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Candidates talk budget, openness

Ward 4 council hopefuls vow more road work if elected

September 28, 2011
By BILL SHEA - Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

A desire for tight budgets and an open government that welcomes inquiries from citizens was cited repeatedly by a handful of Fort Dodge City Council candidates who outlined their priorities during a forum Tuesday evening.

Kim Alstott, Charles Sandvig, Tom Weatherford and Dennis Zemke also vowed to get more road work done if they are elected.

The four, plus Councilman Kelly Hindman, are seeking to represent Ward 4, which is the north central part of the city. Hindman, who is seeking his second term, wasn't present at the forum hosted by the Well-Informed Webster People. Sharon Hickey, the group's president, said he had a ''personal scheduling conflict.''

The five candidate field will be trimmed to two in the Oct. 11 primary election. Those two candidates will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.

Alstott said he believes the current City Council has a reputation problem that must be addressed.

''Most people feel that they are hiding things,'' he said. ''I want to put some common sense back in the City Council.''

Cutting spending and avoiding tax increases are part of his plan for the city.

''It's about time to stop spending money and borrowing more money,'' he said.

The other candidates in the race generally agreed with him on budget issues.

''I don't believe we have the means to be extra progressive right now,'' Zemke said.

Sandvig said the city government's spending is ''kind of going the way the federal government is.''

None of the candidates offered any specifics on how much spending they would cut, or what programs that money would be trimmed from.

Weatherford said he was concerned about tax increases.

''I just believe we're taxing ourselves out of competition,'' he said. ''Basically, there is no inflation, but our taxes keep going up and up.''

Weatherford said he would try to reduce the amount of local option sales tax money spent on the Fifth Avenue South corridor project.

''What you voted for was to have your streets fixed, not to have pillars and wrought iron fences on Fifth Avenue South,'' he said to applause from the audience of about 30 people.

Sandvig called for the appointment of an independent commission to examine the finances of the city. He said he would hire somebody who is ''totally outside the community'' to lead the review.

In the opinion of at least three of the candidates, some improvements can be made in the way the government communicates with its citizens.

''There are certain departments that quite frankly have some arrogance in them,'' Weatherford said. ''I'd like to see a little more openness.''

He did not say which departments he believes are guilty of arrogance.

Alstott said he would have monthly ward meetings to talk with residents. He said the meetings would be on Thursdays at Hy-Vee, 115 S. 29th St. That store is not in Ward 4.

''There's no reason to have secrets from anybody,'' Zemke said.

He said that most phone books do not have a listing for the city manager's office.

That office can be reached, however, by dialing the number listed for the mayor's office.

Sandvig didn't share his opponent's view of local government transparency. He said that based on his experience it's ''not fair to say they're not open.''

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or



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