Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tomah council candidates under the spotlight

Incumbents and challengers for Tomah City Council participated in a candidate forum Wednesday night at Tomah High School. Aldermanic seats on the April 2 general election include districts, 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8. Incumbents Travis Scholze (Dist. 5) and Jeff Cram (Dist. 3) are running uncontested.

Contested races include Dist. 1 where incumbent Mary Ann Komiskey is challenged by Adam Gigous. Dist. 7 has incumbent Wayne Kling challenged by Donna Evans. Remy Gomez, who was appointed to the Dist. 8 seat last November is being challenged by Sue Holme. That seat is on the ballot since it was an appointed position by the council.

The forum was coordinated by the Tomah Chamber & Visitors Bureau. It was held at the THS auditorium. Its intent was to allow candidates to address prepared questions. The tone was civil and answers brief.  The Herald provides short glimpses of candidate responses for some of the questions.

Priorities for Tomah as it grows and develops

Komiskey: points to community safety, access to basic residential needs and solid city infrastructure. "We need to help businesses be successful."

Evans: "We need strategic, measurable goals and get people to shop Tomah first."

Scholze: Cited Viroqua and Reedsburg as examples Tomah should follow for revitalization efforts. Scholze said Tomah's south boundary will be "key" for the city to grow its tax base around a new hospital.

Kling: Continue downtown revitalization efforts, quality infrastructure and promote growth by the new hospital.

Gomez: "We need to makes sure improvements are affordable (for everyone)," Gomez said. He would like to see long range planning to include a community recreational center and new facilities for the Tomah fire department and Tomah Area Ambulance Service.

Holme: Concedes everyone has a wish list, but added, "We need a balance with our wants and needs."

Cram: Points to the need to support and monitor activity of Tomah's tax increment districts (TIDs). "We need to stay on top of those. They will be key to a lot of things for the city."

Gigous: The council needs to give attention to aging emergency service  structures and plan for new homes for the TFD and TAAS trucks and other equipment.

Relationship between the Tomah Chamber and Tomah council to promote the community

All agreed that is an essential partnership for business and residential growth and plays a key role. Kling took the opportunity with his response to ask the Chamber and city do more to support the Tomah Area Historical Museum and Tomah Area Community Theater as arts and tourism resources.

Positions on offering incentives to attract industry to Tomah.

Basically thoughts on creation of TIDs to foster growth

Komiskey: Held firm to her long standing opposition of TIDs as "long term tax breaks." Komiskey does support offering breaks on land purchases to attract new industry.

Evans: Supports TIDs if, "managed right and we are fiscally responsible."

Scholze: As someone who learned more about TIDS on the council, Scholze offered his support for the TID program for extended development.

Kling: "Bringing new business to Tomah is important.

Gomez: Sees the payoff. "To get a little, some time we have to spend a little. We have a Chamber and city administrator that knows what they are doing."

Holme: "There are benefits and drawbacks," Holme said. "(TIDs) can extend our tax base. If done responsibly it can be a great thing."

Cram: "It's not about whether we should or should not use TIDs. The council's job is to look at the city's big picture."

Part of that picture is use of TIDs, he added.

Gigous: Attracting industry is competitive and Tomah needs to keep in the race. "We are in competition with other communities. We have to invest in businesses because they will invest in us."

The role of committees/boards in city government

All praised the work and commitment of private citizens who volunteered time on various city committees/boards, sharing similar sentiments. Fresh ideas, diverse opinions and lighten the load of council members. Scholze challenged the next sitting council after April 2.

"Committees are where a lot of the work gets done," Scholze said. "As a council we have to do a better job of taking their recommendations."

Komiskey: points to community safety, access to basic residential needs and solid city infrastructure. "We need to help businesses be successful."

Evans: "We need strategic, measurable goals and get people to shop Tomah first."

Scholze: Cited Viroqua and Reedsburg as examples Tomah should follow for revitalization efforts. Scholze said Tomah's south boundary will be "key" for the city to grow its tax base around a new hospital.

Kling: Continue downtown revitalization efforts, quality infrastructure and promote growth by the new hospital.

Gomez: "We need to makes sure improvements are affordable (for everyone)," Gomez said. He would like to see long range planning to include a community recreational center and new facilities for the Tomah fire department and Tomah Area Ambulance Service.

Holme: Concedes everyone has a wish list, but added, "We need a balance with our wants and needs."

Cram: Points to the need to support and monitor activity of Tomah's tax increment districts (TIDs). "We need to stay on top of those. They will be key to a lot of things for the city."

Gigous: The council needs to give attention to aging emergency service  structures and plan for new homes for the TFD and TAAS trucks and other equipment.

Candidate priorities for Tomah's growth/development

Komiskey: points to community safety, access to basic residential needs and solid city infrastructure. "We need to help businesses be successful."

Evans: "We need strategic, measurable goals and get people to shop Tomah first."

Scholze: Cited Viroqua and Reedsburg as examples Tomah should follow for revitalization efforts. Scholze said Tomah's south boundary will be "key" for the city to grow its tax base around a new hospital.

Kling: Continue downtown revitalization efforts, quality infrastructure and promote growth by the new hospital.

Gomez: "We need to makes sure improvements are affordable (for everyone)," Gomez said. He would like to see long range planning to include a community recreational center and new facilities for the Tomah fire department and Tomah Area Ambulance Service.

Holme: Concedes everyone has a wish list, but added, "We need a balance with our wants and needs."

Cram: Points to the need to support and monitor activity of Tomah's tax increment districts (TIDs). "We need to stay on top of those. They will be key to a lot of things for the city."

Gigous: The council needs to give attention to aging emergency service  structures and plan for new homes for the TFD and TAAS trucks and other equipment.

What can the council do to improve city government?

Komiskey: Lobbied for creation of a finance committee

Evans: Called for better lines of communication with the public to minimize the inevitable rumor mill.

Scholze: Sometimes quick is not always best. "A slower pace of government can be good, he said. Scholze also lobbied for enhanced technology as a tool to get information to the council. In other words, less paper.

Kling: "We need to work together as a team. Listen to your constituents and go the extra mile."

Gomez: Reminds voters that "transparency goes both ways." He encouraged citizens to be proactive and stay educated and up to date about issues that affect them.

Holme: Encouraged the council to work harder to share its message to citizens

Cram: Pointed to more use of technology and touted the importance of communication as key components

Gigous: Feels the council rolls pretty smooth. "That's why I want to get involved," he said.

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