Candidates for Adel elections voice opinions at forum
The Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce hosted all six candidates running for office in the City of Adel on Monday evening for the Adel City Candidate Forum at the A-D-M Middle School/High School Auditorium. The four city council candidates and two mayoral candidates got a chance to answer questions prepared by the Chamber and asked by Joe Murphy from the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
The four city council candidates, vying for two open seats, are Rob Christensen, Rebecca Hillmer, Jodi Selby and Bryce Smith.
Here are some of the main points that the candidates discussed during the forum.
When it comes to the race for Mayor, incumbent Jim Peters is toting his 26 years of experience as mayor against challenger, Carter Nordman, who is just 19 years old.
Nordman stated that Peters’ campaign slogan, “Experience Matters” is an “indirect attack” on him, and said that the election should not be about age, but rather moving the city forward. Peters, on the other hand, contended that his experience does indeed matter.
“Experience is important because, right now, our city staff — the billing clerk, the city clerk, the finance director and the city administrator — combined have seven years of experience,” Peters said during the opening statements. “And so, I’m in a position to help guide them.
“That’s why I am making it about experience, because experience is the most important thing in terms of the mayor at this time.’
Nordman is not without political experience of his own, however, as he has worked as a legislative assistant in the Iowa House of Representatives, which has led to ties with leaders at the state level, and he was also the director for Iowa Students for Trump ahead of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses and is the chair of the Adel Parks and Recreation Board.
“I’ve held both public and private sector jobs and, over the past three years, I’ve created both personal and working relationships with people from every sector of government,” Nordman said. “I have relationships with Adel city employees, relationships with both sitting senator and representative who represents us in Des Moines, Dallas County Supervisors and those connected with Senator Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.”
Nordman asked for the voters to take a chance on him, but Peters said that “November 7th is not the time to take a chance on inexperience.”
The tax abatement program in Adel has been a hotly contested issue between city council members, between citizens, and between the citizens and the council for two years now as the city continues to grow at a rapid rate. Recently, a change was made to the ordinance and, starting in 2019, instead of seven years at 100 percent, the tax abatement will be for three years on a sliding scale.
The candidates were asked how they felt about the tax abatement as an economic development policy.
City Council candidate Hillmer said that when she first heard about the tax abatement program back in 2011, she didn’t agree with it, but came around after sitting in on her first budget meeting after election in 2013 and seeing the financial impact in had on the city.
“It was pretty obvious that we had to do something to get more homes, more rooftops in this town to generate a future tax revenue,” Hillmer said. “We may look a little stupid right now for giving things way, but I’ll tell you, 10 years from now when we have an extra million dollars a year to spend due to the homes that have been developed and are coming online, we’re going to look pretty smart.”
City Council candidate Christensen, on the other hand, said that a tax abatement is no an economic development plan. He said that a tax abatement is intended to be used in a “very targeted sense.”
“The Mayor speaks about how much money we’re going to be getting, Rebecca speaks about how much money we’re going to be getting, they never calculated the costs,” Christensen said. “I was at a council meeting and specifically asked that other financial manager (Jocelyn Doerfler from PFM), she said no they had not.”
Economic Development and Annexation
The topic of annexation to the east came up in multiple candidates answers. Currently, there is a moratorium in place, saying that the cities of Adel and Waukee won’t annex east or west past County Highway R16, and Waukee has recently annexed all the way out to the moratorium’s limits, with agreement set to expire in April of 2020.
Peters said that he has attempted to set up talks with Waukee about extending the moratorium, but calls to Waukee Mayor Bill Peard were not returned.
Selby said that the eastern annexation is “critical” with the moratorium coming to an end in just a few years.
“So I think it’s really important that we keep close track of that moratorium, that we act on it, and that we control what development we want out east, and that it’s Adel’s development, and that we don’t let the developers control us,” Selby said. “I think, perhaps over the last few years, we’ve let the developers control what happens in Adel, as opposed to letting Adel control what the developers do.”
She went on to say that they should not let Waukee get any closer to Adel than it already is.
Smith said that the main problem for economic development is that there is not enough available land available for businesses to develop on.
“So I think that… a very important topic to do is future land use plan to the east, to the south, to the north, to the west, making sure that we are planning for the future so we can keep commercial land available for those businesses to come into Adel,” Smith said.
Smith, the owner of the Adel Family Fun Center, said that the other issue facing businesses and development is connectivity, saying it’s important that residents and business owners need broadband capability.
“I run a bowling center. The sport of bowling has not changed in about 300 years, but how I do business has,” Smith said. “We take credit cards, we communicate with people all around the world. So that’s a very important way of attracting businesses, is to have infrastructure that includes connectivity and broadband services for our business owners here in Adel.”
For the full event
The full candidate forum lasted nearly 90 minutes and had responses by all of the candidates on these issues and more. The event was live streamed on Facebook and the full video can be found on the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AdelPartnersChamberOfCommerce/videos/1517164675026246/.