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West Allis aldermanic candidates face tough questions

Youthful queries put focus on 5th District issues

Feb. 4, 2014

West Allis — Six candidates seeking the 5th Aldermanic District seat stood up to questions from the West Allis Youth Commission on Monday.

Running for office are consulting management firm owner Wayne Clark, West Allis-West Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce executive director Diane Brandt, attorney Kevin Haass, contracting company president Gerald Matter, former prosecutor and attorney "emeritus" Jim Blask and retired West Allis police officer Roy Beaudry.

They will square off in the Feb. 18 primary election, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the April 1 spring election. The winner will serve the two years remaining on the term of James Sengstock, who resigned last year.

Reason to run

The first question was what lead them to run for alderman in the first place.

Clark said it was to keep a reasonable tax base, promote public safety, encourage robust development and bring the talent of resients to bear on issues the city faces.

Brandt said she, too, wants to control taxes, as well as stimulate growth and keep current business through new programs and promote the value and image of West Allis.

Haass said he wants to see redevelopment, low taxes and the police and fire departments supported. In addition he said that he wants to incorporate his expertise and background as a lawyer.

Matter said he wants to see that the city continues to run smoothly. The city can keep everything it had in the past and he wants to promote some new things that would give departments more to work with.

Blask said he wants to find a way to maintain the city's residency requirement. He also said he wants to see a domestic violence shelter established in West Allis.

Beaudry called himself a fixer who wants to be available 24-7 to constituents. He wants to use his abilities to help keep taxes down and to enhance public safety and quality of life. He also wants to see two large vacant parcels in the 5th District developed with job- and tax-creating businesses.

Service-minded ideas

Another question the candidates faced was what service would they expand if money wasn't a concern.

Clark responded that the question boils down to quality of life and the issues underlying that.

"The deep issues are domestic violence, drugs, drunken driving and sensitive crimes," he said. Clark said he would give more to the Police Department to work on those issues that he said so affect the viability and health of the city.

Brandt opted for beefing up the Health Department, adding psychological and social education components.

"It could help people get on with their lives,"she said.

Haass responded, "Public safety, public safety, public safety," referring to police but especially to the Fire Department. The first year he was on the West Allis Police and Fire Commission, firefighters handled 5,500 calls. Last year they topped 8,000. And the Fire Department has done it with fewer firefighters so they would be his first choice to expand, he said.

Matter said public safety is at the top of his list, but he would beef up the Development Department as it competes with every community in the state to attract business.

Blask said the Health Department would be his choice for enhancement so that it can offer trained help to those in emotional distress. A strong department contributes to the well-being of the community both mentally and physically, he added.

For Beaudry, the focus would be the Police Department. A strong visible police presence not only keeps people safe, but it helps attract new residents, he said.

First month on the job

Finally, candidates were zinged with the question of what they propose to accomplish in their first month in office.

Clark responded that he would try to introduce the management concept that uses specific management tools to improve effectiveness and help city departments work together.

Brandt said she would work on a social media strategy for the city, would talk with business leaders and residents to get their ideas and would seek to understand how she could play a role in the strategic plan.

Haass said the city could be made both safer and more welcoming quickly by putting more street signs up, especially at National and Oklahoma avenues and at many places along Highway 100.

Matter said his first priorities would focus on Highway 100 and on redeveloping the city's east side to keep it from becoming blighted.

Blask said he strongly believes in collaboration, so he would visit city departments to learn their goals and would speak with residents to see how all could work together.

Beaudry said he would call town meetings on the two large vacant parcels and consult with city planners and other aldermen about developing them.

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