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Forum profiles Muskego aldermanic candidates

Focus includes Parkland Mall and heroin issues

March 10, 2014

Muskego — Five of the six aldermanic candidates faced an audience at a candidate forum last week sponsored by the Muskego Woman's Club and the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce.

The available city seats in the April 1 spring election are in districts 1, 3 and 5.

District 1

District 1 features a rematch between Randall Hojnacki and incumbent Robert Wolfe.

Hojnacki said the values he learned in the Air Force — integrity first, service before self and excellence in every task — would guide his service as alderman. The retired project manager from IBM said he understands budgets, works well with others to get things done, will be a voice for his constituents and understands the community well through volunteer work and running fundraisers.

"I'm a true conservative and a guardian of your tax dollars," he told the forum.

Wolfe, who is finishing his first term, said aldermen need to be reflections of the community. As such, he said he is no rubber stamp on the council. He advocates business development and supported enlarging the special taxing district on Racine Avenue to encourage development.

Wolfe also emphasized that he promptly responds to constituents and is an honest, hardworking family man.

District 3

In District 3, incumbent Neil Borgman faces challenger Tom Reck.

Borgman emphasized his experience as the most senior alderman. He said he knows his district, having lived in it for 38 years, and cares about the people and their money.

"My voting record for the last 10 years demonstrates my respect for every tax dollar that's paid," he said.

Borgman said he also responds quickly to constituents, even one Christmas morning when a homeowner called with a flooding emergency one year and ended up helping out by digging in the man's ditch.

Reck said he is an out-of-the-box thinker who would promote a cooperative atmosphere in contrast to the sometimes sharp exchanges that have occasionally punctuated council meetings.

He said he would preserve what he called the landfill annuity and promote business, and would meet regularly with department heads to find solutions to problems.

"I will provide solutions to leverage what we've already accomplished," Reck said, adding that his six years with the Little Muskego Lake District and the relationships he has developed with people all over the city would help him meet the demands of being an alderman.

District 5

In District 5 where there is no incumbent, John Engelhardt faces James Gage.

Engelhardt said growing up on a farm gave him conservative values. His many years of involvement in community event organizing and school planning have given him a deep understanding of the community and its issues, he added.

He would continue responsible budgeting, seek smart development and fund parks and trails. Saying he has a record of service and dedication, Engelhardt called himself "a servant leader."

Gage could not attend the forum due to a longstanding commitment he was unable to break. However, he submitted information outlining his stance on several issues.

He promises to be tough on taxes while keeping services "top notch," to promote economic development, and to preserve the natural beauty and rural landscape that give Muskego a unique quality of life.

Drug problem

Responding to a question about what they would do to stop abuse of prescription drugs and heroin, Wolfe said he supported fast-tracking acquisition of a drug-sniffing dog to help police find drugs.

Hojnacki said police must be supported and there must be public education to encourage calling police when something seems suspicious. The city should work with school organizations and Neighborhood Watch, and parents should listen to their children about what's going on, he said.

Borgman said supporting police and adding a police dog are good starts, but maybe the same approach that reduced smoking should be tried starting with young children. An effort should be made to make drug use unacceptable in all sectors of society, he said.

Reck said all community groups must work together and parents need to be taught how to bring up drug use with children. Schools and families must emphasize the harm drugs do, but if use is found, intervention should follow, he said.

Engelhardt said not only should groups work together, but the city should reach out to see what has worked elsewhere.

Parkland mall

The candidates also were asked what is to be done with the former Parkland Mall site.

Wolfe said the solution should be provided by the private sector because the city is not in the real estate business.

Hojnacki said nothing can be done until the court appeal is decided.

Borgman said he was at a meeting several years ago attended by hundreds of residents who were shocked at the owner's asking price of $8.5 million. The appraised value is $3.3 million. "That's what I call extortion," said Borgman, who agreed that the city shouldn't delve into real estate.

Reck favored meeting with the owners to find a solution.

Engelhardt said it's crucial that the council and mayor have a united front.

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