The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber held a Cedar Falls Mayoral Candidates Forum on Friday, October 23st at the Cedar Falls Tourism Visitors Center to give investor businesses the opportunity to understand each candidate’s position on issues that affect the economy including business climate, workforce, and quality of life.
Specific topics raised included: University Avenue, the downtown waste water treatment facility, the use of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) as an economic development tool, a part-time vs. full-time mayor, and more.
“The Alliance & Chamber serves as the one voice for business in the region. We advocate for the concerns of business at the local, state, and national level. We provide opportunities for education on issues, interaction with officials, and encourage our investors to participate in the process,” says Steve Dust, CEO of the Alliance & Chamber.
All three candidates participated in the Cedar Falls Forum including: businessman Jim Brown, incumbent Mayor Jon Crews, and retired railroad management employee Dave Halterman.
Each of the mayoral candidates made a brief opening statement. Moderator Steve Firman, Director of Alliance & Chamber Government Relations, then directed questions from the audience to the candidates.
In his opening statement Jim Brown shared his three-point platform of business development, good communication, and strong leadership. He pointed to his success launching a technology startup and in talent recruitment for John Deere as valuable experience that will help him market the city to new business and talent. Brown noted that the University Avenue project will likely move forward as approved by the current council.
Jon Crews bases his campaign on ‘facts and real numbers.’ He points to reduced residential and industrial tax rates, and quality of life and amenities as hallmarks of his tenure as mayor. Crews believes the use of roundabouts on University Avenue will reduce accidents and save lives.
Dave Halterman was a critic of the University Avenue reconstruction plan and outlined seven ways he believes the project could be handled more efficiently. He sees University Avenue as the ‘present and future of tourism and business development in Cedar Falls.” He believes the opportunity to increase the tax base is ‘bleak.’
Brown did not comment on the issue of the downtown location of the waste water plant. Crews commended the water treatment department for their efforts to mitigate the odor issue and noted that new development has continued despite the location of the plant. Halterman criticized the way EPA requirements for run-off into sanitary sewers are being addressed.
Brown supports the use of TIF. He believes it puts the City in a position of strength when negotiating with prospective businesses. Crews cited the City’s successful use of TIF and believes it should not be restricted. Halterman pointed out that residents should benefit from development in lower taxes or increased services.
Crews would support a part-time mayor position if the people voted for it, but believes a balance between strong elected officials and professional staff is best. Brown sees no reason to reorganize the structure of Cedar Falls government and believes the council should decide if the position of mayor should be reduced to part-time . Halterman voiced opposition to a city manager position saying that the people have no recourse from the ballot box. He believes the mayor is the ‘elected CEO’ of the community.
A forum participant asked the candidates how they would make decisions when their own convictions differ from the opinions of constituents.
“If I can see something that save lives, save injuries, and saves tax payers money, then I think the elected officials need to vote their conscience.” responded Crews, “If you do what you think is right and you can sleep at night then that is what you should do.”
Halterman believes leadership should concede to constituents. “Anything else,” he stated, “is arrogance.”
“There is a responsibility of a leader to lead, to communicate, to let folks know where you stand, “said Brown. “ But you also have to respect the process, which in our city is the council. The council is the power behind the process. The decision makers have to come to a consensus. Consensus means you don’t get what you want, but you are both moving the ball forward”
Listen to a recording of the forum here.
For more information on the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber and their Government Relations activities, go to www.cedarvalleyalliance.com or contact Steve Dust at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 319-232-1156.