Western played its part again in the battle for St. Joseph city mayor March 25 hosting the last of Assistant Professor Jon Euchner’s forums before the April 6 election.
Issues that surrounded the debate didn’t directly relate to Western students, but still affect the city that students live in.
One of the key issues was how to bring in more tourism to historic St. Joe. Candidate Dick Sipe, a self described “homegrown” candidate, expressed the importance of diversifying business in St. Joseph.
“The mayor is the point man for the city,” Sipe said, “and the mayor has to be out there promoting St. Joseph has the place to come. We have to be positive; we have to be the place people want to find out about.”
The centralized problem that both candidates addressed was the lack of cooperation the city government shows with new businesses.
Opposing candidate Bill Faulkner, owner of Faulkner Plumbing, a local business, shared his experience as a city council member.
“We are also known as one of the hardest cities to do business in or get anything going in,” Faulkner said. “We have made some strides to correct that but we have a ways to go.”
Faulkner promised that he would remove obstacles facing the construction companies that wish to invest in St. Joseph.
“A lot of people want to come and invest in St. Joe,” Faulkner said. “And we have to make it possible for them.”
Both candidates also recognized a problem with city engineers forcing private contractors to change their plans days before beginning construction, causing confusion.
“We have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Faulkner said.
Both candidates also support a new hotel/motel tax, raising the current 3 percent tax to 6 percent. To date, the revenue from this tax goes directly to the civic arena, but generating this revenue would allow the city to spend more on museums, festivals, and other tourist activities.
“It is, strictly, a tourism tax,” Sipe assured St. Joseph citizens.
During the beginning of the forum, Euchner raised an audience members concerns that that Sipe and Faulkner shared the very similar views and had very little differences between them.
Sipe responded by verifying that he and his opponent do think alike on several issues, but that he would not continue in the footsteps of current mayor Ken Shearin. Faulkner refuted any notion that he would either.
With only 13 percent of registered voters casting a ballot on the primary election, both candidates hope to see more voter turnout come April 6.