Five candidates are seeking two three-year terms on the Whitefish Bay Village Board in the Feb. 19 primary election. The top four voter-getters will advance to the April 2 general election.
Related: Patch Candidates Forum Set for Feb. 13
To provide residents with the most information on where they stand on the issues facing the village, Whitefish Bay Patch invited readers to submit questions that we posed to the candidates.
Here, in their own words, are the candidates' answers to those questions as well as some posed by Patch.Why are you running for Village Board? Robert Crawford First, I'd like to push sewer rehabilitation and reconstruction, shortening the term of the proposed work from 15 years and increasing the design protection from a 10-year storm (Level 1). Second, I want to improve communication, including regular reporting at board meetings from our village president, our village manager, and our village attorney. I will also push the board to listen to people who appear before the board.
Carl Fuda I have been fortunate enough to be part of this community for almost 30 years, and have successfully taken on many community service roles. As the result of some of my past work, I have developed a good working relationship with local officials. My volunteer record shows that I can get things done, and I hope to continue to serve the Village. Kevin McMahon As a stay-at-home parent here in the Bay, I will bring a different perspective to the Board. I have no hidden agenda or pet projects to push. I would like to see the village progress and remain a vibrant place to live and work, and I want to do my part to make that happen.
Jay Miller Because I feel a debt to the Village for what it has provided my family, I want to contribute to its further development.
Based on my prior experiences and four years on the WFB Board, I believe that I have a sense of direction for the Village, good judgment and good problem solving skills to address challenges, like our storm and sanitary sewer system. I also advocate well for what I believe is the appropriate course to follow, but do so in a collaborative fashion.
Ken Wysocky I'm at the point in my life where I'd like to give something back to the community where I've lived for about 25 years, and I'm also interested in ensuring we maintain frugal and minimally intrusive local government. Another thing that piqued my interest was the roughly 40-percent increase in water rates last summer to make up for years of budget deficits. Financially, it would have been much easier for residents to swallow smaller annual increases over a longer period of time, rather than suddenly socking them with such a large increase.
What is the biggest issue facing the village, and how would you address it, if elected? Robert Crawford The biggest issue facing our village is the repair and reconstruction of our broken sewer shed. We must perform the work in the shortest number of years we can, and we must rebuild our broken sewer shed to a level which protects our homes from summer soakers.
Carl Fuda • Balancing the infrastructure and capital improvement needs of the Village with the fiscal realities / tax situation that we face. We have sewers, streets, and other infrastructure that must be upgraded. We must balance these needs within the context of a limited tax base.
• The continued revitalization of our Silver Spring Business district. We have recently gained some traction in this area. My background can help the Village as we continue to build upon recent successes.
• Promoting the safety of our neighborhoods and village. We have high expectations from our police force and they are doing a good job. We need more measures in place that help us maintain safe and secure neighborhoods. We must focus on Village specific needs, and not look to consolidate police forces with other municipalities (an idea that has been floated). Kevin McMahon While the sewer situation receives the most attention, I feel that the revitalization and stability of Silver Spring Avenue is of greater importance. Bringing people to the Bay to shop/eat/work/visit is necessary for the Village to grow and prosper. Oakland Avenue in Shorewood would be a good example of what Silver Spring could look like in the future. The Board should look at what Shorewood accomplished and see if some of that could work in the Bay.
Jay Miller Upgrading the storm water and sanitary sewer system is the biggest issue facing the Village. We cannot afford a repeat of the flooding disasters that visited our community in the summer of 2010. We must deal with it efficiently and prudently. That means getting the best advice we can obtain (the Board has done so) and implement the best game plan possible, while monitoring closely what develops. Balancing costs with implementation is critical. The Village is hopeful that we will receive some funding from the government for the Cahill project to defray part of the cost. Beyond that, a mixture of revenues is warranted. That would include fees from all users of the sewer system, not just property taxpayers.
Ken Wysocky I think the biggest issue we face is actually several things all entwined together: The ever-rising costs of big-ticket capital improvement projects, such as road repairs and storm-water system improvements, and residents' inability to keep paying higher and higher property taxes to fund them them. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that we live in a mostly residential, land-locked community that's unable to generate much commercial development to ease the residential tax burden. If there was an easy way to resolve this situation, I'm sure greater minds than mine would've solved it by now. But overall, I think it underscores how the board must always be vigilant and willing to think innovatively about ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs where ever possible.
Last year, Whitefish Bay trustees started a program whereby nearly 400 sewer laterals will be lined or replaced. The village plans to bill the homeowner for the repairs. Will you support continuing this program? Robert Crawford Our sewer laterals are privately owned by each homeowner. Testing in the SW corner showed that each of the 396 laterals leaked. All leaking laterals must be fixed as part of the reconstruction of our broken sewer shed. Most laterals are decades past their design lives. For most, lining should repair the laterals for another 40-50 years. Sump pumps must also be installed by those homeowners who are draining groundwater from their foundations into their sanitary laterals. Approximately 73% of our 4,800 homes were built with foundation drains (homes built before 1954). Our sanitary sewers are often 8 inches pipes, and these 8 inch pipes surcharge, and cause basement backups, when rain water gets into the sanitary sewer during storms.
Carl Fuda Laterals are being inspected, and replaced or relined only if they are broken. We should continue with this effort, in its current form, and then analyze results after phase one of the project is complete.
If a lateral is damaged, it should be repaired.
I am not prepared to support a mandate that would require installation of sump pumps. The cost associated with sump pumps is significantly higher than a lateral repair/replacement. Kevin McMahon With the age of the Village and its infrastructure, this is something that needs to be done. However, speaking as someone who is currently paying 2 assessments (sewer lateral replaced 3 years ago and an alley replacement 2 years ago) I sympathize with the concerns of yet another bill to the Village. Short of doing the work for free, no solution will be perfect for the Village or its residents. The board will need to weigh all of the viable options and do what is best for all concerned.
Jay Miller We must go where the facts lead us. Yet, I am not prepared to require sumps at this point. That would be hugely more expensive and disruptive to most homeowners.
Lining laterals is only part of the solution, but the Board has been advised and believes that it is an important part. (Our engineers tell us that the more expensive option of replacing laterals will not be necessary in the vast majority of cases.)
Our hope is that the lateral lining, together with the Village's disconnection from Shorewood's sewer system on the south side, flood water retention project, and other systematic changes, will achieve our objectives.
These steps are all part of the Board's plan that was vetted with the public last fall. Ken Wysocky I think it's difficult to support continuation of the program until we assess the results from the first phase of camera inspections/lateral relinings. If sump pumps prove to be more effective, then I would support going in that direction—or at least give residents the option to take the most cost-effective solution. The bottom line: If we don't do something to stop storm sewer inflow and infiltration, we're going to continue to deal with flooding issues down the road that could eventually result in much more expensive, larger-scale improvement projects.
What is your view on a possible consolidation between the Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and possibly Glendale police departments? Robert Crawford I favor consolidation of police services if we save money, improve efficiency, and maintain the excellent level of police service which I've observed in WFB for the past 20 years. WFB and Shorewood are good matches.
Carl Fuda Combining essential police services with Shorewood and Glendale is not something I would pursue. The recent increase of criminal activity in the Bay (a high school student being robbed and numerous car break-ins are two examples), is a concern. Addressing these issues is a priority.
We have high expectations from our police force and they are doing a good job. We need more measures in place that help us maintain safe and secure neighborhoods. Consolidating police forces is not one of those measures. Kevin McMahon On paper it sounds like a great way to save funds and make the departments more efficient. It works for the North Shore Fire Department. However, the Bay, Shorewood, and Glendale are different municipalities with different challenges. Can one department effectively handle the larger geographic area and the varied populations? Are there examples of this in other areas in Wisconsin or in the Midwest that have been successful? Again, this is another issue that would require a lot of study and research before a final decision is made.
Jay Miller We should do so only if it is in Whitefish Bay's best interests. Safety is job one. Shorewood tends to have more crime and also is reported to be looking for a new police station. Whitefish Bay shouldn't be asked to address those issues, under the guise of consolidation.
Having said that, if it can be demonstrated that both from a cost and safety standpoint consolidation works, I would be open to discussions. Again, however, we must be clear-eyed about what the advantages and disadvantages are for our Village.
Ken Wysocky It's worthy of study. In an area where residents already pay very high property taxes and shoulder a disproportionately high share of the tax burden compared to most communities, I don't think we can afford to be parochial and ignore ways to reduce expenses. On the other hand, if it reduces the quality of public safety, then consolidation is not the answer. I'd be concerned about how much police manpower Bayshore would siphon away from the village.
A grant fund to help new businesses open along Silver Spring will soon be out of money. Do you support putting more money into this fund to attract new businesses?
Robert Crawford I'm cautious about spending public money to subsidize businesses on Silver Spring. I'd need to listen to the presentation.
Carl Fuda When an opportunity to further develop the Silver Spring area arises, and the development will benefit the area and the village, I will fully support the effort.
Kevin McMahon I am all for revitalizing Silver Spring. Seeing how Oakland Avenue in Shorewood has changed in the past few years, I can envision Silver Spring looking very similar. However, what has the fund provided if we are still talking about attempting to bring new businesses in? Maybe we should look for other ways to accomplish this than just throwing more money at it.
Jay Miller I wouldn't want to do it, without knowing more about how successful the grant fund used to date has been. We should always be willing to listen, but when it comes to spending more money, the burden should be on the seeker.
Ken Wysocky I think it would be prudent to review the effectiveness of that grant spending before committing more money to it. There seems to be a fair amount of retail stores and restaurants in the Silver Spring business district that have gone out of business or moved out over the years, although I'm not sure whether or not those businesses received grant money. Overall, I'm typically not in favor of government subsidies for businesses, but on the other hand, the village still needs to somehow encourage viable businesses to open here.
Many residents are concerned about the potential risks associated with pesticide use on public green space. How should the village should address this concern? Robert Crawford I doubt that we need pesticides in our parks. I understand the volunteer coaches want attractive playing fields, but I wonder about health risks when kids get the chemicals on their bodies when using the fields. The baseball field is at Cahill Park will be rebuilt with a $450,000 infield which uses artificial turf.
Carl Fuda I serve on the ad hoc committee that is helping to adress this issue. Much work has already been done in this area, and we will continue working on sound turf management policies. Kevin McMahon We need to keep our public green spaces "green." Otherwise, they will be in such sad shape that they won't get used at all. If there is a solution available that would not increase maintenance costs, I'd be all for it. Is there some compromise between natural products and "harmful" products that were would be acceptable to all? It's something that would require some work, but I think it can happen.
Jay Miller I proposed creating a committee, including participants from all sides of the issue, to consider making recommendations to the Board on this important topic. I am hopeful that recommendations will be forthcoming.
Different people point to different studies, but let me say this: no one wants to risk endangering the health of our residents,and especially our children who play in the public parks. I am encouraged that leaders of the local little league teams also have been amenable to trying to reach some accommodation as to what makes sense for the ball fields. Ken Wysocky If the pesticides truly represent a health risk, then by all means the village should figure out how to most economically go "green."