Oct 09, 2023 6:26 PM

Council candidates talk issues; Primary Election is this Tuesday

Posted Oct 09, 2023 6:26 PM
<b>Burlington voters were out in force on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at the Burlington Public Library for a candidate meet and greet sponsored by The Burlington Beacon and the League of Women Voters of Southeast Iowa. The event gave voters the chance to learn more about seven of the nine candidates vying for a seat on the Burlington City Council. Photo/John Lovretta</b>
Burlington voters were out in force on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at the Burlington Public Library for a candidate meet and greet sponsored by The Burlington Beacon and the League of Women Voters of Southeast Iowa. The event gave voters the chance to learn more about seven of the nine candidates vying for a seat on the Burlington City Council. Photo/John Lovretta

Beacon Staff

Nine candidates are running for seats on the Burlington city council, with the primary set for Tuesday. 

Incumbents Robert Critser and Bill Maupin will be challenged by Travis Inghram, Kay Weiss, Tim Scott, and Jennifer Klever-Kirkman. 

Christopher Roepke, Antonio Bailey, and Terry Schnack are looking to win the seat currently held by Annie Wilson. Wilson, who is not running for reelection, stepped into the vacancy created when council member Matt Rinker was elected to the state legislature.

The Beacon asked each candidate to submit a profile and answer a few questions, giving voters a preview of the ballot box.

Kay Weiss

Retired librarian Kay Weiss was the Burlington Public Library director for 20 years and worked in four other libraries before that. She has lived in the Burlington community for 35 years.

Volunteering became Weiss’s occupation after retirement, and she has been secretary of the Burlington Historic Preservation Commission for the past six years. She volunteers with Downtown Partners, the Heritage Trust, the Des Moines County Historical Society, the Burlington Educational Foundation, the Community Thanksgiving Dinner committee, the Burlington Rotary Club, and her church.

Weiss said her main issue will be protecting the Burlington Public Library. This past spring, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that negates Iowa voters’ ability to tax themselves and their communities with special levies for libraries, museums, symphonies, bands, and civic centers. 

The bill folded these former levies into the general revenue tax which is capped, by law, at $8.10 for each $1,000 of taxable valuation. Burlington, which currently collects $15.34 including the special levies, will be denied nearly 40 percent of its current tax income.

Weiss said she supports constructing a new Cascade Bridge, as well as a third Burlington fire station.

Terry Schnack

Terry Schnack, who owned and operated the CARS (Christian Automotive Repair Service) before his retirement, has lived in the community for over 16 years.

A Davenport native, Schnack grew up on a family farm by Stockton and is an avid classic car owner and enthusiast.

Schnack said he supports lower taxes and believes public safety is the number one priority. That’s why he’s supporting a third fire station if voters approve it in November. He said he supports the library in the face of possible reduced funding.

Aside from public safety, Schnack said his top priorities are creating good-paying jobs and the mental health and homelessness problem. He said he was heartened to see the city establish a task force on homelessness.

Schnack said he would love to see some of Burlington’s oldest buildings, such as Apollo High School, rehabbed and developed for current use. He would also like to see a new Cascade Bridge, saying it is beyond rehab. But he is worried that the $7 to $10 million would be too cost-prohibitive to build.

Robert Critser

City council incumbent Robert Critser has lived in Burlington for 30 years and grew up in Burlington. He served in the Iowa Army National Guard for six years. He worked for Walmart Stores for over twenty years before retiring in 2020. 

Critser spent about ten years serving on the Henry County Relay for Life Committee and serving on the committee for Burlington Riverfront Entertainment. He is also a volunteer as a member of the Grimes Elementary PTO.

Critser said he supports a third fire station, though the decision will be up to voters in November.

When it comes to funding for the library in the face of levy consolidation, Critser said he would prefer a franchise fee over hacking into the budget. He said libraries are vital for democracy.

Critser is not in favor of higher taxes, which the state does not allow right now anyhow. 

He’s happy with the TIGER grant redevelopment of Jefferson and Main Streets and is in favor of building a new Cascade Bridge. 

Bill Maupin

Recent Notre Dame principal and current Notre Dame history teacher Bill Maupin is an incumbent looking to hold onto his council seat.

Maupin has lived in Burlington his entire life – 58 years. He has been an educator for 37 of those years.  He’s also a cowboy and raises horses, cattle, and pets with his family.

Maupin believes the current property tax rate is too high, and said the city has to look at the current services and decide if they should be cut or funded in an alternative way.

He said a third fire station will be up to the voters. He said this budget season, the city needs to look at ways to keep the level of services with decreased revenue. He said he will commit to not raising taxes.

Maupin said his three primary issues for the city are the budget, economic development, and increasing revenue. He would like to see Burlington’s old buildings redeveloped and believes the new TIGER grant construction is a benefit of downtown.

He would also like to find more grant funding for a new Cascade Bridge.

Travis Inghram

A Burlington native-born who grew up in Henderson County, Ill., Travis Inghram is an attorney and a childhood cancer survivor. His family has owned several local businesses over the decades, which he has added to as the owner of Inghram Law, PLLC. 

Inghram said he has always been an advocate of citizen rights over government overreach. He said he will not be a rubber stamp council member, and said that taxation, in itself, is a form of government-sanctioned theft. A theft he agrees is necessary for our society but which is not discussed in the appropriate terms. 

While Inghram believes in the idea of a third fire station, he believes there are better ways to handle it than a bond referendum —  including voluntary fundraising.

Inghram said he would reject wasteful spending, and create a comparison chart of agencies that provide the most overall benefit to the community. That benefit would determine funding.

Inghram said his top three issues of concern in Burlington are methamphetamine, wasteful spending, and leadership that doesn’t understand their constituents. He believes the city should use tax credits and other incentives to encourage developers to redevelop Burlington’s older buildings.

Inghram said he also supports Cascade Bridge, and would rather see it repaired than replaced. He is disappointed in recent redevelopment work in downtown Burlington.

Tim Scott

Former Burlington mayor and city council member Tim Scott is looking to return to the council.

Born and raised in Burlington, Scott has spent eight years in the military and used to work at Montgomery Ward. 

Scott currently works as a delivery driver for FedEx Ground, an Expedite driver for RM Shuttle Express, is the owner of Tim’s Wood products, and a landlord. He served on the Burlington School Board in his 20s and was a reserve Burlington police officer for eight years. 

Scott said he is in favor of a third fire station, noting that an ambulance response location on the north side of town would be helpful.

Scott said one of his main issues is Burlington’s deteriorating neighborhoods, and he is not happy with the TIGER grant redevelopment of Jefferson Street and Main Street.

He said he finds it ridiculous that the city continues to turn to the federal and state governments to fund improvements. He is in favor of building a new Cascade Bridge.

Jennifer  Klever-Kirkman

Jennifer Klever-Kirkman has lived in Burlington for 19 years, growing up in northeastern Iowa on a small family farm. Klever Kirkman is an attorney and has been practicing in Burlington since 2005. In 2010, she became a partner in Robberts and Kirkman LLLP.

She has served on a number of area organizations in the past, including the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra Board, Burlington Library Board of Trustees, Fine Arts League, Burlington Area Arts Council, Business and Professional Women’s League, and the Notre Dame Foundation Board.

She is in support of a third fire station and believes the library is an invaluable resource. She said protecting it is a top priority. She said public perception, fire and safety, and infrastructure are the three biggest issues that face the city. She would like to see the buildings developed if they can’t be torn down.

Klever-Kirkman said she is in favor of a new Cascade Bridge and is not happy with the results of the TIGER grant redevelopment of Jefferson and Main Streets.

Chris Roepke

Chris Roepke, a pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Burlington and Our Savior Lutheran Church in Fort Madison, has lived in Burlington for 30 years.

Roepke grew up in Des Plaines, Ill., where his father was a police officer. He currently serves on the city’s economic development board.

Roepke said he believes the property tax is too high, and is leaning strongly against a third fire station. He said Burlington’s population has decreased in the past 20 years, making a third station unnecessary.

Roepke said his number one priority when it comes to funding is police and fire. After that, his priorities rank in descending order — streets, parks, and the library. He said no budget cuts are acceptable for police and fire.

Roepke said his top priority is neighborhoods neglected by the city. He is against the practice of incentivizing developers with money that taxpayers are on the hook for. He would like to see projects developed without it, which could mean changing building codes.

He said he is opposed to a utility franchise and would be in favor of civil actions to remove or rehabilitate the old buildings around Burlington. He is not happy with the loss of parking on Jefferson after the downtown redevelopment and said the splash pad is a drain on city finances. On the subject of Cascade Bridge, he is in favor of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge.

Antonio Bailey

Antonio Bailey is an associate and coach at Burlington Community School District and has lived in Burlington for 48 years. He co-founded  Burlington’s only semi-pro football team.

A native of Crystal Springs, Miss., Bailey currently serves on the low-rent housing board and operates a car detailing business.

Bailey said he is in favor of a third fire station and believes the tax rate is where it should be.

Bailey said he is a big supporter of the library but is aware there have been state changes regarding funding. He said he wants to improve the infrastructure of the city. 

He said his top three issues are the homeless situation, affordable housing, and marketing the city to create more business opportunities and jobs.

Bailey said the investment in the TIGER grant-funded redevelopment of downtown was money well spent. He’s also a big supporter of a new Cascade Bridge, saying it has a significant place in Burlington’s history.

Bailey would like to see increased incentives to bring in more industry, increased police patrols, and more officers. 

Expanded hours for the Burlington Area Homeless shelter — all the way to 24 hours if possible — is another of his goals.