City Council Candidate Interviews By The Laramie Chamber Business Alliance
The following is an interview of City Council Candidates initiated by the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance. Neither the Governmental Affairs Committee nor the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance endorse any candidate. They felt it was important to find if candidates were supportive of business.
This is directly from the minutes provided by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.
Attendance: Andi Summerville, Brian LeJambre, Karl McCracken, Dave Paulekas and Bern Haggerty
1. Many of the city residents want to improve their quality of life. Some believe no growth is the answer and others are pro-growth. What are your thoughts?
Bern Haggerty- “Opposing growth is like opposing a force of nature. The city can’t be opposed to growth, because it is going to happen. You’re either going build in the middle of town or at the edge of town, I really don’t see that the city can be opposed to growth because it’s going to happen. The cities role in growth in my opinion is to facultative a goal, the city doesn’t present development goal they provide a level of playing field, fair predicable zoning process and then property owners utilize that. Things like a recreation master plan is critical to have in place before growth happens.”
Dave Paulekas- “I think all of us live in a community we live in based on what we precede is our quality of life. I think that as we get older our quality of life changes. I think Laramie is blessed pretty good quality of life. However, as far as quality of life issues go I think there is a direct relationship between the quality of life within your community and economic development. If you don’t have economic development and you don’t have growth it’s going to be really hard to create a higher quality of life then what we have right now. It might even be difficult to sustain what we have now as a quality of life, because there are issues that are involved in maintaining that quality of life. That requires tax dollars, sales tax. I see the two together, if you have a strong economic development within your community your quality of life will rise. “
Karl McCracken-“I don’t think you cannot have some type of growth, you have to. If you don’t, stagnation over a twenty year period or something like that would be horrible. The other thing you have to realize is now the University of Wyoming students about 30% of them are nontraditional which means most of the time they are married with families. I know quite a few of them that are nontraditional and one of the spouses I don’t mean to be sexist but the ones I know the woman is usually working, and I know it’s sometimes the other way around but they will sit there and take care of four or five houses full with kids and the other four will go out and work. To have a better quality of job for those people would be good. To do that we have to increase the quality of jobs, the other thing is the world is changing. We have to stay on top of it and that requires growth, technology has to be there and that’s part of the quality of the life, making sure we are the front in not the back end of technology.”
Brian LeJambre- “ Growth is going to happen regardless as a city it’s your responsibility to stay in front of that wave, and make sure that the infrastructure is there to accommodate those businesses coming in. With those businesses that brings more tax revenue in which provides for more parks, better roads all things that improve people’s quality of life. I think there is responsibility for the government to stay out of the way of those businesses’ minimalize restrictions and evaluations and reviews, fees for this fees for that. Make it as easy as possible for people to start businesses and bring businesses here. Provide jobs for our community and in the end provide us to have more nice things in our community that people like.”
Andi Summerville- “So I think definitely in terms of quality of life you have to have sustainable growth and all of these factors have to come together for this to work. You have to have positive economic development forces in the city. You have to have a city that is supporting the infrastructure that you need to be able to grow that. We need to be able to do things specifically for Laramie, beautifying our gateways, taking care of how we look to perspective businesses coming into town. Making sure that the actual infrastructure is there to support it. Which is something that West Laramie is still struggling with. I think the city has done a tremendous job in catching up a lot of maintenance issues and along those lines that could hamper business growth in the last 15 or 20 years it’s been a dramatic turnaround in how they spend their tax dollars making that type of stuff happen. I also think it’s very important like Karl said to stay in front of what’s going to be best for Laramie there is a huge drive for technology centers and I think that Cirrus Sky will provide a unique atmosphere for Laramie, we have a unique set of conditions for those type of technology and cloud businesses and that’s something that is going benefit all of us regardless of what type of business you own or what kind of job you do in town.
2. Do you consider Laramie a business friendly city? If not, what would you do to change it for the better?
Dave Paulekas-“I think our community is very business friendly, I think when you look at the city of Laramie and look at the partnerships it has done with LEDC & the Chamber and so forth and I support all of that. I strongly believe our community is business friendly. We have our act together when it comes to business districts, landscaping when it comes to signs and so forth and so forth.”
Karl McCracken-“The problem I have is once we opened our business as soon as I went to the engineers, the engineers asked when I wanted to start breaking ground and I said oh probably within the next three months and he said the last project took 18 months, what makes you so important? Direct quote, so that’s what you run into a lot of the time in Laramie. It becomes a negotiation instead of a code, a lot of that had to do with the UDC and quite frankly I was the 5th person to vote for the UDC. I voted for it because we were told it would be reviewed every six months. It’s been reviewed twice in six years. Right now you have to hire an attorney to do a project, you shouldn’t have to hire an attorney to do a project. People are not use to negotiating when they are coming from another community.”
Brian LeJambre- “Laramie is obviously enticing because of its tax purposes and that we have access to I-80 right through here. I have been on the planning commission for about 5 minutes now and my short time on there one of the biggest complaints we get is the hoops people have to jump through to open any sort of business here. I don’t think it is right that everyone needs to hire a lawyer just to get a permit. These type of restrictions that stunt small business growth.”
Andi Summerville- “Overall, I don’t think the City of Laramie has found the sweet spot, I think we have definitely made some improvements. The two biggest complaints I hear from people trying to start businesses here are, it’s really hard to find good quality employees for the types of businesses that want to come to Laramie, and second the hoops people have to go through. We are struggling to find what is going to work best for Laramie. There is always room for improvement. ”
Bern Haggerty- “I would expect a city development office at a minimum to have fairness, respectability, and efficiency. The city council shouldn’t be too much involved in the decision about establishing and expanding. Again, people shouldn’t have to go through additional hoops. Rules again need to stay fair, respectable and efficient.”
3. Do you perceive a time where you will have a majority of city council who will force changes to the current UDC? Do you purpose any changes?
Dave Paulekas-“ I don’t know if that question makes sense, because I think of member of council whatever comes before us, is considered. The problem is, it is a massive document. Prioritize of getting the important things changed is extremely time consuming. I don’t think that is a fair question to ask. When that document has come before council all of the changes were considered strongly and all of them past most of the time anonymously.”
Karl McCracken-“What we were promised when it was passed was not that the Chamber along with council liaison would be reviewing it. We were promised that we would have a 3 to 4 hour work session every 6 months. And the chamber back then and of course LEDC would be allowed to come in and encouraged to come in along with contractors. Only twice of those meetings have occurred in the past 6 years. We need to have more of those meeting. It needs to be more generalize meeting. Some of the people who have had problems don’t talk about the problems they have had and I wish they would. And sometimes when people do complain they get a bad reputation because the community is too small. It doesn’t need to be like that.”
Brian LeJambre- “In regards of the UDC by design when it was sold, it was sold in a very positive light. When you read it you see, oh okay our community is going to look nice. Everything is going to be glorious. The problem is nobody really went into the depths of what it was going to cover. Making sure buildings aren’t going to fall down or burn down which is all well and good. Fine when you get business that think oh all of these businesses coming into town they are going to need this this and this. Which is fine, we can provide that. But when it starts hurting is when all of the other businesses in town where they do have these regulations and restrictions that they are going to have to follow. I just think that it’s not something we can go through and put a band aid on this and on that.” Andi Summerville- “I think we got a couple of issues going on here. I’m not sure if the UDC is the answer for Laramie, I’m definitely open to other avenues. However, it is relatively new, this isn’t something that Laramie has had on the books for thirty years and has had a chance to work the bugs out of. I will say, sitting on council since Feb. What I see for UDC changes coming for us is a recommendation because city staff found a problem they said hey this isn’t working. I don’t know if anyone has really sat down and taken a whole day to go through everything and match it up. That’s an enormous project, it’s extremely hard to ready and digest.”
Bern Haggerty- “I don’t have a lot to add, but I’ll go back to the basics, I’m not a contractor and I’m not a developer. I just assume what a business wants is predictability, and of course code to get revised. There are basic problems with the code that need to be ironed out.”
4. Should the City, County and LCBA form a Joint Powers Board and what are the positives and negatives of doing so?
Brian LeJambre- “I have always been under the impression that they work together now. They aren’t all separate entities that go their own way. There has been quite a bit of collaboration between the city and the county and the economic development board. Looking at a list on the website when I was interested in getting involved there are too many board in Laramie. I think that is the list thing we need is another official board, with some of the stuff that has been developed in the county I don’t think there has been an issue now with people working together now. So I think adding another board might be overkill.
Andi Summerville- “I think it’s a unique idea and a unique concept. I think I would be interested in looking at the makeup of the board, and the bylaws. But I am hesitant, I would want to be cautious, but it would depend on how the board is made up. More in favor than not but I haven’t made up my mind 100%.
Bern Haggerty- “It depends what’s going into and what’s coming out of it. Still have a lot of questions of what the board would be made up about.”
Dave Paulekas- “We actually formed a joint powers board for economic development in the past and it kind of collapsed, the reason being the entities particular the city and the city council at the time didn’t want to relinquish the power they had with the funds in their account. I think it’s a great idea what it does it takes the money the county has in their account and what the city has in their account and puts it under one place and it puts it under the supervision of one body. We are not economic development, and we don’t have the economic development background, so I would be all for it.”
Karl McCracken-“I was a liaison from March to December of 2012 to the proposed joint powers board, and quite frankly every time we had a meeting everyone would agree to everything in the meeting and it was done and once the paperwork got to us it was completely different. I personally don’t think people wanted to give up their cash flow. Government and business and two different things, but I think the joint powers board would be good with business people and a little of government. Not a reason not to do it, I think it would make some projects a lot easier.”
5. Should the City continue to fund a fee for services agreement for Economic Development with The Chamber Business Alliance, and what are the positives and negatives of doing so?
Andi Summerville- “Right now the LCBA functions basically as the economic development arm of the city. They carry the weight of recruiting businesses and jobs here. The city doesn’t have those functions. Our City Manager does some recruiting but it’s very minimal. Without the LCBA we just wouldn’t have the development we have going on right now. It’s done a lot of good for our community. Big difference from the community from when I was a student to now, it’s a completely new town. The negatives, when you’re talking about a fee for service, and the City isn’t involved as much as they should be, but again maybe the City shouldn’t be. But I am still in agreement with the fee for service.”
Bern Haggerty- “I’m playing ignorance on business, I’m not a business person and I have not been on the City Council. I’m open minded about the concept.”
Dave Paulekas- “I’m all for it, with your fee for service you have a set amount of funds that you know you are getting every year. I would not want to see us go back to seeing council vote on and taking an average of how much each individual council should count on to support economic development. So my answer is yes, yes and yes.”
Karl McCracken-“The number one income item for Laramie’s general fund is sales tax, if you take the sales tax divided by the number of Laramie’s population, we are the poorest county in the state of Wyoming. So we need economic development and we need more of it. I can’t argue against it.”
Brian LeJambre- “I don’t know the ends and outs and the finer details of it, but it seems like a great idea, if it’s something that everyone involved with is happy, then I think it’s something we should keep going on with.”