City parking, the proposed College Avenue bridge expansion, and Appleton’s use of riverfront were the main issues on potential voters’ minds at a recent forum for the upcoming mayoral primary.On Tuesday, Feb. 10, the three mayoral candidates for Appleton’s Feb. 17 primary spoke at a forum in Lawrence’s Riverview Lounge. The College Democrats and College Republicans co-hosted the event.
The candidates are incumbent Tim Hanna, former aldermen Charlie Goff, and Bill Siebers. Each answered questions about the proposed expansion of the College Avenue Bridge, the future of the riverfront in Appleton, and parking, an especially pertinent topic for many Lawrentians.
The candidates expressed their sometimes widely differing views on the role that the mayor should play.
Goff stated that if elected, “I will lead, and manage [the city] professionally.” Goff said early during the forum that the current administration was not playing an active enough role.
Hanna stressed his track record as mayor, a position he has held since first being elected in 1996, while Siebers stressed a personal involvement with citizens, encouraging politicians to go out and meet with constituents.
After opening statements, the forum began with questions of all three candidates pertaining to the current state of parking in Appleton, particularly in the downtown and campus areas. Hanna, acknowledging, “There’s no more room on the Avenue,” stressed his belief that Appleton has enough parking to handle even large crowds, citing the city’s several parking garages downtown, just off of College Avenue. Hanna suggested that the real solution to the perceived problem is to get the word out to people that the parking garages are available.
The other candidates echoed Hanna’s sentiments about the use of the parking ramps not only as an alternative to on-street parking for shoppers and those seeking nightlife, but also for Lawrence students who are not fortunate enough to get on-campus parking permits.
Another issue which has caused some controversy in Lawrence and its surrounding neibhorhoods has been the proposed expansion of the College Avenue bridge over the Fox River, immediately to the east of the Lawrence Campus. The proposal, as part of a long-range plan, seeks to expand the bridge from two lanes to four.
“Our role as a city is to plan out into the future,” Hanna said, explaining that the city has longstanding plans envisioning College Avenue as a major artery that include the expansion of the bridge.
Sieber challenged the current state of affairs, saying that the government should, “When a decision is going to be made, go to the individuals who will be most impacted by that decision.”
He feels that not everyone has had enough of an opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue of the bridge, noting what he perceived as a lack of response to the proposal. He called for reaching out, door to door if need be, to the citizens of Appleton.
Goff called the current situation a “case study of lack of leadership.” Appleton residents have been very vocal on the issue. He criticized the long range planning, saying, “The problem is we didn’t involve folks who have been vocal about the issue.”
The candidates displayed to the audience what they felt were their strong points; Hanna his track record, Goff his business acumen, and Siebers his desire to establish a very personal connection with constituents.
The primary election on February 17 will narrow the candidate list down to two for the final April 6 election.