We must fully fund the police AND reform its enforcement. Reducing enforcement hurts our most vulnerable.
MY OPPONENT wants to reduce the size of the police budget and create positions that duplicate services provided by 1) our nonprofits and 2) the County (as paid for through our taxes) - i.e. health and human services.
NEED HEARING DIVERSE VOICES IN POLICING
The role of the mayor is to work with Police Chief Shawn Kudron to keep all citizens safe. Safety is one of the top concerns I hear when going door to door. I know we also have a sector that does not feel they are treated fairly. Their voice needs to be heard in a way they do not fear retaliation. Every law-abiding individual should feel safe in our community.
I do not, however, support reducing the police budget - whether you call it reallocating or defunding. You don't cut your way to solutions. You need resources to reform what you have. You trust and hold accountable the person in charge of that area. I've met with Chief Kudron twice, who is newer in his position. He has the right attitude to lead his force - believing in reducing criminalization, getting people connected to the resources they need, treating all people officers interact with, with dignity and transparency. He wants his officers to be innovative, problem-solvers, and open-minded. The Chief welcomes feedback, asking for people to look at their policies, manuals, and training.
Leadership comes from the top and Chief Kudron is the right leader to hold officers accountable for being ambassadors and providing great service to our community. When members of our community believe they are not treated well by police, they need to know how to safely be heard.
NEED: AVOIDING ARRESTS
I am impressed with the programs the officers are bringing forward to get juveniles needed resources before they are arrested. During COVID, in collaboration with the county district attorney's office, the police worked to keep non-violent people out of jail while on bond to the number of individuals in jail. They're considering keeping this policy because the community remained safe while this policy was in place. That is innovation.
NEED: NOT CRIMINALIZING MENTAL HEALTH, HOMELESSNESS, ADDICTION
Policing has already moved to not arresting those with mental health, homelessness and addiction. The goal is to connect those individuals with resources. These three issues are intertwined with many police calls. It is unfortunate.
There is a model, known as the Chelsea Hub (more info here >>). It is a great model for creating a hub of resource providers around each individual (housing, transportation, clothing, food, etc.). It is lead by the police department. It does not involve hiring mental health and addiction professionals within the city.
Chief Kudron told me he has asked other agencies to respond 24/7/365. No one is stepping up. He is hence trying a new police program, announcing soon, to fill the mental health and resources need in order to avoid criminalization. Chief Kudron could not create and test this program with fewer funds.
Some would like to see money moved to hire more social workers instead of police to help officers. As taxpayers, we are paying the County for health and human services so that our City doesn't have to have that department. Creating our own human services department isn't using our property taxes properly.
We must continue to fund the police, provide them with feedback, and as mayor, I will ensure positive change occurs.
Property taxes being too high is the number one concern I hear going door-to-door. Everyone believes they are too high. When I explain that the budget is tight, they accept that ...
Holding the Line on Property Taxes
is reasonable. Some advocate for increasing property taxes to address concerns in our community. Bless you. I think of 76-year old Mary on the southside. Her parents built and paid for the house she now lives in on the southside. Her one ask of me, "Don't increase my taxes. I'll lose my home." It is her largest expense.
HOW DO WE DO THAT
We have to add to our property tax base by redeveloping commercial properties that have gone dark or are "underperforming" -- meaning there is greater potential for that property. It might be converting a once-box store to mixed-use of residential and commercial. We can also look forward to developing River Point District (just west of the Festival on Copeland) after decades of sitting empty.
We must replace our tired housing as it becomes available with a variety of housing. Providing both affordable, working-class, middle-income, and senior housing ensures we keep people in our community.
When we add higher-value properties, we increase our tax base, the burden is shared over more properties.
The roads are the second most common issue I hear talking to voters door to door.
As mayor, I will continue to budget to repair six miles of roads per year as Mayor Kabat has done. I will work with the DOT on maintenance of their roads - Hwy 16/La Crosse, Hwy 53 (Rose/Copeland/3rd/4th), Hwy 35 (George/Lang), Hwy 14/61 (South Ave/Mormon Coulee)
MY OPPONENT: said he will hire five more street workers.
This doesn't address how to pay for roads.
The good news is, La Crosse Street will be redone from its deepest layer and completely overhauled next year. More info here >>
NOTE: we must also work with the DOT and our Southside residents and businesses as South Avenue gets redone with roundabouts in 2022, a project that began years ago. More info >>
I, Vicki Markussen, pledge to #UniteNotDivide. I am not seeking endorsements from organizations. Here's why.
As I go door to door talking to voters, they are discouraged by the division between us as friends and neighbors. The mayor's position is nonpartisan for a reason. It is La Crosse's chance to unite voices, not divide. I believe that by elevating one voice, another grows quiet. This does not mean I'm not listening to organizations. I will still meet with them. Their knowledge adds to being a stronger mayor.
I ran for mayor because it is nonpartisan. I saw the opportunity to unite a diverse team, use my experience to showcase issues that move La Crosse forward, and to do what I've always done - create solutions. I value diverse voices on my team. They represent the faith community, employees, business owners, women, men, LGBTQ, minorities, and ages 18 to retirees.
This pledge is not stifling voices, it's actually elevating all. I will still take endorsements and support from individuals. Organizations can still reach out. Their issues and opinions, absolutely, still matter. Every leader doesn't just listen to those who think like they do, they take in all the information before deciding a path forward. Organizations can still guide their members on candidates. Those individuals can choose to engage with a campaign. Every voice is valued. That's what I believe as mayor.
I keep my campaign aligned with my beliefs, keep my door open, and run this race how I believe it should be - nonpartisan and Pro-La Crosse. This how we #ThriveForwardTogether.
We all feel for unsheltered individuals, particularly during the coldest of winter days. Individuals who are homeless, particularly in Cameron Park, became more visible during the pandemic because the services that assist them had to reduce the number of people they could serve or, in the case of services used during the day, closed.
Homelessness comes in a variety of forms, such as individuals who are sleeping on other's couches or in vehicles, families living with other families, people receiving vouchers for housing, those living in shelters, or those who choose to be unsheltered.
Lack of housing crosses city boundaries. It is a shared concern. La Crosse County financially contributes to the solution and the City of La Crosse's Planning Department assists with finding grants for the nonprofits who help those in need. The result is the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (more info here >>). This innovative group of nonprofits successfully ended Veteran Homelessness in 2016. By working collaboratively, Catholic Charities, Couleecap, Independent Living Resources, and the Salvation Army created rapid housing solutions and improved results. They continue to meet to case-manage individuals regardless of which nonprofit they walk in the door of each night. This interweaving of programs was working well -- providing shelter and healthcare, and finding stable housing. Then the pandemic hit.
The Collaborative lost its leader.
The City of La Crosse is also about to experience a change in its point person for this initiative.
I believe the City must fill the position on our staff that assists community nonprofits in homelessness. This person will be a partner in solving homelessness.
MY OPPONENT has discussed a "Housing First" model that would be funded by the City and pulling funding from the nonprofits for the City to administer.
I am opposed to this idea because:
- Homelessness crosses boundaries. Our nonprofits do this best.
- Our nonprofits can best leverage federal, state, local and individual charitable contributions, not the City.
- Our nonprofits must pick the ways to address homelessness. They are the experts.
- Many people agree that some homeless refuse housing. This hurts our compassionate hearts to hear, but it is reality.
THE CITY'S ROLE: Finding the right person for your open position key. They must uplift the work of the nonprofits and the County to ensure a shared solution, across municipalities, solves homelessness post-pandemic. They search for gaps and work to financially fill the holes. Often, these funds require a separate organization to which they contribute the funds.
Our nonprofits have the knowledge and are better positioned financially to receive federal, state, and local donations to resolve homelessness. They also know which housing model will align with remaining gaps in service - whether it is the Housing First, Chelsea Hub, hiring a landlord coordinator, or another solution.
The innovation and reputation of this Collaboration should not go without notice. They are seen as leaders in the state. This positioned them to recently receive the second-highest grant in the state, a $1.4 million federal grant, to the YWCA to create a runaway and homeless shelter for youth. The day resource center will serve as a one-stop place for all ages to receive services. Nonprofit partners with the YWCA in the venture include Black Leaders Acquiring Collective Knowledge, Catholic Charities, the CIA Siab Inc. Hmong organization, Couleecap, the Family & Children’s Center, Independent Living Resources, The Salvation Army of La Crosse County, and The Center: 7Rivers LGBTQ Connection. (more info here >>)
The solution to homelessness is complicated and must be customized for each individual. The work is intense and emotionally draining. Upon assessment, an individual's mental health, addictions, ability to take care of housing, and much more require tailored solutions that our nonprofits are equipped to handle and lead.
The role of the mayor is to ensure the most knowledgeable, servant-leading individual is hired in this position for the City. That individual can partner in finding the funding that allows these collaborative and innovative nonprofits that are working to end homelessness can replicate the success they had with Veteran homelessness.
I am opposed to a road through the marsh.
One of my strengths is thinking three-steps-ahead. That strength instantly puts a series of "what-ifs" in my head. In the case of an additional road through the marsh, my thoughts created, "What if it was a monorail, or the road created a levy that would lift homes out of the floodplain designation, or it was an elevated road. I realized those what-ifs were not feasible and still had an impact on the marsh. The logical answer ... I am opposed to a road through the marsh. It is a resource my family and others enjoy on a regular basis, plays a critical role to our ecosystem, and is a key part of this beautiful place we call home.
I do recognize that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has an obligation to address safety on their highways (the City is responsible for our streets). We must continue to work with the DOT to address these safety concerns but do so in a way that minimizes the impact to our marsh.
As a community, we also cannot ignore that our roads are vital to our economy. They are not only for people to get to work. They get patients to appointments. Roads get products in and out of the City. We have more than 100 semi-trucks coming out of downtown on a daily basis. We want tourists coming into the City. Those coming into La Crosse spend money in our businesses, making them thrive. We must unite all voices to address the safety issues. Addressing safety concerns is what makes this long-standing DOT project get resolved. We must send a strong message that the solution cannot put a road through the marsh.
Recovery of Lives and Livelihoods
PROBLEM: We are facing a health and economic crisis. As one resolves, the other must rise, safely. As United Way pointed out before COVID, 50% of La Crosse residents are one crisis away from poverty. The pandemic was that crisis. Yet, our nonprofits are hurting at a time when services are needed the most. We must put people back in jobs. The federal and state needs are great. We must turn to local solutions.
Our community is so generous. It's what caused me to run, recombination with seeing how my leadership skills and vision can help our community recover.
Our friends and neighbors must help friends and neighbors.
MY SOLUTION: Greater La Crosse is filled with servant leaders. As mayor, I will call on the experts in food, shelter, and economic areas to identify needs. We will ask those who are able to step into serving the community and filling those needs. From our Rotaries to our Foundations to businesses that thrived during the pandemic to nonprofits to our faith community and to individuals – we need everyone to lean into local. Our friends and neighbors need our help.
Get City Hall In Order
This borrows from the phrasing "get your house in order" -- meaning to ensure that City Hall is functioning well with all the new leadership so that we can all move forward serving efficiently and effectively. Quite frankly, having so many new council members, a new mayor, and a new city council president is going to be a big learning curve for us all. We must get City Hall in order.
- Leadership Development through a collaborative effort of common council and city staff
- New Council Members Orientation must occur
Meetings with Department Heads & Continuing Council Members
- Identify how we remove obstacles to prosperity (ex. liquor licenses, bus fares, economic development, )
- Empower department leaders to lead and get them the tools they need
- Determine existing and new measurements for how we know we are servicing our people well
- Elect New Council President and build a great relationship with new council.
- Establish a plan to reopen City Hall safely - when it is safe to do so and how we do it, in compliance with County Health
Identify the Needs of Our Friends and Neighbors
In my first month as Mayor I will convene a meeting of our nonprofits and invite surrounding governments to identify the needs of our people. These shared need blur boundaries. I did this work for four years – blurring three state borders, 13 county borders, education, and businesses. Our friends and neighbors cross borders for work and for services. Many are hurting. This pandemic impacted our most vulnerable and marginalized the hardest. We must collaborate with our surrounding communities and our County on meeting those needs. Why? Because we share people.
The areas of need we must identify:
- Health (physical & mental)
- Businesses / Economy
- Education (K-12 and higher education)
Government can convene but does not need to lead all of these efforts. Nonprofits better aligned to maximize federal, state & local grants and donations. Government can convene and partner on efforts while shining a spotlight on solutions. Collectively, local mayors, chairmen, and presidents can call on our citizens to support.
When we share problems and solutions,
- we build trust with our surrounding communities
- it creates on-going communication
In the first 100 days, I will create ongoing communication opportunities with our surrounding communities and the County occurs.
Focus On Income (Without Raising Property Taxes)
The City Council made tough cuts to balance the budget and still had to increase property taxes slightly. Our ability to spend is never-ending. Getting money flowing in our community is vital to offset deeper cuts.
State and Federal Representatives: We must know what is or is not coming from state and federal sources.
- I know Jill Billings, Brad Pfaff, Ron Kind, and the local staff for Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin.
- As mayor, I will ensure we are communicating regularly.
- We must express the needs here locally
- Find Best Practices from Other Communities through the League of Municipalities I worked with the organization's head, Jerry Deschane when he was with the Wisconsin Builders Association and I was at the La Crosse Builders Association. We can learn how other communities are tackling tough issues.
- Tourism: Develop plans with metrics for the safe, planned, reopening of the La Crosse Center & Tourism. Just like schools reopening and sports, we must try, have plans should increases occur, and adapt the plans.
- Events: I served on their board of Explore La Crosse. I will work with them to safely bring back our tourism. The city budget relies on room tax dollars. It is important we put people back into hotels.
Small, Local Businesses: The mayor must be the cheerleader for our quality of life. Young professionals I worked with stated they love our outdoors and our locally owned shops and restaurants.
- We must reclaim the $60 million in ADDITIONAL money spent online during the pandemic.
- We are losing jobs. Every dollar spent locally has two-to-three times the impact as spending with a national company. Local businesses pay our friends and neighbors - whether that's employees or local attorneys, accountants, cleaning companies, and more.
- Government is not the only voice in the conversation, but, again, a collaboration of our community leaders can spotlight a problem that many in the community people can solve.
When we increase our income, we have money for things that cost us money.
- Leadership Development through a collaborative effort of common council and city staff
I am Pro-La Crosse and Pro-Getting-Things-Done! The seat of mayor is nonpartisan. It is one of the reasons I am running for this office. National and state governments struggle to get things done because that one letter behind their name can impact how they vote and the terms under which they reach a compromise. I am grateful and hopeful that party affiliation does not cloud this campaign.
The next 10 years are crucial to addressing climate change. It must be addressed at the local level. The City pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050 and made strides in moving to electric fleets, adjusting cleaning product use, and adding solar panels to projects. This is not enough.
The committee is reforming around a more aggressive agenda and better metrics for success – beyond electricity consumption. New strategies must be created to meet this new goal.
This is an exciting time. I bring relationships into the conversation that, I believe can make La Crosse a leader in using our private companies as partners in getting us to carbon-neutral before 2050. These potential partners/committee members I hope to include:
- Gundersen Health System: I've toured this facility that is a leader in moving their hospital to carbon neutral
- Western Technical College: whose have courses in sustainable practices
- Trane Technologies: their Gigaton Challenge will make their customers carbon-neutral
- Roz Schnick and her INEXCO group, a locally-lead but international think-tank of how to develop alternative energies that have an economic benefit
- Chris Schneider and his work with alternative energy vehicles, and
- Chart Industries: is investing in alternative energies such as LNG, cryo, hydrogen, and carbon capture
Small projects like the Bike Share that is about to launch in La Crosse, allowing for reduced use of vehicles, begin a new form of public engagement in alternative transportation.
There are also opportunities for education and community initiative we need to pursue. As an example, in a story of disconnect, I recently spoke to the UW-L Student Senate. They asked a question about sustainability. I answered similar to my stance here and then we moved on to a discussion of parking and reduction of cars. There was pushback on this idea around the room. When asked, who has a car here on campus, every single student raised their hand. There is a disconnect between sustainability and their own actions. Consumer education must be a part of the City’s new plan. As citizens, we must pledge to conserve water, reduce solid waste, increase our recycling, and use alternative transportation as much as possible.
The City is on the right path with adjusting the MTU as the largest user of diesel and our police force as the largest user of gasoline (creating CO2 emissions). The City has increased vehicles using propane versus gasoline. We must continue this adaptation. Propane police cars would emit 15% less CO2/mile. MTU Diesel-electric hybrid busses use 47% less fuel per mile. Just four diesel-electric hybrid busses save 19,000 gallons of fuel!
My engagement with the community provides me with insight into public-private partnerships and local expertise that can be used to create an innovative sustainability plan. I have the experience to unite government, businesses, and nonprofits in getting real results for this city. I will ensure we work with experts in our private and public sectors as well to make our community more sustainable.
Watch: My Plan for PFAS
Our friends, family, and neighbors living on French Island are living with knowledge or fear that their wells may be contaminated. No one should have to worry about their drinking water. The long-term effects on our health and land are unacceptable.
BACKGROUND: Recent testing of wells on French Island revealed high-levels of a dangerous group of man-made chemicals, collectively called PFAS. The source is believed to be firefighting foam that is required by the federal government to be used at airports like the La Crosse Regional Airport. The extent of the contamination is still being determined. Meanwhile, the City has already filed a lawsuit against several manufacturers of the foam. The Mayor has stated the companies knew of the health hazards of this foam for decades.
Our French Island neighbors are living in fear. Additionally, our firefighters have an additional health risk. The cost to the City of La Crosse continues to rise for this problem, created by federal government regulation.
I've been asked how would I lead this issue, as mayor, moving forward?
Everyone deserves to have safe drinking water. I heard from Travis, concerned because his grandmother's well tested high. My friend's well appears to be fine, but she still doesn't want her four-year-old daughter accidentally drinking from the tap. My former co-worker shouldn't have to worry about cancer and other side-effects developing in his college-age daughters who drank the water all of their lives.
The fear is real. It is understandable. The only way to subside, not resolve, fear is by having a plan that is clearly communicated. There are no winners in this situation. We can't fix the actions of the past, but we can unite to find an effective, shared solution, moving forward, together. By being a collective voice for this area to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we can seek both short- and long-term solutions to a problem created by federal government regulations.
PROVIDE ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER to those with PFAS contamination
The City hired a consultant to test wells. The investigation should continue. Residents are also testing their wells. Everyone with PFAS contamination should have access and receive clean drinking water.
STOP using the foam
We must find an alternative to using this known health hazard. We cannot continue to contaminate our groundwater, our wells, and our land, and we need to protect our firefighters. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Kind must help us overturn the federal law mandating this particular foam.
MEET WITH CONCERNED CITIZENS & CAMPBELL
The citizens know the history of the island. Their information can help the process and build communication avenues with the city.
ESTABLISH COMMUNICATION METHODS
We need a short and long-term plan that is effectively communicated to the Town of Campbell Board and those living in the 1600 homes and apartments on French Island. Many of these individuals are researching and providing additional information to the investigation. Establishing two-way communication strengthens the voice moving forward with manufacturers, the Wisconsin DNR, and the federal government. Fear is a valid emotion enveloping this conversation. The City and Town can ease some of this fear by agreeing upon a path moving forward and keeping our friends and family informed.
In light of a plane crash in the 1970s in the area northwest of the airport, we must expand testing around this area.
EXPAND TESTING: Identify the extent/significance of the problem
I've been told the national labs don't have the staffing to test every well on French Island quickly. There are discussions of creating a local lab using UW-L and private businesses that have the ability to test water. Until that time, the consulting company hired by the City, with help from the Town and residents, must continue to explore all sources and the extent of the contamination.
ADVOCATE for state and federal funding
As this letter to the editor from Sen. Brad Pfaff and Rep. Jill Billings points out, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers's budget includes a state action plan, additional testing, and funding for local governments. Congressman Ron Kind and Sen. Tammy Baldwin are also working on funding for PFAS and research on exposure levels. I've gone to Madison and Washington D.C. with local issues. If we can gather the many voices of those impacted, it will get heard.
CONTINUE THE LAWSUIT of manufacturers
Their knowledge decades earlier of these dangerous chemicals is not acceptable, and they must be held accountable.
SOLUTIONS & BEST PRACTICES
Solutions: The problem is new. Solutions are being developed. We must explore all options to fixing the contaminated water in the wells. Connecting residents in the Town of Campbell to La Crosse City water is controversial but should be included in discussions.
Best Practices: Every community with an airport or Military base faces the same contamination problem that the residents of the Town of Campbell are facing because of the federal regulation. Some may be ahead of La Crosse in finding solutions. I have previously worked with the head of the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, Jerry Deschane. I will work with him to coordinate Wisconsin efforts. Because of my work with the Builders Association, economic development associations, and Chamber of Commerce, I also know the value of monitoring national work as well. I will be identifying communities leading in this PFAS work, such as Marinette, WI and the state of Michigan.
Realtors will need to know the impact of PFAS on property values. Having long-term solutions will, obviously, improve those values. My positive relationship with the La Crosse Area REALTORS Association will help ensure those individuals listing properties are informed.
The City of La Crosse and Town of Campbell must continue to communicate with those impacted. Keeping the relationship with the Town of Campbell amicable will be key. I have experience working across borders for the greater good as part of my work at the 7 Rivers Alliance.
We will learn as this plan moves forward adapt as we learn new information. We must collaborate with the City of La Crosse, Town of Campbell, and residents impacted to adapt this plan until a solution is identified.
We know the ground water is contaminated, so much so that the City has shut down two of their wells, #23 and #24. How PFAS settles in our ground and water, how it travels, and how it is resolved must continue to be monitored.
Creating Diversity of Perspective
Diversity Defined: race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs
To thrive we need people who act, think, and look different. All leaders know innovation occurs when they include different perspectives. Diversity has proven, tangible value.
To move forward, together our community must accept that change is happening. When we embrace it, our community improves at a rapid pace. We all want the highest quality health care and education. That means embracing diversity across our community. To get people to say "Yes" to La Crosse, we all must listen and understand how to be more inclusive and to the needs.
I have experience working with the Diversity Council in La Crosse, with hiring departments of large employers, and have attended Waking up White conversations in the community. I look forward to the community book read. In the business community, there are few women and minority company owners engaged in key conversations, let alone citizens. (See list of Black-Owned businesses here >>) provided by BLACK. Under my leadership, the Chamber created women in leadership opportunities. I was the bridge between community dialog and employers wanting to take inclusion beyond hiring quotas. There is a desire. We must connect resources with people wanting to change. I bring that knowledge, desire, and relationships to the conversation.
Leadership begins at the top.
As Mayor, I believe City Hall must lead by example. The City must partner with organizations that can identify opportunities, provide resources, and guide the community. It is essential to attracting and creating thought-provoking leaders in our community. Inclusion is essential to creating a more just society. It enhances La Crosse as a great place to work, live, and play.
Want to learn more about community members' experiences in La Crosse? Check out this Voice of Racial (In)Justice website here >>
College and university students add to the vibrancy of our community. They are both our present and future residents, workers, and leaders.
Students while in school play several roles:
- Students fill many of the jobs that enhance our quality of life - coffee shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc.
- Students are interns. They bring as much to the businesses they work for as the companies learn from them. If we want to keep this future professional workforce in the area, we must give them ways to engage with us. We must work with partners to increase internship opportunities.
- Students are citizens, sometimes longer term. Many who go to school here want to stay. We need to develop stronger paths that turn them from students, to graduates, to employees, to community leaders.
- Students are volunteers in our community. I saw many be a Big Brother or Big Sister while on the marketing committee for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Many students have coached my children in sports. Their enthusiasm, their time availability, and their energy are all characteristics we need more of in our community.
We Can be More "Together"
To thrive now: Jobs for students were decimated by the pandemic. Many are struggling to make car, rent, and tuition payments. I know what that's like. I had scholarships due to my underprivileged upbringing to pay for school, but jobs provided my livelihood -- taking notes for a person with disabilities, referring volleyball games, editing papers for engineering professors, doing data entry, and much more while attending UW-Madison. We must work with the universities to ensure students are not left behind due to financial hardships or are going hungry. I've seen our community support people in need. The university, too, is our community.
To move forward: I look forward to continuing my attendance at UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow's community breakfasts and Viterbo University President Glenda Temple's Community Advisory Board. The City and students must better connect, particularly as we look to attract people to live in the City. Where and how they want to live helps us develop smarter - not just housing, but elements that enhance our quality of life. The student senate, which is already a demonstrated body of student leaders, is a great place to start.
I've modeled what engagement with higher education looks like. When first in a hiring position, I hired interns and have never stopped. I'd estimate more than 20 have worked with me over the years. Some of them provided very endearing testimonials when I first announced my candidacy. Their fresh perspective, their enthusiasm, and our team watching them grow professionally and later in life are the rewards.
I also have proven relationships. While at the 7 Rivers Alliance (regional economic development), I had the pleasure of having both Chancellor Gow and then Western Technical College President Lee Rasch. In fact, my lead-partner-support model of defining roles is "borrowed" from Lee Rasch.
I understand the desire to have strong schools. I have two boys still in K-12 schools and another at Western Technical College. Growing up, my teachers encouraged my writing skills and helped shape my early career path. For the City, the school districts are a key partner in the strength of our City. Their leaders and teachers, daily, impact the lives of our families with children. They are one of the front-lines in identifying and helping families needing assistance. We are lucky to have strong educational options in La Crosse.
Schools have their own leadership and control their own funding. Their borders extend beyond the City of La Crosse. Yet the City and Schools are intertwined. What is good for the schools is good for the City, and vice-versa. We are partners.
Many exterior factors impact the success of our students. The City, with yet more partners, must remove barriers at home and in the community so the path to high school graduation is smoother. Just as I had life-changing opportunities, so must every child so they can thrive moving forward.
At the same time, people are moving to the area and deciding where to live. Our schools, property taxes, and housing options all play a role. We must make it easier for people to choose La Crosse.
As Mayor, I will work with city staff, common council, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developers to develop a focus strategy for affordable housing.
Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) can be used to address affordable housing while creating social-diversity projects, reduce gentrification, and provide opportunities for families to live in a higher-quality property. The City is in the process of reviewing its policies that impact the cost of housings, such as off-street parking requirements, with the understanding that the more land required for developing, the higher the cost.
We must ensure the partnerships with our nonprofits that work in housing are strong. As Mayor, I will build a collaborative partnership with these nonprofits to address issues like housing and affordability. We must recognize that housing is a journey from rental to ownership to senior living. We must ensure that we offer the proper housing for all individuals so that people can move into the home they desire.
I support the role of the neighborhood association and would continue City involvement with them.
The closer our City staff and mayor are to the pulse of our people, the more engaging and robust the City will be.
The business I formed is called Engage Greater La Crosse because I believe in the stories of our big issues, bold endeavors, inspirational leaders, and uplifting stories in our community. These stories have the ability to unite and connect us. Our neighborhood associations are a voice for caring for each other.
People who understand their neighborhoods and who engage in the changes needed to make them stronger is the deepest form of engagement we have as a City and what creates community. I support the work the neighborhood associations do.
While commercial development allows the largest growth of taxes with fewer services needed, these properties are slow to sell and must be balanced with residential growth. We also must consider mixed-use in some of our long-dormant box-store locations, particularly those that are near neighborhoods.
River Point District has the greatest potential as an “and-both” solution to this and it's an exciting time for growth in La Crosse. Plans call for single family housing, multi-family housing, residential, and commercial development. This neighborhood is an extension on the Northside and adjacent to downtown. It is a huge opportunity to increase our tourism, attractions and retail space, but also make sure we are creating and developing desirable housing for all residents to live.
Some properties, such as the old Kmart building hold high hope for reuse, but it is most likely to attract another retail user, which is outside of the City’s control.
The former Trane Plant #6 (near Menards) will be developed with apartments and single family homes. This is great growth for the Northside. We’ve seen that once development occurs, surrounding properties begin to improve. The City can incentivize developers in key locations to invest - as they’ve done on the Kmart site - leveraged state and local tools.
Strong housing and thriving commercial developments are intertwined. It is not an either-or answer. We must encourage both for La Crosse to thrive.
Flood insurance can be the equivalent of an extra house payment each year. It is reducing our ability to improve our homes and businesses, particularly on The Northside. When I was with the Chamber, I traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss floodplain designations with our representatives from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
I will continue advocating for the City with FEMA and our national representatives to reduce the number of homes that never flood as being in a floodplain.
The City needs to find a consistent staff person.
This position has changed three times in the past few years. We need an individual who can ensure the City gets back into compliance with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS). Doing so will reduce flood insurance by 10%.
The City is currently working with local company SEH on recommendations for the floodplain. As mayor, I look forward to seeing the plans they unveil and getting the City back into compliance with FEMA's NFIP Community Rating System (CRS).
I experienced it with an executive moving here wanting to buy a $400,000 home. By the time he talked to a realtor, he had already ruled out living in La Crosse because of the property taxes. Property taxes are the number one issue I hear going door to door.
I pledge to hold property taxes steady. We must maximize the properties we do have - homes and commercial properties. I like to say housing is a journey. One of renting to first-time homeowners, to a larger home, and finally senior living. La Crosse needs housing in all of these realms. We must redevelop our tired homes and commercial spaces. This is how we build our tax base, allowing us to share the tax burden -- i.e. keep or reduce taxes.
It has been a campaign promise of mine to hold our line on property taxes, my opponent has advocated for programs including hiring a sustainability director, a diversity director, and establishing citywide broadband, without any plan to pay for these new positions and services. That concerns me because we all know you need to raise taxes to pay for increased services.
Opportunity Zones are a new tool for developers to attract investors in certain areas on the City's northside. This tax credit encourages investors to invest in local property improvements versus having it sit in the stock market. The City and existing property owners don't have many tools to incentivize. Opportunity Zones adds another one to the box.
While at the Chamber, I held an educational session on Opportunity Zones on a trip to Madison. The session gave us best practices on how to successfully ensure we continue Opportunity Zones as a development tool, and began conversations with some local developers on shifting their investments to opportunities, particularly on further developing the Chamber building, which sits in an OZ.
The City needs to continue to educate potential investors, particularly locally, on the benefits of using opportunity zones versus typical investments. It’s a chance to change the community in which they live.
I do anticipate Opportunity Zones will be used to redevelop the tired housing we have in the student area of La Crosse. RiverPoint District holds tremendous potential for leveraging Opportunity Zones to once and for all get this development moving.
The biggest barrier is understanding by investors on changing from investing in the stock market to investing in our local community. The City can assist with this education. It can also work with the La Crosse Area Development Corporation (LADCO) to actively promote our properties to outside investors, who are more prone to using opportunity zones.
Do you like this page?