Four candidates are vying for an at-large seat on the Dubuque City Council.
On Oct. 5, a primary election will be held for the seat, with the top two vote-earners moving on to the Nov. 2 election.
The incumbent, Ric Jones, is joined in the race by three challengers who have not held elected seats in the community before.
The Telegraph Herald spoke with three of the candidates about their campaigns. One candidate, Louis Mihalakis, refused to take part in an interview when reached by the Telegraph Herald.
Flynn, a volunteer master gardener and Army and Navy veteran, is running for political office for the first time.
“For years, the people have not had a say in what the decision making is for Dubuque policies and issues,” Flynn said. “Their job is to work for the people, not the other way around.”
If elected, Flynn said he would approach each City Council issue by polling residents in each voting district on how they feel about the particular topic, with the most popular choice deciding how he would vote. Residents’ wishes would take precedence over his own views.
As an example, Flynn said he personally opposed the city’s choice to enact a face mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he ultimately would support such a mandate if the majority of residents supported it.
“I was against that mask mandate, so I didn’t wear a mask in public,” Flynn said. “However, if that’s what the people wanted, then I would support it.”
Flynn said he supports allowing voters to decide if the city should pursue a $74 million project to tear down the existing Five Flags Center and construct a new one. A referendum vote on the project was delayed because of the pandemic, with City Council members set to discuss the issue in January.
Flynn said he believes residents also should be given the opportunity to decide by popular vote whether the city should construct a $20 million parking ramp in downtown Dubuque, which is planned by the city as part of a development agreement involving Roshek Property, LLC; Cottingham & Butler; and HTLF, formerly called Heartland Financial USA.
Flynn supports efforts to reduce poverty in the city but is skeptical of the City Council’s Equitable Poverty Prevention Plan, arguing that the council is actually trying to keep low-income residents “dependent on government programs.”
Freiburger, who is employed as the Dubuque County Energy District coordinator, is pursuing the at-large Dubuque City Council seat following an unsuccessful run in the Ward 1 City Council special election earlier this year.
She said she is running for the City Council seat in order to promote broader discussions in the city about improving food accessibility, promoting resident equity and supporting the development of small businesses.
“I believe we need to focus on better neighborhoods and building neighborhoods,” said Freiburger, who also chairs the Dubuque County Food Policy Council. “We need to make sure the decisions that are being made will have the most positive impact on our community.”
If elected, Freiburger said she will advocate for greater access to affordable, healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods.
She expressed support for the proposed Five Flags project and said she would support putting the project up for a public referendum vote next year. Freiburger said she also would request an updated cost assessment for the project prior to the vote going on the ballot.
“There are complications at the center that we continue to put Band-Aids on,” Freiburger said. “I think we need to do something that is going to solve the root of the problem.”
Freiburger said she does not support the current proposal for a $20 million parking ramp project. Despite recognizing a need for additional downtown parking, she believes the project should be more environmentally friendly. She said installing rooftop solar panels, establishing greenspace and placing bike racks in the ramp could help meet that goal.
Freiburger also supports the city’s effort to reduce poverty, but she added that more proactive action must be taken to ensure that poverty issues are actually being tackled.
“The community is looking for more than a plan that we can review,” Freiburger said. “We need to focus on its implementation and the money behind it.”
Serving on the Dubuque City Council since 2006, Jones said he is seeking another term in order to help the city recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and improve public safety and emergency services.
“We’re doing some good work, and we’ve got some more bridges to cross,” Jones said. “I want to work to keep the tremendous forward progress of Dubuque.”
Jones said he currently supports putting the proposed Five Flags Center project on a public referendum ballot in 2022, arguing that he would ultimately support the project if it secures the needed votes. Jones also wants an updated cost estimate for the project.
He said he believes there are needs for additional downtown parking options and he supports the construction of the planned downtown parking ramp. He added that the city is obligated to complete the parking ramp as part of its development agreement.
“It’s in the contract, and we have agreed to build this ramp,” Jones said. “I don’t take that lightly.”
Jones said he also supports the implementation of the city’s Equitable Poverty Reduction and Prevention Plan, though he added that additional guidance should be given by city staff on specific ways to reduce local poverty levels.
“We need to move the needle on poverty,” Jones said. “It’s going to take work, though. It’s not going to be one vote and done by any means.”