Ald. Cathy Dugan at the Stevens Point Police Dept. open house. (Metro Wire photo)

In Her Words: Dugan Runs Again for District 8

Metro Wire Staff

Cathy Dugan is running for reelection in the city’s 8th District. Dugan, 71, is a first-term councilwoman and retired teacher of junior/senior high school German, who also taught adult basic education, ESL, communication at Mid-State and Freshman English at UWSP.

She previously sat on the board of the Interfaith Community for the Earth, and now volunteers for the group.

Her challengers are former school administrator Allan Prosser and Lynn Schulist, who works for a local financial company.

After filing her re-election paperwork, Dugan announced she would not seek a second term, citing a lack of time to prepare her candidacy. She later rescinded her withdrawal.

Dugan declined a face-to-face interview, instead asking for questions to be emailed. Those questions, and Dugan’s responses, are published verbatim below.

1. An in-person interview is less-scripted sounding, and allows for follow-up questions, which in turn creates a better, more comprehensive interview. Why not interview in person as your challengers did?

“Time is limited, and I believe I can be more reflective when writing my answers.”

2. There have been a number of meetings on a proposal to re-stripe Stanley St., long before it was something the city was considering. You attended at least one of these early meetings as a city representative at Washington Elementary, and have stated you are in favor of making changes to the Stanley St. roadway on several occasions. This question has four parts:

a) Why did you support holding the first public listening sessions without first making it clear this was not a formal city project?

The meeting did not include the Stanley St. topic originally. We were asked by an advocate to place it on the agenda. The Public Works director at the time, a civil engineer, was one of the presenters.

He made it clear that this was not a formal city project, only a possibility to consider.

*Editor’s Note: Following this public listening session in September 2016, Dugan was asked if audience members may have left the meeting with the belief the Stanley St. project was already approved by the city. Dugan’s response was, “I would say that’s accurate.”

b) Why would you allow usage of the Tomahawk video showing the 4-3 conversion, considering that town has the population of about 3,000, no college population, shows a corridor very different in zoning than Stanley St., and contained no contradictory information?

I had no authority to allow or disallow the showing of the video.

c) Would you change your opinion on the project if a majority of Stanley St. residents objected to it?

The December 2017 meeting confirmed two things: 1)The majority of those in attendance thought the street could be improved, but 2) those improvements might take varying forms. In other words, a 4-3 conversion is not the only option.

d) During the long-term capital discussion at council in Oct. 2016, the council agreed future capital projects should generate the tax revenue it needs to be sustainable. How does the re-striping project create revenue to support its own maintenance in the future?

We do not have a 4-3 re-striping project on Stanley St. at this time. In the 2018 budget, a small amount of money (down from $50,000 to $35,000) is provided for Stanley St. improvements. We could use the funds to make crosswalks safer at difficult intersections (e.g, Minnesota and Stanley) or to slow down traffic in some small way.

The city is looking for solutions to the problems that citizens discussed at the meeting, and I trust the next budget will contain funding for more robust improvements on Stanley.

3. What is your solution for addressing safety concerns on Bus. 51?

There probably is not one solution on this street either. At the Franklin/Business 51 intersection, the city has installed a pedestrian-activated flashing light cautioning motorists to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. In my experience, this mechanism is reasonably successful. What works at this intersection, however, may not work on another section of the street.

4. During your time in office, what measurable TIF District improvements have you voted to approve?

Most recently, I voted to approve infrastructure improvements in the East Park Commerce Center, TIF #9, for the Os’o Brewery development.

5. During your time in office, you’ve voiced concern about living wage. This question has two parts:

a) Isn’t this an issue for the free market, not the City Council, to decide?

If, in good economics times, the free market is not addressing the issue and too many local workers are impoverished or just scraping by (see the United Way’s ALICE Report and the LIFE Report), then the city has a responsibility to do what it can to protect its citizens. Poverty can lead to stress, illness, addiction, and crime. Hence, I raised the issue at a Public Protection committee meeting.

b) What, if anything, can the council do to influence wages?

1) The city can educate the Council and the public about the need, and the mayor took the first step by scheduling a presentation at a City Council meeting. Presenters included leaders from the United Way, CAP Services, and Portage County Health Services.

2) The city could choose to allow a quorum of the City Council to attend a more in-depth presentation in a larger venue, e.g., the Pinery Room at the Portage County Public Library. In my vision, a panel discussion would include representatives from the organizations above, as well as from UW-SP’s Business and Economics division and from UW-Extension’s Community Development.

3) The city might ask developers of new businesses to promise full-time jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits in exchange for incentives from the city.

4) The Council could pass a resolution supporting a $15 minimum wage, even though it would be symbolic.

6. Recently, you began holding a series of meetings in your district, located in private homes and ostensibly not open to the public. Are these campaign events, or public listening sessions? If they are public listening sessions, is it appropriate to hold them inside someone’s home?

They are neither campaign events or public listening sessions.

These are neighborhood meetings to discuss the possibility of organizing a Neighborhood Association. The city’s Neighborhood Improvement Coordinator, who has experience with associations, explains the benefits and discusses how to get organized. Those present ask questions and share why they have come to the meeting.

Typically, Neighborhood Associations begin with just a handful of people gathering in one home, and often they have in mind improvements they would like the city to consider. An association can give them a united voice.

Thus far, three families in three different neighborhoods have hosted meetings, and a fourth family will host next month.

The meetings have nothing to do with my re-election campaign. In November, I had no idea I would be running a campaign. And now that I am, it is clear that the election should not be referred to at neighborhood meetings.

7. There is arguably a lot of attention given by City Council to the Downtown District: is the another part of the city you believe deserves more attention? What is that area, and what is the attention you feel it needs?

Two areas of the city that also need attention come to mind:

1) Business 51 from Church St. to the Village of Whiting. Not only is this street in need of repair, but the properties lining the street could use renewal. This will come when the corridor is reconstructed.

2) The older residential neighborhoods. Homes need rehabbing, and streets need reconstruction or resurfacing. The city is following plans to reconstruct streets, and the Redevelopment Authority is discussing ways to assist home owners.

8. Is there a particular vote/discussion from your first term you would do differently if you had the chance?

In retrospect, I might have made a stronger argument in favor of protecting the wetlands from proposed development in the Parkdale area.

9. In the past you have publicly mentioned that on at least one occasion you walked your neighborhood and placed city literature in areas where you noted ordinance violations. Do you feel this is appropriate for a member of the the City Council, who is supposed to be a representative member of the legislative branch, rather than an arm of ordinance control?

I do believe that an alderperson has a responsibility to educate neighbors if there is a violation. Many have no idea they are not complying with a city ordinance. Letting them know is part of neighborhood improvement and not “ordinance control.”

10. Why did you vote on a measure to install parking kiosks without first asking the city to have a written plan in place for implementation of said kiosks?

I knew how important kiosks would be in the areas identified and left the plan for implementation in the hands of the alderpersons whose districts would be affected and to city staff.

11. What, in your mind, is the job of a council member?

In no specific order: Council members represent their districts’ interests; consult with district constituents; delve deep into the responsibilities of the committees, boards, and commissions they are appointed to; debate and discuss with other Council members at meetings; listen to the arguments on all sides of an issue; ask for advice from city staff; and finally, after collecting as much information as possible, vote one’s conscience.

a) How have you fulfilled it during your first term?

When the mayor asked me what I wanted to accomplish on the Council, I didn’t have specific projects in mind. I said I wanted to encourage debate and discussion on the Council, so that I and the public would know how each of us stood on one issue or another—a way to be transparent. I am proud to be a member of a Council that does just that.

I also told the mayor that I wanted to be more interactive with constituents than the previous District 8 alder had been. Not only have I scheduled informational meetings, listening sessions, and neighborhood meetings, I have responded to numerous phone calls and emails.

b) Do you feel you’ve fallen short in any areas?

The Council needs a space in which to talk with each other—directly and as colleagues—and it must be at a public meeting with a noticed agenda. It’s true that this Council discusses and debates at Council meetings more thoroughly than any Council I’ve known. However, we do not talk with and to each other.

Rather than an executive committee as proposed (I voted against it), we could use a Council Work Session or Round Table Discussion. Some municipalities schedule such discussions regularly. They are opportunities to learn what our colleagues value, what they are concerned about, why they ran for office, and what they want to accomplish.

From these discussion-only sessions, items for action can make it to a committee or Council meeting agenda.

12. What are you most proud of having accomplished during your first term?

District 8: Getting to know my constituents and their concerns, and then representing them at Council. One person said she doesn’t always agree with the way I vote, but she approves of the way I represent the district.

City-wide: As noted, I am proud of encouraging debate and discussion at committee and Council meetings, making city business more transparent.

I am a proud supporter of a capital budget plan that points the way forward to improving city infrastructure.

13. In a recent vote to approve changing the manner by which committee chairs were appointed, the city essentially wound up in the same place: the full council approves the recommendations, with veto power still maintained by the mayor, and the authority to overturn a mayoral veto still retained by the council. In your mind, was the entire process a waste of time?

The process was not a waste of time, in my view, because it highlighted and clarified the mayor-council relationship. In addition, standing committees now have an opportunity to hear from each member before voting to select a chairperson. Each member may present orally a “resume” for consideration before the vote.

14. A lot of discussion lately on the role of the mayor by those on the council. Do you feel the mayor has too much authority? If so, how? Would you support switching to city administrator/other form of government, and why?

As I said at this month’s Council meeting, we need the mayor’s office and the talents of the current mayor. The Council is not asking for a city administrator, as far as I know. But, some municipalities do have both—a mayor and a manager. I have marveled at the way in which Mayor Wiza juggles the two roles—chief communicator and Council leader, as well as a CEO who supervises city staff.

15. How, specifically, do you believe the city should increase its tax base?

The city needs to continue recruiting and encouraging economic development as long as the economic environment is favorable. In the last year, economic growth in Point has been very good, and the city has upcoming projects that will continue the trend. Much of the tax revenue will come from large projects, such as the Sentry building on Division and Northpoint, but the smaller projects add up, too.

16. Last year you told the council you entered the Turn of the Century building, a privately-owned building, without permission from the owner, to inspect for safety hazards. This question has two parts:

a) Do you feel that you owe any explanation to the public for this?

My intention in visiting this rooming house was to learn whether these vulnerable people who are down-and-out have an acceptable place to live. This is one of the few places in the community where they can get shelter, and I wanted to be certain the Council could approve a decent and safe space. Everyone deserves that.

My explanation at Council was the following:

The owner doesn’t operate the rooming house so he is not there, and the manager/operator was not in (although I arrived during her posted office hours). So, I asked several of the residents if they would let me take a look at the building, since the City Council would be deciding whether to allow the owner to increase occupancy. They agreed that I could look around and take photographs. I had their permission.

b) What background do you have in inspecting for safety that would qualify you for such a task?

I took my photographs to an expert at the Fire Department; he is qualified to inspect the premises. I also showed them to the city’s Inspection Department. Both experts testified at the Council meeting that there was cause for concern and there were property maintenance violations.

17. Please name two-three of the biggest challenges you believe are facing the city, and say how you would address them.

1. Re-locating City Hall. I support our purchase of land on which we likely will construct a new building for city administration. But as a historic preservationist and an environmentalist, I see advantages in remodeling the current County/City Building. Either way, the cost will be high.

2. After attending a training session for Stevens Point police officers and fire fighters, I am more aware of the stress they deal with daily, as they confront the overwhelming number of crimes and overdoses resulting from addiction to opioids. In our community, drinking to excess is also a major concern. I admit that I do not know how to address problems of addiction, but I am willing to support the police and fire departments with as many resources as the city can afford.

18. You are a unique candidate in that you have followed city issues long before being elected, and you have even written columns for the Stevens Point Journal. We can all agree there have been drastic changes to local media in the past six months or so. In your mind, how has local media changed for the better, and for the worse, and should residents be concerned about that?

It is noteworthy that we now have four local news outlets, not counting broadcast media. But many of us long for the days when our daily newspaper contained more local news. The Gazette, City Times, and now Metro Wire cover Stevens Point; however, the first two publish just once a week and Metro Wire is only online. It’s not enough.

19. Would you be open to a videotaped Q&A with your challengers?

I will rely on the League of Women Voters forum on February 8.