Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Councilman Wissmann's Comments

I spent about fifteen minutes on the phone with Chris Wissmann discussing the sales tax proposal, then asked if he would email me his thoughts. Here's what he had to say:

I have no problem whatsoever with increasing sales taxes for the intended municipal purposes.

The Saluki Way proposal, however, gives me pause. There's more to Saluki Way than athletic facilities (which is where most people focus when discussing the project), but everyone should agree that McAndrew and the SIU Arena require replacement or major renovations. (How much priority should be placed on those buildings in lieu of other capital projects is certainly a valid question.)

The state ought to fund it, but they probably won't provide money enough for what the university needs for operational costs, let alone capital improvements, so SIU will either need to increase tuition and fees again or cut programs and jobs or funding will need to come from outside sources.

The proposal for local government to fund this state responsibility, by the way,harks back to the Reagan years, when the federal government cut block funds to the states, which had to either shoulder the burden through increased taxes, or they had to cut programs once funded by the federal government.

Anyway, I could think of projects I'd rather help SIU fund- library restoration, scholarships, the windmill project (if the feasibility study proves it worth building).... I could go on.

There are pros and cons to this proposal- many more than I have time to type out right now- but I am carefully weighing them.


Chris Wissmann,
Carbondale City Councilman

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I'm shocked that Wissman is waffling on the issue. Next you'll tell me that Haynes is undecided. ;)
Chris Wissman is perhaps the most thoughtful Council Member that Carbondale has had in a long time. That is not meant to diminish the work of the other members in any way, but the fact is that Chris is ALWAYS engaged, and ALWAYS responsive. When he says that he is weighing the other possibilities, you can take him at his word. Everyone in this town should be concerned about the viability of SIUC. It is the main economic engine of the region, let alone the town of Carbondale. But the ways that we can support SIUC may not include a cash gift to the university. It may be more important to invest deeply in the infrastructure of the town, green spaces, business development, police presence, and especially reining in the predatory landlords. I can't imagine what $1M a year in increased investment in our town would yield - it would be a gesture of historic proportions. Not so the Saluki Way "investment". There is no credible and quantifiable estimate on how our funds, collected from our citizens, would return to our town's benefit. The effort by Mayor Brad Cole is commendable but wrong.
Actually, I've emailed both Haynes and McDaniel. No response from either.
D. Gorton,

I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Chris Wissman. He's an asset to this community's leadership.

Concerning the tax matter, this is a difficult one for me; I can understand arguments on both sides. I feel like I need some way to "test" the possible benefits on either side in order to weigh the matter accurately.
Chris Wissman is the Mayor's right hand man. Please point out to me what Wissman has done for the city on his own initiative? What has he proposed? What has he pushed for? And perhaps, most importantly, look at how often he votes with the Mayor.

Wissman responds to citizen complaints and communicates via email - on that score he has done quite well. He understands that if he forwards your email on to the City Manager and then forwards Doherty's emails back to you, that you'll be satisfied with his 'work.'

If that is all you want out of your members of the City Council, while they simply rubber stamp everything the Mayor proposes without thoughtful reflection, then I guess Wissman is your kind of Council member.

Wissman, Jack, and McDaniel are a lock for the Mayor any time he proposes anything. Fritzler is a lock to vote against it, and who knows what Haynes is going to do? I'm convinced he doesn't even know until the words come out of his mouth and even then he's probably surprised. We'll see how Mary Pohlmann performs.
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