Alderman candidates take a civil stand
Budget, public interaction emerge as early issues
New Berlin — Worries that the quality of life in New Berlin will start to suffer because of city budget woes and a desire for more civility in the public forum are among the concerns the six candidates vying for the New Berlin Common Council are expressing as they hit the campaign trail.
Because there are only two candidates for each district, a February primary won't be necessary. The general election is April 5.
A challenge in the 4th
Of the three aldermen whose terms will expire in April, only District 4 Alderman Ken Harenda is seeking re-election.
Heranda's challenger, Kevin Hanley, 48, of 5730 S. St. Andrews Drive, is stressing, "Our city is moving in the wrong direction."
Core services will be at risk unless the city manages its money better, said Henley, whose wife works for the city.
The owner of web design and marketing and photography firm, Hanley advocates a business-like model for the city.
But Harenda, 46, of 19400 W. Vista Drive, said, "I think we're on the right track."
"People want efficient government, keeping core services and low taxes. That's what we've done," he said.
Harenda, vice president of operations for an environmental health and safety consulting firm, singled out improvements with the Fire Department and reduction in overall costs, saying, "I take great pride in that."
Two for 2nd District
The two candidates in District 2, where Alderman Ted Wysocki will not seek re-election, agree on one thing: Officials need to treat people better.
Michael Orzel, 58, of 3040 S. 145th St., said, "I'm very concerned about the lack of civility in New Berlin politics."
In fact, Orzel said it is the main reason he is running.
"I'm hoping to lead by example," he said, and to move the city toward operating like a business, rather than letting politics sway decision-making.
Orzel, an attorney, also questions the wisdom of New Berlin having a zero property tax rate increase this year without making it clear to the public what impact such a decision has on services.
"We must make people understand what that means," he said.
Also running in District 2 is Laura Karvala, 42, of 14360 W. Wilbur Drive, who most recently came into the public spotlight as a leader of those opposed to the proposed workforce moderate-income apartments in the New Berlin City Center. She helped found the organization Concerned Citizens of New Berlin, from which she has resigned to run for alderwoman.
One of her main concerns, she said, is that whoever is elected should make more strenuous efforts to reach out to people to get their opinions and let them know about actions affecting them. Even before the workforce apartments debate, Karvala said, officials seemed hard to get through to, in her view.
"Officials and people need to start caring again," she said. "I want the voice of the people to be heard."
Karvala, a real estate agent and homemaker, is also stressing keeping taxes low.
"Too many people don't have extra money," she said.
Two for 6th District
In District 6, where Alderman William Moore will step down in April, Dennis Horbinski, 64, of 4227 S. Coventry Court, and JJ Blonien, 58, of 13105 W. Scarborough Drive, are running.
Horbinski said the quality of life in New Berlin is being threatened by budgetary woes.
To combat that, he said, "We need fiscal responsibility."
To solve problems more effectively with a civil atmosphere, "we need voices of reason," Horbinski added.
"The council needs civil discussion to problem-solve effectively, Horbinski said.
Being an architect, Horbinski said that the city needs to recapture its vision of where it is going, then it can figure out how to get there.
A more comprehensive survey of public feeling, along with discussions with city staff to find out how to deliver service better, would be part of recapturing that vision, he said.
Blonien said that, now more than ever, elected officials will need to present solutions as to how to keep the current level of essential services while keeping taxes low. New Berlin is facing a number of difficult financial situations, said Blonien, who is making his second try for District 6 alderman.
"Based on my business management experience and extensive knowledge of municipal government, I will bring a new independent and qualified perspective to the leadership of the city," he said.
Blonien is the former publisher of the Enterprise Newspapers, which included the New Berlin Enterprise, a forerunner of the New Berlin NOW. He also has been a guest on a local television political talk show. Currently, he is a Verizon Wireless retail sales representative.
Only one polling place
With a light turnout expected for the Feb. 15 primary election, New Berlin will save some money by concentrating all voting at the City Hall, 3805 S. Casper Drive.
Normally, the city operates seven polling places, said Kari Morgan, city clerk. Staffing just one polling place will save an estimated $4,000 to $7,000, she said.
"The turnout is predicted to be very small," she said. "We just have the Supreme Court justice and the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District which is only a small portion of the city."
Voting hours will remain 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 15.
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