By: Jonathan Ellis
Published By: Argus Leader on April 9, 2014
Elections are more than wins and losses. They’re learning experiences about the community you live in – or at least about the people who care to vote.
And we learned a lot last night.
We learned, first and foremost, that those of us who are civic minded enough to vote in city elections — a minority of registered voters — are happy with City Hall. How happy? A majority sided with every decision that had been advanced by City Hall, and a majority of voters sent the incumbents back for another term, starting with the chief executive, Mayor Mike Huether.
The NIMBY — not in my backyard crowd — suffered defeat on more than one front.
Two referred measures were defeated by convincing measures, paving the way for a new Walmart on the south side and a revamp of the city’s zoning rules.
Score: City Hall 2, NIMBY 0.
Next, the pool. City Hall was moving toward an indoor pool at Spellerberg Park. A group of residents supported by concerned veterans collected enough signatures to short-circuit that process, asking voters to approve a new outdoor pool to replace the existing, decrepit facility.
The outdoor pool supporters had reason to be hopeful. Two previous votes in the past 10 years on pools had gone their way. But this election was different: The two previous votes had been special elections, where the NIMBYites swamped the polls. This time the issue was decided in a regular election.
Result: City Hall 3, NIMBY 0.
Next, one of the chief opponents of the southside Walmart lost her bid for a City Council seat. Bonita Schwan was one of the faces of the anti-Walmart brigade that managed to collect enough signatures to refer the issue to the ballot. In percentage terms, her loss for the Southeastern District seat paralleled the anti-Walmart loss.
City Hall 4, NIMBY 0.
How much do the city’s voting residents trust City Hall these days? They approved three obscure charter revision questions with overwhelming majorities. And they approved the aforementioned zoning overhaul, a dense, abstruse document that has maybe been read in its entirety by seven people.
City Councilors Rex Rolfing and Michelle Erpenbach rode their way to easy re-elections. They will be joined by two newcomers: Christine Erickson, a state representative, and Rick Kiley, a retired teacher who vanquished Schwan.
And then there was Huether. He, too, won a comfortable re-election. This was the third time since the city switched to the strong-mayor form of government that we have had an incumbent mayor run for re-election. Gary Hanson beat two opponents in 1998 with more than 55 percent of the vote. Dave Munson, who almost didn’t run for a second term, won a narrow victory over Bruce Halverson in 2006, with less than 52 percent.
Huether’s 55 percent matched Hanson’s re-election.
Tuesday’s victory for Huether was convincing, although not as convincing as his first win four years ago. The question many political observers will be asking is whether it’s enough of a win to springboard Huether into a statewide race for governor or Congress in 2018 when his second term ends.
Yes, we learned a lot last night.
What else did we learn? We learned that three out of every four people who voted in the race don’t like shoveling snow out of the end of their driveways.
The era of the snowgate is about to begin.
View the original article here.