Candidates Speak About Their Vision For Oskaloosa
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Candidates running for office in Oskaloosa had an opportunity Tuesday night to share their thoughts about their vision and plan for Oskaloosa.
The forum was made available to voters and candidates alike by the area media. The evening was moderated by Deb VanEnglenhoven.
Each candidate was allotted a specific amount of time to answer the question as posed by the moderator. The candidates had been given general topics from which questions could potentially be asked, but none were given prepared questions.
There were five candidates who chose not to participate in the evenings forum. The four area media outlets respected their decision not to participate.
After the opening statement by the candidates that participated, and the first question posed went to Doug Yates, and was then presented to the other three present candidates.
“What will you as a city council member do to continue to keep the community active and vibrant?”
Yates said that he wanted to make sure that the city continued on the path they have been on for the past four years. “We’ve worked hard to reduce the tax rate,” citing that the tax rate is now been decreased over 8 percent.
“But at the same time, we’ve been able to move the city forward,” saying improvements to the condition of the city, “the streets are much better than they were”.
Yates explained that there is a lot of work yet to do, pointing towards a 5 year capital improvement plan. He also spoke about the continued cooperation between the city and Mahaska County Recreation Foundation.
Scottie Moore was the next candidate to tackle the question on keeping the city active and vibrant.
“I hope we’re going to continue on the same path we have for the last four years,” Moore said. “Some of the things we’ve done, and we’re going to be moving ahead with, is being selected as a Blue Zone community. Because of this, we had the opportunity to write a grant and we received it and it’s called the Safe Route To School grant, which will build a lot of sidewalk. The [recreational] trail is just about finished and it’s been a jewel to our community, we’re going to continue with this. The skate park is up and going. We have investigated and written a grant to turn the downtown post office into apartments. Trolley Place and the Iowa Building are realities. We need to continue building as we have. Something I’m excited about is HAZMAT, it’s moving from Ottumwa to Oskaloosa at great savings to our taxpayers. So we’ve attracted or brought this in-house. I have a lot of ideas and would love to have a chance to talk with you in some depth about it.”
Wyatt Russell then answered the question about how he would continue helping make Oskaloosa an active and vibrant town.
“I would almost like to see the city council take on more of an ambassador type role,” Russell said. “You guys have done a very good job about it thus far. Moving our youth forward is gonna be what drives the community. We need something that our youth can do. What ideas that might be, I don’t know. That’s something we need to go and talk with William Penn, we need to go talk with the high school and say, ‘hey, what are you guys interested in doing?’.”
Russell feels that, “Moving forward, we need the council to take more of an ambassador role and go out to the local businesses and go out to new businesses and say: ‘Hey, what can we do to help you?’. You know, if you’re an existing business, what can we do to help you grow? What can we do to help you maintain and thrive in our community? And to new businesses, what is it that would not attract you to our community? What is it we could do to help improve that?”
Tom Walling was the final council member to speak on the subject of keeping Oskaloosa active and vibrant.
“I started to tell you about 10, 12 years ago, I was on the chamber of commerce and I was president one year, and we started talking about economic development. And the consensus was, and I think it was a very smart consensus, yes, we will always try to bring in outside people for future economic development, but we need to support the people that are here. Retention in sales, everybody knows. It’s much easier to keep a customer than gain a new one. So we said, and we’ve been leading that way now for 10 or 12 years for the retention of our businesses. Business is what it’s all about. Jobs is what it’s all about. You get me businesses and you get me jobs, I can do all the vibrancy to Oskaloosa you could ever want. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m telling you…this town looks a whole lot different in the last 20 years than it did before that, and I’m very proud of it.”
“Where do you stand on the regional airport and why,” was the next question candidates answered.
Tom Walling was the first candidate to answer the question.
“I’ve been for the regional airport the first time we voted and the second time we voted and it is very important. I’m the first one to always say, if you knocked on Debbie and I’s door, and said, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Walling, we’re going to buy you out and you’ve gotta move.’ I wouldn’t like it and I would do probably whatever I could in my power to see if that could be changed, but, eminent domain is only there because you can’t build highways and airports without eminent domain and it just won’t happen. So we’ve got to have it and it’s legal to have it. But, I am for the airport for this reason: Intermodel transportation has been the livelihood of Oskaloosa. If you look at Oskaloosa, we’ve always had five highways, we used to have three railroads and we’ve always had some kind of air transportation. Air transportation has become much more important for business. Business is what it’s all about. Like I said earlier, I work for Cunningham Incorporated. We have a lot of businesses in this town. All the businesses create all the jobs, government does not create a job. Regardless of what you’re hearing out of Washington D.C., it does not happen. Business generates jobs. We must have jobs to grow and to continue. So I’m going to do everything for business.”
At this point, the moderator moved on to the next candidate, Wyatt Russell, looking for his answer to the question, “Where do you stand on the regional airport and why”.
“I am for the regional airport,” said Russell. “The reason I take that stance is, I would rather take the risk of building the airport and it not creating a whole bunch of jobs. I don’t want to not take the risk and risk the chance of losing out on jobs, or losing out on an industry we already have locally that says, ‘Hey, alright, you’re going to do nothing to help me out. I’m going to go to another town, and I’m going to go to another town that will help me out.’ Do we want to risk losing that tax base? Do we want to risk losing employment? It does fall back on people losing ground, and it’s a touchy subject, and any time you get into that, I would hope that eminent domain does not get used. I think it has to be there in the language just in case something does go wrong. I would hope that the negations go well and eminent domain would not have to be used, but I would like to have it there in the language still.”
Scotty Moore was up next to talk about the regional airport.
“I’m for the regional airport,” says Moore. “Because if we don’t have a regional airport, our number one employer in Oskaloosa is manufacturing. And most of these people that are involved in manufacturing travel out of our community to work. If we don’t have the economic assets, and benefits these companies want, or thinking of having, they won’t grow here or come here. I want you to think about Le Mars, Iowa. They voted down their regional airport and now their biggest employer which is Blue Bunny Ice Cream is looking for a new home. Chariton did not offer Hy-Vee the economic assets to flourish, and now Hy-Vee has moved to Des Moines and Chariton’s population and economic base has declined. These are two examples of what happens when you don’t grow. When business thinks about expanding or settling in a community, air accessibility is important. They might say, ‘well, you can drive to Newton or you can drive to Ottumwa’. Well, the first thing I would think is, ‘well, I’m going to settle in Newton or Ottumwa’. Studies show this regional airport will bring 6.2 million dollars into our economy. We’re not going to take farmland, we’re going to return 266 additional farmland back in. So the land we take out, we’re really going to return more.”
Doug Yates was the final council candidate to tackle the question of “Where do you stand on the regional airport, and why?”
“I’m in support of the airport, and the reason I’m in support of it is because I want to lower our taxes and I think the regional airport stands a great opportunity to do that,” said Yates. “There’s a lot of false information out there that’s been spread that says the regional airport will raise our taxes. Simply untrue. It’s not going to raise our taxes to build it, it’s not going to raise our taxes to operate it, but it does stand a great chance of reducing our taxes because, as Mr. Walling commented, it’s about jobs. With that airport we can retain the great jobs that we have and then we will have the opportunity to attract new businesses that will create more jobs. As we have good quality jobs and add more quality jobs, we broaden the tax base and we lower the taxes for everybody. So I want this community to continue to move forward. We need good transportation infrastructure, the airport is part of that.”
Dave Krutzfeldt, who is a candidate for mayor, was the last candidate of the evening to tackle the question about the regional airport and what position he holds.
“I’m in favor of it as well,” said Krutzfeldt. “Like Doug said, I see it as a great opportunity for Oskaloosa going forward. Pella needs that airport, They’ve gone 10, 11 years getting variances for landing the types of planes they do. I see that Oskaloosa, in the 10 to 15 year future, will need the amenity of this airport in order to remain vibrant and just a major player in economic activity in Iowa. One of the things people don’t talk about is that the airport is going to be following the same business plan as the old Oskaloosa Airport. And so, from the onset, it starts out as a profitable airport. Then, when you roll on top of that, that you’re putting all of the air traffic from Pella into that as well, I see only a top side to that. Profits that are going to roll towards the city of Oskaloosa or the development of that airport to enhance our stature as an economic center in the State of Iowa.”
You can see the entire forum in its entirety below.