Ludington mayoral candidates square off

July 16, 2013

By Lisa Enos. MCP Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – The four candidates running for mayor of Ludington appeared to be in lock-step with one another on many issues as they answered questions in front of a crowd of about 100 people during a forum at Waterfront Park Tuesday night. The forum was partially sponsored by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce.

All four candidates want to open projects to competitive bidding whenever practical, be representatives of the people of Ludington, bring in new business and maintain the path that the city has been on, following in the footsteps of Mayor John Henderson. Henderson initiated projects such as the skate park and annual events like the New Year’s Eve ball drop and the downtown street carnival, Friday Night Live, held on four consecutive weeks each Friday at the end of summer.

These candidates, who will face off in the non-partisan primary election August 6, are: newcomers to politics Dave Kosla and Ryan Cox and seasoned veterans, former Ludington City Council Member Pete Engblade and current City Councilor Wally Taranko. Taranko is former police chief while Engblade retired as a police captain. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will be on the ballot in the general election in November.

The candidates were each given a brief amount of time to introduce themselves before the questions which were presented by Kathy Maclean of the Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Evans of Shoreline Media and answered some questions formulated by the Chamber of Commerce legislative committee.

Cox

Cox

Ryan Cox

Lifelong Mason County resident (barring a few years at Central Michigan University). Cox is a history teacher at O.J. DeJonge Middle School in the Ludington Area School District.

“I want to help new businesses and industry into the area,” he said. His goals include bringing the best and brightest people to the area and to retain the best and the brightest, he said. “I want to continue Ludington on the progressive track we’ve been going on the past few years.
“If elected I want to be seen as someone who has helped this community grow. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not growing…you’re dying. I want to see new things come into the community. I want to see it alive. Young groups, etc. working with the chamber, to see what businesses we can bring into the community and help bring new young professionals into the community with their families.”
Cox talked a lot about government not being an entity, but comprised of people. “I think we need to do what’s in the best interest of our city and our county. I think government can help with business. Government is people, it’s people who want to be involved. I think that businesses want to see people who are looking for businesses to come to their county.”
In terms of Ludington’s potential for economic growth he told the audience: “We’ve got one of the most amazing infrastructures set up. I think that people are looking at what are the schools like, we’re in the top 8 percent in the nation with schools. We can brag and say we’re producing a high level worker for them already.
“I’m for tax abatements, but only if you look at the long term. You may have to sacrifice a little (in taxes) in the beginning, and most businesses fail after five years. It’s worth it if we can help them grow.”
Maclean asked if the city should charge for its services for big events or limit them. “I’m all for continuing to support those. With the increase in the amount of people coming to town it will increase our budget with the tax revenue,” he said.

Kosla

Kosla

Dave Kosla
Kosla is a musician who works at Instrumental Music Store on South James Street in Ludington and who has lived in Ludington for the past 14 years. He said his primary goal, if elected mayor, is community involvement, getting citizens more involved in the government and keeping people informed.

He said that in researching how many people go out and vote, he found low numbers. He’s also for “anything that can be done by the city fostering new business to come to the area. All things we already have stay maintained and ways to bring in businesses, keep communication lines open between the people and city government and the people who live here in town.”

Kosla’s answers to certain questions suggested that he’s anti big government: “in general things like that are good to build into. Governments can’t do a lot to develop communities. Economies can develop best with the least government intervention. I think you’ll find there’s not a lot that can be done by the government.”

As for Ludington’s potential economic growth:

“Without government involvement. I think the best thing is to keep government off their backs and to let them give what their customers need, not over tax, regulate, etc. The best thing that can be done is create that sort of atmosphere in general. When that starts to happen the word will spread quickly that it’s a good place to start a business,” Kosla said.
“I’m all for lower taxes. Anytime that can be done, you’re going to see industry grow.”

As for the city’s involvement with events: “Maybe shifting schedules around and looking for private donations. There are ways for the city to be involved without raising costs for the city.”

Engblade

Engblade

A. Pete Enblade
Engblade is also a lifelong Ludington resident who has children and grandchildren living in the city as well. Engblade served on the Ludington City Council for 12 years and talked of his experience and some of the decisions he made while serving as a city council member, even recovering nicely from a surprise question about a decision he backed to employ a waste management company. The question was worded in a way that suggested he was responsible for the City of Ludington spending an extra and unnecessary $100,000 on a contract.

 

He replied with confidence that the decision worked out in the city’s favor in the long run as gas prices rose and it gave the city leverage to lock in a good rate for 12 years with that company. Engblade also expressed his vision for developing the west end of Ludington Avenue to include a walkway to the pier. He is also hoping to institute more activities during the Christmas season in downtown and include sledding in Cartier Park.
As for a partnership with Manistee in regional economic development: “Two or more organizations involved, it has to be geared to develop our county and look at the bigger picture and apply for a grant. I’ve felt bad when it failed in the past.”

Engblade talked about Ludington’s potential for economic growth in terms of its infrastructure. “We have an industrial park, we have water, sewer, services, police protections,” he said. “I believe in some of the tax abatements.
“I think that tax abatements are very important. They’re for a limited amount of time. A school doesn’t lose anything, and it encourages the industry. Prime example is Harrington Tool, those businesses actually expand, but that abatement does pull in industry.”

In answer to a question about whether the city should charge for events: “The city provides those services at no cost. As more events come into the city and as for profits come in, should you continue that or start charging. I support the Macker and the other events the chamber has. One year when I was on the police department it became a big deal how much the police department should charge the chamber. It’s nice to get an in-kind donation back. It boosts morale of city employees,” he said.

Taranko

Taranko

Wally Taranko
Taranko is currently on the Ludington City Council and has 40 years in public service working with the Red Cross and Mason County Emergency Management, in addition to the police department.

“I’d love to follow what people did before me. One goal to establish collaboration between myself, public and private enterprises and the city council to work towards the goals that we all want,” he said.
“What I would like my legacy to be is that I would like to be seen as the people’s mayor. We get caught up and lose track of what the average citizen wants. I want them to be heard and I want to act upon what they want.”
Maclean asked if efforts at regional economic development and a partnership with Manistee were worthwhile and how much funding the city should get to which Taranko replied: “Nothing ventured nothing gained. I’d at least like to see us try. I don’t know what we have to gain, but let’s try. We can only spend what the budget will allow. We might have to look for some outside sources.”

In terms of economic development Taranko said the obstructions the government imposes need to be removed, incentives need to be offered and he said that Ludington needs to promote its infrastructure. He touted the capabilities of the fiber-optic cable internet as a major asset that should attract business to the area.
Taranko said he is for tax abatement if there are strings attached. Businesses have to guarantee they are going to retract the abatement if they don’t meet their requirements for having received that abatement, he said. As far as events are concerned: I want to get a plug in for the Macker, I went to three towns to observe the tournaments before we brought them here. I’m for getting the city involved in the events.”

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