Political experience: I have been a member of the county board for four years (two terms), a member of the health and human services committee, the Winding Rivers Library System board, and am chair of the La Crosse Arts Board.
Why are you running for office?: I am continuing to run for public office so that I can make a positive change in the lives of my constituents and my community. I would appreciate your write-in vote.
The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: The county continues to find innovative ways to pay for roads and bridges. We have passed, twice, the PRAT initiative that would have put our entire community on better footing for our infrastructure needs. We have also carried out jurisdictional transfers to ease the county's burden, and have also found unique ways, barring any other help, to help fund an additional $5 million on roads and bridges in our latest budget. We continue to do the best we can until the state comes up with its pledge to fund one third of the costs for road and bridge repair.
Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: Certainly the county should collaborate with other municipalities for the good of our communities. They key word here, though, is collaborate. A huge project like the La Crosse Center will be an asset for all of us, but the county needs to be an equal partner with the city and other entities on the La Crosse Center Board. We need to have an unrestricted place at the table so the county can bring its expert planning and budgetary knowledge to a project that will lift our entire community. Other big projects would benefit from this collaborative spirit.
Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: The county continues to be innovative in its approach to dealing with those struggling with drug abuse. Through the Alliance to HEAL, a program that goes above and beyond what the state mandates, and through various other initiatives at the jail and elsewhere, we have made controlling the opioid epidemic and other addictions one of our major policies in terms of health and human services. We have seen how the majority of the county wants us to deal with the legalization of marijuana, and we continue to be at the forefront of helping our fellow citizens when it comes to battling addiction.
What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: We have many successes when looking at our county's jail system. We succeeded in raising the public defender's pay in the county (even though it is still not enough) so offenders spend less time in jail and cost less to taxpayers. The Criminal Justice Management Council meets monthly to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs. Justice Sanctions also facilitates the return of offenders back in to the community so they can be productive citizens. We have kept jail populations low, instituted treatment courts, and have used Project Proven in conjunction with Western Technical College to make sure that offenders are rehabilitated to the best of their ability. Surely there is more we can do, but we are well positioned to meet any future challenges.
Political experience : Three years. La Crosse City Council District 3
Why are you running for office?: Being successfully self-employed for 24 years and an active community member, I have a unique perspective and life skills that would benefit the residents of District 3 on the La Crosse County Board. Residents would benefit because of my proven history of doing my homework and listening to various opinions/perspectives before drawing my own conclusions. I am committed to open, honest and civil conversations which are necessary in order to make decisions based on facts and practicality. Whether through my businesses or the city council, I try to explain the “why” behind decisions or recommendations. I will continue working to get more citizens involved in local government. In addition, my background and experience would be helpful in expanding collaboration between the county and city. More details are available at Vote411.org and to anyone who reaches out to me to discuss further.
The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: More funds toward county road and bridge repair are needed, and those revenues should be raised in a manner that is fair to all. Raising money from a variety of sources would be my preference. Those sources would include increasing vehicle registration fees (possibly based on value of vehicle) and a county tax increase. (Tourists would pay their share, too.) Closing loopholes and collecting unpaid property tax need to be considered as one revenue stream. The Premier Resort Tax is not the answer because it targets our most vulnerable residents. We can pay to repair our vehicles due to potholes or pay to repair roads. Before deciding, we need to lay out in writing and great detail all the options, then discuss and evaluate. Part of this evaluation would include the impact the county decisions will have on the municipalities and how they pay to repair their local streets/roads.
Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: I believe we need to work together whenever possible and that includes financial collaboration when all county residents benefit. The La Crosse Center and Airport are two examples where I believe it is appropriate for La Crosse County to provide funding and have representation on the corresponding board. The county stepped up to bring municipalities together to discuss the study of shared fire services, and that is the type of leadership we need to continue providing. The La Crosse County neighborhood revitalization grant program is another excellent example of funding collaborative efforts because residents can combine this grant with those the City of La Crosse offers.
Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: La Crosse County is doing a lot of great things for those struggling with drug abuse. We need to continue collaborating with the various groups and address the many reasons for the substance-abuse issues that we have in this country. Providing support to those on the front lines is critical as well as being open to new ideas and thinking outside of the box. We should also continue evaluating what other communities are doing, focus on leveraging available resources, and pursuing the most good with the financial limitations we face.
What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: Our county jail and court system face many challenges, such as dealing with the rise of substance abuse in our community, budget constraints and public disagreements between police and judges. The current conversations between the court officials and police need to continue and possibly expand. The repeat offenders situation and increased gun violence are both alarming. The demands on staff continue to increase with repeat offenders as well as mental-health issues. The Drug Treatment Court is working, and we need to continue thinking outside the box for multifaceted solutions; there is no one simple solution. For what the jail and court system are dealing with on a daily basis, they are doing well.
Douglas Weidenbach and Barb Janssen will face off in District 3.
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