Dubuque’s Ward 4 soon will have a new representative on the Dubuque City Council, and a Loras College professor and social worker believes he is the person for the job.
Brad Cavanagh faces Jay Schiesl in the Nov. 5 election for the Ward 4 council seat. The men were the top two vote-getters in this month’s primary election for the seat, which is being vacated by Jake Rios, who declined to run for re-election. The ward spans much of the greater downtown area east of South Grandview Avenue and south of Kaufmann Avenue.
With early voting already underway, the Telegraph Herald asked Dubuque City Council candidates that made it through the primary for their thoughts on five big issues or areas.
Here are summaries of Cavanagh’s responses.
Five Flags Center
The city is in the midst of the third round of studies regarding the possible expansion of the 40-year-old facility. The most-expansive proposal includes increasing the seating capacity from about 4,000 to 6,400 seats, with an estimated price tag of $85 million.
While supportive of a voter referendum on whether to move forward with a revamp of the outdated arena, Cavanagh said he does not favor the $85 million plan because it would place too heavy a burden on taxpayers.
“We do need … to move (Five Flags) to the next sort of echelon” to draw bigger acts and larger events — sort of a middle tier,” he said. “... But I do think there is a market for it we can see.”
Spending and debt
Cavanagh said he is committed to continuing the city’s current debt-reduction strategy.
In recent years, the city has taken on large amounts of debt to pay for projects that included a flood-protection system, an expanded and updated sewage treatment plant and an airport terminal.
The city had borrowed nearly $300 million and was on the verge of pushing against its debt ceiling four years ago. Today, city debt has dropped to roughly $266 million and Dubuque is at about half of its debt limit.
“There are concerns on the horizon of a (possible national) recession,” Cavanagh said. “If borrowing costs increase, it is time to tighten the belt a little bit. But if borrowing costs remain low, I think that’s a good use of city funds.”
Cavanagh said he was frustrated by the recent apparent disagreements among council members over closed-door discussions about the performance of top city staff.
“It’s extremely unfortunate this issue has been simplified to either you’re for or against city management,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things that have gone very, very well for the city of Dubuque, and it’s hard to argue against that.”
At the same time, Cavanagh said he was alarmed by a lawsuit filed against the city by the Dubuque Police Department’s highest-ranking female officer on the grounds of gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
“I want the full story,” he said of the closed-door discussions. “I don’t have all of the information yet.”
Pets in parks
Cavanagh said he supports allowing pets on leashes in a few select city parks on a trial basis. Council members then would evaluate whether to make the change permanent and to expand to other parks.
Cavanagh said he is committed to finding ways to alleviate poverty concentrated in the greater downtown area and wants to move forward with a poverty prevention plan and an analysis of impediments to fair housing. He also wants to improve “communication and openness” with residents on city issues, with regular town hall meetings.