CLINTON — Several questions were answered by eight people seeking a seat on the Clinton City Council on Thursday during a candidate forum held at City Hall.
Residents in-house and those watching live on the city network television channel, had an opportunity to meet the two candidates running for first ward, the unopposed second ward candidate, the two running for first ward and four of the five candidates running for the at-large seats on the Clinton City Council.
Each were asked a series of questions, ranging in topic, by forum moderator Wylie Pillers during the session and each had a variety of solutions to the issues facing the city of Clinton.
”We’re on our way to making Clinton a much better managed city. I would like to continue this work to follow through on the improved financial processes, strengthen our boards and commissions, get more citizens involved, and much more,” said third ward incumbent Bev Hermann during her introductory speech. “Although it hasn’t been easy, I appreciate the opportunity of council work and the nice people of this city and I plan to continue.”
The candidates were split into two groups for the forum, with those from the first, second and third wards in one group and candidates running for the two open, at-large seats, in the second. Each group received the same questions and were allowed five minutes to give their answers. Since second ward candidate Lynn McGraw is running unopposed in the Nov. 5 election, she was not required to take part in the question and answer portion of the forum.
Questions ranged from how the council candidates plan to handle the continued decrease in the city’s population, their opinions on two referendum initiatives that will be added to the Nov. 5 ballot that could raise city taxes, the possibility of combining the city and county assessor positions, and how the candidates plan to rectify the city’s tax levy.
First ward candidate Ed O’Neil expressed his strong opposition to the two referendums and the city’s exponential debt, and said if he is elected to the council, his first step will be to limit spending and reduce taxes for residents.
”I think what we really need to do is slow down,” O’Neil said. “Give the taxpayers a break.”
His opponent for third ward, Hermann, and first ward incumbent Maggie Klaes disagreed with O’Neil’s statements and both supported the referendums. They also agree that in order for the community to grow, the council needs to look at what they have already accomplished and continue that path for the future.
”We’ll be very careful,” Klaes said. “It’s just one of those things that we need to continue to maximize and be optimistic.”
At-large candidate Andy Sokolovich and incumbent Jennifer Graf also showed their support for the referendum initiatives and believe they will play an integral role in the future of the city, a future they intend to market strongly, if elected.
”There’s a complete difference when you’re paying something and you see something in return. It’s not so much that you’re paying taxes, as it is an investment in your future,” Sokolovich said.
Candidate Grant Wilke agreed that promoting and building the city is something the council has to focus on for the future, but he also agreed with candidate Tom Determann, that Clinton taxpayers need a break from the continued increases.
”I am not in favor in raising taxes. I think we have shown that it has always been the easiest thing to do,” Wilke said. “(But) I also understand that the money would go to fixing up our infrastructure. I don’t know where that money would come from but I do believe that we should set a program that is never touched, other than to keep and maintain and improve our streets.”
Following the series of questions, each candidate had the opportunity to speak once more to residents tuned into the forum and each had one last attempt to sway the voters for the Nov. 5 election.