During a forum this week, Dubuque City Council candidates discussed their visions for the city and debated over Five Flags Center and other issues.
The five candidates who will be on the ballot in the Nov. 2 election spoke during a forum hosted by Dubuque League of Women Voters. The event also featured mayoral candidates, and they were featured in a story in Tuesday’s edition.
Incumbent Ric Jones and challenger Michaela Freiburger are competing for an at-large council seat. Newcomer Rickey Carner II and incumbent Danny Sprank are seeking the council’s Ward 3 seat. Susan Farber is running unopposed to retain her Ward 1 seat.
Jones, who has served on the council since 2006, lauded his time on the council and his previous career working for the Dubuque Fire Department for more than 30 years. He promised to continue efforts to help the local economy rebound from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been problem-solving for the City of Dubuque my entire adult life pretty much,” he said. He later added, “We’re beginning to recover from COVID, and to recover from COVID, we’ve got to protect the community’s public health, the financial health of the community and the brain health of the community.”
Freiburger, chairwoman of Dubuque County Food Policy Council and program coordinator for Dubuque County Energy District, promised to seek to advance projects that address climate change and expand food access throughout the community.
“I recognize that our food consumption here in Dubuque County, and as well as in the city, must change in order for us to not only reduce hunger within our community and provide more food resiliency, but also to help our climate and help reduce our impact,” she said.
Carner, a production manager at Mountaintop Stoneworks Inc., said he is running to reduce what he believes is wasteful spending by the city and advocated for the expansion of recreation programs for residents.
“I have 48 years of life experiences and a great work ethic,” he said. “I can bring a shift to the City Council to focus on what people want, while improving spending and creating opportunities for our citizens who feel they don’t have a voice.”
Sprank, a project manager and estimator at Giese Roofing Co. who was elected to the council in 2019, said he is running again to accomplish his vision for Dubuque’s North End, which includes revitalized neighborhoods, improved parks and expanded broadband internet access.
“I want to see a revitalization of Central (Avenue) corridor,” he said. “I want to work with existing businesses and homeowners so they don’t feel left out in this process.”
Farber, owner of Magoo’s Pizza in Dubuque, was elected to the City Council in March. She advocated for continuing to support local businesses and improve the economy.
“We have numerous challenges ahead, including making an economy that will provide a quality life here in Dubuque for all of us,” she said. “I will continue to focus on our greatest everyday issues.”
The candidates were asked what the city could do to address climate change.
Freiburger stressed the importance of advancing Dubuque’s climate action plan, which seeks to reduce the city’s total carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.
“I feel this plan needs to stop just living, and it needs to start existing, whether it’s through complete streets implementation or it’s by utilizing resources like we are doing with our urban renewal district to reach those who are often last in the energy transition,” she said.
Jones also promoted the implementation of the city’s climate action plan and commended ongoing city projects, including an effort to install solar panels for low- and moderate-income households.
“Despite the fact that our (council) goals (established this year) do not specifically include sustainability, it’s our brand,” Jones said. “We live it and breathe it.”
Sprank expressed his support for investing in solar infrastructure in North End homes, along with the expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, though he also acknowledged the cost of those initiatives.
“It is costly, and figuring out a way to pay for it is always key without raising (taxes) and hurting our citizens,” he said.
Carner declined to comment on the question, citing his lack of knowledge on the subject.
Farber stressed her support for electric vehicles in the city, including replacing city vehicles with electric ones and installing additional vehicle-charging stations.
Candidates also were asked about the proposed construction of a new Five Flags Center for $74 million. The project would include the demolition of the current facility and construction of a larger building downtown. Council members are expected to start discussing in January the possibility of scheduling a bond referendum for the project.
Jones offered his support for letting residents vote on whether the project should move forward, though he stressed the importance of at least repairing the facility.
Freiburger said she approves of the project and sees Five Flags as a major economic engine for downtown.
Carner said he opposes the expansion of the facility until it can begin turning a profit, though he does support funding needed repairs to the building.
Sprank said he believes the proposal will be voted down by residents, but he ultimately supports the project.
Farber said she wants to see alternative options explored for how the city could continue to grow and develop Five Flags before committing to the project.