned the responsibility of providing community health and social services, and a considerable amount of our tax dollars already go to the county to provide those services. Many important concerns (including affordable housing and environmental sustainability) should more properly involve voluntary levels of commitment on the part of private business, personal enterprise and existing (or new) community groups and nonprofits – with the support and encouragement of city government. This is markedly different from government mandating costly and sometimes onerous requirements on businesses and manufacturers, particularly when the results are often of little long-term measurable consequence.


KYLE WOODMAN (challenger)

Age: 33
Years in Eau Claire: Resident of Eau Claire for a total of 15 years.
Family: Wife, Crystal, and 6-month-old, Alexander.
Occupation: Heavy equipment operator and a caregiver. I also own a business caring for developmentally disabled and elderly people.
Education: GED (Chippewa Valley Technical College), associate’s degree in theology (Purpose Institute).
Political Experience: None.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I am a great listener. The members of Eau Claire City Council should listen to the needs and concerns of the people and be willing to meet in the middle to find solutions that work for everyone. I’m also a great negotiator, and I work best in high-stress environments, so if there is an issue that is causing division, I will see the best in both sides and find a compromise that we can agree on. I will not be a council member who interjects my own agenda or partisan ideas on the city. I will lead by listening.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

Jobs are created when there is innovation, entrepreneurial activity, and business growth. Policymakers at the regional and municipal levels are closer to the sources of innovation. Innovation in the form of start-up activity tends to occur in large metropolitan areas, initially without the involvement of policymakers. While an enabling policy may not be a precondition for seeding entrepreneurial activity, it may become more critical when taking entrepreneurial activity to scale. To flourish, entrepreneurial activity requires a concentration of talent, infrastructure, capital, and networks. It’s the city’s role to provide an infrastructure that is conducive to economic growth.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

City governments play a pivotal role in helping community developers to revitalize low-income neighborhoods. Cities set local development priorities and allocate public funds to affordable housing and other community development initiatives. They decide whether or not to make community development corporations their primary development partners. And they oversee the disbursement of land, housing, and other city-owned resources. Rare is the developer that can move forward in neighborhood development without active city government participation. I intend to work closely with developers who will be willing to revitalize run-down neighborhoods and work towards solving housing issues in our city.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

When I get on the City Council I plan to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build 150 affordable housing units. My goal is to place 30 of them in each of the five districts of our city to make it easier for residents to get to work. These units will be placed in areas that are easily accessible to public transportation. Once these units are built they will be owned and managed by the city and will be available for anyone to live in for 30% of their income.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 16%

Public safety: 16%

Public transportation: 4%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 4%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 12%

Public health: 4%

Economic development: 15%

Environmental sustainability: 13%

Affordable & available housing: 13%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

I gave infrastructure 16 points and public safety 16 points because those are the two fundamental things that the city is supposed to provide its citizens. I also gave economic development 16 points because once we have our safety and infrastructure in place, the city needs to create an environment for businesses to thrive in to create jobs for its citizens. Once we have a safe city, quality infrastructure, and lucrative jobs we will need available housing so I gave that 13 points. I believe it’s very important to operate a city in a way that is sustainable and is safe for the environment so I also gave that 13 points along with our recreational and cultural opportunities. Next on my priority list is maintaining/reducing taxes. If everything else I previously listed is in tip-top shape we should have plenty of revenue to maintain everything, so managing the budget to reduce taxes would be something to consider. Last on the list was public health and public transportation. They are both important but if you don’t have a job, home, or park to go to you don’t need public transportation. Everything on the list is important and everything has its place.


City Council President Candidates


TERRY WELD

Age: 58
Years in Eau Claire: 45
Family: Married with four children and two grandchildren
Occupation: Real estate agent with Donnellan Real Estate
Education: Bachelor of science degree from UW-Stout
Political experience: Two years as an at-large City Council member. Six years on Plan Commission, the last three years as chair.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I have lived in Eau Claire for the past 45 years. Public service is very important to me, and I have gained valuable experience in public sector positions. I have served on the City Council since April 2017 and before that on the Plan Commission for six years, the last three as chair. During that period we oversaw some of the greatest and most significant development in the city’s history. I also served on the Transit Commission, Waterways and Parks Commission, and the City/County Board of Health. I was also president of the Children’s Museum founding board of directors.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

The city has an important role in providing the infrastructure that employers need to create businesses that will thrive. We need to continue to recruit new business and industry, and to that end utilize our business and industrial parks to the fullest potential. We also need to retain the employers we have and offer support where we can. We need to fill vacant retail buildings and continue the revitalization efforts downtown and around the city. Because quality of life is a main factor in deciding where to locate a business, we need to continue to support the arts and recreation.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

Successful redevelopment efforts require planning. The process is challenging. For example, while the city must continue to maintain and update streets, sidewalks, alleys and utilities, we must also prepare to respond to redevelopment efforts like those downtown with policies that meet the needs of all residents. Successful redevelopment efforts may need zoning changes that reduce minimum lot size, decrease residential parking requirements, and change building setbacks. All of this could better accommodate development within the city to meet future needs in an affordable fashion. Residents, developers, neighborhood associations, business improvement districts must all be included in the planning process.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

The demand for affordable housing across a wide range of incomes and demographics exceeds the current supply in our city. I will work to incorporate the Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force recommendations and action plan into our city planning. The city can take the lead to work with developers and neighborhood associations to improve the existing housing stock and encourage infill housing projects. Finally, we can use the resources of TIF No. 12 and partner with organizations such as the Randall Park Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation to encourage new housing projects.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 11%

Public safety: 11%

Public transportation: 11%

Maintaining / reducing taxes: 11%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 11%

Public health: 11%

Economic development: 11%

Environmental sustainability: 11%

Affordable & available housing: 11%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

I distributed the money evenly to point out that we don’t prioritize one department over the other; rather we allocate funds according to what each department needs to provide basic services. Also, not all of these departments are funded in the same way. Some, like the Police Department, rely primarily on the levy. Others, like the Health Department, get about half of its funding from grants. Still others, like recreation, depend in part on user fees. The proportion of taxpayer funds given to each department can also change over time as new goals and needs arise. For example, Community Services will put some additional focus on housing issues. However, the city’s mission is to “assure the common good through services essential for a safe, sustainable, engaged, and healthy community.” To that end, all of these departments need to be funded such that they can fulfill the mission.


ANDREW WERTHMANN

Age: 36
Years in Eau Claire: 19
Family: Wife, Kerri.
Occupation: Federal policy consultant to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, UW-Eau Claire.
Political experience: 10 years on the City Council and currently the acting City Council president.

What unique qualities or skills do you possess that set you apart from the field?

I’m the longest serving council member, elected in 2009. I’ve been the acting council president since the resignation of former President Kerry Kincaid last summer. Professionally, I’m a federal policy consultant to The Pew Charitable Trusts. I work across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to protect communities from flooding and to fund our National Parks. My qualifications include my record and results. We’ve enacted bold economic policies that helped create over 3,000 new jobs, drop unemployment from 8.8% to 2.2%, eliminated downtown’s 60% vacancy rate, and grown property values by hundreds of millions of dollars.

What role should the city play in creating job opportunities?

As we’ve seen, future employees and entrepreneurs choose to come to Eau Claire for our award-winning quality of life. Thus, real fiscally responsible leadership means knowing when to expand public services to make our community a place where future employees and entrepreneurs will be excited to live, work, and start businesses. In today’s global economy, we’re leveraging that competitive advantage to keep and attract world-renowned businesses like Jamf, Drylock, Menards, Presto, and many others. These businesses can locate anywhere, but they choose Eau Claire over cheaper tax climates like places in Alabama or Mississippi.

What role should the city play in local redevelopment efforts?

Our downtown once had a 60% vacancy rate. Today over one-fourth of all jobs are located downtown. We’ve added hundreds of millions of dollars to our tax base through record growth. It’s because of our council’s active role in redevelopment that we’ve become a destination community, a place where folks want to come live, work, start a family, and grow a business. Successful redevelopment requires strong partnerships with our Redevelopment Authority as well as public, private, and non-profit partners. And it must include a focus on affordable housing, a diversity of job opportunities, and incentives that encourage living wage jobs.

What can (or should) the city do to ensure affordable, accessible housing for all residents?

Affordable housing is one of the most pressing issue our city faces. Every day we wait to act is another day someone could be out in the cold. Public safety is one of the primary roles of our city, and no one can truly feel safe without a stable and affordable place to live. In addition to changing setback and zoning policies, I support creating a permanent Affordable Housing Commission. That way experts and folks with lived experiences can examine every development and law on the books to ensure we are able to include affordable housing in every project possible.

Your Priorities ...

Infrastructure: 10%

Public safety: 10%

Public transportation: 10%

Maintaining/reducing taxes: 10%

Recreational & cultural opportunities: 10%

Public health: 10%

Economic development: 10%

Environmental sustainability: 10%

Affordable & available housing: 20%

Other (please specify): 0%

Please explain why you organized your priorities as you did.

All of these are important to creating a bright and vibrant community. However, 46% of our friends and neighbors are living paycheck to paycheck, just one car repair or medical bill from not being able to keep a roof of their head. We have 300 school children classified as homeless. We have brothers and sisters sleeping on the streets tonight. We need to be taking bold steps to lift up everyone in our community and that starts with making sure everyone has a roof over their head. That’s why we added positions at the library after a month of respectful debate and public input – one to help those experiencing homelessness and the other to increase literacy for our at-risk children. It’s why we held our first ever public hearing on Affordable Housing. I’m also proud to announce that this March our Affordable Housing Task Force delivered a set of 30 different reforms to encourage more development of affordable housing, including zoning changes, setback and lot size reductions, public/private financing, and reductions in parking requirements.

As acting president I’ve helped lead our city’s focus on these important issues and will continue our progress if elected April 2.

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