Concern over the finances of the city was a common theme among the eight candidates for Cherokee city office at the Chronicle Times forum held at the Washington High School Auditorium on Sunday. There were some differences in approach on this and other issues.
Dennis Henrich, incumbent candidate for mayor says the city is facing another difficult budget session this year and most likely for some time to come. He said that the city will be having trouble keeping up with such things as street patching for the next few years.
John Woods, candidate for mayor, said there is a need to get more industry and more people in town to increase the tax base.
Dan Morrow, candidate for mayor, said that the city must get its budget under control. He said the city cannot keep spending more than the city brings in.
Bob Leach, candidate for ward 2 council seat, said that it has been a constant complaint for decades that the city has no money. He said the important thing is to try to keep what services the city has.
Frank Escue, candidate for ward 2 council seat, said that the city needs to watch its spending and to get more bang for its dollar.
Shane Sauer, candidate for the at-large council seat, said the focus should be on getting more business in town and getting more money in the budget.
Mick Mallory, candidate for the at-large council seat, said that the city needs to watch the basics and to take small steps in getting projects done.
Gene Streeter (on the ballot as Douglas Gene Streeter), said that every department needs to be looked at to see where savings can be found.
Perhaps the biggest contrast in positions occurs in the question of whether the present council/mayor/city administrator form of city government should be maintained or changed and the related issue of whether the mayor should designate the city administrator to oversee the police department in the mayor's absence.
Morrow said he believes the city is spending too much on a city administrator. He said the city should consider changing the responsibilities and title of the job.
Morrow said the mayor should earn his money and oversee the police department.
Woods said that when the present contract is up for the city administrator that the position might need to be reconsidered because of the need to save money.
Woods said that right now the city administrator should oversee the police department in the mayor's absence but the mayor should have overall responsibility for the police department.
Henrich said that the city cannot be run without a city administrator and that he doesn't have the knowledge to be a city administrator.
Henrich said that the Iowa Code allows the mayor to delegate authority over the police department to the city administrator and he has done that because he has a part-time job that requires him to be out of town some of the week.
Leach said that he believes a city the size of Cherokee needs someone in the position of city administrator.
Leach said that the police department has always been overseen by the mayor but if the mayor wants to delegate that to the city administrator, so be it.
Escue said the city council and mayor should limit what the city administrator does and provide him with direction.
Escue said the mayor should be in charge of the police department.
Sauer said the city should consider eliminating the city administrator position, possibly increasing the mayor's salaries and responsibilities and the responsibilities of other city employees.
Sauer said he understands that the mayor can't always be present but the cellphone is a powerful thing and the mayor should be able to take care of the police department.
Mallory said the city might need a city administrator but he needs to take direction from the city council.
Mallory said that perhaps the city administrator should not have authority over the police department. He questioned why it would be necessary very often for the police chief to get approval for his actions.
Streeter said he is not sure the city needs a city administrator. He said the salary of the city administrator is higher than it ever has been but there are 2,000 fewer people than there was at one time.
Streeter said a city official should maintain some control over the police chief.
There was also varied responses on how the candidates feel about the Aquatic Center/Gillette Park project,
Streeter said that his own gut feeling is that $3.6 million is a lot of money for the project and that it could be toned down. He said he is not 100 percent behind it.
Mallory said the town needs a swimming pool and needs some of the nice extras. He commended the volunteer effort toward this project while stating that the city needs to stay within a budget.
Sauer said that it appears the fund raising is about $950,000 short of its goal and he doesn't know where that money will come from. He said that it might be necessary to look at scaling back on that project.
Escue said that what he would do to promote the pool would be nothing.
Leach said that he wishes the fund raising effort the best of luck. He said an aquatic center would be excellent for the community.
Henrich said the project would be an excellent thing for the community.
Woods noted that he has children who use the pool and would like to see improvements but that it might be necessary to scale back the project.
Morrow said that it looks like Cherokee is trying to compete with facilities in larger towns. He said it might be necessary to scale back the project.
There was a question asked on whether a truck route to divert truck traffic around town is needed.
Escue said he didn't pay for 1,400 feet of frontage in the downtown renovation project to have people told to drive by the landfill. He said drivers should be welcomed into town no matter what they are driving.
Mallory said that any kind of traffic downtown is better than not having any.
Woods said that the truck traffic that needs to make deliveries should be using the alleys.
Henrich said that the idea behind diverting through traffic was to prolong the life of the streets. He said that trucks needing to make deliveries downtown are allowed to do so.
Leach said that the city gets more and more ordinances that need to be enforced. He said he hasn't seen a problem that requires the use of a truck route.
Sauer said he doesn't see a problem with truck traffic going through town.
Mallory said he doesn't see truck traffic as much of a problem and added that most trucks not stopping in Cherokee avoid going downtown anyway.
Streeter said that he hears of truckers wanting to avoid Cherokee and that the city should not want truck drivers to avoid Cherokee.
The candidates were asked how to fight apathy among the citizens.
Streeter said that he doesn't believe the term 'apathy' applies. He said he has heard from a lot of citizens who are concerned.
Mallory suggested that one day a month be set aside for city officials to do nothing but listen to the concerns and ideas of citizens.
Sauer suggested that there be a change in where meetings are held. He said there is not a lot of seating at the city council room.
Escue said that the people who are concerned are here (at the forum) and that you can't get all the people interested.
Leach said the main thing is to make people welcome at city council meetings and comfortable contacting city council members.
Henrich said that he is pleased that there are candidates interested in running for office in Cherokee. He said that you can't please everybody all the time and it is good that there are people willing to face the challenge.
Woods said that city officials need to stop and take the time to listen to people and invite them down to city council meetings to express their views.
Morrow said that there will always be a certain number of people who will not ever be involved in the city's business.
The candidates were asked to give closing comments.
Henrich said he would be happy to serve all four years of another term
Woods said Cherokee needs to keep stepping forward into the future.
Morrow said there are a lot of good people in the town who volunteer to make it a better place.
Leach listed a few examples of projects where people are striving for improvement, including the renovation of the former piano store, the depot renovation, the horse arena and others.
Escue thanked everybody who came and said the city government needs to get more bang for the buck.
Sauer said there will need to be some hard decisions made.
Mallory said he will listen to people who want to tell them what they want from the city.
Streeter said that if he's elected, he will give the job 100 percent and he won't be spending money foolishly.