Business is focus for council candidates

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A businessman seeking political office for the first time and a rookie politician facing his first election will square off next week in the battle for the 2nd District seat on Sheboygan's Common Council.

Ald. Vang Neng Vue — the first Hmong resident to serve on the council — is the incumbent, but this is his first time on the ballot, since the council appointed him to his current post to fill the seat vacated by Mayor Bob Ryan. If the primary results are any indication, he may face an uphill battle.

Dennis Radtke — owner of Urbane, a smoke-free bar just north of downtown — garnered 185 votes in the February primary, easily outpacing Vue's 98 votes and the 58 votes from the now-eliminated third candidate. Radtke says his 15 years of business experience and political science degree make him the right choice for the downtown district.

"I will look at city issues through the eyes of a businessperson," Radtke, 39, said after laying out a series of suggestions for attracting new business to the city.

Vue, meanwhile, said he provides an alternative perspective otherwise lacking on the council.

"I am a different person, a different ethnicity, so I have different opinions, different ideas," said Vue, 43. "Representation from a minority group such as Asian or Hmong would be another plus for the city."

Though he didn't introduce any measures in his first 11 months on the council, Vue said he has ideas that he will pursue if allowed to keep his post.

"I would work to keep business in the city and create business and make sure the city stays within its budget, if necessary (approving) service cuts, layoffs," said Vue, a family support specialist at Sheboygan County Head Start. "I have learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn, and I will do the best I can if I get re-elected."

Radtke said his focus as a 2nd District alderman would be on the neighborhoods.

"The biggest issue for my district as I go door-to-door seems to be crime in neighborhoods," he said. "They're worried about dilapidated houses … and they're worried about crime creeping into the neighborhoods."

Radtke suggested creating neighborhood organizations, where residents could meet with police and city leaders to discuss issues ranging from drug dealers to potholes.

All these issues are related," he said. "Once you have better neighborhoods, your property values go up, your tax base goes up without increasing your property tax rate."

Vue and Radtke both said they would vote against any increase in property taxes, with Radtke adding that he would be in favor of increased privatization if necessary.

On the business side, both candidates suggested lowering interest rates for the city's business development loans.

To attract new businesses, Radtke also suggests streamlining the committee process so businesses could have a "one-stop shop" for city approvals and waiving property taxes for the first year or two as business establish themselves. Vue said he supports lowering city assessments to help maintain some existing businesses, specifically naming Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center.


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