Franklin — On Feb. 11, NOW posed three questions to Franklin's three mayoral candidates for the primary election: Common Council President Steve Taylor and former aldermen Steve Olson and Basil Ryan.
Olson took the lead in the Feb. 18 primary election, with 1,096 votes over Taylor's 722. Ryan, who lost the election with 536 votes, later announced that he would run as a write-in candidate for the April 1 spring election.
With only two weeks left before the election, NOW asked the candidates to participate in one last round of questions. These responses have been edited for space. More questions and answers can be found at FranklinNOW.com.
Candidates were given identical questions and asked to answer them within a week, abiding by a 100-word limit. In cases where that limit was exceeded, answers have been edited.
NOW: What do you believe the "atmosphere" or "feel" of Franklin should be when it's fully developed?
Olson: The city has a Comprehensive Master Plan, which was subject to a large number of public meetings, that provides a template for orderly development sensitive to both the environment and the desires of residents. When Franklin is fully developed, it will be a diverse community with housing styles for many different needs. There will be businesses with well-paying jobs that will complement the community. I hope we'll preserve the rural character to the south and west to balance the more commercial development on the east.
Ryan: I'd like to see Franklin keep its small-town character with open space, parks and businesses that compliment a small town atmosphere. Many residents moved from Milwaukee to live in a community with a rural setting. With the small-town atmosphere, you always run into residents you know from school, church, neighborhood meetings, sports, etc. That's something I think people appreciate and enjoy. I don't feel Franklin should end up with the hustle and bustle of a large city and the multitude of problems that are associated with it.
Taylor: The atmosphere should be decided with resident input. Many chose to live here because Franklin is unlike the more densely populated cities. They want retail amenities without big city congestion and problems. I understand and appreciate residents' desire to develop with an eye toward incorporating the city's rural character. Providing citizen input will be my goal as Franklin reaches its development potential.
NOW: How aggressive should Franklin be in drawing businesses to the city? What are appropriate steps the city can take to make sure it develops in keeping with the community's vision for itself?
Olson: We will seek out the complimentary, high-quality business needed to balance the tax base. The economic development committees and city staff will seek out great development for the areas that have been defined in the Ticknor Report and our Comprehensive Master Plan. We will move to attract the businesses that we want in our community. We will have a business mix that will provide a unique sense of community in Franklin, which will cause us to stand apart from our neighbors. We will use all of the tools available to us to accomplish this.
Ryan: I definitely don't feel that Franklin needs to take the first business that comes along just to fill a goal that residents may not understand or agree with. You can't take a business and put it next to a residential area just to fill some status quo. I believe neighbors have a right to speak out about issues in and around their homes. You need to find businesses that compliment your area's master plan. That master plan should be developed with residents' input. Remember, businesses in a community should benefit and enhance the residents who live in the city.
Taylor: In tough times, we must be aggressive in drawing businesses that provide solid jobs. During my term as alderman, we have made significant progress in taking steps to remove unnecessary development obstacles. We must work on the approval process so good projects can move forward without last-minute political obstacles. (The Meijer project as an example). We can better meet the community's vision by solving issues early rather than having last-minute objections. I will continue to find solutions that result in a clearer process.
NOW: When preparing the annual budget, what will be your overriding goals and priorities?
Olson: Maintain police and fire. Review each department to identify the value in each of their programs. Begin to budget on "cost/benefit" basis rather than to budget on increases to existing programs. Although our budget document has received awards from professional organizations, I intend to work toward a more readable budget that will be useful for our citizens.
Ryan: Restoring fiscal responsibility back to the taxpayers and restoring priorities that benefit Franklin taxpayers. Improving public safety would be high on my list. Franklin residents need to know they are safe and protected in case of an emergency. We waste too much money on studies and surveys for projects that go nowhere. I sometimes question who is benefiting as a result of the studies. An example would be the $370,000 spent to brand and market South 27th Street. That turned out to be a disaster. To this day, nothing happened, other than the scandal that resulted from the embarrassment.
Taylor: Voting against budgets to say you did is nothing more than political pandering. As mayor, you have to own the budget you present. My goal is simple: provide city services that residents expect at the lowest cost possible. People want a safe community, maintained roads and permitting processes to move expediently. Maintaining public safety needs to remain a priority. Neighboring city collaboration will help cut costs without cutting services. I will seek corporate sponsorships and partnering to assist with community needs, such as assuring our senior populations' needs are met.
NOW: How would you describe your leadership style? What steps would you take to mediate disputes among council members, the public, developers or a combination thereof?
Olson: My management style is collaborative, decisive and responsible. I gather information from those who know; I make an informed decision and take responsibility. The key is to be able to disagree and make arguments, while respecting others and their position. I've always tried to be respectful in my arguments and will demand that the new Common Council will be respectful. We owe the public respect and attention. Developers must be dealt with in a businesslike manner. My experience in business, as well as working with developers in the city over the last 22 years, makes me uniquely qualified to lead.
Ryan: I am a hands-on type of leader. I like to know what's happening and make sure projects stay within the guidelines. I take full responsibility for my actions. I have high standards for the people who work for me. I don't like finger-pointing. As far as mediating disputes, you need to understand the issues concerning both sides by placing yourself in their shoes. Once you understand the conflict between both sides, you can bring the two parties together in an attempt to find that medium ground. Once you identify the issue and dispute and you resolve the issue, you then resolve the dispute.
Taylor: I will provide transparent, forward-thinking leadership without political rhetoric. I've worked with our neighbors and all levels of government. I have been able to secure funding for county projects during my time on the County Board, which wasn't the case before my tenure. When there were issues with the Rock Sports Complex and Greendale, I was asked to mediate, resulting in a quick resolution. My colleagues on the Common Council have elected me president all six years I have served, emphasizing their confidence in me and our ability to work together.
NOW: What letter grade would you assign to the current mayor and council, and why?
Olson: The elected officials are graded by their constituents at elections. The council does not work for the mayor but along with him/her. My grading of their performance is inappropriate and not constructive. They each have done their job as they saw fit. I'll work with each of the council members toward the goals that we'll set together, which will include re-focused and re-energized economic development; creating efficiencies in our government and managing our budget. It's the mayor's job to provide a vision and direction and to implement the direction of the council.
Ryan: Mayor Tom Taylor has given a lot of his time and energy running the city of Franklin. I don't think it would be appropriate to grade him during his last few weeks in office. I wish him well and appreciate his dedication to Franklin residents. The current council is forming alliances instead of being independent thinkers looking out for the entire city. There is one member who is not part of this struggle. If my write-in bid is successful, I would prefer to begin with my hand extended in an attempt to resolve issues with the Common Council.
Taylor: I give both high grades. The mayor and council have worked well together without the political infighting and controversy that occurred while my opponent was in office. The council has been fair and transparent while deliberating on city issues, and the mayor has continually proven his dedication to the community. I believe Franklin is on the right track and I wouldn't deviate far from that path. I will bring renewed energy to the position and the ability to better use updated technology that will make us a move competitive, informed and connected community.
ADDRESS: 8091 S. Meadowcreek Court
FAMILY: married 30 years
EDUCATION: bachelor's in communications from Marquette University, 1978; master's coursework, Marquette
JOB: account manager
YEARS LIVING IN FRANKLIN: 26
CONTACT: www.steveolson.us; steveolsonformayor on Facebook, firstname.lastname@example.org, (414) 425-9060
NAME: Basil Ryan
ADDRESS: 5250 W. South County Line Road
FAMILY: married 34 years, four adult children, five grandchildren
EDUCATION: working toward master's degree in political science
YEARS LIVING IN FRANKLIN: 40
CONTACT: www.basilryan.com, email@example.com, (414)423-5481
NAME: Steve F. Taylor
ADDRESS: 2812 W. Hilltop Lane
FAMILY: married, one son
EDUCATION: bachelor's degree in public administration and political science
OCCUPATION: Milwaukee County supervisor
YEARS LIVING IN FRANKLIN: eight years in Franklin, 18 years in Muskego
CONTACT: stevetaylor4franklin.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, (414) 301-9786
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