With the trustee primary election just days away, the five candidates for Village Board have weighed in on the issues with the hope of continuing their campaign through Tuesday's election and onto the general election in April.
The candidates are four-year incumbent Trustee Jay Miller, and challengers Robert Crawford, Kenneth Wysocky, Carl Fuda and Kevin McMahon. The top four voter-getters in Tuesday's primary election will advance to the April 2 general election, where two candidates will be chosen to serve three-year terms.
The candidates have all shared their biographical information (in the links above), as well as their positions on village issues. After a trustee candidates forum hosted by Patch at the Whitefish Bay Women's Club Wendesday night, we wanted to give a more complete picture of the candidates views on those issues, as well as questions posed from the audience.
Crawford, whose basement has flooded five times since 1997, said he would like to see a more comprehensive sewer plan that provides more protection, and he would like to see it done in a shorter time frame.
"The engineering reports that we have call for a comprehensive repair of our entire sewer system," Crawford said. "There's nothing in the reports that suggest we can do 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent, and that's sort of been sold over the last year and a half to the board as a way of easing the pain of paying for this. The fact is we we do have to pay for this, and we have to repair the whole village top to bottom."
Miller said a lot is being done to improve sewer issues in the village: the lateral lining project in the southern portion of the village, the disconnection from Shorewood sewers and the Cahill detention pond, which could receive $4 million in federal assistance. Miller said he is proud of the plan he and the Village Board have developed over the last several years, and he believes the board should continue to take a measured approach when looking at capital projects every year.
“I spent some time cleaning up during the flooding of 2010, so I saw the raw sewage. I saw the damage done. We have to act on fixing sewers, but we have to do it in a prudent way," Miller said. "Like a lot of difficult issues, it’s a balancing that has to take place. You need someone that can take both views, assess them and put something into place that’s effective. I think that’s a skill I particularly bring to bear.”
Fuda said he would like to take a balanced approach to fixing sewers and keeping costs down. He said the 15-year capital improvement plan is broken into reasonable phases right now, and he believes the large price tag will be manageable as long as the board gives the projects a careful reevaluation every year.
"I think you balance (sewer repair needs) with the reality of the tax situation that we're going to have," Fuda said. "You also balance that by looking at other areas as to where we can get some economies of scale, work with the school district on shared services and develop Silver Spring to increase the tax base. You have to look at the big picture here."
Wysocky said he believes the village should move forward with sewer improvements, but believes village officials should think innovatively about ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs where ever possible. McMahon also said the village should weigh competing interests when making big-ticket infrastructure decisions.
Lateral lining project
Miller, Fuda, Wysocky and McMahon all said they approve of the first phase of the sanitary sewer lateral inspection and relining project that is happening in the southern portion of the village, but would not be in favor of mandating sump pumps, should those prove to be more effective in keeping rain water out of the sanitary sewers.
Crawford said he would support a requirement to install sump pumps in all homes, even those in neighborhoods that haven't had issues with basement backups.
"Storm water from your property that ends up in the sanitary sewer line may not surcharge into your basement through your floor drain, but it goes downstream someplace into your neighbors'," Crawford said.
Village Board candidates often talk about improving business development on Silver Spring Drive, but finding a way to make it happen as a trustee is a different story.
McMahon said the development of the business district should be the number one issue in the village, and he believes Whitefish Bay could learn a lesson from the recent growth on Shorewood's Oakland Avenue.
Wysocky, Crawford and Miller said they don't believe the village should be subsidizing business development on Silver Spring and were hopeful the local economy will recover as the country rebounds from the recession.
Fuda said he would take a bottom-up approach to business development, meeting with stakeholders to see what can be done. He said he is not opposed to tax incremental financing or other financial investments that promise to reep tax revenues down the line.
When asked about the proposed , Fuda said he would oppose it because the "miniscule" cost savings do not justify the loss of police protection.
Miller said he doesn't think Whitefish Bay should be subsidizing Shorewood's need for a new police station, and he was also skeptical that Whitefish Bay would continue to see the same level of service if higher-crime communities like Shorewood and Glendale are added to the picture.
"We need to be convinced that we would achieve economic efficiencies but also that we would need to be as safe or safer than we are right now," Miller said.
Crawford said he would favor a consolidation of the Shorewood and Whitefish Bay police departments, but thinks adding Glendale would result in a lack of police patrols in Whitefish Bay.
Wysocky and McMahon initially said they thought the consolidation warranted further study, but seemed wary of cops spending more time in Glendale and Shorewood instead of Whitefish Bay.
Pesticides and herbicides
After years of trying to forge a compromise on the pesticide issue, Miller recently proposed a committee of stakeholders be convened to develop a recommendation for the Village Board. He said the village should try to work toward a no-pesticide policy in the next year or two years.
Carl Fuda, the President of Friends of Bay Baseball and Junior Blue Dukes, has a seat on that committee. Fuda has a long history of working with the school district and the village on turf management issues, including advocating for pesticide applications.
Fuda is raising funds for the baseball team's new artificial infield, which will reduce pesticide applications at Cahill Park. Fuda has sprayed pesticides on Lydell Field, but he has also implemented natural turf care practices on the youth football field.
Fuda said outside groups are also part of the picture, such as Whitefish Bay Little League's reduction of pesticides at Craig Counsell Park.
"You have to take each of the pieces of the green spaces individually and assess where you're at and what you're going to do with it," Fuda said.
Crawford said he would support natural turf management in the village. Wysocky said he sees both sides to the issue – as does McMahon, who said he would favor a compromise that does not increase spending.
Little Free Libraries
The Whitefish Bay Village Board's decision to ban Little Free Libraries from the front yard of village homes generated a lot of discussion in November.
When asked whether they would revisit the issue as a trustee, McMahon, Wysocky and Fuda all said they would reconsider the issue. Miller said he supported the village building inspector's recommendation to ban the structures last year, but said he would be willing to revisit the issue if residents wanted.
Crawford said he doesn't support the structures because they could become an eyesore.
"People get enthusiastic about these things; they build them, they stock them for a year or two years, but just like exercising or quitting smoking or losing weight, they forget about them and they fall into disrepair."
Why they're running
The five candidates have all lived in Whitefish Bay for more than 15 years, and all said they want to run to be more involved in making Whitefish Bay a better place to live. Here are their specific words from Wednesday night's forum:
McMahon, a stay-at-home dad, said he would bring the perspective of the everyman to the board:
"I want to do my part. I can talk about things and make comments, but I really want to see what happens and be involved in what happens – and this is the best way to do it," he said.
Miller, a tax attorney, said his professional experience has been useful on the board, and he prides himself on looking at the big picture and reaching a consensus with his colleagues:
"You need to have a vision, but you also need to collaborate with people, or you not going to get something done and I think I do that," he said.
Fuda said he believes his relationship with village staff and school district will lead to effective solutions:
"I think what i like to bring to the table is a recognition that we're all one community, and that we can work together with the village and the school district and get things done."
Crawford, a former judge, said he would like to improve communication between village and residents, as well as push the board to listen to residents at meetings:
"You have to stay active on the board and remind them to come back to things."
Wysocky, a freelance journalist, said he is no stranger to asking questions, examining different perspectives and researching issues:
"I may not have all the answers, but if elected I will be a strong advocate for fiscal conservatism, will be respectful in listening to residents and try to reach fair and reasonable solutions to the problems that face this community."