Mayoral candidates square off in first forum

The candidates for La Crosse mayor made their first public pitch to voters on Monday.

Dozens of people gathered to hear them discuss a wide range of topics at a forum hosted by the La Crosse County Tavern League. The forum was held at the Moose Lodge, 1932 Ward Avenue, and broadcast live on 1410 WIZM.

The candidates are all trying to stand out in a very crowded field.  11 names will be on the ballot in next month’s primary. Eight of the candidates participated in the forum.

“The mayor has to work with the people on the council. They need to make their wishes known ahead of time,” said Chris Olson, referring to the recent discord at city hall.

“The people that come here from out of town: if you’re here to sell drugs and committ crimes in our neighborhoods then I’m not your friend and you’re not welcome in our neighborhood,” said Rich Smith Jr., referring the growing problems with drugs and violence.


The candidates tackled a wide range of questions about the city’s future.

“If we’re going to keep taxes down to where they’re supposed to be, every department needs to look at what can they do to (make) cuts,” said Mike Brown.

Craig Nestor argued that changes are needed to the fire department and it’s $10 million budget.

“These people are overpaid and over-benefited,” said Nestor.

There’s also the lingering controversy over whether the city should be cutting tax deals with big businesses who build or expand in the city. They’re known as TIF agreements.

“I believe they should be strictly for infrastructure improvements not direct payments to businesses,” said Jon Olson.

“As far as financial incentives go, I’m all in favor of having a review and trying to come up with standards for that,” said Tim Kabat.

Dae Miles is running on a platform of overhauling the city’s bus routes.

“Public transit reduces traffic and saves money,” said Miles.

In the end, each candidate is trying to standout and move on to the general election.

“I want to inspire people to take a personal interest and a stake in their community and I want to share with them and inspire them to see that we can’t keep doing things the same way,” said Robbie Young.

Two of the candidates will advance out of the February 19 primary. The general election is April 2.

Randy Magno, Doug Farmer and Bill Feehan did not participate in the forum.