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April 4, 2020

2/15/2020 7:30:00 AM
Dist. 5 City Council hopefuls share viewpoints

Heather Schaefer
Associate Editor


Voters in City of Rhinelander aldermanic district No. 5 will head to the polls Tuesday to winnow the field of three candidates for the seat currently held by Dawn Rog, who is stepping down from the council, from three to two.

The three candidates in Dist. 5, which includes city wards 8 and 9, are retired attorney and pastor Gerald Anderson, assistant county veterans service officer Jason Dailey and Rhinelander High School social studies teacher, and former charter school principal, Wil Losch.

The River News sent a list questions to each of the candidates and also requested they provide a brief biographical sketch. Their responses are published below in alphabetical order.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the April general election when two other City Council races will be decided. Former alderperson Bill Freudenberg and newcomer Eileen Daniel are vying for the District 7 seat currently held by Steve Sauer, who chose not to seek re-election.

In District 3, Carrie Mikalauski is challenging Lee Emmer, who was appointed to the council last February following the resignation former alderperson Sherri Belliveau.

Finally, local author and artist Tom Barnett is set to takeover the District 1 seat to be vacated by retiring alderman George Kirby. Barnett is running unopposed for the seat.



Gerald Anderson

Biographical sketch: My wife Susan and I have grandchildren who have grown up in the Rhinelander area. We are involved in church activities and Learning in Retirement. I'm an avid reader and like to keep up with the issues in all levels of government. I enjoy outdoor activities, including hiking the Appalachian Trail 3 times and doing trail maintenance on the Ice Age trail & North Country trail.

1. What prompted you to run for City Council?

Throughout my life, I have been given many opportunities to serve others. During 8 years as a civil engineer in the U.S. Air Force, I learned a great deal about governmental processes, especially planning & carrying out public works projects. While practicing law in a small town for 25 years, I represented ordinary people in a variety of legal matters & provided counsel to two municipalities. Then I was called to serve two congregations & their communities as a pastor. Working on the common Council will be an opportunity to serve the public interest in Rhinelander.

I hope to contribute to harmony among the Council and with other governmental and community agencies. My life experience has brought considerable ability in analyzing issues, explaining them, and helping to resolve them. Especially, I believe I can be a calming influence in times of tension, encouraging people to work together for the common good. All these skills are much needed in our city at this time.

With a common purpose, there are so many things that can be done to make this city a better place to live & work: enhancing our image as a tourist destination, drawing in job-creating businesses, encouraging our local educational institutions to train the necessary workers, upgrading our housing stock so workers can afford to live here, generally making Rhinelander a great place for us all to live and where business & medical professionals want to come and stay.



2. Has city leadership - the council as well as the mayor and city administrator - demonstrated fiscal responsibility over the last two years?

In general, it appears they have, constrained by limited resources. I'll always be looking for areas we can improve. I am afraid we're spending too much on lawyers' fees, a lot of which could be prevented thru better decisions.



3. How would you rate the level of transparency in city government? How would you boost transparency, if you believe the city is lacking in this regard?

There seems to be a lot of public doubt that city government knows where it is going. Large numbers of people have been attending Common Council meetings, coming away without answers. This might be described as a "transparency" problem. To me it shouldn't just be a matter of technical compliance with laws, but of actively making sure the people know the people's business. That starts with alderpersons being fully informed, which doesn't seem to be happening with the "committee-of-the-whole" structure. Closed meetings should be infrequent, fully justified, and the results made known as soon and as completely as possible. I'd like to be a part of serious & open discussions that reduce the level of conflict, make all the facts known, and lead to forward movement.



4. How would you tackle the city's well contamination/water quality issue?

Given the importance of water to our future and the difficulty of cleaning pollutants out of an aquifer, this current incident should alert us to take steps to protect our wells from pollution going forward. As for this occurrence, we need advice on how a particular well can be brought into compliance with water quality standards. There may be grant money available for study and remediation. Drilling new wells on a safer site may be a necessary last resort.



5. How do you feel about so-called public-private partnerships where city tax money is used to help fund projects led by private citizens or businesses?

With limited city resources, such partnerships may be a good way to get some things done to improve the infrastructure & the economy. Since it is public money involved, we need to be sure it really produces a public benefit and is not giving one business an advantage over others.



Jason Dailey

Biographical sketch: My name is Jason Dailey. My wife Tammy and I have 4 amazing children: Hannah, Jasmine, Alex, and Serenity. I am an Army National Guard and Afghanistan combat veteran. I work for the Oneida County Veterans Service office and love my job. I have the privilege of serving the heroes of our country on a daily basis.



1. What prompted you to run for City Council?

I decided to run for city council for multiple reasons. Foremost is because I felt my views and opinions were not being represented by the current Alderperson. Also, I feel Rhinelander has the potential to be much more than it is now and I want the opportunity to help it grow. As the cliché saying goes, "These times, they are a changing," a new set of eyes, ideas and views needs to be put on the council to be sure the city can thrive in today's world.



2. Has city leadership - the council as well as the mayor and city administrator - demonstrated fiscal responsibility over the last two years?

Most of the council, including the Mayer and City Administrator, has been quite fiscally responsible. Making sure departments have had funding to perform their required obligations, continual improvement to the city's infrastructure, all while running into issues of considerable, unexpected, legal expenses. Improvements, whether to offices, computer equipment, camera systems, or roads need to be done. In todays world, nothing is cheap and funds are limited, but, most everyone has done well with the approved budgets and allocations to do what was needed to make the improvements that were planned for over the last 2 years.



3. How would you rate the level of transparency in city government? How would you boost transparency, if you believe the city is lacking in this regard?

The city has maintained a high level of transparency. The disbanding of unnecessary committees has improved this transparency by having this information presented and discussed at common council meetings. Discussion of financial reports and other information that were held at committee meetings during the day while the average citizen was at work are now done at night, in one location, and at one time allowing that same average citizen to get a better understanding of how and why funds are used the way they are, why policies are the way they are, and what is going on with in our local government.



4. How would you tackle the city's well contamination/water quality issue?

The city's well contamination issues are quite concerning. Research needs to be done, as quickly as possible, to determine the best course of action for the city. Can the current wells be used with some form of filtration? What type of filtration would be sufficient and what would the cost be? Do new wells need to be drilled? Where would new wells be placed that wouldn't pose a risk of having contamination? What would the cost of new wells be? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to solve the problem with out getting answers for these and many more questions. The information for making a definite answer isn't there yet. There is the Wisconsin Senate Bill, SB 772, that could help the city with these expenses after we review the information and determine what the best course of action is for the city. If elected, I will do my best to assist the city with getting this funding to improve our water quality with whatever direction we decide to go.



5. How do you feel about so-called public-private partnerships where city tax money is used to help fund projects led by private citizens or businesses?

Public-Private Partnerships have worked very well for the city and can continue to do so through proper routes and with proper documentation. TIF/TID has been very beneficial to help with economic development, like the new Printpack factory which increased employment opportunities in the community. The ABX plan for TIF District 6 is another example of this. The Community Development Block Grant and Downtown Works revolving Loan fund have been superb ways to draw and grow small businesses in the city and downtown.



Wil Losch Biographical sketch:

I am a proud father of three teenagers. I was raised in the City of Rhinelander, graduating from RHS in 1990. I have been a teacher in Rhinelander since 2000, currently teaching Government and US History at RHS. I enjoyed watching hockey games, jogging in my neighborhood and walking down to frequent Brown Street businesses.



1. What prompted you to run for City Council?

I've followed city council proceedings on audio files available online, read local media coverage and spoken to city leaders and employees. As I did that, I began to lose confidence in the city council's ability to effectively govern and address problems that threaten the health and prosperity of the people of Rhinelander. The well contamination/water quality issue is an issue that should have unanimous support to solve, but I do not feel that has been the case. I was concerned city council members' and the mayor's negative interactions with each other was becoming a hurdle to citizens fully understanding the issues. More importantly their negative interactions with each other seem to be getting in the way of fixing problems that endanger our health. Rather than complain about it, I sought to become part of the solutions by running for city council. I've long held an interest in politics and governing, so this is the appropriate time for me to act. I seek to be an independent member of the council that will make decisions based on information and city residents' needs, not allegiance to any member(s) or faction of city leadership.



2. Has city leadership - the council as well as the mayor and city administrator - demonstrated fiscal responsibility over the last two years?

Yes, but. A sampling of the property tax bills in District #5 show that property taxes have remained level or even been slightly reduced compared to five years ago (https://octax.co.oneida.wi.us/), with no significant jump the last two years. This trend, coupled with the historically flawed revenue sharing formulas that Madison puts on rural governments, suggests that our past city councils, mayors and city administrators have been fiscally responsible.

But. Fiscally responsibility isn't guaranteed to happen in the future just because it has happened in the past. Fiscal responsibility is a practice. The city has recently built up a higher balance of legal fees than in past years. Council members were not in agreement about when and how to pay for these. To maintain fiscally responsible practices, the next City Council needs to understand the reasons for those additional fees and communicate appropriately to the citizens about the necessity of those fees. If those fees aren't necessary, the issues that created them must be resolved and/or more cost efficient legal services need to be sought out. While those fees have accumulated under our current mayor and city administrator, I don't think the public has enough information to conclude the cause of the increased legal fees are the mayor or city administrator. It is possible the increased legal fees are a ripple effect of addressing city issues that previous administrations/councils swept under the rug.

Of course there are many other areas of spending city leaders must plan for the best they can to be fiscally responsible. And considering just two of those, such as the last two winter's unusual snow totals and some major road projects, city leaders are doing well.



3. How would you rate the level of transparency in city government? How would you boost transparency, if you believe the city is lacking in this regard?

The transparency of city government needs improvement. Records need to be soundly safeguarded against tampering or removal. Procedures for the sharing, review of records by employees, council or other leaders, members of the media or citizens should be clear, consistent, timely and follow state statutes. All council meetings, agendas and minutes should be properly posted and meetings must only cover approved agenda items.

Water quality data should consistently be posted online and paper copies be made available to citizens. Communications to city residents about water quality or any other health issue should not be white washed (nor should fears be intentionally stoked). All relevant facts should be shared in a straightforward way so residents can make informed decisions for their households.

As a council member I will boost transparency by speaking to it during public meetings, in interactions with city employees or when interacting with local reporters that ask me about a city governance matter. I will follow state ordinances regarding meeting attendance and sharing of information with constituents and the media. And I will follow a spirit of transparency and thoroughness in educating my constituents to the best of my ability about any aspect of city government they may ask about. If I don't know the answer, I will find someone who does.



4. How would you tackle the city's well contamination/water quality issue?

The first priority needs to be fully assessing and understanding the nature of the problem. We must have sound water quality testing measures. In the past, water quality monitoring has been compromised and not reported (or possibly not understood) by city leaders. The next priority is about fixing the problem. The water department needs to be equipped with the proper technology and training to treat it and ensure our well water is safe. City officials and department leaders should share findings and practices with local townships and local private businesses that work installing private wells. Aquifers don't honor the same boundaries as the local government.

A review of current literature on PFAS issues will show that this is an emerging problem in many areas of the state and the country. Rhinelander can be a leader in solving this group of water quality issues. But we won't be a leader if our city council remains divided and publicly bickers about a variety of smaller issues. The Mayor and next City Council need to work together to recruit and retain UW-Madison scientists, engineers and private entrepreneurs or businesses to come to Rhinelander and make this a place to study, solve and train others to address PFAS issues.

City leaders need to work frankly, constructively and persistently with our local Assembly and State Senate representatives, the Governor's office and DNR officials to get give and get current information about solving any water quality problem. Finally, the sources of local PFAS contamination must be identified to prevent further contamination. This needs to be done in a transparent fashion. The intent of this must not be to point fingers, but to understand PFAS, stop any continued contamination and protect the future health of our citizens and economy.

As we learn more about the causes of our PFAS contamination, we must resist the urge to jump towards national ideological positions. As I write this, the DNR and Airport continue to dispute over the Airport's role, if any, in this matter. Is a private business(es) responsible? Is the local government? Did the state government have a hand in allowing a dangerous practice to take place? As a city leader, I will not spin this as a partisan issue as we learn the answers to those and other questions. Bad water hurts all my neighbors just the same, no matter what their political leanings are. I am most interested in solutions. Solutions can and must be driven by the City Council. I'm all for getting State Government, our universities, and private organizations to be a part of transparent, effective solutions.



5. How do you feel about so-called public-private partnerships where city tax money is used to help fund projects led by private citizens or businesses?

The devil's in the details. I support effective, transparent public-private partnerships. Effective partnerships include the following: A transparent planning process that allows for citizen input, clear understanding of costs, risks and benefits by council members and the mayor when approving a partnership, timely and clear communication to constituents of those costs, risks and benefits, an open and fair bidding process to private entities looking to enter the partnership, absence of any financial conflicts of interest to city officials (elected or otherwise), clear timeline and benchmarks for completion/delivery of services and payments, and clear, reasonable parameters for ending the partnership.

Effective public-private partnerships should be time bound, not to extend so far in the future as to handcuff future city council groups yet to be elected.

Effective public-private partnerships must be win-win for taxpayers/residents and the private businesses of the area.





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