During a recent interview, Tim Quist, a candidate for fourth ward alderman, recalled taking part in the volunteer effort to build Sassafrass Park back when he was in grade school. His small contribution of time gave him an appreciation for what the city had to offer.
“I used it, first day off from school, as soon as we got out, we went there,” Quist recounted.
Now that he is raising a family of his own, he’s concerned about making sure that the city continues to thrive and offer opportunities for young people.
Referring to his own two children, he said, “It’s not so much about me anymore, now its about them.”
A political science major in college, Quist said he has always been interested in local politics. But Quist said that a recent change in his work schedule and his concern over the atmosphere of conflict he sees on the common council were both factors that led him to decide to run.
“Rather than be on the sideline, it was time to finally get in the ring,” said Quist, “It was time to be actually involved.”
Quist outlined a number of ideas and approaches he would take to address the problems the city faces. He said he sees the challenges of economic development, blighted neighborhoods, and quality of life issues as inter-related.
“We can’t develop the city, we can’t revitalize the city, if we don’t have the funds to do so. We can’t get the funds unless we can bring in more people, more businesses,” said Quist.
Citing his recollection of resistance to a cafe opening up on Church Street years ago, Quist said he wants to make sure that the common council creates a “business friendly” environment that welcomes small businesses rather than pushing them away.
Quist said having a single point of contact for small businesses looking for funding or incentives is one important aspect of creating that environment. Although Quist said the city should work “hand in hand” with Montgomery County, he is in favor or keeping the city position of Community and Economic Development Director, which had been questioned during the past two budget sessions.
“We need someone representing the actual city itself,” said Quist.
He said that while building the city’s web site was an important first step, “we need to market it better.” Quist said he believes increased online marketing would be an inexpensive and effective way to get the word out to the rest of the region about the city’s potential.
Quist said he is convinced that the city’s downtown areas, as well as the entire city, can make a come back.
“The best way to bring back downtown is to get that foot traffic there…we basically need to create a crowd more often,” said Quist.
To that end, Quist said he would support the Spring Fling and other events that attract people to downtown. He said he would see if any tourism funds were available from Montgomery County to hold additional cultural events.
To attack the problem of blight, Quist said he would like to see the city hire a separate part-time attorney who would specialize in handling code enforcement issues. By prosecuting more cases, he believes the position could pay for itself with the increase in revenue from fines.
He said he would also look at the possibility of establishing a revolving loan program to help home owners who aren’t able to secure bank loans for home repairs.
In order to keep budget spending under control, Quist said he would like to see insurance contracts put out to bid on a yearly basis. He said he would like to see the contracts awarded on the basis of cost and quality of service, rather than on anyone’s personal preferences.
Quist also said he believes that city employees with asbestos removal training are not being utilized enough for demolition work. He said he would look at whether more work could be done in-house rather than outsourcing, in order to bring down costs.
Another possibility Quist said he would look at was to hire another part-time attorney who would specialize in union negotiations. Quist said he thinks the position could be funded with savings from more favorable negotiations, or by decreasing the salary of the corporation counsel.
In regards to the ongoing work to correct the city’s financial records, Quist commended the current controller for the work he had accomplished so far and said he would be willing to give whoever ended up in the controller’s office after November’s election additional help if needed to speed up the process of correcting the city’s records.
Quist said that after consulting with two different accountants, he would like to see if closing all the city’s bank accounts and opening new ones would help the city move forward. He stressed that he would only be in favor of that idea if the controller was in agreement.
“I don’t think the city is beyond controlling any of its issues…it’s not so far gone that the city’s lost like some people say,” said Quist.
Quist challenged the common perception of the city’s crime problems by saying, “If you look at the data…we’re well under the national average. It’s not like it’s such a crime-ridden city. It’s just the fact that when we do experience a crime, it’s seems like more of an effect to the city because it’s a smaller city.”
He said he supports the city’s neighborhood watch program and said, “This is the city coming together, and that’s what matters…it’s not going to stop every single crime, but that idea of showing a tight-knit community that ‘s willing to be against crime actually deters crime.”
Quist said that he believes the city has a role to play in providing constructive activities for the youth in the community.
“The less and less kids have to do, the more and more they are going to be drawn into doing other things,” said Quist.
Quist said he is in favor of the idea of building a recreation center, and sees it as a way to bring more people into the city. He said he would also look at ways to support other organizations, such as Wishful Thinking and the Walter Elwood Museum, who are already providing programs for kids.
Quist said he is running on an independent line for fourth ward alderman because he hopes to work with members of both parties for the good of the city.
“Party politics are part of the problem,” said Quist. “Yes I am a registered Republican, but no, I don’t strictly work with Republicans.”
Quist said that he hopes to lead by example by looking at each issue that comes up on the council on its own merits, without letting grudges or hard feelings from past political fights get in the way.
“I don’t owe favors to anybody,” said Quist. “I don’t answer to any party particularly. I’ll answer to the community, and that’s it.”
Quist will face incumbent Republican Diane Hatzeunbuhler, and Democrat Rodney Wojnar in November’s election.