Dubuque mayoral candidates answered questions on a range of important city topics Monday.
During the live forum hosted by the Dubuque League of Women Voters, four of the five mayoral candidates discussed topics ranging from addressing poverty to their support for major city projects. April White, who is also running for mayor, did not attend the forum.
The candidates are seeking to succeed longtime mayor Roy Buol, who is not seeking re-election. On Oct. 5, a primary election will be held, with the top-two voter earners moving on to the Nov. 2 election.
The four candidates for the at-large City Council seat also participated in the forum on Monday. Coverage of their comments will be shared in Wednesday's Telegraph Herald.
Early on, candidates were asked to list which major city projects, either proposed or currently underway, they support.
Antonino Erba, who is running for mayor for the first time and previously unsuccessfully ran for Dubuque City Council, said he believes many of the projects the city is currently prioritizing should be secondary to more important projects, such as constructing a new fire station in the western portion of the city.
“There are so many projects on that list that are distractions from the real issues, like, why don’t we have projects that tackle climate change,” Erba said. “Why don’t we have projects that end homelessness?”
Throughout the debate, candidate John Miller, who previously ran for mayor in 2017, touted his proposal for the creation of a new city office, led by the mayor, that would focus on answering any questions that residents may have.
Miller also offered his support for the continued development of Chaplain Schmitt Island, proposing that a second helicopter be placed at Veterans Memorial Plaza.
“I suggest that we have another Huey (helicopter) that is a med-evac helicopter that presents the balance we have with destruction,” he said.
City Council Member David Resnick, now hoping to secure the role of mayor, expressed his support for all projects currently prioritized by the city, including the construction of a $20 million parking ramp downtown.
“We’re obligated to do that as part of the deal,” Resnick said, pointing to the project being tied to a development agreement with several existing businesses. “We don’t pull back on what we have agreed to do.”
City Council Member Brad Cavanagh, who is also seeking the mayoral seat, voiced his hesitancy to support the parking ramp project, arguing that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has possibly reduced the need for parking downtown.
“I disagree with my council colleagues on this,” Cavanagh said. “I don’t see good evidence on this right now that we need to do that at this moment.”
During the debate, Erba called for the city to raise the pay of all city employees to $15 an hour and argued that a more aggressive approach needs to be taken in addressing climate change.
“The city needs to be more aggressive in actually addressing climate change,” Erba said. “I want to get us to at least net zero emissions by 2030.”
Miller said he currently favors the city investing in reducing poverty and combatting climate change, while also working to promote the city as a place to live, though he did not provide specific examples on how he would accomplish this.
“As mayor, I want to help Dubuque become one of the healthiest, safest, greenest communities in the country,” he said.
When asked how the city could address increasing affordable housing options, Resnick argued in favor of continuing to develop private-public partnerships that lead to new housing development.
“It’s very important that we partner with nonprofits on this,” Resnick said. “We just partnered on the Bishop’s Block. We opened around 30 units, and they are all housing choice vouchers.”
Speaking on how to increase the city’s population, Cavanagh spoke in favor of working to promote small businesses and develop additional housing and amenities that will drive new residents to the community.
“It comes down to jobs, schools and amenities,” Cavanagh said. “We need to make Dubuque a good place to live, work and play.”