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Rich Smith

 

 

1) Does the city of La Crosse need a city administrator, and would you support another effort to create that position?


I believe that in the future at some point, an administrator may be necessary. If so, the city will have to be very careful as to how that position is created and filled. For now, the voters sent a message loud and clear that they do not want a city administrator and I respect their vote and their opinion. I have no plans to create or be part of creating an administrator position.


2) The city has received frequent criticism for being overly generous with financial incentives for developers. What sort of incentives should be available from the city, if any? How does the city best create a hospitable business environment?


For the city to create financial incentives through TIF's or other ways can be beneficial to La Crosse if done responsibly. That being said, after all the TIF's that La Crosse has done, our average median income is still way below the state average, we still have too many children in the free lunch programs in our schools. TIF"s may create jobs, but many of those jobs belong to people that leave our city at the end of the day and drive to their homes in other communities. Slowly, La Crosse is turning into a business and industrial park where people drive into town to work and drive out of town to live. With the cuts in shared revenue from the state, I think it may be time for businesses to stand on their own and rely on their products and people to be successful. The city may need to look at codes and regulations and determine if they are business friendly while still being responsible.


3) There are growing concerns La Crosse is experiencing a surge in crime, particularly drug-related crimes. How do you plan to deal with the increasing level of criminal activity?


I am proposing a "Notification" program which would be a concerted effort joining the Police Department, DA/City Attorney offices, Judges, Probation Officers and other representatives within the community. This program would provide a set of criteria for criminals and compliance is the first goal. If they step beyond the criteria, major sanctions begin. No more revolving door. Make La Crosse an unfriendly environment for criminals and drug dealers and they will move on. If you are here to sell drugs or commit crimes, I am not your friend and you are not welcome in our neighborhoods. Also, I reccommend reviving the Alcohol, Compliance and Education Team (A.C.T.). They promoted a lot of training and created many bridges like co-training with the La Crosse Tavern League. This was a good program with incredible results and it won state and national awards.


4) La Crosse's fire department is one of the most expensive in the state per capita to operate. Are you happy with the status quo in the department? What, if any changes you would like to see in staffing, overtime use, equipment purchases or other expenses for the department/


The fire department does cost us a lot of money. For that money, we have one of the best if not the best in the state and one of the best in the country. They are worth the investment that we make in them. Considering that along with putting out fires, we get river and cold water rescue, hazmat team, bluff rescue, confined space rescue team and they used to do education in the schools for fire safety and prevention. When it comes down to saving lives and citizens' safety, you don't cut corners. Some city in Wisconsin is going to have the most expensive fire department, it doesn't bother me that it's ours because they serve at a level that's worth the cost. I believe that they are still 3 positions below normal staffing levels and they should be at full strength.


5) A recent study of La Crosse neighborhoods details the challenges of some of the city's distressed areas. Do you see problems in La Crosse neighborhoods, and if so, how do you propose to remedy those problems?


Instead of tax incentives to more businesses, we need to provide incentives to home owners in our neighborhoods so these owners wil not be afraid to update or repair their homes because of fees and higher taxes. Promote our neighborhoods and then step up to the plate and deliver help so we can save them. There are organizations currently working at saving our neighborhoods, but they can't do it alone. They need help and we need to revitalize these neighborhoods and make them places that people want to live.


6) After years of steady increases, city taxpayers have recently experienced a string of little or no increase in the city's tax levy rate. Will you try to continue that trend, annd how will you do it?


Nobody wants their taxes to go up and no mayor is going to want to raise those taxes. Along with no increase in taxes, also has come a lack of maintenance on expensive infrastructure (sewer lines, pumps, catch basins, etc.) and when these issues arise, they will be high cost repairs. Some departments are having problems because of cuts in staffing. Some taxpayers want no increase in taxes, then complain when departments don't operate efficiently because of the cuts made to achieve the steady tax rate. It's hard to have it both ways.


7)  In the past year, city department heads have been given the authority to create new fees as they see fit. Should fees supplant and/or add to property taxes collected by the city? Are the fees that have been added in recent years excessive?
The fees are the current mayor and council's answer to holding the line on taxes. They are called user fees, but in every sense of the word, they are a tax. I believe some of them like the boat launch fee are a good way for La Crosse to keep and maintain its boat ramps and landings for those that own boats. Others, such as parade fees and fees for fixing your homes are counter productive.


8) Recently, the La Crosse City Vision Foundation, with the blessings of the La Crosse police department, has announced plans to raise nearly a half million dollars to install surveillance cameras in the downtown for use by police. Do you support the plan? Why or why not?


I believe that the cameras are a good idea as long as the cost is not incurred by the La Crosse taxpayers, and it is a passive system where the video isn't used unless investigating a crime or looking for a missing person or that type of situation.


9) Some have complained that the city council often seems to work against the current mayor rather than cooperating with him. How will you get the council to follow your agenda, if they're all opposed to it?


I think things got started out on the wrong foot with the new mayor and went downhill from there. I think there's enough blame to go around on both sides and I won't go into detail on what I've seen and what I know. For the future, the key to working together is communication and mutual respect. You canlead people and make them work with you if you have their respect. You have to earn that respect it just doesn't come with the title. If you have an agenda that the entire council is opposed to, chances are you have the wrong agenda


10) What is the last book you read? What is the last movie you saw?


Book - Cabela's Fall Edition Catalog (hard cover). Movie - Hunger Games.

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