Good Government Council: Eau Claire City Council Questionnaire
When: Tuesday, April 5th, 2022; polls open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find your voting location at myvote.wi. All absentee ballots must be requested by March 31st, 2022 and turned in no later than 8:00 p.m. on April 5th either by mail or dropped off in-person. In-Person absentee voting will start Tuesday, March 22nd and end Friday, April 1st. This will take place at City Hall. You can vote Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you plan to vote by mail, voters are strongly encourage to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure their ballot is received by the deadline.
What it’s about: There are 8 candidates running for the 5 at-large Eau Claire City Council seats this April. The Eau Claire City Council includes 11 members who each serve a three-year term, including 5 elected by district, 5 elected at large, and 1 elected City Council President. Each official elected by district represents about 13,509 people and the City Council President represents about 67,545 people (or the whole City of Eau Claire). The candidates include:
- Kate Beaton (Incumbent)
- Robert Carr
- Charles Johnson
- Roderick Jones (Incumbent)
- Larry Mboga
- Joshua Miller
- Mark Richter
- Brian Trowbridge
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters in the Eau Claire Area School District.
Where you vote and who is on your ballot:
- Go to myvote.wi.gov
- Enter your voting address to learn which races are on your ballot and where you vote.
Why this questionnaire: The Good Government Council (GGC) is a committee of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing members of the business community with non-biased information about candidates’ positions on important issues. Although the Chamber is active in policy issues, it is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates.
Unfortunately, we received no response from candidate Mark Richter.
1.) What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the City Council personally?
Kate Beaton: I was first elected to the Eau Claire City Council in 2016 and have served for 6 years. In that time, I have served on the Visit Eau Claire Board, the Waterways and Parks Commission, the Housing Authority, the Putnam Park Commission and more. 12 years ago I moved to Eau Claire for college and graduated in 2014 with a degree in social work. I decided to stay after graduation, have built my career here, bought a house, and am building family here because this is a community that is easy to love. We need to double down on the things that make Eau Claire a lovable community, things that bring people to Eau Claire and keep them here to bolster our local economy and culture.
Robert Carr: I am a life long resident of Eau Claire. I was a founding member of the East Hill Neighborhood association and I am currently on their steering committee. I have been interacting with both the city council and the school board for almost 30 years. I am a graduate of UWEC and have worked in retail, manufacturing, logistics and teaching.
I believe that I would bring a broad base of work and volunteer experience to to the council . This will allow me to bring a balanced approach to government.
Charles Johnson: I have been an advocate of city issues since 2016 when I first moved to Eau Claire to begin my studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In 2018, I was appointed as the Intergovernmental Affairs Director of the Student Senate at UW-Eau Claire. In this role, I was tasked with acting as the intermediary between student issues and city issues. I worked with neighborhood associations and city officials to map out ways to improve student life and the relations among full-time residents. Eau Claire is a growing city, and healthy growth will depend on our younger generation playing an active role in the decision-making process. I spent four years acting as a voice for members of the student body, while also taking into account the concerns of residents who have lived here for 15+ years. The time I spent advocating on behalf of university and city issues with lawmakers in Madison, Washington D.C., and right here in Eau Claire has prepared me to sit on Eau Claire City Council.
Roderick Jones: I earned a Bachelor of Science in Special Education, Masters of Educational Leadership, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies—all from the University of South Florida. I worked as a public school teacher and teacher nearly 20 years and as an assistant professor for the past 3 years at UW-Eau Claire. I was appointed to the Eau City Council in June 2021. Personally, I have always viewed my professional life as one of public service. Continuing to work on the city council will allow me elevate my servant leadership. Further, I have great interpersonal and communication skills. I relate well to others regardless of their cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences and backgrounds. I am deep thinker who endeavors to maintain an open mind, take in new information, and make well-informed decisions based on the most relevant and impactful points of view, policy, and procedures for the betterment of our community.
Larry Mboga: my background is coaching, working with all people from different race with law enforcement offices to build trust and work together for betterment of the city. I bring different view to city council
Joshua Miller: I work in manufacturing and if elected would be the only person on the City Council employed in that field. Manufacturing and technology play a major role in the Eau Claire economy and the sector contains some of the area’s largest employers. This experience would give me insight on what to do to make Eau Claire more attractive to good-paying employers and well-qualified workers. We should also make efforts to retain our regional graduates in the local job market.
With regard to city government, I was on the Waterways & Parks Commission for six years and the last three years was the chairperson where I led the meetings. The mission of that commission is to protect, enhance, and promote the city’s waterways and parks by offering recommendations on projects and issues brought to the members. During this time I worked with City Council members and city staff and, for a council newcomer, would arrive with a good insight of how our city government operates.
Brian Trowbridge: I was born and raised in the Chippewa Valley, and have a love for Eau Claire that goes back to my childhood. I’ve lived in the City for all but 3 of the past 16 years, and have two sons that are 13 and 16. For the past 19 years I have worked in government, specifically Law Enforcement and Corrections, and have a bachelor’s degree in political science with a Public Administration minor from UW-Whitewater. My years working as an investigator have led me to seek fact-based resolutions to issues in all areas of my personal life. Working in public service has given me the opportunity to work with and serve people of all backgrounds. I believe that this gives me a unique opportunity to bring my skills and experiences to the City Council in an effort to serve all citizens of Eau Claire. I’m a strong believer in family, environment, and equity for all.
2. With a strong local economy and low unemployment, many employers report difficulty in filling positions. What is the role of the City in attracting more people to the community, and ensuring that Eau Claire is an attractive place to live and work?
Kate Beaton: We need to continue to create a loveable community where people want to move to. Of Wisconsin’s largest 10 cities, Eau Claire was the 2nd fastest growing city in the last decade, behind only Madison, attracting workers and their families. That’s because we’ve done things like investing in our parks and trails system, prioritizing affordable housing, and cultivated our arts and culture. Moving into the future, the city will need to find ways to continue to provide the same high quality service that folks rely on, as our state funding remains relatively stagnant but our community grows. We’ll need to also continue to increase our housing stock across income levels, focusing particularly on lower income housing.
Robert Carr: Having worked in the private and public sector I can say it has always been a challenge to retain quality employees. I believe the city can help by continuing to make Eau Claire a desirable place to live and raise a family.
Charles Johnson: People are attracted to Eau Claire because of its high quality of life. However, with the rising cost of living and low wages, there is the danger of current and prospective residents being priced out. The city can be proactive and start by paying all employees a liveable wage. We must also make continued investments in the services and public resources that make Eau Claire a desirable destination. If people see there is a clear vision for the future of Eau Claire, not only will it attract new residents, but we will be able to retain the bright young minds from our local colleges.
Roderick Jones: Frankly, Eau Claire and its surrounding locales can be considered a child care desert, which means for every enrolled child at a childcare facility there are three (or more) children waiting to be served/enrolled. This makes livability incredibly hard for young professional families and business owners who work hard to attract workers to Eau Claire. This is but one example how local businesses (i.e., childcare owners) can support other local businesses. I believe the City can help facilitate this process. Further, I aver members on the City Council should work to understand the needs of local business owners by attending Chamber of Commerce functions and other venues wherein business owners strategize to resolve employment and staffing concerns. Once informed, council members will be better-equipped to discuss these issues and to usher policies geared toward making Eau Claire an increasingly desirable place to live.
Larry Mboga: i think the city should focus on more affordable housing would attract more people to our city
safety ,low crime and knowing that we are safe would attract more people to our city
Joshua Miller: Planners and economists note the importance of quality of life in the success of cities. Research finds that amenities such as recreational opportunities and cultural activities are big contributors. Cities with a higher quality of life have both higher employment and population growth than similarly situated communities.
Capitalizing on natural amenities is another path to success. We must continue to showcase our rivers and parks, attract festivals and events, and make downtown friendlier to pedestrians and bikes to make for a desirable recreation destination.
The nature of local businesses plays an important role. Local employers who provide goods and services that add to the quality of life are vital aspects of a city’s appeal, ranging from arts and culture to unique shopping experiences; farmers’ markets, locally-owned businesses, and small shops all enhance the quality of life to current and potential residents and the city should encourage these enterprises.
Brian Trowbridge: The City holds the most essential role in attracting and retaining new community members. The work that has been done in the past few years of revitalizing the downtown and riverfront areas of Eau Claire have greatly improved some areas of the City, definitely making it a beautiful place to live and work. There is much more to be done though, and some quality-of-life issues that need to be met head-on in order to better serve our current population before we continue to look to expansion. The pandemic, in part, has brought many local businesses to their knees and put employers and employees in a bad financial position. Medical and mental health resources have been stretched thin leaving many of our citizens on waiting lists for services they desperately need. The City needs to address some of these issues to ensure that our current citizens and businesses are healthy and secure before attempting to move on to loftier goals. Without a strong foundation, Eau Claire will struggle to grow.
3. What specific actions should the City take to address the housing supply challenges that have been identified at all income levels and housing types?
Kate Beaton: The City Council has invested millions of public dollars to subsidize new affordable housing, which has successfully increased our affordable housing stock. But building prices are way up and it’s becoming more and more difficult to build new housing that is affordable. As we increase our housing stock across the board, we also need to think of creative ways to make existing housing more affordable, like improving energy efficiency in homes to bring energy bills down. We should also consider policy changes that may be driving up the cost to build new housing, like lowering parking requirements for new housing.
Robert Carr: For the private sector I believe that the city could offer financing incentives and a more streamlined approval process to builders who work to meet the need for affordable housing. I also believe the city could do more to work with the surrounding townships to develop a more cohesive long term development plan .
Charles Johnson: I think it could be beneficial to take steps to improve the approval process for projects that would have a positive impact on members of the community, e.g., housing developments. An untimely and unpredictable approval process can end up acting as a barrier for new developments that could help address the shortage of quality/affordable housing.
Roderick Jones: To date, the City has worked closely with for-profit and non-profit home developers to provide housing at tiered, adjusted income levels. While this has helped mitigate some of the housing concerns among families at all income levels, there is clearly more work to be done. In addition to taking the approach thus mentioned, I believe we must begin to look beyond our community to determine how other local and national communities are ameliorating housing crises. We should do more to learn from and enact policies based on these models, especially if they have proven to be effective. Additionally, we pursue ways to help families and businesses refurbish/renovate abandoned and older model homes. This has the potential to increase housing inventory and to convince families to remain in their homes when they might otherwise consider moving or relocating due to excessive home repair costs.
Larry Mboga: our community is growing faster a demand for new housing is bigger. A good housing supply keeps housing affordable which leads to a quality of life .
Removing regulatory barriers ,innovation to bulid lower cost houses and apartments
Joshua Miller: The council made a great move when they created the Housing Opportunities Commission with a team dedicated solely to this issue. The solution will be an ongoing long-term mission exploring changes to development regulations across the spectrum. Examples are zoning (revising requirements for greater density in appropriate areas and redevelopment in existing neighborhoods), city policies and the Comprehensive Plan (considering plans that have a mix of housing types, single mixed with multi units), public funding and public-private partnerships (using public funds to assist in the creation of affordable housing, collaborating with builders to develop a suite of spec building plans). There are specific policies to look at such as neighborhood design, reasonable density strategies, upzoning, tax-increment financing, and community land trusts; all these may serve to increase the amount of affordable housing available on the market to bring down prices.
Brian Trowbridge: The local housing shortage poses a complex issue. Between the high construction costs of late, and other land use challenges, Eau Claire is in a tight spot similar to many other communities. The City’s role in addressing this shortage on a broad scale is, I believe, somewhat limited, but I feel there are actions that could be taken to help alleviate some of the stress. Eau Claire could look into providing more incentives for landlords and developers such as tax and/or utility breaks for housing units that meet affordability standards. The City can also continue to work with developers on placement of multi-family dwellings in areas of the city where growth has been somewhat stagnant.
4.) The City Council is in the process of determining how to spend over $13 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). What are your thoughts on the priorities for the deployment of these funds?
Kate Beaton: I have consistently supported strong public involvement in deciding how American Rescue Plan Act money is distributed and I have been inspired by the level of input we’ve gotten so far from the community. Overall, it appears that the community predominantly supports spending this money to help people hit hardest by COVID-19—people of low income, small businesses, working families. I support spending the recovery money in this way.
Robert Carr: I would look at establishing a long term fund that small businesses could draw from at very low or no interest. I would establish a second fund for home owners/ buyers could also draw from at low/ no interest. Lastly, I would work with the local medical community to finally create a permanent long care addiction and mental health center.
Charles Johnson: First and foremost, I believe it will be most prudent to address the issues and disparities that have been felt amongst those who were hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. We can do this by investing in civic infrastructure. The programs and organizations that serve the individuals in these communities can use these funds to procure resources to help people get back on their feet. Additionally, because the pandemic had such an impact on the family-owned shops and small businesses that give Eau Claire its special character, these funds must be directed their way.
Roderick Jones: First, I believe ARPA funds should be used to improve the overall health of our community via increasing mental/behavioral health care and counseling services. Second, ARPA funds should be used to improve low-income and affordable housing opportunities for residents who are housing insecure. Third, I believe ARPA funds should be used to increase business opportunities and funding for burgeoning minority and small business owners. Finally, to the extent the council can, ARPA funds should be utilized to augment broadband coverage for residents for whom this might continually be an issue.
Larry Mboga: solicit resident input to prepare funding plans .
prepare a long term post -pandemic financial plans
helping business who were impacted by covid outbreak
strength our local economy by preparing strategic development plans and housing strategies
Joshua Miller: Many areas merit consideration of these funds, but the City Council needs to be patient in allocating this money. Cities have until the end of 2024 to direct the funds and until the end of 2026 to use them. It’s a deliberate, thoughtful type of funding looking to address the long-term impacts that the city has felt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The priorities will change over the next two years as we continue our recovery.
A poll of the U.S. Conference of Mayors show over two-thirds of cities used funds for housing assistance and to support small businesses. These are high consensus areas that will get attention. We also need to help disproportionately impacted communities. Examples would be shelter and services for those experiencing homelessness and programs for youths such as nutrition and food assistance. We can spend some of the funds on the PFAS chemical pollutants found in our well water and finishing removal of lead pipes from our drinking water system.
Brian Trowbridge: The most responsible use of ARPA funds, in my mind, would be to first backfill shortages at the City level so that infrastructure needs can be met and the City can continue to provide current levels of service, as well as to expand services according to existing plans. Next, to ensure that public service employers, such as police, fire, EMS, and public works are staffed, trained, and equipped to the high standard that the City and its residents expect of them. Finally, funding for programs that address the issues of addiction, mental health, and income disparity that cause hardships for families with children would be my priority.
5. If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a City Council Member?
Open Democracy – I believe in a government where everyone has a seat at the table. That’s why we empowered the community to allocate public dollars directly, expanded opportunities to vote safely, and more —all to protect our democracy.
Sustainability – With climate change as an existential threat to our our world, it is vital that we all do our part, especially local governments. I’m proud that I helped lead the local clean energy charge in Eau Claire, setting a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050, city-wide, and creating a visionary plan to achieve this goal.
Affordable Housing – Safe, affordable housing is a human right, but some in Eau Claire are just getting by. I’ve supported historic investments in affordable housing and innovations making existing housing more affordable and livable.
Robert Carr: My three top priorities are to support public safety through the police and fire departments. Second is to be committed to the maintenance and improvement of the city’s infrastructure. Third is to limit or remove the obstacles to success for the people of Eau Claire.
Charles Johnson: First, it will be essential to address the budgetary challenges that will arise due to the tax levy limits in place. Eau Claire is a growing city and to sustain this growth and ensure the vital services that allow daily life to function properly are fully funded, I am in support of a referendum. Second, access to affordable housing is a concern for many Eau Claire residents. As I mentioned above, to help solve this problem, I think it could be beneficial to take steps to improve the approval process for development projects that would provide affordable housing. Finally, as this city grows and new developments arise, I want to ensure the natural beauty of Eau Claire is not lost. Natural green spaces, public parks, and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure need to remain a priority when planning.
Roderick Jones: The pandemic made clear the need for our community to provide more resources for families and businesses within the realm in childcare. Women and people of color have been the most adversely (and disproportionately) impacted by the pandemic insofar as loss of jobs, income, and ability to find safe, affordable childcare services. Second, I believe our council needs to continue working toward finding effective, imaginative solutions to expanding low-income and affordable housing for individuals and families. We need to continue looking at how this is done throughout our state and nation. This also entails helping families weather-proof their homes, which improves energy efficiency and livability. Examples exist; we just need to continue doing our due diligence and asking our community and business leaders for ongoing input and support around this issue. Finally, I believe we have a moral and civic responsibility to nurture and preserve our environment. I will champion this issue, too.
Larry Mboga: HOUSING
WORKING TOGETHER REGARDLESS OUR POLITICAL AFFILATION
Joshua Miller: One top priority would be addressing housing affordability and working to increase housing inventory in the area. I would be interested to hear from members of the homebuilding sector about their insights and recommendations to alleviate the issue.
A second would be, as Eau Claire continues to grow, protecting our environment and the natural beauty of the area. Included with that would be a focus on the PFAS chemicals impact on our city wells and drinking water and also ensuring the city completes the removal of all lead pipes from our water system.
Finally, the multi-year process of allocating ARPA funds to the city will be an ever-present agenda item for the council for at least the next two years. The council must formulate a plan but also be cognizant of the possibility of changing the plans as the priorities of the city develop over this time.
Brian Trowbridge: The first of my top three priorities, if elected, would be the maintenance of current programs and services that Eau Claire’s citizens depend on for their overall well-being and the expansion of those services to further meet growing needs. My second priority would be the upkeep and expansion of City infrastructure in order to ensure that our citizens are able to live and work here without worry that needs such as utility services like public water, sewer, electrical/telecommunication services, and reliable transportation means and routes will become an issue in the future. The third priority I would focus on would be further economic development in the City. Building on what Eau Claire already offers will help to ensure the viability of our economy and workforce, and help to protect our current businesses.
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Eau Claire City Council Candidate Information (Eau Claire Chamber)
Posted by Brianna Franke