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Waukesha mayoral candidates agree to disagree

Feb. 7, 2010

Waukesha - Challengers and the incumbent running for Waukesha mayor disagree over everything from the benefit - or detriment - of regional cooperation, to the city's financial picture, to the mayor's image and governing style.

Four challengers want to unseat first-term Mayor Larry Nelson: Ald. Randy Radish, developer Jeff Scrima, police officer Bill Beglinger and retired Journal Sentinel reporter Darryl Enriquez. Two will survive the Feb. 16 primary and move on to the April 6 general election.

Nelson says his commitment to regional cooperation and contacts with players of both parties at all government levels has produced major progress on thorny issues, namely the court-ordered deadline for reducing radium in the city's water supply and the decades-long deadlock on the west-Waukesha bypass.

Yet three of the four challengers say Nelson's push for Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee may bring untenable conditions that dictate the city's housing, transit or land use policies.

Beglinger, who said he's philosophically opposed to regional cooperation, and Scrima don't want Waukesha working with Milwaukee for a water sale. They want research into their own ideas for water sources, ideas not deemed feasible among the 14 alternatives evaluated.

Enriquez said he supports getting Lake Michigan water from any of three possible communities, including Milwaukee, if the negotiated deal "avoids policies that entangle our community with the social issues of Milwaukee."

Economic development and taxes are high on the challengers' lists of concerns, while Nelson said he oversaw unprecedented business growth despite the recession. Nelson listed 27 new downtown businesses in the last year, including the Clarke Hotel, The Shoppes at Fox River, a new Super Wal-Mart among others, as evidence.

Radish said the city must expand its commercial and industrial base to shift taxes from residential owners. He said the city could use "an economic SWAT team" to head off business flight. He also would have preferred more business zoning on the city's residential west side.

Radish supports the city's strategic planning process and wants it improved. He also sees a need for efficiencies, citing as an example consolidating city offices from different buildings into a replacement for the high maintenance, inefficient city hall.

Enriquez said Nelson's administration is insensitive to taxpayer frustration, and he'd control spending and taxes with a new purchasing overseer who'd find ways to save, perhaps with joint buying with other communities or by trimming employee benefits. He also sees potential for saving by combining departments' pool of labor and equipment.

Enriquez and Beglinger want big capital projects - over $3 million, Enriquez specified - put to voters.

Beglinger said taxes are out of control. He blames political promises at state and federal levels for unnecessary programs, while streets and roads have deteriorated. One cost-saver he suggests on his Web site is forgoing a new fire station and setting up a small southeast substation with one basic response vehicle instead.

Scrima sees the city's bus system as wasteful and perhaps smaller vehicle door-to-door service could free money for street repairs.

Nelson cites a city finance office report that the increase in annual tax levy for operations averaged 4% in his four years, compared to 6% for predecessors Carol Lombardi over eight years and Carol Opal over four years, and nearly 8% for Paul Vrakas' final eight years. Including debt in the levy figures produced a similar trend.

Question of style

Among challengers' criticism of Nelson's governing style was a personal one. Radish said Nelson's attire, often brightly colored Crocs shoes and matching golf shirt, reflects poorly on the mayor's judgment and is an "embarrassment to the city and its residents."

For Enriquez and Scrima, transparency is missing.

Scrima said he'd work full time as mayor for half the $70,100 pay, which is set to increase to $79,100 by term's end in 2013. He said he'd take the door off the mayor's office. He described Nelson's approach on issues like private development at Frame Park's baseball field as cloaked and a ramrod.

Enriquez said that unlike Nelson, he'd hold public listening sessions and regular office hours. He said with his reporter's instincts, he'd push for more openness, for example, by putting budget drafts and contracts online. He'd seek citizen comments with online tools.

Nelson said he tirelessly has promoted Waukesha as an arts and culture destination and has treated citizens with respect and civility.

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Bill Beglinger

Age: 51

Address; time in district: 216 S. Moreland Blvd.; Waukesha resident for 28 years

Occupation: Police officer and runs Bill's Specialty Automotive detailing and mechanical repair business

Elective offices: None

Other government experience: Prairie Home Cemetery Commission appointee since 2002; Police Department liaison to city planning staff reviewing development for crime prevention design issues; former president Waukesha County DARE Officers Association.

Education: High school graduate

Family: Married with two adult children

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Darryl Enriquez

Age: 56

Address; time in district: 219 Arcadian Ave.; Waukesha resident for 27 years

Occupation: Retired journalist

Elective offices: None

Other government experience: None

Education: Holds bachelor's degree in mass communication from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Family: Married with two adult children

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Larry Nelson (inc.)

Age: 54

Address; time in district: 201 N. Prairie Ave.; Waukesha resident for 34 years

Occupation: Former middle school language arts teacher; current mayor

Elective offices: Appointed 6th District alderman in 2000 and elected/re-elected in 2001, 2002 and 2005; elected Waukesha mayor in 2006

Other government experience: Has served on city government committees for human resources, public library, public art, equal opportunities, landmarks, building and grounds, technology; former president of the Common Council; current chair of the Plan Commission; member Waukesha Water Utility Commission; member of Waukesha County Criminal Justice Collaborative Council, Waukesha County Economic Development Corp., Board, Milwaukee 7 economic development group, Waukesha County Drug Free Communities Coalition, current president of Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, on Legislative Committee of League of Wisconsin Municipalities

Education: Bachelor's degree in English and secondary education from University of Wisconsin; master's degree in English from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Family: Married.

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Randall J. Radish

Age: 53

Address; time in district: 619 N. West Ave.; Waukesha resident for 25 years

Occupation: Real estate appraiser and licensed broker; owns Radish Appraisal Service

Elective offices: Elected 11th District alderman in 2006 and 2008

Other government experience: Current chairman of city Finance Committee, current or former member of boards or commissions for Prairie Home Cemetery, master plan implementation, Fox River development, telecommunications; Waukesha County Community Development Block Grant Board, Waukesha Redevelopment Authority and COPS Advisory Committee; former president Business Improvement District Board

Education: High school graduate

Family: Divorced with teenage son

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Jeff Scrima

Age: 32

Address; time in district: 125 N. Greenfield Ave.; lifelong Waukesha resident except during college

Occupation: Owns Canterbury Realty LLC real estate and development company; licensed broker

Elective offices: None

Other government experience: Member Development Committee of Business Improvement District

Education: Bachelor of music degree from Wheaton (Ill.) College in 2000

Family: Single

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