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Walsh and Pokrandt challenge in 4th District

March 19, 2014

Michael Walsh and John Pokrandt are running against each other for 4th District alderman.

Walsh, of 7310 Grand Parkway, is operation manager for ISI. He served as 5th District alderman from 2008 to 2012 and ran again for the same post in April 2012.

Pokrandt, of 6717 Milwaukee Ave., is senior adviser for Intrinsic Creative, a marketing and design firm. He ran for mayor in 2012 and state Assembly in 2012.

Here are their answers to a WauwatosaNOW questionnaire:

Why are you running?

Pokrandt: I'm running because the 4th District deserves a committed common sense voice on the City Council. I love Wauwatosa and am proud to raise my family here. As a community we have many exciting development opportunities on the horizon that, if done right, will not only add to our tax base but add to the desirability of our community. As a long term community volunteer, I believe that I am the candidate that can balance the diverse needs of the residents of the 4th District.

Walsh: I am running for alderman because, I feel I can make a positive impact for not only my neighbors in the 4th District but for all of Wauwatosa. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve." I feel serving on the City Council embodies this spirit. The city government "touches" everyone in some way. Through this lens of service, I feel I can advocate for positive change in a fiscally responsible manner. I feel my educational background, my operational business experience, as well as my former experience representing the 5th District of Wauwatosa, make me uniquely qualified to represent the 4th District as alderman.

The 2015 city budget will be tight, and city officials say it may require cuts in service. How will you address this problem?

Walsh: In one word — innovate. The 2015 Budget is not dramatically different from the budgets the City Council faced on the early days of the economic downturn. During this time, Wauwatosans needed services more than they ever did before — for instance, Hart Park and the Library, specifically the technology to help find the next employment opportunity. Rather than cut services, the City Council, myself included, urged city staff to innovate, get creative, bring efficient ideas to the fore. It worked — single stream recycling, a more efficient garbage pickup strategy, automated library checkout, paying bills online, consolidating resources under the city's development director, the International City/County Management Association's study (17 suggestions for improvement) for the Fire Department — all outcomes of innovation brought to you by the city staff. This needs to continue. These big budget challenges, I strongly believe, are big opportunities.

Pokrandt: We need to take a long-term view of the budgeting process. The answer long term is to grow our tax base through quality, sensitive and sensible development. We need to think beyond the next budget cycle and plan long term for infrastructure investments. Every budget cycle has its specific challenges but the good news is that the City of Wauwatosa has an AAA bond rating and a healthy financial reserve fund. We have done a good job gaining efficiencies while maintaining services. I am committed to preserving city services by thinking outside of the box. I support pursuing opportunities to provide contract services to surrounding communities to raise revenue.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city, and how will you address it?

Walsh: Wauwatosa is at the epicenter of a commercial and building renaissance. This is a good issue for us to plan strategically; but, there seems to be a break in the communication plan. The summer of 2013 is an example. Residents were surprised on 90th Street that their mature trees needed to come down, residents were woken in the middle of the night with train whistles blaring, Wauwatosans fought traffic frustration as orange barrels appeared at, seemingly, every turn while commuting to work in the morning. I realize the city tries to use alerts, websites, newsletters, but they can do a better job ensuring Wauwatosans feel involved. Perhaps information at the Hart Fest, 4th of July, Hoyt Park pool — these are all wildly popular events and venues for outreach materials, and we are missing an opportunity to keep people informed.

Pokrandt: The biggest challenge facing the city is aging infrastructure. The city has been proactive in dealing with the projected $100 million in sanitary and storm sewer rebuilding and repairs. I support the pilot program of grouting sewer laterals as a less expensive option to lining them or replacing them. I believe that we need to continue to work closely with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and take advantage of opportunities to share costs where possible. We also are facing the issue of potholes and crumbling streets due in part to this year's harsh winter. I support a comprehensive assessment of street conditions and a plan that prioritizes repairs.

When a proposed development is opposed by neighborhood residents, how will you decide what to support?

Pokrandt: I think the most important thing to consider in development issues is whether or not the proposed development adds not only to the tax base but to the character of the community. It's always about striking a balance between the need for growth and the concerns of local residents. I support developments that are long-term quality additions to our neighborhoods. Elected officials have the opportunity to be an important bridge between residents and developers. My view is that it's important to work to foster win-win outcomes where neighborhoods are preserved, quality developments are supported and the tax base is expanded.

Walsh: In my previous experience on the Council, there were a few issues that were so polarizing that it was difficult to find a middle ground. Following a specific playbook for these situations would have made these situations much easier; but, there is no such script to follow. I feel in these debates I try to exercise my common sense — common sense guided by the overarching principle that I will support whatever is in the best interest of my neighbors in the 4th District and in Wauwatosa.

What are the major issues facing your district?

Walsh: Wauwatosa, being a first ring suburb of a major city, has many positives being so close to Milwaukee. Proximity to downtown affords us access to the Milwaukee restaurants, arts and leisure activities. The concern with this proximity is crime. The three wards that make up the 4th District are walkable neighborhoods where neighbors want to feel safe walking their pets, their children, visiting their neighbors at night without the fear of being assaulted. Chief Weber runs a tight department, and I have supported every one of his budgets. If I am elected, this will continue, and I support outreach programs such as the Neighborhood Watch program, Tosa's Night Out and the Reserve Program, which I feel, epitomizes volunteer spirit of Wauwatosa.

Pokrandt: As I talk with voters around the 4th district, it's clear that people love their community and their neighborhoods. The concerns I hear are varied and diverse ranging from public safety to parking, development to deteriorating streets. I don't believe that there is one major issue or challenge; I believe that my job as the next alderman is to take a comprehensive view of all of the issues

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