City Council Candidate Responses – 2020

1. Please provide some personal background information (name, occupation, list any community activities you are involved with).

Lynnsey Erickson: Lynnsey Erickson
a. Community Health Strategist at the Winnebago County Health Department
b. I currently serve on the Oshkosh Plan Commission and Oshkosh Transit Advisory Board. I am a member of the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County and the Wisconsin Public Health Association. I have also volunteered with the Oshkosh Food Co-op and mentored at the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh.

Michael Ford: Michael Ford

Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Community Activities:

  • Member of the City of Oshkosh Plan Commission
  • Member of the City of Oshkosh Long-Range Finance Committee
  • President of the Millers Bay Neighborhood Association
  • Board member of Clarity Care Inc.
  • Member of the Oshkosh Food Co-Op Site Selection Team
  • Member of Oshkosh Area United Way’s Fiscal Health Evaluation Committee
  • Fall Prevention for an Aging Community Project

Danny Garcia: My name is Danny Garcia, J.D.; I’m a practicing attorney in the Oshkosh and surrounding areas, specializing in criminal, family, LL/tenant, employment, and discrimination law. I also represent a large percentage of the Spanish-speaking community in the area, since I am fluent in the language. In addition to my work, I serve the city on the Rental Housing Advisory Board, and have also been on the boards of several bar associations and nonprofits. In my spare time, I enjoy running, board games, and playing rugby with the Oshkosh Mighty Pigs.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: Matt Mugerauer
Customer Service & Sales Manager – 4imprint.
I am currently in my first two year term as a Common Council Member for the City of Oshkosh, having been elected in 2018.  I serve on the City’s Long Range Finance Committee as Vice Chair and Landmarks Commission, and have previously served as chair of the Rental Housing Advisory Board. I am a member of the Oshkosh Mid-Morning Kiwanis, a service organization that I connected with through their global purpose – changing the world, one child and one community at a time.  I also volunteer quite a bit of time as a youth sports coach.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)

2. Please outline what you consider to be the City of Oshkosh’s three to five most critical issues.

Lynnsey Erickson: a. We need to address the lack of supply of affordable housing in Oshkosh. According to a 2019 report by East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, 44% of renters and 20% of homeowners in Oshkosh are paying more than a third of their income on housing costs. Talking to rental property owners, it’s an issue of lack of supply of affordable housing and rising costs to maintain their properties. Once elected, I would look at how our current zoning policies may restrict affordable housing to be built and how we can work with both renters and property owners to prevent evictions from happening. The city can help support potential solutions in legal assistance and mediation and establish a tenant/landlord resource center. We also have a lack of supply of affordable housing. We can find ways to support rental property owners in being able to maintain their properties and use tax increment financing to fund additional affordable housing development where it’s really needed.

b. Oshkosh demographics are changing and we have to be building Oshkosh for the future. I want to live in a city that is welcoming and celebrates the diversity we have. There are people in our city who do not feel welcome even though they call Oshkosh home. We need to incorporate equity throughout our practices and policies as a city, including having equitable hiring practices and being a role model for others. We also need to support economic development that utilizes the talent and skills of people who live here, including minority and women-owned businesses. These businesses offer services and jobs for people in Oshkosh, and once elected, I would work with the business community to ensure that all entrepreneurs are supported and welcomed to Oshkosh. Our diversity makes us stronger.

c. There are major transportation needs in Oshkosh. We need to make sure that our residents are able to get to where they need to go. We have a great public service through GO Transit, but funding limitations have not allowed them to run past 6pm or on Sundays. Some folks rely on transit to get to where they need to go, from jobs, medical appointments, school, or errands, we need to value transit as a necessary public good. Once elected, I would work to continue creating partnerships between the city and school district, business community, and residents to ensure that everyone is able to get to where they need to go. We also need to continue to look at public-private partnerships, like Winnebago Catch-A-Ride, to make sure we have adequate transportation to help people access good jobs.

Michael Ford: There are several critical issues, when addressed, that will set Oshkosh up for a prosperous future.

1) Our recovery from the human and economic impact of the current pandemic will likely be our top priority for some time. The economic hit, the need for social services, and the impact on city revenue sources will all be massive.

2) Getting development of Oshkosh Ave, Jackson Street, and the Sawdust district right. I have been honored to be on the front lines of these projects through my work on the Plan Commission, and we must continue to make smart decisions that balance the need to attract development with the long-term needs of our community.

3) Our racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. Some will say this is a school district issue, I say no, this is an issue impacting us all and a signal that some are being left behind in Oshkosh.

4) Weaving diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our government. Oshkosh is getting more diverse, and we must embrace that diversity as the asset that it is.

5) Collective impact. There are so many great organizations doing great things to make Oshkosh a better place. The city can play a strong role in measuring, and facilitating, the collective impact of our public, nonprofit, and private sectors. We will need our priorities aligned as we deal with the current crisis and its aftermath.

Danny Garcia: If I had to identify, say, three areas that would benefit from greater consideration, these are the ones I would pick:

1. Development of the Sawdust/S.Main area. Honestly, I feel a little like cringing every time I’m headed south over the main street bridge. With the exception of the Menominee Nation arena and a scarce spattering of local businesses, there’s very little there. The area is in deep need of economic development. I think it was originally the city’s plan to foster such development using the arena, but it’s been made clear that such stunts are not the kind of activity that promote investment in the area. And while one of my general policies would be the limitation of TIF districts, I would be in favor of using such districts to support small, local businesses that would want to revive the area. There’s a lot of potential there; it just has to be carefully cultivated.

2. The Oshkosh Avenue Area. We just – more or less – handed over an enormous swath of park to Oshkosh Corp. to set up an office in the Oshkosh Ave. area. At this point, I’m not opposed to it. As my mother once said regarding questionable wallpaper: “you can replace it or embrace it.” Oshkosh Corp. is one of Oshkosh’s most valuable assets, so that industry isn’t going anywhere. So what can we do to ensure that our land giveaway is as successful as possible for growing a diverse, successful Oshkosh? These are the questions that need asking.

3. Responsible TIF use and development of local business. This sort of ties into the prior two points, but I believe that the city needs to be more responsible in it’s use of TIF districts. These designations should not be used on large-scale projects, which could afford the expenditure regardless (and may even abuse the privilege and cost the city [looking at you, arena]). Rather, these districts should be used to support local businesses that will put money directly back into the Oshkosh Area.

Ok, I said three, but:

4. Social Issues. When I look over Oshkosh’s municipal codes, we’re actually surprisingly progressive with many of our policies! Whether it be discrimination, homelessness, etc., Oshkosh is working incredibly hard to ensure that all of it’s citizens are taken care of. That said, such efforts must be continual, and I think we should always be looking for more ways to promote inclusivity, diversity, and justice.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: Budget.  The most important issue facing the City of Oshkosh is our financials, our budget.
Anything we want to do in terms of improvements to our infrastructure, parks and quality of life assets, public safety and transit all come back to our budget and how we pay for them.
The continued reduction in state aid only increases the amount we need to bring in via taxes and fees in order to just maintain our current level of service.
While serving on our Long Range Finance Committee I have positively contributed to our debt reduction goals and will continue to do so.

Infrastructure.  We have many needs in this community: infrastructure improvements including roads and utilities, facility needs for the Parks Department, City Hall, the Police and Fire Departments and the Museum, easily totaling a hundred million dollars.
We have to find a way to support our needs and growth, while balancing the need to lower our debt, and not exceed limits placed on us by the State.  It is a balancing act, one that I enjoy and am effectively helping lead us through.
As a council member every single tax payer dollar we are entrusted with is important, and I will continue to ask the important questions to ensure we are getting as much bang for our buck as possible.  The next council has to lay the foundation for how we start to improve more roads and city facilities.

Housing.  The City of Oshkosh does not have enough housing available.  Over the last year or so we have seen an increased attention by developers to build higher density housing in the downtown central city area, but we continue to need more single family homes.  While the Common Council and the City are not in the real estate business, and for good reason, we need to encourage single family construction.  I have advocated for City Staff to consider alternative option, to be flexible and adaptable to different ideas to allow residential developers to keep Oshkosh moving forward, and I will continue to do so.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)

3. There are a number of geographic locations within the city that can benefit from attention to facilitate economic growth and development.  Please identify and discuss what you consider to be the top two or three economic development priorities that you will champion as a member of the city council?

Lynnsey Erickson: a. If elected to city council, there will need to be a major focus on supporting businesses and residents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This will have to be a priority for the community as we work to recover our economy. I think we need to work creatively and quickly alongside businesses in order to help them get through this expected rough patch. We can look at extending repayment on loans and expanding our support for local businesses.

b. I will also prioritize supporting effective economic development incentives that the city can offer to support small businesses. I would particularly like to see the city make more progress in identifying needs and supporting loans and grants for entrepreneurs and business owners of color. 

Michael Ford: The top three are Oshkosh Ave, Main Street, and the Sawdust district. Oshkosh Ave. is both a gateway and a future economic driver for Oshkosh. It is essential to get high quality development that improves our tax base.  That means using incentives responsibility, and creating a business friendly tax and regulatory environment.

Main street is the heart of Oshkosh. Small businesses will be struggling from this pandemic.  We need to do all we can to keep our downtown businesses afloat.  How? I don’t know. But I suspect we will have federal and state aid/programming that we will be able to use to support the effort.  What I can guarantee is my commitment to efficiency and effectiveness so that we can implement whatever aid we get well.

The Sawdust District will extend downtown, increase our tax base, and provided an exciting mixed-use area.  It will increase the tax base, but also our quality of life.  I am supportive of the plan and, think Pioneer Island and the extended Riverwalk can jumpstart this development.

Danny Garcia: I believe I more-or-less covered this in my answer to the previous questions, but just in case, here it is again: I believe that there are several areas in Oshkosh that have the potential for great development. The Oshkosh Ave. area, the Sawdust district, etc. – all of these places are just waiting for the right people to revive the area. That said, I think that the right people are not large organizations or projects, but rather small businesses that will keep Oshkosh local, and will ensure that money is being pushed directly back into the Oshkosh economy. Does this mean that I wouldn’t consider a large project being placed in either of those areas? Certainly not. But I would prefer Oshkosh to thrive on it’s own capacities and innovation, which I know it can.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: Sawdust District.  I will continue to support the redevelopment efforts to transition the last of our downtown industrial space to a vibrant commercial mixed use space that attracts new business and new people wanting to live downtown and makes better use such a great space downtown along the water.

Industrial Parks.  The Southwest and Aviation Industrial Parks are the most important spaces in terms of business attraction.  With the addition of the transload facility and completion of the infrastructure, the Southwest Industrial Park is poised to take off in 2020-2021.  We have the ability to attract new businesses to Oshkosh, further diversifying our commercial, manufacturing and industrial industries-a great thing for Oshkosh!   After many years it appears the Aviation Industrial Park is set to receive the long awaited taxi-way from Winnebago County.  Once completed it will be great to see the fruits of those investments and efforts come to life.  We will need to continue to market and support development efforts in these spaces.

Downtown and central city development/redevelopment.  From the former Morgan Doors site east to Pioneer Island, and across the river to the remaining land at Jackson and Marion Road, those sites are key to our downtown redevelopment.  Commercial and Residential mixed use developments will bring small businesses and new residents to the downtown area.  I am excited to see all the interest Oshkosh has received not only from local developers but out of city developers too.

While Oshkosh has been working on some of these spaces for many years, it is now time to push them over the goal line and see development pay off for the city.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)

4. The City’s administration is currently developing a proposal to establish a Transportation Utility Fee Program as a means to eliminate special assessments for street reconstruction/improvement projects and the sidewalk replacement program. A similar funding approach was rejected by the City Council in July 2019. Based on a recommendation of the City Ad Hoc Committee on Special Assessments, each residential (one- and two-family) property owner would be assessed an annual fee of $96 and all other property owners would be assessed an annual fee of $600. Do you support this type of a program? Please discuss your position.

Lynnsey Erickson: a. People need to be able to get to where they need to go, whether it’s biking, walking, taking GO Transit, or driving. I also support a program that is similar to the one proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Special Assessments that more evenly distributes the burden of road and sidewalk repairs. For one person I talked to while knocking doors a couple of weeks ago, they were hit twice with thousands of dollars in special assessments for both their home and business, and I know this is an all too common experience in Oshkosh. Keeping up with our sidewalks and roads should not be a burden for our residents or business owners. I agree that something needs to be done to find a more equitable solution to have a well-maintained transportation system for everyone. I appreciate the work the ad hoc special assessments committee, including Council Members Mugerauer and Miller, has taken on the issue. I look forward to discussing these solutions more in-depth in June when city council reviews the research Janesville is doing on the issue. We need a strong built infrastructure if we want to have an Oshkosh that people want to live in.

Michael Ford: As a member of the City’s Long-Range Finance Committee I am supportive of the body’s work on replacing special assessments with a more equitable alternative.  I support the concept of a split fee for residents and business, but would also be supportive of more categories depending on factors such as road impact and parcel usage.  We must also ensure what we do does not lead to a court challenge.  Equitable means equitable, and that must be the goal of this policy.

Danny Garcia: Sigh…

This issue has been talked to death amidst the council. And while there are certain proposals that I would favor over the current recommendation, at this point I favor any recommendation that just gets it done. And in all honesty, I don’t think this kind of assessment is a terrible one. Does it mean that Walmart pays the same fee as the New Moon? Yes, unfortunately, and I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish that we could find a way to assess exactly which roads were most traversed by Semis (which are the vehicles that do the real damage) and figure out which businesses should pay more based on that assessment. In fact, I believe this is something that was discussed, but shot down. But the point is, we have a proposed system, and while it may not always be entirely fair, it is very simple, and there’s something to be said for that. With the low administrative costs of enforcing these fees, perhaps the city can use the money more productively.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: I support a change to our special assessments policy to ensure those that are most vulnerable, home owners and small business owners, no longer take on the lion share of the burden.  Having spearheaded this issue during my first term on council, I will continue to advocate for a better, more equitable policy.  Having met with business owners on numerous occasions over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to listen to their individual concerns and not surprising to me, they align with the concerns of homeowners too.  I understand big businesses such as large manufacturers can easily handle a large assessment bill from the city, and I respect their ability to do so.  But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should have too.  And the same goes for the small business owners from Oregon St to Oshkosh Ave.  Most small businesses do not have the ability pay for large assessments for improvements to the roads in front of their properties.  Roads that we all use and benefit from.

I appreciate the Chamber’s role advocating for its membership, and I look forward to working together to find something that we can agree will help Oshkosh continue to be a great place to live, work and invest.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)

5. The City of Oshkosh recently rolled out the Sawdust District Master Plan. Please provide your thoughts about this Plan. Discuss your priorities relative to implementation and development opportunities.

Lynnsey Erickson: a. After attending the public open house and workshops for Plan Commission, I am excited by the possibilities this plan has to offer. I appreciate the flexibility and forward-thinking nature of the plan that will allow that area of the city to cater to a variety of businesses and residents. I also appreciate the prioritization of different types of housing, bike, pedestrian, and transit-friendly streets, and community gathering spaces. Moving forward, I plan to continue listening to business owners and residents in the Sawdust District to ensure that we stay accountable to them and keep them involved and part of the process. I look forward to putting in the work to see this area of the city receive the reinvestment and development it deserves.

Michael Ford: As I stated in my previous answer, I support the current plan (I voted for it on Plan Commission). I think the Sawdust District will extend downtown, increase our tax base, and provided an exciting mixed-use area.  It will increase the tax base, but also our quality of life.  I am supportive of the plan and, think Pioneer Island and the extended Riverwalk can jumpstart this development.

Danny Garcia: The plan at this point is mainly conceptual, so there isn’t too much I can say other than the following:

I like that the area is somewhat modeled on Milwaukee’s Third Ward. That ward in-and-of itself is a very successful area in Milwaukee, and I think the idea of creating a scenic, green, entertainment-focused area of the city is a wonderful idea (especially since it would be closer to the downtown).

I like that there’s more proposed use of the waterfront. Lake Winnebago and Oshkosh Lakefront is a very valuable asset, and should definitely be used in development. I’m concerned that a train runs at that lakefront. I do not have a solution for this issue at present, other than rerouting the railway (a proposal which would be littered with complications), but this is something that needs to be considered.

I like the idea of an entertainment-focused district. BUT, as I’ve stated in my other responses, I think this development needs to be local. Unique. Oshkosh-specific. Otherwise it’s bound to be gimmicky, and less likely to succeed.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: I appreciate the committees work on developing the Sawdust District Master Plan.  It provides a great conceptual framework for those looking to redevelop parcels along Main St.  Personally, my first priority for that district is the space north of 9th and east of Main.  I supported the purchases of the last remaining pieces of land in that area, as I believe we need a strong anchor development to take place there first.  If that happens it could really push the rest of the redevelopment efforts along much faster.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)

6. The City established a Storm Water Utility in 2003 for the purpose of managing storm water run-off issues in the community. Residential property owners are assessed for one equivalent runoff unit (ERU). Non-residential property owners are assessed annual fees based on the amount of impervious space (parking lots and roof tops) to determine the amount of ERUs that exist on a parcel. The initial storm water utility fee in 2003 was $19.10 per ERU and has grown to $196.92 per ERU, a 14.7% annual rate increase. Do you believe this increase is reasonable? Please outline your ideas to curtail the growth in storm water utility fees.

Lynnsey Erickson: a. We all know that Oshkosh has had historical issues with flooding and overburdened storm water systems. As I would with any other issue in the city, I would like to hear from both non-residential and residential property owners to hear their concerns and how they have been impacted by city decisions. If the fees have caused an undue burden on property owners, then we should reconsider our options. I am open to re-examining how we pay for our storm water management program to ensure that fees are fair and equitable while also ensuring a reduction in storm water pollution and flooding.

Michael Ford: No. This increase is not reasonable. Fees structures can be the difference between a business staying or leaving Oshkosh.  I support establishing a base rate today, and providing certainty by indexing annual increases to the rate of inflation.

Danny Garcia: Obviously these costs are only going to continue rising in the future (this is an environmental problem; one Oshkosh cannot fix on its own). My idea for curtailing such costs then, revolve around careful city planning. Infrastructure needs to be constructed/updated so as to limit runoff. This will of course take a great deal of time, which is unfortunate, but I think it’s the best approach to the problem.

William Miller: (no response received)

Matt Mugerauer: The Storm Water Utility rates have gone up pretty steadily over the last almost 20 years, but that coincides with significant work on our storm sewer system to alleviate as much flooding of homes and businesses as possible when we have heavy weather events.  I think we can agree the community, the entire community, has benefited from the projects those fees paid for.   But I don’t disagree with the sentiment of the question.  How much higher does it need to go?  How many more retention ponds do we really need to dig?  We need to do a better job of communicating why we are doing these projects and how they will positively impact the whole community, and we will.

Robert Wilcox: (no response received)