Two Whitewater City Council members vie for seat

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staff, Gazette
Monday, March 25, 2013

— When Whitewater voters go to the polls April 2, their choice for one of the city’s councilmember-at-large seats will be between two men already sitting on the council.

The race’s incumbent is Councilman Andrew Crone, an attorney who was appointed to the position on an interim basis after Councilwoman Marilyn Kienbaum died in November.

His challenger, Patrick Singer, currently represents the city’s 5th District and has been council president for five years.

Singer said he decided to run for the at-large seat because he wants to address matters that affect the entire city.

“A lot of the issues I’ve tried to work on have been of a community-wide interest,” Singer said. “It seemed like a natural fit to run at-large.”

UW-Whitewater student Sarah Bregant is running unopposed to replace Singer in the 5th District.

Singer would consider seeking the council president position again if elected, he said, but “first, I have to win.”

Since being appointed, Crone said his legal expertise has helped him ask “the right questions” on city issues.

“The complexities of contracts that the city (is) going to have to address … requires a heightened level of sophistication from its board members,” he said.

With a background in dispute resolution and mediation, Crone said he would make a good representative for the city as a whole.

“I know how to bring people together to reach a consensus,” he said.

Here are the candidates’ perspectives on three issues affecting Whitewater.

Bus route

A bus service between Janesville and Whitewater created in 2012 recently expanded to include Milton and Beloit.

Singer voted in favor of the original bus line, a pilot project started to help employees of Whitewater’s Generac Power Systems get to work. But Singer said he rejected city funding for the expanded service because it was not providing enough benefit to Whitewater.

Generac employees were taking the bus into town, working their shifts, and then taking the bus home, Singer said. They were not spending money in town, he said, and the city was not seeing a return on its investment.

“The hard argument … was being able to explain the real benefit to the taxpayers of Whitewater who were funding this bus,” Singer said. “It really wasn’t helping anybody but Generac and their employees.”

Crone was not on the council when the bus line issue came up, and said he didn’t know enough about it to say how he would have voted on it if he had been.

But, “if the value that it’s bringing to the businesses in Whitewater can be justified through the costs,” he said, “then we should obviously support it.”

City relations with UW-W

The relationship between university administrators and city officials is a good one, Crone said.

Get down to the individual level, however, and the interactions between individual students and residents can be more “rocky,” he said.

It’s an idea Singer seemed to agree with, especially on the issue of student housing.

Although demand for student housing has kept property values high, Singer said, students can sometimes come into conflict with residents when they move into neighborhoods. Loud parties or obnoxious behavior from even a small group of students puts stress on the entire relationship, Singer said.

Crone recommended a partnership between the city, university and businesses—similar to the Whitewater Innovation Center—to provide student-oriented housing options closer to campus.

That way, he said, renters in non-student neighborhoods would be there because they want to live in that area, “rather than that’s the only place where (students) can find available housing.”

Move to Amend referendum

Campaign finance reform advocates in Whitewater have put a measure on the ballot expressing symbolic support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Approving the measure alone would have little impact, proponents admit, but they say it would put pressure on legislators and the court to overturn the controversial 2010 ruling.

Although he does not agree with the Citizens United decision, Crone said he is not supporting the referendum. The measure’s wording could lead to unintended consequences that reduce political speech from nonprofit groups, he said, and it does not do enough to reverse Citizens United’s negative impact.

“There’s things we can do to help shape how political money is being spent, but this referendum falls way short,” Crone said.

Singer supports the measure, saying political spending has “led to a lot of problems.” Still, he said he would rather see the effort put into Whitewater’s referendum go toward electing sympathetic representatives to state and federal government instead.

“If you don’t have the policymakers that agree with you in the state legislature and at the Congressional level, nothing’s going to go anywhere,” Singer said.

Last updated: 8:16 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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