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Primary Election Preview: Oak Creek Common Council (1st District)

Two political newcomers are challenging incumbent Alderman Dan Jakubczyk in the Feb. 19 Common Council primary election.

Voters in Oak Creek's 1st Aldermanic District will head to the polls Feb. 19 to narrow down the field of candidates running for the Common Council.

The top two voter-getters will advance to the April 2 general election.

The candidates are incumbent Alderman Dan Jakubczyk and challengers Shawn Vollmer and Steven Kurkowski. (Click on link for biographical information on each candidate).

The 1st District encompasses the northeastern part of the city, with borders of roughly College Avenue on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the east, Interstate 94 on the west and Forest Hill Avenue on the south. Click here for a map.

To provide residents with the most information on where they stand on the issues facing the city, Oak Creek Patch asked the three candidates questions about key issues in the race. 

Why are you running for alderman? Dan Jakubczyk Since moving to Oak Creek, I have seen Oak Creek grow from a population of 15,000 to over 34,000. When I first took office, the city controller took me for a tour of the existing city hall. He explained all the problems with the existing structure. He told me it was a question of what kind of structure we were going to have and where it was going to be built. I asked about expanding the current structure. He told me it was built in the early 1960s and was not designed to be expanded. At that time the city was involved with Wispark about a partnership in building on the old Delphi property. After hearing about the benefits to city in added jobs and tax revenue, I became more interested in this plan.
I would like to see the Drexel Town Square to completion. Steven Kurkowski I am unhappy with the almost 100% "yes" voting record of my current Alderman. Many times, I feel, he should have voted no or asked more in-depth or relevant questions before just siding with the majority/previous mayor and voting yes, especially when it came to decisions for the Drexel Town Square project. One "no" vote he did cast, however, was against the city paying their share of the Drexel Ave. interchange...he was the only no vote, yet he voted yes on everything related to the biggest development project in recent Oak Creek history - that would desperately be affected by that freeway interchange. Shawn Vollmer

My Guiding Principles: Your District 1 Alderman should understand how to work with the community in which he serves. He should stand up for his constituents and fight for the resources they support with their hard-earned tax dollars. On the other hand, he should be a fierce fighter for issues that you are against and that would waste your tax dollars.

I would accomplish this by: 1) creating many avenues of communication that can be used by every citizen in District 1. 2) Increase transparency in our government. 3) Increase the face-to-face meetings with you.

I have a unique perspective on budgets and taxes. As a parent and a small business owner, I have created many budgets... and stuck to them. I understand that everyone, including businesses, should pay a FAIR share of taxes. With that said, I do not want to see even one dollar wasted. I also will not approve any spending if we do not have the funds to do so. You cannot do that with your personal checkbook, so neither should Oak Creek.

Like you, I am a 1st District resident who has to watch what is spent, who is concerned about safety, and who wants to leave this place in better condition for my children.

Economic Development: the key to successful growth is that we must plan our development as a community for the long term. We must also be able to adapt as circumstances dictate but not by sacrificing our principles as a community.

We need to have the departments and committees of City Hall to work with all businesses to expedite any process and help them cut through the red tape. As a small business owner, I know the issues that occur throughout any process with any municipality. I will be a partner with current local businesses to help them to prosper within Oak Creek. I will also pay close attention to the types of new businesses that open up in District 1, creating a balance between independently-owned businesses and franchises.

What is the biggest issue facing the city, and how would you deal with it, if elected? Dan Jakubczyk The city is going to continue to expand regardless of what some people would like. Oak Creek is one of two municipalities in Milwaukee County that has room for expansion. The future is bright if we follow the current expansion plans. I believe we are not so much doing this for the current generation. We can do this for our children and grandchildren. I believe that ten years from now the future generation will look back on what we did at the Drexel Town Square and compliment us for our foresight. We still need to go into partnership with industry in our expansion. Steven Kurkowski The biggest issue is the Drexel Town Square plans. We need to stop the train...we need to show more details to the citizens to let them see how and why this is so important to the city. When it comes to the buildings, all we've seen are drawings, no floor plans, and certainly no list of who the developers have talked to or who might be interested in moving there....until Meijer came in and saved their butts. Shawn Vollmer Communication. I will be an alderman who is accessible and continually communicates with the constituents of District 1. Can that be said about our current alderman? I believe that the families of District 1 should be informed of what is going on in their community BEFORE the vote is taken and BEFORE they read about it in the paper. How else would you know how to vote on major issues?

I have already designed this website, which will be used as only one source of delivering information to the citizens of District 1 (www.shawnvollmer.com). I also have a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/shawnforalderman) and a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/shawnvollmer) which will give instant updates to those citizens who wish to receive the updates.

Lastly, I will make this commitment to you: I will return every email and every phone call I receive. What do you think of the proposed Drexel Town Square plans, including Meijer as the anchor of the site?
Dan Jakubczyk This is a golden opportunity for Oak Creek to grow in size and stature. I believe in ten years this going to be the crowning jewel of Oak Creek. There exists the ability for the city to add to its tax base and to create over 1,000 jobs in the process. Some people wanted us build on the current site. A city hall on that site would not contribute to the tax base. The opportunity to go into a pact with Wispark could not be passed up. As far as having Meijer as the anchor for that cite, other people who rely on that believe it is a good idea. My daughter who lives in Normal, Illinois, speaks highly of the store by her. Steven Kurkowski Meijer was the developers' "knight in shining armor" because they had nothing beforehand. I want to see detailed floor plans for city hall, the library, the apartments, the small offices, before this project moves any further. I am not happy with the lack of detailed information that my alderman has asked for but has wholeheartedly supported. I'm afraid it will be built and will be mostly empty...not like Oak Creek doesn't have recently built office buildings with empty spaces.

Before Meijer, the developers had NOTHING. Meijer is a nice alternative, and while many may not like the idea, thinking the area is already saturated with similar stores, Meijer has all that anyone could want, more that other nearby stores, and it is not a WAL-MART! Had Meijer not shown an interest in building there, the entire project would be on shaky grounds, and my alderman would just push forward without any plans or ideas.

Meijer will be a nice addition to the stores already in the area. I believe Meijer will bring in occupants to the other offices if built (don't hang your hat on medical offices - need to think about other types), and will play a big role in helping fill the proposed apartments - which are not planned as low-income/subsidized, but market-rate apartments. Shawn Vollmer

We were told that this project was going to be something different. This Town Center was announced as a destination, bringing more than just Oak Creek residents to it. The rumors surrounding this project were calling it a "Bayshore" type area. Now we find out that this will not be possible and we should rejoice that they convinced Meijer to come in. What makes this any different than any other piece of land with a big box retailer and a strip mall in front of it?

We are one of the fastest growing communities in Wisconsin and we should be holding our community to higher standards instead of discounting it out as a special of the week. Marketing Oak Creek as a destination for smaller and more unique businesses would be a start. Harder work usually pays off in the end, so I would instruct WisPark to find smaller and more unique businesses to create the Drexel Town Center. By trying to find smaller, more unique businesses it may take longer to complete, but in the end it would be worth it. We can choose to take the quick way out and let Meijer build. How does that make Oak Creek any different than any other community with a big box? By choosing the more difficult route of finding smaller and unique businesses to create a true Town Center, we would increase the quality of life by adding true diversity in shopping, dining, and social venues.

As a small business owner, I can assure you that I would have a very hard time opening a small business in this project with Meijer, or any other large retailer that is planning a 190,000 plus square foot store in front. You cannot convince me that the large big box retailer does not try to eliminate the reasons to visit the small businesses next door. Small businesses work together to create a community, not try to eliminate it. I welcome Meijer to build in Oak Creek, just not as part of the Drexel Town Center.
A new City Hall and Library being built without a public referendum...a land swap deal pushed through so fast that taxpayers did not have any time to react, and now the Big Box plan. As the project stands right now, I would cast a "no" vote.

Where should lakefront redevelopment be on the city's priority list?
Dan Jakubczyk Since the lakefront is not in my district, I mostly relied on those people that will benefit from redevelopment for beliefs on how the expansion should continue. If you look at eastern Wisconsin from Racine to Fox Point, Oak Creek is the only municipality on the lakefront that has not taken advantage of the benefits in redeveloping this area. The way it was explained to us is we are not taking advantage of what could be extremely beneficial to the city in the future. I believe this development can only be good for the city and the future generations. Steven Kurkowski Two separate parts of the city, two separate needs, equally as important at the Drexel Town Square project. But I want detailed plans, not speculations and empty dreams like what we are being handed for the Drexel Town Square project. Shawn Vollmer There are so many ideas that have surrounded our lakefront. A couple of years back I attended a city meeting where an outside group, hired by the city, discussed the lakefront and the development ideas the city had for it. None of the plans were feasible. Now years later, we hear about it once in a while. Without all the information surrounding such a large parcel, I cannot rate where it should fall on a priority list. I do believe we should be receiving updates, hence more communication.

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