Kabat and Farmer share plans for improving the La Crosse community

By Caitlyn Marsolek
Contributing Reporter

When Mayor Matt Harter an¬nounced he wasn’t going to be seeking a second term, 11 candi¬dates stepped up to take the chal¬lenge. From the primary election on Feb. 19, two were chosen, and now the city will choose between the two candidates to replace La Crosse’s youngest mayor.
The community chose Timothy Kabat and Doug Farmer. Kabat, the executive director at Down¬town Mainstreet Inc., will be going up against Farmer, the soon-to be retired Executive Vice President of Park Bank on April 2. Both candidates addressed community questions at a debate held at Unitar¬ian Universalist Fellowship of La Crosse on March 7.
The first question of the debate was about the plans for a proposal suggesting that a roadway be built through the marshlands between Riverside Park and the south side Menards. Kabat and Farmer both gave an affirmative no, with Farmer reiterating his displeasure of the plans by saying, “No, not ever.”
Kabat said that the marshes were needed to maintain resources and natural beauty, adding that we could “never borrow enough money to accomplish the things the La Crosse marshes accomplish” and that transportation could be improved. Farmer disagreed and commented that the transportation system was fine as is, stating that it would be “the final blow to the neighborhood.”
Both candidates agreed that La Crosse needs to be promoted more. Again, though, Kabat and Farmer had different views on what needed to be promoted, Kabat suggested that the job opportunities and natu¬ral beauty could be used to promote the area. On having job opportuni¬ties, Kabat said “Having a good paying job where people are able to support their family and invest in their homes and invest in their schools has a great ripple effect all throughout La Crosse.”
Farmer instead focused on neigh¬borhood security, and said, “Safe and stable neighborhoods are what are attractive.” Another agreement was reached when a community member asked for ideas concerning the preservation of good water in La Crosse.
Both agreed with the new city bike plan and that the city should envision a plan for the land as a community. Kabat commented that the site is “a great generational op¬portunity to help shape the city.”
Both also showed a mutual inter¬est in the housing program in La Crosse, saying that more well-built houses would help promote the community to prospective movers and establish pride for the current residents.
A slight shift in their mutual agreements was reached when schools and policing were asked about. The two didn’t disagree but had valid points that differed from each other. When asked about schools Kabat, a supporter of public schools said that programs have worked in the past, and these need to be implemented in other schools in the city in order to promote the city and give it a good reputation.
“Having a strong public school system is absolutely critical to neighborhood vitalization” Kabat said.
Farmer didn’t disagree, though he commented that good schools build a stable and safe community, and that they should be walkable and that “The school you see from your doorstep is where you go to school.”
While Kabat suggested that the police bond with the community and get to know the neighborhood, including the people in it, Farmer suggested that a different approach to crime be taken.
“Quality of life crimes such as public urination and littering” were just as important as larger crimes, and “these smaller crimes may not be as important, but they can pull a neighborhood down fast if not enforced,” Farmer said.
The first disagreement of the evening came when opinions on whether the Mississippi Valley Con¬servancy should be restored. Kabat showed support for restoring this non-profit organization, saying that by doing so the city could “rebuild relationships in order to restore it.” However, Farmer disagreed, saying that while removing the Nature Conservancy was a difficult deci¬sion, the community needs to focus more on moving forward.
Further disagreement was evident when asked about the changes in state legislation concerning public employees and collective bargain¬ing. Kabat stressed that public employees should be guaranteed the right to collective bargain-ing, saying that the government should fix the tension “by bringing people up, not tearing them down.”
Farmer though, who has been a public employee on the City Coun¬cil, and said that while it was an unfair blow, it should be left behind so that the state can move forward. “It’s the state’s decision, and that’s the harsh reality.”
According to La Crosse commu¬nity members, the city has a weak mayoral system where the mayor gets little power in comparison to the city council. Kabat said that the mayor “sets the tone by establishing mutual respect, collaborating and listening to the people,” and that the future mayor and the council will need to work together as equals and collaborate if anything ever wants to get accomplished. Farmer disagreed, and said “A mayor with council connections has something to start with, and then the two can work together in order to make the city a better place.”

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