Dubuque’s Ward 4 soon will have a new representative on the Dubuque City Council, and a former Dubuque Community School Board member believes he is the person for the job.
Jay Schiesl faces Brad Cavanagh 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 Schiesl’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 multimillion-dollar revamp of the aging arena, Schiesl said he does not favor that plan. He argues voters and taxpayers will not support that level of debt. Doing so would require raising property taxes in addition to a city subsidy to operate an expanded center.
“That’s too much to ask,” he said.
In a market with plenty of competition from larger venues in the region, he said, it might be wiser to re-purpose Five Flags into an indoor recreation facility that hosts tournaments and traveling club teams.
Spending and debt
Schiesl said he is wary of taking on debt for new city projects — such as Five Flags — on top of continued work to develop the Millwork District and to alleviate flooding, remove blighted rental properties and promote business development in the North End.
“We need to put the brakes on,” he said.
Schiesl said he stands behind current city leadership and was upset by the recent disagreements among council members over closed-door discussions about the performance of top city staff.
“They conveyed a message to the city of Dubuque that politics is at play, and that is of concern to me,” he said. “We need to find better ways to communicate (with) our citizens about some of the things going on” in city government.
Pets in parks
Schiesl said he favors setting aside a few city parks that allow leashed pets, and that having a lone city dog park is not healthy for pets, due to the potential spread of diseases among the animals.
“At the same time, our pet owners have to be very, very responsible if we open parks up,” he said. “They’ve got be on a leash. They’ve got to be licensed. (Owners must be) picking up after them ... and being extremely respectful of others in the park.”
Schiesl said the city needs to develop a strategic plan to alleviate poverty concentrated in the greater downtown area. That includes partnering with Dubuque Community School District and other community groups to boost student achievement and early childhood education at four underperforming downtown schools.
“In order to deal with the concentration of poverty in downtown Dubuque and deal with affordable housing and to deal with our workforce (challenges) — all of those things revolve around education,” he said.
Lastly, Schiesl said the city needs to better promote the area as a safe, desirable place to live for people of all social, economic and racial backgrounds.