By Roger Utnehmer
Voters in two Sturgeon Bay aldermanic districts will eliminate one candidate in next Tuesday's primary election.
In district 6, incumbent Stewart Fett is being challenged by Lauri Fish and Seth Wiederanders.
Fish and Wiederanders are running out of frustration with the current operation of city government. Fish cites what she calls "blatant disregard by several members of the council for the community." She says she wants to be part of a council that respects citizens and welcomes input.
Wiederanders says the people of Sturgeon Bay are being misrepresented at every level of government.
Fett cites his seven years experience on the council as a reason he is the best candidate in the race. Fett has voted with the council majority in support of the controversial west-side waterfront hotel project and recent efforts to remove the Teweles and Brandeis granary.
Fish says it's time to take a look back and re-evaluate development plans. Wiederanders proposes a satellite college campus already linked to a university and says Sturgeon Bay does not need another hotel.
A more detailed story about the candidates in district 6 is available at DoorCountyDailyNews.com along with a district map and complete unedited answers to ten questions submitted to candidates by DoorCountyDailyNews.com. Tomorrow we will report on the primary election in District 2.
Fett does not support the elimination of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority. Fish would eliminate the WRA and says five-year terms are too long. According to Fish, unelected officials have too much power. Wiederanders supports a review of the WRA and suggests its powers only be advisory to the council if it is kept in place.
Fett expressed caution about removing dirt piles from the city's west-side waterfront. He said removing the dirt would be expensive and is concerned spreading could result in clean fill becoming dirty. Fish said the city has the equipment and should move the dirt off the site. Wiederanders said the dirt piles are "inexcusable." He suggested moving the fill to North 14th Avenue for storage until it can be utilized.
Both Fish and Wiederanders feel the city is wasting money on legal fees through unnecessary litigation that could be better spent on street construction and maintenance. Fett said the government is based on the rule of law and sometimes legal counsel is needed to avoid complications.
Fish proposes a county-wide fire department to cut costs rather than combining fire and police chief positions as a public safety director. Wiederanders also supports at least looking into a county-wide fire department under one chief. He also says he supports streamlining in both fire and police departments to save taxpayers money. Fett opposes adding a level of administration he says a public safety director would create.
Polls will open in Sturgeon Bay from 7am to 8pm on Tuesday, February 20th. SBDist6Map
Stewart Fett's response:
I have served as Alderman for the city of Sturgeon Bay for seven years, Sturgeon Bay Utilities President for ten years and a member of the Sturgeon Bay Utilities Commission for thirteen. I am chairperson of the Finance/Purchasing & Building Committee and the Board of Public Works. I serve on the Parks Committee, Recreation Committee, Loan, Review/Revolving Loan Committee and Personnel Committee. Past Government ExperienceChair, Cable Communication System Advisory CouncilChair, Community Protection & Service CommitteeMember, Parking & Traffic CommitteeMember, Harbor CommissionMember, Waterfront Redevelopment Authority
- Basic background information
Community involvement: I am a member of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Door County and on their executive board. I volunteer on The Boys & Girls Club facilities committee. I serve the community as a member of Loaves and Fishes and the Sturgeon Bay Lions Club. I am a member of St. Joseph Parish where I assist as an usher and Eucharistic Minister. I, along with my wife Theresa, conduct communion services at several assisted living facilities in Sturgeon Bay on a monthly basis.
2. Why do you want to serve in public office?I believe I am the best candidate to serve District 6 on the City Council for the following reasons. First, I have been a resident of the city of Sturgeon Bay for 33 years. Second, through my positions as Alderman on the city council and its various committees, my involvement in community organizations and the volunteer positions I hold, I have witnessed many different perspectives of the city. Third, I have gained significant experience being a member of the city council. During the past 7 years I have worked hard to provide increased economic opportunity to the citizens of Sturgeon Bay by cultivating a climate where existing businesses like Cadence Inc., Therma-Tron-X, Wire Tech, Hatco, and Pro Products Inc. were able to expand their business. Overall, the value of the Industrial Park grew by 9.2 million dollars from 2014 through 2017, a 28% increase. Fourth, I served on the Parks Committee which invested in the waterfront parkway that extends from Memorial Drive to Stone Harbor and from Sawyer Park to Obtumba Park for our citizens and tourists to have easy access and enjoy our many city parks. Lastly, I listen to the people who live in this fine city and I will continue to do so. I use their input to form my decisions on what is needed, so we as a community continue to grow, prosper and enhance our quality of life.
3. Will you support evening meetings of the Sturgeon Bay City Council? Why or why not? I have served on both the city council and the Sturgeon Bay Utilities Commission. I have attended morning, noon, afternoon, and evening meetings. Sturgeon Bay has a full service hospital, a vibrant manufacturing base and active tourist industry; all work around the clock. Unfortunately, there is no meeting time that will accommodate all of our citizens. However, I understand our citizens want to be able to attend the meetings so they can be more involved in the direction the city is going. If a change in the meeting time will increase the opportunity to be involved in the way that they want, I would support changing the meeting time.
5. Would you support a study to evaluate the combination of city fire and police chief positions into a public safety director position? Today's police force deals with many types of crimes, including fraud, theft, physical abuse, an opioid epidemic, just to name a few. This requires them to be experts in their field. Our Fire Department deals with fire, water, high angle, confined space rescues and modern firefighting techniques. I believe adding a level of administration is not what the taxpayers expect.This idea comes around every few years. Most recently the City examined this concept in 2011. If there were cause to investigate and explore the concept then I might be amenable to such a study.
6. What will you do to get rid of the ugly dirt piles on the Sturgeon Bay west side waterfront? The dirt piles are a result of litigation preventing the redevelopment of the former Co-op property. The piles were originally placed there in anticipation of the cap required by the DNR as part of the voluntary party liability exemption, as well as flood plain protection. While it is easy to say the piles should be moved, it would be at a significant expense and could mean that the materials couldn't later be reused without significant environmental testing. Likewise, spreading the piles out on the site without knowing precisely where they should be could make the clean fill become mixed with the existing soils, which would result in the clean fill becoming dirty.
7. What can you do as a city council member to bring factions of the community together? Our city is made up of diverse people with diverse ideas. One of the greatest challenges in modern city governance is communication with the public. For years, newspaper, television and radio were the principal means of mass communication, all that has changed. For interested people, residents can now watch a council or plan commission meeting from the comfort of their own home, via both the City's cable access channel and live streaming on the City's website. Minutes and recorded meetings are posted on the website as well and current updates are given on the city's social media Facebook page. The city has invested monies in public communications infrastructure. Continued investment in modern communication technology and methods is imperative for engaging the citizenry and delivering the best possible services. Also, civility is an important factor if strong commitments and ideas are going to be communicated and considered. I will make the point that the citizens of Sturgeon Bay agree on 90% of issues; such as the need for street improvements, economic development, community fire and police protection and the need for a nice business district spanning the east and west side.
8. Do you share the belief expressed by some that city government is wasting money on legal fees incurred through unnecessary litigation that could be better spent on street construction and maintenance? Civil society and hence governance is based on the rule of law, and sometimes the legal issues can become very complex, very quickly and adequate legal counsel is needed to avoid further complications or worse, violating the law itself. The City's general annual legal expenses are under $45,000 per year. Legal fees and street maintenance are generally born out of two separate funds, or pots of money, if you will; they are the General Fund and the Capital Fund.Sometimes, in special circumstances special legal counsel is required, but that is the exception, rather than rule. With respect to street maintenance and improvements expenses, the City currently spends about $750,000.0 on streets and needs to increase that by $720,000.00 per year to get streets from a 55 year replacement rate down to 25-30 year replacement rate. The underlying need for additional street improvement funding is not only in Sturgeon Bay but across the State of Wisconsin as well.
9. What are the major issues facing the City of Sturgeon Bay? Providing economic opportunities to families must be our number one priority. My service on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Door County has raised my awareness of the alarming number of children who qualify for free or subsidized lunch. To provide better paying job opportunities we must build an environment that enables our businesses to succeed and grow. Many of our hard-working citizens are now reaching retirement age. This will provide opportunities for our youth. We must do all that we can to ensure that our youth recognize and are prepared to seize these opportunities. Along with the idea of attracting young people to relocate or stay in Sturgeon Bay, the city must continue to address the housing shortage.
10. What are your views on west-side waterfront development?It is my opinion that the undeveloped portion of the West Waterfront is a great opportunity for the City of Sturgeon Bay, which is why I voted to purchase the property in 2012. This property presents an opportunity to construct great public space connecting Sawyer Park to the south and the Maritime Museum to the north without increasing the property taxes of the residents and business owners in the City of Sturgeon Bay. The other pieces of the redeveloped West Waterfront, from Sawyer Harbor to Obtumba Park are a great testament to the City's successful use of tax incremental financing and an asset to the businesses and residents of the west side and all of the Sturgeon Bay and Door County.
The Waterfront Redevelopment Authority serves an important role in the City of Sturgeon Bay. Originally established in 1990, the WRA has been the vehicle to help the City identify, analyze and pursue redevelopment opportunities in the City. The City's WRA authority is significantly less than what is authorized by statute, making them more of an advisory board than independent authority. Eliminating the WRA would mean reducing the opportunity for citizens to serve, provide valuable input, and reduce opportunities for participation in decision making in the City of Sturgeon Bay. I would not support any move to reduce opportunity for citizen participation in local government and oppose the concentration of power in an elective body subject to the political whims of the day.
- Would you support or oppose the elimination of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority and the assumption of its responsibilities by the council or planning commission?
Lauri Fish's response:
My entire career in corporate environments has prepared me for the challenges that face city council. Communication and negotiation are key elements in any successful business. Also, my years of experience in accounting has prepared me for understanding of the finance requirements of the city budget.
- Please begin by sharing some basic background information that qualifies you for the city council.
I've been to several city council meetings and I've seen the blatant disregard by several of the council members for the community. I want to be part of a council that respects the citizens they work for and welcomes their input, even if they don't always agree with it. 3. Will you support evening meetings of the Sturgeon Bay City Council? Why or why not?Yes. Many people have voiced their desire for evening meetings, and I would support that. Many people can't attend noon meetings due to work. 4. Would you support a study to evaluate the combination of city fire and police chief positions into a public safety director position?I would support a study to evaluate it, however, I would likely not be interested in combining fire and police chief positions because they are very different jobs.A county wide fire department where the expenses are shared by all communities in the county would be a better fit. As a year-round town of 9000+ citizens and many more during the summer season, I feel we should maintain our own police department.
- Why do you want to serve in public office?
We already have the equipment we need...move them and store them off-site.
- What will you do to get rid of the ugly dirt piles on the Sturgeon Bay west-side waterfront?
A lot can be done to open lines of communication and restore trust within the community. Listening sessions, answering communications, respecting others point of view. People will not always agree, but open dialogue and the input of various points of view are key to a successful community.
- What can you do as a city council member to bring factions of the community together?
Yes. When I heard "Oh well, we've been sued before" come out of the mayor's mouth at a council meeting a few months ago, that's when I started to consider running for city council. There has been a lot of such waste of city funds and we need a council that keeps the long-term welfare of the city above their own agenda.
- Do you share the belief expressed by some that city government is wasting money on legal fees incurred through unnecessary litigation that could be better spent on street construction and maintenance?
Aside from the obvious issues such as roads and housing, trust and transparency need to be restored to city government.
- What are the major issues facing the City of Sturgeon Bay?
I think we all need to take a step back and re-evaluate the best way to move forward with development plans. The city no longer has any real plans for the westside waterfront beyond their determination to destroy the granary. Any improvements should be scaled to fit the community and the businesses that are already there. I would like to look back to the recommendations of the consultants on the original plan and find a proper balance of economic and community development.
- What are your views on west-side waterfront development?
I would support the elimination of the WRA. Their terms are too long – 5 years, they are appointed – not elected officials and they have too much power.
- Would you support or oppose the elimination of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority and the assumption of its responsibilities by the council or planning commission?
Seth Wiederanders' response:
1. Basic background information.
Single, never married
Class of 1991, SBHS
Resident of District 6 since 2001
Certified Peer Specialist and Resource Coordinator at JAKs Place(A program of Lakeshore CAP)
Board member of League of Women Voters of Door County
Comprehensive Community Services Regional Steering Committee
Lakeshore CAP Board and Executive/Finance Committee 2009-2016
Comprehensive Community Services/Coordinate Services Team/Children's Community Options Committee
2. Why do I want to serve in public office?
I am a long time student of politics and policy. I believe that we are currently misrepresented at every level of government. My generation and younger people need to get involved. Social media is a great way to get new ideas out but change will only happen when younger people choose to act. I would like to do my part at the local level by representing District 6 on the City Council.
3. Evening meetings? Why or why not.
I support evening meetings so that more working people can attend, observe, and participate.
4. Would I support a study to evaluate adding a Public Safety Director instead of City Fire and Police Chiefs?
I assume the study would be to evaluate the current Chiefs positions in order to cut costs. I am in favor of streamlining to save money. I would suggest a study to look at combining of the positions of SB Police Chief and Door County Sheriff and the possible combining of the Fire Departments of Door County under one Chief. Streamlining and reducing administration costs are tactics I would support.
5. What to do with the dirt piles?
It is inexcusable that this issue persists. Clean fill is an asset to the city and I think it could be used elsewhere. Maybe we could move it to the Municipal property on 14th Ave for storage until it can be utilized.
6. What can I do as a city council member to bring factions of the community together?
I would encourage each council member to actively seek out interested constituents in their districts and make the effort to meet with them. I believe that accurate and honest representation is possible and that transparent governing will bring the community together.
7. Do I agree that city government is wasting money on legal fees incurred through unnecessary litigation that could be better spent on street construction and maintenance?
Yes. I don't think the lawsuits would have been filed if the city government had been more cautious in its decisions concerning the west side waterfront. There were clearly steps in the process that were not taken in the hopes that no one would dig into the legal implications of building on protected land and without waiting for the determination of the Original High Water Mark.
8. What are the major issues facing the City of SB?
We need to fix our roads and find someway to increase funds so that we can maintain our roads in the future. We need more affordable housing and childcare. We need more living wage jobs that will draw younger people with families to our city. We need to make the West Side Waterfront into a destination that draws in tourist dollars and at the same time provides long term, family sustaining jobs.
9. What are my views on the west-side waterfront development?
We don't need another hotel. We need something that draws people in and makes the west-side waterfront a tourist destination that competes with the rest of Door County. I really like the idea of building a satellite college campus linked to an established university already in Wisconsin.
10. Would I support or oppose the elimination of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority and the assumption of its responsibilities by the council or planning commission?
I think we need to review the rules under which the WRA operates. The WRA should be only an advisory committee to the City Council if it is to be kept in place. I think elected officials would represent the will of the people better than the unelected officials that now comprise the WRA.