fbpx

More news. Less fluff. All local.

Election Q&A: Wausau City Council Dist. 11

in News

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review will publish a series of Q&As in the days leading up to the April 3 spring election for contested seats in the Wausau metro area. For a sample ballot and general election information, visit the Marathon County election information page. Watch for more election coverage and be sure to bookmark our elections page here. Candidates, listed in alphabetical order, were given the opportunity to answer identical questions in the interest of fairness. Their unedited answers are listed below.

Letters to the editor are encouraged through Monday, April 2. Email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com.

Reporting by Raymond Neupert


Wausau City Council, District 11

Patrick Bacher, Challenger

Age 50, case manager at North Central Health Care

Question: Why are you running for office?

Answer: I feel like I’m engaged and energized in the city of Wausau. I’ve lived here for 15 years. I’d like to see collegiality on the council, people working to solve the issues at hand and not have division.

Q: What do you think should be the city council’s top priority this year?

A: I think the big focus for the city is going to be what is going to happen with the mall property and how are we going to keep our downtown vital and viable. One of the things I’ve heard from a lot of people is “How did Wausau fail the mall?” and my view is that Wausau didn’t fail the mall. The mall as a concept has failed nationwide.  If the city owns it, they can sell the land, but I’d rather see outside investors come in and saying “This is valuable property, we could do this with it.” And then spending their own money and not city dollars.- As long as an investment makes sense.

Q: Other issues that I think are important?

A: I think the city needs to address homelessness and the opioid epidemic. There’s ‘people concerns’. The city isn’t just about buildings and tax collection.

Q: Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

A: Outside of the mall, I think we have a fantastic downtown. I think that there’s terrific shops, we have the theater, there’s live music, there’s a wide variety of things to do and eat. The 400 Block brings in such a crowd every week, sometimes there’s too many people. What would I change? I would just try to find a good use for the property the mall is occupying.

Q: There has been some controversy about the riverfront development and how the city handles the RFP process. Do you think the city has handled this issue appropriately in the past? What, if anything, would you change for future projects?

A: I’ve only gone to a finance meeting to learn more about the projects so I don’t know the full scope. Certainly we need to vet the investors that are leading the projects, if it turns out that’s great but there were a number of surprises along the way with who was involved. There should be a vetting process before that happens again, like background checks.

Q: What’s more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial space or better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

A: My personal feeling is that the core of the city needs some help. The old business districts like Third Avenue and various spots on the East Side need more use. As far as new housing, I’m not too sure in the actual city of Wausau if there’s room to build, but if private investors or private builders want to build that’s terrific. Anything that can build up the tax base here in Wausau is good.

Q: How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? How would you improve upon them?

A: I think that Wausau’s working well with the buses. I work with a population through my job that really utilizes that bus system, and I think that busing is important. I think that our neighboring metro areas are really missing out by not having a bus system. People who take buses spend money and go to doctor’s appointments and buy groceries. I know that there’s been trouble with Weston and Rib Mountain refusing the busing, but I think the city is solid right now. If there’s any way to coordinate with the surrounding municipalities, I think that will be a priority.

Q: How do you plan to involve residents in decision-making in our city?

A: I work in adult mental health and I’m a listener, and I’d like to hear what people have to say. I’m certainly available. I know that in my district itself, there’s neighborhood groups. Those meetings are really important, it’s a way for people to get and give feedback. But just being open to feedback and acting professionally will help.

Q: If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

A: There’s so many ways to look at that. You’re asking a wish, so I would say keep expanding the riverwalk. It’s made the inner part of the city enjoyable for recreation and exercise. It’s vibrant and enjoyable and it’s drawing in younger professionals. And I think that’s a key to the city’s future.

Q: Do you believe the city council’s decisions and actions along Thomas Street were appropriate? What, if anything, would you have done differently?

A: That whole process was dragged out for decades, it would have been great if there had been a decision a long time ago. I think that the residents weren’t treated fairly or heard. I completely understand their anger with the city, but I’m happy that people are finally being given some answers. They didn’t know if they could sell their homes, if it was going to be razed, no one would have purchased those homes. They also had that violation with the state, and that’s a step that shouldn’t have been omitted because that cost more money.

Q: Anything else you’d like voters to know?

A: I’m going to bring new energy to the board! I’m a positive person and I really care about the community. I want to see things keep getting better, and moving in a progressive direction for the city.


Dennis Smith, Incumbent

Retired, former police officer; U.S. Armed Forces veteran; former marketing executive in window and door industry

Question: Why are you running for office?

Answer: I am running for reelection because I feel that the still has many things to need to accomplish and I want to lend whatever assistance I can in doing so.

Q: What do you think should be the city council’s top priority this year?

A: Our main priority should be getting our fiscal house in order and reducing our debt load.

Q: Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

A: I think the downtown is doing just fine and will continue to do so, no matter what happens to the mall.

Q: There has been some controversy about the riverfront development and how the city handles the RFP process. Do you think the city has handled this issue appropriately in the past? What, if anything, would you change for future projects?

A: The city has done a very poor job in vetting the various players who have come and gone from the RiverLife project. After two years the developer is still working to put together the necessary financing even though the city has already spent over $372,000.00 of taxpayer money on the project. The city needs to do a better job in choosing the developers with we partner.

Q: What’s more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial space or better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts?

A: It is not the job of the city to build homes or commercial space. It is the job of the city to partner with developers to construct whatever project they feel is needed to fill a particular need. However, I would like to see some development take place to create affordable rental housing for an under-served section of our population.

Q: How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? How would you improve upon them?

A: Mass transit is a definite need for our community, but Wausau cannot do it all. We need to work toward developing a mass transit system that services the surrounding communities. But it will take the support of those communities, and so far, that support has been lacking.

Q: How do you plan to involve residents in decision-making in our city?

A: I attend two different neighborhood group meeting each month. I also devote one Saturday a month and visit a different section of my district speaking with its residents to hear their concerns and advise them matters that have come before the council.

Q: If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

A: I would devote the funds to our roads. Roads are a very important element of any metropolitan area and are used by thousands of people each day.

Q: Do you believe the city council’s decisions and actions along Thomas Street were appropriate? What, if anything, would you have done differently?

A: I was not a big fan of stage 1 of the Thomas street project. But when I was elected that stage of that project was already past the point of no return. I also feel that most residents that were impacted by stage 1 never fully embraced the project and from comments I have heard they are not all that happy with the finished product.

Stage 2 has been a contentious project from day one. I am still not totally convinced if the project makes sense or is even totally safe for the residents along the project path or those who live in the surrounding area.

Q: Anything else you’d like voters to know?

A: Just that I enjoy serving the residents of my district and will always keep their concerns and goals in my thoughts and actions.

 

Latest from News

Go to Top
%d bloggers like this: