Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 2 Questioinnaire
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. You can vote early Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you plan to vote by mail, voters are strongly encouraged to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure their ballot is received by the deadline.
What it’s about: The County Board has 29 members, with each member representing around 3,645 people. Each member represents one of the 29 districts and serves a two year term. All 29 seats are up for election this spring. The candidates for District 2 include:
- Amanda Babb
- Brent Knutson
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters who reside in District 2. Click here to find your 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.
1.) What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the County Board personally?
Amanda Babb: I am active and invested in my community. As the president of the Upper Westside Neighborhood Association, as well as the treasurer for the Eau Claire Neighborhoods Association, I have my finger on the pulse of the growth and concerns of the city. My work in subsidized housing and experience working with individuals with disabilities gives me a unique perspective on the needs of our community. It is important to me to advocate for those who need support. I believe my skills in communication and organization will be valuable to the county. If elected, I would approach this position with compassion and excitement for the future of Eau Claire.
Brent Knutson: I’ve worked at Nestlé for the past 21 years. I understand big business and budgets. I now own Chickadees family restaurant. I understand the hard times these businesses are having, shortages, staffing. Owning a diner in my district I hear their concern’s, the likes and the dislikes of things going on in our community. I hear it from the peoples perspective.
2.) With a strong local economy and low unemployment, many employers report difficulty in filling positions. What is the role of Eau Claire County in attracting more people to the community, and ensuring that the County is an attractive place to live and work?
Amanda Babb: As one of the fastest growing cities in Wisconsin, Eau Claire is clearly doing many things right. I believe our focus should continue to be on making our city safe, affordable, and welcoming. A great example of this is Eau Claire’s downtown area; the investment in developing our infrastructure of housing, education, public transportation, and traffic safety has fostered growth for small businesses and the music and art communities. As we continue these areas of development, I believe we will see growth across all of Eau Claire. Eau Claire is also excellent at celebrating our city with development which enhances the beauty of its natural resources. Along with our beautiful nature paths and colorful walking bridges, we can ensure that the County is an attractive place to live and work by providing necessities such as a living wage and safe, affordable housing.
Brent Knutson: I know from the staffing issues I have seen at Nestlé. They can’t keep people because they are so short of people, forcing endless overtime for the original employees. They are getting burned out. I think affordable housing is the biggest issue and taxes. There are good paying jobs here, but affordable housing is a problem.
3.) The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force found that the community is experiencing housing supply challenges at all income levels and housing types. What should the County’s role be in expanding housing supply within areas of its jurisdiction?
Amanda Babb: It is the responsibility of the County to ensure its residents have access to affordable housing. Expanding the housing supply not only involves building new homes and apartments, but using our current resources. Converting historic buildings that are no longer in use into apartments has been a creative way Eau Claire has addressed this issue. New houses and apartment complexes are also being built. But whether building or converting, housing should be affordable and readily accessible.
Brent Knutson: It’s all about affordable housing, with the average income in the county being around 60,000 per household, we can’t keep building apartments with 1500 to 1800 dollar rent. We need places we’re people can pay their bills and still have enough left over to have a comfortable life.
4.) The County is in the process of determining how to spend over $20 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Over $4 million has already been committed to broadband and to assistance for non-profits and small businesses. What are your thoughts on the priorities for the deployment of the remaining $15 million of funds?
Amanda Babb: The remaining ARPA funds would benefit many county programs, including building housing, providing housing assistance, public transportation, affordable childcare, affordable elder care and disability care, education expense assistance, energy assistance, affordable healthcare and mental health care, and support for our veterans. The options for ARPA fund allocation that I believe would be most beneficial to the community include: premium pay for essential workers; aid and job training to unemployed workers; aid for medical expenses and wages lost due to isolation or quarantine; funding for mental health treatment and expenses, community violence intervention programs, crisis intervention, and other behavioral health and substance misuse services; services to address individuals experiencing homelessness, affordable housing development, housing vouchers, and residential counseling and housing navigation assistance; and early learning services like tutoring or afterschool programs.
Brent Knutson: I agree we need to take care of the small businesses ravaged by the pandemic. Money needs to be used to find options for the homeless population. We need to finance programs for the drug problem we have in the county. (Rehab programs). We need to purchase PPE for the schools, update ventilation systems to prepare ourselves if another crisis were to happen. We can’t keep our kids out of school again.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Amanda Babb: My top three priorities as a County Board Member would be:
Finding housing solutions that are safe and affordable.
Preservation and enhancement of our natural resources.
Ensuring responsible, sustainable growth.
Let’s create a city where our residents don’t just live, but thrive.
Brent Knutson: Accountability- people have the right to know where there tax dollars are being spent, and have a voice as to where it is being spent. Drugs- the county has a drug problem. It goes hand in hand with crime and homelessness. It’s a viscous cycle. We need stiffer laws to get these drugs off the streets. Homelessness- we need more programs to get these people a fresh start, a place to stay, teach them life skills to find employment, pay bills, and be productive citizens.
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern