After detailing responses from candidates in 13 of 17 County Board races to our County Board Countdown questions, we were left with four races for which we received responses from only one candidate. Steven Ingham in the 11th, Patrick Downing in the 30th, Gordon Kensgaard in the 34th and Cynda Solberg in the 36th were kind enough to get back to us while Al Matano, John Brixy, Patrick Miles and Richard Pertzborn, respectively, kept their thougths to themselves.
Make of that what you will.
Meanwhile, answers from the four responsive candidates are below. And don't forget to vote on Tuesday, April 1.
What is the single most important issue for your particular Dane County Board district?
Steven Ingham: Most important issue for District 11: The biggest issue in District 11 is increased traffic volume. Four major roads go through or next to our district (Mineral Point Road, Midvale Blvd., Whitney Way, and University Avenue). Residential development in rural/suburban areas without concurrent economic development has led to increased commuter traffic through our district. Residents are also worried about the impact high-density urban infill projects will have on traffic flow. Many residents are unconvinced that the proposed commuter rail system will reduce traffic volume through the district.
Patrick Downing: Southwest Dane County is a great place to live, and our most important issue is preserving the quality of life we currently enjoy. That issue has many facets. It includes preserving our lakes, waterways, farm land and natural areas. Our towns and villages need good land use planning that permits growth without sprawl. Dealing with the mounting traffic problems that affect the majority of district residents who commute to Madison is also a quality of life issue, and keeping our families safe from crime and disaster is vital.
Gordon Kensgaard: The formation and control of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC). This has the potential of eliminating the control of the Towns and Villages from local governments and transferring the growth plans, land use, and development policies away from local governments and transferring it to the county level. This is wrong. Local governments of the Villages and Towns, elected by the local people of that town or Village, should be able to plan for their own futures and not be subject to the whims and political agendas of the County Board.
Cynda Solberg: Land use seems to be the biggest issue in my district. Through the course of this campaign, I have learned quite a bit about the concerns of land owners, especially those that are affected by Shoreland Zoning. If I am elected, I will continue to listen to those concerns and to learn more about how proposed legislation will affect land owners. I will do my best to preserve the rights of land owners, while still being responsible in terms of working within the comprehensive plan and being sensitive to environmental issues. I will attend local meetings of townships or other groups that deal with these issues.
If Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk were to leave office, who would be her ideal successor?
Ingham: Ideal successor to Kathleen Falk: The County Executive has a difficult job; I would hope that Ms. Falk's successor would be someone skilled at crafting a bipartisan approach to problem-solving.
Downing: I don't have a particular individual in mind, but I would like to see someone who could enhance trust and cooperation between the urban and rural areas of the county.
Kensgaard: I don't have enough information on others on the County Board to be able to make a reasonable nominstion.
Solberg: I do not want to answer this question, this is not a topic that should be discussed when she is in office.
Do you support a Dane County Regional Transit Authority, with its own taxing ability? Why do you think some communities oppose an RTA?
Ingham: RTA: I do not support the proposed commuter rail system that seems to be the centerpiece of the RTA. Instead I am in favor of a truly regional, affordable, and flexible bus system. I would like to see funding alternatives to the sales tax developed. Taxes seldom are repealed - we should be careful about creating a new one. I feel that some communities oppose the RTA because they don't feel their citizens would receive much for their tax moneys. It also seems that some communities may not have felt included in the planning of the RTA proposal.
Downing: Many people outside the Madison metro area are concerned they will be taxed to pay for a system that won't provide them any benefits. I voted against the RTA proposal last summer because it didn't contain sufficient details to show that people in Southwest Dane County would be served. I could only support a plan that provides benefits to all the residents of Dane County, especially the 30th District. It must include highway improvement and expanded bus service, and it should be paid for in an equitable and affordable way.
Kensgaard: I do not support the creation of a RTA with increased taxes for all of Dane County. Taxes are high enough for the people without adding more that will only serve to benefit a select few. A RTA will only work if it acts as a advisory and planning body that can bring all of the various ideas for solutions to one table for discussion and recommendation to the State executives. In other words, County government should not be the ones who control transportation projects. This belongs on the state level, otherwise each county in the state will be completing projects and adding new taxes, all without any interaction between them and we'll have a real mess. Not to mention, a slew of new taxes that are different in each county.
I do support a "northern bypass" to relieve some of the congestion on the Beltline, but I also would like to have the public transportation issues examined. For example, I'm sure you've seen the large empty busses driving around Madison during the day. I'd like to see smaller units used during the non-peak hours. These are much more fuel efficient and could even be alternatively fueled (hydrogen, natural gas or electric). I'd also like an RTA to examine the public transportation needs of the areas outside of Madison. A trolley from Middleton to Sun Prairie only benefits those few where busses already run. We need to examine the other areas that need public transportation, like McFarland, Stoughton, Fitchburg, Mt. Horeb to name a few. Also, not everyone works in downtown Madison, there are large areas outside of the downtown where a lot of people work and have to use their cars.
Solberg: I am in support of transportation planning, but the way the RTA was written I would have not supported it if I was on the Board.
The commuter rail system that is proposed does not even come near District 36, or several other areas of the County. The additional ½ percent sales tax increase to fund this rail system would make Dane County the highest rate in the State. This could drive people away from shopping at local businesses to the Internet or neighboring counties.
I do agree that transportation in this County needs to be improved. I think other transportation improvements should be looked into. I don't think it's fair to ask the whole County to pay for something that is primarily to benefit the City of Madison.
Has the County Board become more or less relevant over time?
Ingham: Relevance of the County Board: As the metro area has grown, land use, transportation, water resources, and criminal justice/public safety issues have increased in complexity and importance. The actions of the County Board impact each of these areas and, therefore, the Board has become more relevant.
Downing: I believe the County Board has never been more relevant than it is now. With the increased pace of development in recent years, the quality of life we enjoy is being threatened by sprawl, traffic, pollution, and crime. On many of these issues, only a countywide approach can be effective. As I talk to the people in my district, I find more and more of them aware and interested in the issues the board works on. The County Board is local enough to be sensitive to community concerns but big enough to develop comprehensive, coordinated solutions to problems.
Kensgaard: Lately, the way of the Board, to attempt to dictate to towns and villages thier future based upon political agendas, so I would have to say it is becoming less relvent. The Dane County Board should assist in any way it can, the plans and desires of the individual communities of Dane County. Each community has its own goals and desires for residential development that reflect the views of the people who live there. It is the responsibility of the County Board to support these local plans, help the Towns and Villages develop them if needed, and not to interfere with them or determine what they should be.
Solberg: I think the County Board has become less relevant over time. The reason I say this is that the board spends too much of it's time on non-County business. For example, when the Board debates issues such as impeachment of the President, the war, and universal health care it take time away from them working on County issues. The Board also has become so divided between liberals and conservatives that more time is spent between these two groups trying to "out-do" each other than working together to get things done.
Name the one quality you possess that is most essential to the job?
Ingham: Personal attribute that is essential to the job: I am experienced at listening to different points of view on complicated issues and working collegially towards decisions that are for the common good.
Downing: I take a cooperative, common-sense approach to problem solving. The County Board should not be a place for partisan games and political divisions. We need to come together to find consensus on solutions. I think my work to break the impasse between the Towns Association and the county over county zoning is an example of how I build bridges and seek common ground with all sides of an issue.
Kensgaard: I have no political agenda and will not blindly support any one group. I will listen to the people who elect me and try and vote to support their best interests. I will not support the special interest groups that seem to be so prevalent in the county and whose special agendas are raising taxes, spending monies on anything and everything that benefit only their groups and ignoring the wishes of the Villages and Towns that make up the rest of the County. Basically, I'm would class myself as a moderate. While I do have strong opinions on issues, I am not opposed to listening to other points of view and modifying my position if the opposite view is reasonable and makes sense. Differences of opinions are what make this a great area to live in. No one person or one group can have all of the answers. A great man once said, "if three people in a room all think the same, two of them are redundant."
Solberg: I would say my work experience is the thing that qualifies me the most for being on the Board. I have worked for the State of Wisconsin for over 16 years, the last 12 as the Business Manager and Management Services Director of MMHI (Mendota Mental Health) and CWC (Central Wisconsin Center). My work has given me experience working with budgets, procurement, contract management and supervision of employees. I have spent the last 12 years working at MMHI and CWC to utilize the budgets in the most efficient ways possible. I have such a good relationship with our local union at MMHI that they have endorsed me for my campaign for County Board. My department oversees many areas including the business office, IT, housekeeping, maintenance, and security. Therefore I have a very diverse background through my work experience that I would bring to the Board.