Council seeks student input on downtown revitalization

Ben Smidt

The relationship between students and the community is vital, especially in the downtown area, says City Council candidate and university lecturer Ray Hughes.

Plans to revitalize the downtown have fostered debate in the community and among Eau Claire City Council candidates. Some would like to see businesses downtown while others want input from students to be part of the decisions.

“Students give the life to what goes on downtown,” Hughes said.

Hughes, along with seven other candidates, have held open forums for community members to ask questions. At a City Council candidate forum last month, there was a lack of student representation so many questions that affect students were not asked, such as issues dealing with landlord problems.

Incumbent Terri Stanley said she would like to see landlord licensing paired with better enforcement and inspection. She said the landlords know the laws, but improvements on the relationship between tenants and landlords will take reporting problems.

Problems with housing and landlords are a citywide issue and don’t affect just students because many home owners in Eau Claire live out of state, said candidate Dennis Jensen.

Another issue pertinent to student interest is the restaurant smoking ban. One out of the eight candidates said he would fight against the smoking ordinance.

The smoke-free ordinance passed in 2000 prohibited smoking in all Eau Claire restaurants. Jensen, who brought up the appeal, said this is the most discriminatory ordinance in the state. He appealed the ordinance after it was passed and plans to continue fighting it. He also proposed term limits for Council members. He is running for a third term.

Jensen said he wishes students could become more involved in city government by at least voting. “I hope students would realize the potential they could have at the polls.”

Candidate Dan Whelihan would also like to see more involvement from students. He feels that if students are not involved, City Council won’t take action on things that affect students. With a more proactive approach rather than reactive the Council and students can have a better relationship, he said.

“They (Council members) are your representatives when issues such as zoning problems and unfair landlords come up,” Whelihan said.

Four members are running for re-election and there are five new candidates. They are as follows: Dennis Jensen, Terri Stanley, Jane Tappen, Randy Winsand, Ray Hughes, Terry Sheridan, Fred Urmann, Dan Whelihan and SaiDang Xiong. Elections are April 2.