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Election Q&A: Wausau City Council, Dist. 6

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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 6

Tamera DeGroot, Challenger

Age 34, attorney for Liberty Mutual. Former Assistant District Attorney in Marathon County.

Question: Why are you running for office?

Answer: I am running to make Wausau a better place to live. Wausau’s debt has grown exponentially in the last three years. The city needs to change course to ensure financial sustainability.

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

A: Fiscal responsibility. City Council needs to focus on fiscal responsibility to make Wausau sustainable. On January 1, 2015, the city’s debt was $48 million. By January 2017, Wausau’s debt was $75 million. Current debt is over $84 million. (See Wausau’s Finance Committee 3/13/18 Meeting Packet.)

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

A: The mall, a cornerstone of the downtown, is not healthy. Wausau needs to look outside retail chains to fill the mall.  However, many small businesses are thriving. Employers have anchored our downtown for decades.

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: Wausau should have a list of investors with contributions, future business plans, past business plans and respective plan outcomes, and business financial records.

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

A: Transparency is key. Citizens should have easy access to information. Information should be accessible on Wausau’s website and social media. Wausau should limit their use of closed session meetings.

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: Be prompt. Wausau should have done thorough environmental testing when the project was initially proposed. Transparency. Wausau should have obtained and released documents from related civil litigation to citizens. Be informed. Federal guidelines should have been followed by the city when buying property on Thomas Street. This would have retained up to $2.7 in federal funding toward Thomas Street construction.

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

A: I moved to Wausau 10 years ago to begin my legal career. I am a voice for young professionals moving to Wausau and staying. My experience as a prosecutor and civil attorney will be an asset. I will advocate for open government, innovation, and fiscal responsibility.


Becky McElhaney, Incumbent

Age 55, registered nurse, works in case management for home health care

Question: Why are you running for office?

Answer: I am running for re-election to  continue working for the residents of District 6  neighborhood issues of speeding, road conditions, adding recreational spaces such as a permanent ice rink and other issues. I will continue safeguarding the taxpayers by ensuring prudent use of tax dollars for economic development projects which increase jobs and tax base, while insisting on due diligence is completed on all developers and investors who request taxpayer assistance. I will also continue to push for more transparency in our local government so to encourage resident participation in government decision making using their tax dollars.

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

A: We need to prioritize our ED projects so to find a way to rein in our exploding debt.

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

A: The mall is of course not doing well as we lost our last anchor Younkers this Spring. The repurposing of the mall needs to be a priority and we need to hear from the mall’s owners and Mid America Management (mall’s manager) what plans or outreach they have done or plan to implement to see this through. We also need to find a new owner for the Sears building sooner rather than later. Development at the Sears location could be a stimulus to start the repurposing of more of the mall’s empty spaces. The River District remains vibrant and active and with the new riverfront developments, park and walkway and the 400 block our downtown is strong.

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 believe there have been some stumbles regarding the past RFP process and what vetting needs to happen when developers request taxpayer funds. I would like to see vetting for both the developer and the investors to assure successful previous and current projects, financial stability ensuring  no legal or financial problems which could harm either the project and/or endanger taxpayer funds.

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: I don’t believe an either or is a choice as both are important.  We need to grow Wausau’s tax base with new homes and commercial space both an important part of the solution. We also need to continue to  address needs in blighted neighborhoods encouraging both residential and commercial rehab projects.

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

A: I would like to see an increase in bus transit including routes to other municipalities in the area and extended bus routes and times. I have heard from too many residents who due to various reasons are without transportation to There is a need for public to get to jobs, shopping and medical appointments. I know of one young man who does not drive who has walked to work from Weston to Culver’s in Wausau for his shifts, as cabs are too expensive  I am happy to see the discussion with surrounding municipalities continuing in hopes of increasing transportation choices across our area, as it will make us stronger as a community.

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

A: I have always been readily available to my residents answering every phone call, email or letter with followup contacts regarding their concerns. I attend every neighborhood meeting in both my neighborhoods, giving updates and receiving feedback  on city business. I have a group on Nextdoor in Riverview updating residents on city business and requesting feedback on potential ordinances etc. I will continue all of the above, as I cannot properly represent my resident’s will if I do not know their views and opinions.

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 have consistently voted no on the Phase II of Thomas Street for a number of reasons. I am not entirely convinced all the environmental concerns have been addressed. If the contamination is found remediation will be needed and this will increase both the cost and the possibility of further problems of spreading contamination. I also believe this project’s cost both monetarily and the lost houses through imminent domain is a high cost for reducing accidents by 26%.  There was no consideration given to remain in the same footprint while replacing the needed sewer/water infrastructure.

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

A: It has been my honor to serve as District 6’s Alderperson for the past two years.


 

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