08302019-AtkinsonPhil

Phil Atkinson, Dubuque City Council candidate.

Dubuque’s Ward 3 soon will have a new representative on the Dubuque City Council, and an assembler at John Deere Dubuque Works believes he is the person for the job.

Phil Atkinson faces Danny Sprank in the Nov. 5 election for the Ward 3 council seat. The men were the top two vote-getters in this month’s primary election for the seat.

The winner will serve the remaining two years of the term of Kate Larson, who resigned from the council because she was moving out of the city.

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The ward stretches from the city’s northern limits south to East 16th Street.

With early voting 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 Atkinson’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.

Atkinson said he supports a voter referendum on whether to move forward with a massive revamp, but he stressed that whichever proposal is presented to voters needs to ensure a proper return on the investment.

“If it increases capacity, will it increase ticket sales?” he asked. “But also, it’s an aging building. We can keep bandaging it ... but you have to look at the end result, which is the financial aspect for the cost (to) the city.”

Spending and debt

Atkinson said he is pleased with the downward trajectory of city debt and sees “no reasons to make major changes” so long as the council sticks to its debt-reduction goal and strategy.

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.

City management

Asked about recent apparent disagreements among council members over closed-door discussions about the performance of top city staff, Atkinson said he’s “never really had too much of an interaction” with city management and “can’t really provide a direct opinion for it.”

Pets in parks

“As long as people are responsible for their pets and they’re responsible for cleanup and making sure the pets themselves are safe around the people — around the public — there should be no problem (with leashed pets in parks) whatsoever,” he said. “I can’t go out to Eagle Point Park with my roommate’s dog and walk around without feeling like I’m doing something illegal.”

Top priorities

Atkinson said he would like to push city leaders to accelerate completion of the city’s Bee Branch Creek flood-mitigation plan and focus on providing better access and assistance to quality affordable housing for citizens, including exploring possible rent-control laws.