SHEBOYGAN — The next mayor for the City of Sheboygan will be elected on April 6.
On Friday afternoon, the Sheboygan County Chamber hosted a forum with both candidates, Mike Vandersteen (I) and Ryan Sorenson.
Below are some of the topics covered and how each candidate responded.
Diversity and inclusion
Vandersteen: "We're already seeing a major increase in minority communities when we look at our school district and its population, and that population is just going to become bigger parts of our communities, so this is a very important issue ... People need to be treated with dignity and respect as well, so I'm really looking at something that's more inclusive."
Sorenson: "Diversity and equity are key phrases that mean a lot across this city. This is a big issue that we've had for quite some time now ... One business owner that I talked to said the difficulty they're having is some of their highest paid staff members come from diverse backgrounds but they don't feel welcome, they don't feel included in this community."
Vandersteen: "I went to a seminar for parking, and it was basically if you don't pay for parking, you should ... We were looking at building a parking ramp years ago and we found that it we would have done that, we would have had to drastically increase our prices for parking. We've tried to do our best to keep everything reasonable ... I really think that what we have works and we should continue it."
Sorenson: "I think that we need to get creative in terms of how we approach this. If you look at what other cities are doing, you can pay on an app, you can pay with a debit card—a lot of folks sometimes don't carry change anymore ... We have partnerships within the district in terms of how we can move forward and identify what works where, in some situations ... Overall, I think we have a pretty reasonable system, but there's always room for improvement."
Vandersteen: "The real crux of things is that we need to concentrate on our low-income housing. We'll add over 609 units when the Oscar project is finished. We've really put a lot of effort in that area, but it's my feeling that it's not going to satisfy that demand. The housing study should really tell us how much we need to build in order to serve that demand."
Sorenson: "We fundamentally need to diversity our housing stock in general. We need to ensure that senior citizens can afford to stay in their homes, that younger folks like myself can afford to plant grow their roots here. We also need more single-family housing, not fancy luxury apartments that cost $1800 per month."
Vandersteen: "Streets have really been a priority for me during my first two terms ... We always get pushed around by (the asphalt company the city works with), and many times we don't get crews out here until it's too late in the season, so they knock out as much as they can. I think one of the things you want to do is look at maybe partnering with a company for milling machines so we have the equipment we need so we can reach our goals and when we get them done."
Sorenson: "The roads are the number one issue that I've been hearing concerns about. I think right now the biggest challenge is that we have a throw it against the wall sort of strategy ... We deserve a long-term strategic plan that promises funding strategies and planning strategies as well. We also need to hear from our citizens about where we need to be pay attention and responding."