Oak Creek — The city's 4th District could be looked at as the place where many water-cooler discussions in the community originate.
The new We Energies power plant officially began operations there last week. Bender Park, the lakefront and the many different visions for its future lie there too.
Three candidates are vying to represent that district on the Common Council. Incumbent Michael Toman and challengers Rosemarie Annonson and Yolanda Brossman will face off in a Feb. 16 primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election April 6.
Toman has served on the council for seven years after he was appointed in 2003, elected by voters in 2004 and re-elected two times.
Annonson has been a staple in Oak Creek elections, running unsuccessfully for the Common Council several times and also for the Oak Creek-Franklin School Board. She is again a candidate in the School Board election in April.
Brossman, meanwhile, is in her first attempt for public office.
Both challengers said they have disagreed with a number of things the city has done and which Toman supported.
We Energies payments
They don't agree with the city's plan to use mitigation money from the new We Energies power plant to build a new City Hall, library and fire stations.
Annonson said that money, about $3 million per year, should be put back into the operational budget to lower taxes. Brossman doesn't agree the buildings need to be replaced.
"All of them are newer than our homes," Brossman said. "That money belongs to the people."
Toman voted in favor of a resolution supporting that plan, saying the buildings needed to be replaced and it would be a good way to use the We Energies money.
The state collects a tax, called public utility aid, on We Energies and then distributes some of the money to Oak Creek.
The challengers also opposed a recent ordinance giving the Common Council exclusive authority over the construction of capital projects.
Previously, a new city hall, library or Fire Station No. 1, or an addition to those facilities worth $2.5 million or more, would have to go to referendum for voters' approval.
Toman, along with all five other Oak Creek aldermen, voted in favor of the replacement ordinance. He and other aldermen disagreed with the idea the ordinance took away residents' ability to weigh in on issues.
"You can choose to not elect us. That's your privilege," he said during the Jan. 19 council meeting. "And you can choose to recall us, too."
But Brossman said the council's move was an example of a lack of accountability in the government. Annonson said she also believed the original ordinance mandating referendums was necessary.
"They forget who voted for them," Brossman said. "People should be heard."
As they have for years now, city officials continue to discuss the future of the undeveloped lakefront.
Annonson said a water park would be her preferred development on the lakefront, saying it could be a regional draw, and that the area also needs a new marina.
Brossman sees a golf course and expanded marina bringing more visibility to Oak Creek.
Toman said many options are in play, including the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences or a residential or commercial development, but the city must first find out what environmental issues are on the land.
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