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The Environment

With new development comes environmental challenges. One of the great resources that Fitchburg has is the Nine Springs. Last I counted, there were actually 13, but I understand that at least one is not functioning anymore. This is very sad. The recharge areas for the springs are critical, and development which does not take these areas into account cause irreparable damage. This must be addressed as we examine possible development in the Northeast Neighborhood area.

Phosphorous runoff can create an environmental disaster for area waterways and lakes. Lake Waubesa is particularly sensitive to phosphorous. I will have protection of these resources as a top priority.

I will work to make certain that we have all information necessary before anything is voted on that could cause damage to the springs, the wetlands, or the creeks and streams that flow from Fitchburg to neighboring areas such as Lake Waubesa. We need to preserve these essential environmental resources for our children.

Development, Transportation, and Land Use

In 2009, Fitchburg approved a new Comprehensive Plan for the city. In 1995, when the last plan was done, I was one of the leaders that insisted that we must plan for transportation, environmental concerns, and other issues, including preventing urban sprawl. Despite the delays brought into this process, the new Plan addresses those issues.

A lot of people talk about transportation, but no one wants to do anything about it. The only solution that many want to discuss is building new and bigger roads. There has been little attention given to the transportation impacts of new developments, and this is demonstrated best by looking at the new Orchard Point/Target development. Despite the fact that the traffic study indicated that this would create a transportation disaster in the northwest section of the City, plans marched forward without any real concern. We need to take a larger, more integrated view of transportation. For this reason, I spearheaded the formation of the Transportation and Transit Commission, with a major focus on creating a long-term transportation plan for the city. I will continue this work.

I believe that all future growth must be properly planned. We cannot simply take a position that says, "Anyone who wants to develop their vacant land should be able to." Since Fitchburg became a city, we have believed that all development must be methodical, and must conform to some basic principles of organized development. Fitchburg does not allow development outside the Urban Service Area, except for a small number of very specific exceptions. There are several good reasons for this.

All development requires a number of city services, including police, fire, and EMS. Scattered development makes it more expensive for all those departments to provide the needed services. Furthermore, transportation becomes critical. We try to develop only where we have the transportation facilities in place. When large rural developments are built, transportation demands are created away from the Urban Service Area. This requires very expensive road construction projects. The cost of those road improvements will be fully borne by the property tax payers. New development must cover ALL its costs to the City, whether emergency services, transportation infrastructure, or general City operations. I will continue to work with the Council and the various committees to ensure this will happen.

There is a finite amount of land, and with the population growth in this area we need to use it wisely. The projections are that, over the next 20 years, Fitchburg will need to accommodate about 4500 families. That is an enormous demand, and we must plan now to accommodate that demand.

Basic infrastructure needed to support new developments (such as roads, water, and sewer) must be in place before those developments are built. New development must consider environmental concerns. For example, if development occurs in the Northeast Neighborhood, we must make certain that it does not cause any further damage to Swan Creek, nor to Lake Waubesa. I have already been working with the Council to repair some of the previous damage, and I will continue this work.

Taxes

I have always supported fiscal restraint, while providing the best city services possible. Emergency services, like police, fire, and EMS, are my highest priorities. With a city growing like Fitchburg has, we needed some significant investment in our basic services. However, these have put a substantial strain on our taxes, as seen in the last budget. Coupled with the reductions in state aid, Fitchburg has found itself at a crossroads.

New development must pay for itself. I have been a long-time advocate for this basic principle. Moving forward, I will not support any development proposal which does not provide more property tax revenue than it costs in City services.

The taxpayers of Fitchburg have now paid for two separate studies, by two different consultants, to analyze City Hall operations. Both have come back with very similar findings, and almost none of those findings have been implemented. It is time to bring home the savings that these studies have identified. Unfortunately, my opponent has opposed efforts to consolidate city departments and make the city more efficient. We CAN eliminate positions, and we CAN get a better bang for the buck. I will continue to work on these efforts.

Currently, I am working on a program which will help seniors stay in their homes. I have heard from many seniors that their limited incomes have not been able to keep up with the taxes they must pay. This needs to change, and I believe we can do some things to help.

Finally, the big thing affecting taxes on the most recent tax bill was the library. I am the only candidate for mayor who has pledged to control library spending while making sure it provides adequate service. My opponent has opposed every effort to reduce the operating cost of the library. This cannot be the path of the future. The residents cannot afford it.

Job Creation and Business Developoment

The last two years have been a great time in the City of Fitchburg, despite the slow economy. We have issued over $50 million in new building permits. We have seen Gold's Gym, Aldi, Taco Bell, and many other business open. In fact, over 30 grand openings have happened in Fitchburg in the last two years.

We have also seen some amazing business expansions. Placon, the CDW/Team Data Center, and Fitchburg Tech Campus are all expanding in Fitchburg. And we have now approved the rezoning for Green Tech Village, opening the door for millions of dollars in new development over the next few years.

All this new development results in 200+ new jobs in Fitchburg, even in this slow economy. We have been doing many great things to attract new business and to facilitate expansion of existing businesses.

I have been a strong proponent of the biotech incubators which currently locate in Fitchburg. These businesses provide high paying jobs and are very clean. We also have a need for blue-collar jobs to diversify our workforce. We have literally run out of room for new businesses which are not retail. I have been pushing for many years to expand the Fitchburg Commerce Park, which the past two administrations have resisted. We are about to engage in a neighborhood plan for that area, after working with local businesses and landowners on an agreement.

Education

I have personally worked with the three school districts serving Fitchburg to improve service and collaborate on important issues. I will continue this work using the relationships I have on behalf of the children living in Fitchburg.

Many have talked of a Fitchburg School District, and I have been researching this issue for over a decade. State statutes, as currently written, make it virtually impossible for any new school district to be created. The losing school district(s) must agree to give up the land, and the new district has to buy out the existing infrastructure plus buy its own. With all three of our school districts, Fitchburg provides a larger share of property tax than we provide students. From my conversations with policy makers in those school districts, they are not inclined to give up the Fitchburg portions of their districts, and, with the costs involved, a Fitchburg School District is not feasible.

That does not mean that the conversation is over. No matter which district Fitchburg children are in, we have a duty to make sure they are being treated fairly. It is simply wrong for a school district to threaten to transport Fitchburg children many miles from their homes as leverage to force voters to approve a referendum. I have spent many hours working on these issues, including representing Fitchburg children at the School District Boundary Appeals Board, and I will continue doing whatever I can to ensure that Fitchburg children are being treated with respect by the various districts.

I believe we need to have schools closer to where our children live, and I will do whatever I can to accomplish that. Currently, both the Madison School District and the Oregon School District have expressed a desire to locate land for new elementary schools. I will do whatever I can to help them find the land they need and to facilitate constructing schools to benefit our children. As one example, in my duties as Chair of the North McGaw Park Neighborhood Plan Committee, we have set aside land for a future school. I will continue to involve education as part of our planning process.

The Library

I support the Fitchburg Library. I have given money to it, and I will again. I believe that this is an important piece of public infrastructure. It will add a valuable service to our community.

The tax bills that people received in December 2010 had a very substantial tax increase. 85% of that tax increase was because of the library. When I was preparing the budget, I asked all department heads to reduce their budgets by three percent. They all managed to find a way to do that. All except the library. When I submitted my budget to the Council, I reduced the library budget by three percent, so that it was in line with the reductions other departments had made. My opponent did not like that, and wrote an amendment to put that money back in, which the Council approved.

In fact, actually expenditures in wages alone for the library this year will be $150,000 less than what you were taxed for. The library could have easily taken the 3% cut with NO change to the level of service it will provide.

We need a mayor who will control library spending. I am the only candidate who has promised and shown a willingness to take a close look ad library spending and control those costs.

Public Safety

I am committed to providing adequate resources to make Fitchburg safe. No resident should ever be concerned that the Fire Department or the Police Department will not be able to respond because of inadequate staffing. I have a strong, consistent record on improving our emergency services, having pushed forward the most important improvements over the last decade. You can count on my commitment to public safety in the future.  In the early 2000s, I led the effort to move from a EMT level of service to Paramedic service in our joint Fitchrona Emergency Medical Service. I also led the effort to include full time staffing in our fire department. We had studied and planned to build new fire stations to handle the additional growth the city has seen. The current mayor rejected that recommendation and commissioned another study which came back with nearly an identical recommendation. Precious time has been wasted, and some parts of the city do not have even basic coverage at this point. This is a basic service and should not be treated like the ugly stepchild.


 


In 2014, the current mayor began a political witch hunt against several members of the Police and Fire Commission. In violation of state statute, he spent well over $20,000 in Fitchburg taxpayer money to force the only African-American member of the Police and Fire Commission to resign. This is not how our government should work.

Agriculture

Fitchburg farmers are under increasing pressure from many directions. They endure pressures from development, increased governmental regulation, and heavy traffic along traditional agricultural roads.

While I believe that agriculture is an integral part of Fitchburg, I have consistently opposed designating areas in Fitchburg as "Agriculture Protection Areas" and thereby, legislatively stripping away value from someone's property without compensation. If we believe that an area is worth protecting for a specific purpose, then the City should negotiate with the property owner and buy the property at a market price. It is simply unfair for the City to legislatively strip the value from someone's property without compensating them for it, just as we do with other natural resources.

That is only one piece of a very complex puzzle. I support creating a residential cluster program, which would allow some limited development on ag land that is really not productive farmland. As envisioned, these could small clusters of up to eight homes. I support structuring the program in a fair manner, so all ag property owners can benefit. Clusters could be used to restore historic areas of Fitchburg as well.

I would also like to explore options for future agriculture. What can the City do to encourage more sustainable future users? Can the City provide low-cost loan programs or other sorts of help in acquiring capital equipment? What can the City do to transition from the current agricultural configuration to what the future will be? I have some ideas, but we need to work with the agriculture community to develop answers to these questions.

I also support the City taking the steps it can to remove restrictions and improve conditions for Fitchburg farmers. There would be no Fitchburg if they had not founded this community, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have done. We should treat them with the respect they deserve.

Parks and Recreation

Many Fitchburg residents view our parks and recreation programs as our most valuable asset. I agree. Our many area and neighborhood parks enhance the feel of our community and make people want to live here. It is my intention to make certain we continue to have adequate park and open space with each new development to maintain the quality of life we have here.
In addition, our recreation programs also offer many ways that children and adults can participate in organized physical fun! The new Spash Pad which the Optimist Club made a reality is a great thing, and we should search for more opportunities like that. These programs need to continue, and should be enhanced as opportunities arise.
I have also been a long-time supporter of expanding our recreation trails. We have made a great investment in this resource over the last decade, and I will make certain our investment continues to benefit the residents of Fitchburg.

Private Property Rights

I have been the most ardent supporter of private property rights among Fitchburg politicians. I have opposed condemnations, and have led several efforts to prevent the City from simply taking someone's property. If the City feels that it needs someone else's property bad enough to condemn it, then the City should approach that property owner with a generous check to properly compensate the owner, rather than simply offering the minimum possible amount suggested by Wisconsin statutes.

Of the rights that Americans enjoy, one of the most precious is the right to own your own piece of real estate. I believe in this basic principle with all my heart, and I will continue to fight for the rights of property owners at every opportunity.

At the same time, I do understand fully the need that the City sometimes has to install a new public facility on someone else's property. Rather than condemnation, the City needs to go to the negotiating table ready to pay the price. This strategy does two things:

1. It makes people more secure in their homes and gives them the assurance that the City has respect for them as individuals and as property owners; and,

2. It forces the City to do a better job of planning, so it can avoid taking someone else's property.

Anyone who owns property in Fitchburg can be assured that I am on your side when it comes to protecting your rights.

Communication

As Mayor, I will hold regular Town Hall Meetings so that residents can gather information and share their views. I will also hold these meetings in different areas of the City so they will be accessible to all residents.  During my previous term as mayor, the Mayor's calendar was on the City's website, and all could see who I was meeting with and a brief description. Upon his election, the current mayor eliminated that immediately, and now no one knows what secret meetings he is holding and with whom. That must change. I intend to find more efficient ways to get information to residents. Stay tuned, and send your suggestions. Nothing is to crazy to consider!