Finding balance, problem solving and growth were common themes at a candidate forum Thursday night attended by the six candidates running for city council this spring.
While differing on some approaches, the candidates seemed to be generally on the same page regarding city issues and spoke favorably about each other and the decisions made by city officials in recent years.
The Westgate business corridor hosted the forum. It was one of two such events scheduled ahead of the April election.
Six candidates are running for four of the seven city council seats. Doug Marklein is the only incumbent trying to retain his seat; Sue Conley, Jim Farrell and Tom Wolfe have chosen not to run.
Jack Herndon, Michael Jackson, David Marshick, Heather Miller and Dan Neal are the other five challengers. All are newcomers to Janesville politics. At least three of them will be elected.
Here is what candidates had to say regarding top city issues:
The city council Monday chose to pause action on a proposed transportation utility with the intent to let the new council decide on whether to pursue the idea further.
Candidates overwhelmingly thought the council made the right decision in pausing action on the utility.
Miller said she has been an outspoken opponent of the utility because of the financial strains businesses and individuals are feeling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
All the candidates said they want to assess all options for road funding before approving bringing the utility to a vote.
Marklein said one of his first actions would be to gather a panel of community leaders to discuss the utility with the council during a special council meeting.
Neal said the utility needs to be further vetted and that city officials need to listen to the business community.
Herndon said he does not like the trickle-down effect the utility could have on residents. He said he wants to look at the budget for opportunities to find funding for roads.
Marshick said he thinks a transportation utility could be one of many tools used to fund road maintenance, but the originally proposed utility was not balanced well enough to meet the needs of many.
Increasing the sales tax
All but one candidate, Jackson, said they would certainly support a half-percent sales tax increase to aid municipal funding, a proposal included in Gov. Tony Evers’ recently released state budget plan.
Jackson said he dislikes taxes and is not in favor of new ones but understands it could be part of a solution for city funding.
Neal and Marklein said they would support a half-percent sales tax increase if voted on by residents via referendum.
Miller and Herndon said they would support the sales tax increase because it would be affordable for the community. Miller stressed the importance of aiding people on fixed incomes such as the elderly and disabled populations.
Marshick said he believes the sales tax increase would support the city’s strategic goal of diversifying funding sources.
All candidates said they think the improvements to downtown have been well done.
Herndon said he thinks further revitalization should come from private or donated funds. Miller said she thinks focus should be shifted to create opportunities for children and teenagers.
Marklein and Jackson said they felt the improvements are proof of positive public and private partnerships.
Neal and Marshick spoke to the need for downtown to be a catalyst for attracting and retaining young people and families to the community.