2018 Voter Guide – Commissioner Candidates

The 2018 Voter Guide published Wed, April 4, 2018, by the Brown County Democrat includes responses to questions that were sent to the candidates by the League of Women Voters.  Question 3 was on the topic of planning.

Candidates for county offices include County Clerk, Commissioner – District 2 and Circuit Court Judge. A candidate forum is scheduled for Wed April 11, 6:30 County Office Building.  All three Republican primary candidates are expected to be present.  These include Diana Biddle (incumbent), John Kennard, and Ronald A. Sanders.  Since one of the Democrat candidates for commissioner cannot attend – Jeff Fox, the League of Women Voters rules limit the other candidate – Kyle Birkemeier, to introductory remarks only.

Planning is how you identify specifically what citizens want and do not want in terms of change.  Transparency (honest and open communication) requires published plans that are developed with the input from the citizenry. (Examples of county plans below).

For the sake of disclosure, I was on the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) in 2016 and 2017 and was not reappointed in 2018.  Commissioners as well as the council did not and do not have to provide a reason for non-reappointments.  More info: 2018 RDC Appointment Process 

The election for Commissioner – District 2 represents a clear choice for the county.  Should citizens have a voice in the direction of the county or is the status quo good enough?   I included responses from Commissioner Biddle who is the current incumbent.  All the questions and responses from all the candidates are provided at the bottom of this post.

Question: “Do you support the development  of a County Comprehensive Plan and Economic Development Strategic Plan that provide community-supported guidance for all aspects of development and infrastructure and why and why not?”

Commissioners Biddle’s response:  “The current comprehensive plan was completed in 2012. Further development of the plan should include adding additional tools, such as area infrastructure maps, to our existing comprehensive plan . The missing piece for us an up-to-date zoning code to complete the 2012 comprehensive plan. This update is currently underway.” 

Note:  The county application for an economic development strategic planning grant was approved by the commissioners in December 2017 but is on hold pending the decision on the Van Buren Fire Station Issue.

The Brown County Schools in their the 2017 -18 Budget Recommendations identified that an effective economic development and housing policy had a direct impact on school enrollments, If enrollments continue to decline, it will likely lead to the need to close schools.  Note that there is no mention of schools in Commissioner Biddle’s responses.  Expansion of broadband internet is just one component needed in an economic development strategy.

Elsewhere in the voter guide, Commissioner Biddle identified what she considers three challenges: Courthouse Security, County Roads and Bridges, Broadband and other Infrastructure.

  • “County Roads and Bridges.”  See references below to standard practices in other cities and counties.
  • Broadband and other Infrastructure“.  A state law was created in “2013” that allowed the commissioners to show that adequate broadband services are unavailable in Brown County. The law allowed them to declare the entire county an infrastructure development zone. No action was taken in response to the law by the commissioners until 2018.  Ref: Brown County Democrat, Feb 20, 2018. Public comments wanted at hearing about internet options

The county Redevelopment Commission (RDC) in 2016 and early 2017 abandoned the goal to pursue updates to the GIS infrastructure maps due to lack of support from Commissioner Biddle.

The county GIS map can be updated at any time to identify existing and planned expansion of broadband.  Economic development plans in areas that are currently supported by broadband can also be developed.

Commissioner Biddle in her advocacy for the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center reinforced her disdain for planning in her remark: “We have planned ourselves to death …”   There is no evidence of any significant planning efforts supported by Commissioner Biddle. Ref: Guest Column: Maple Leaf proposal: Let’s not fail to plan. See also Chronology of Events – Maple Leaf.

Examples of County Comprehensive Plan and Road Maintenance Plans. 

A “plan” is a written account of the intended future course of action aimed at achieving the specific goal (s) or objective (s) within a specific timeframe. It explains in detail what needs to be done, when, how, and by whom.

Questions for Candidates:

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