by Patrick P. Marek, Winona Post Publisher
Everyone talks about the City Council. Now there’s a chance to actually do something about it. 2020 has been a horrible year, but to their credit, most of the citizens of Winona endured the pandemic, stay-at-home and mask orders, and one of the most contentious and partisan presidential elections in history, with a can-do attitude and little complaint. However, there is one issue that is stuck in Winona’s collective craw. People are still worked up about the Broadway Diet Plan, and feel that it’s time for a reckoning at the ballot box. Liberal activist council representatives Pam Eyden and Paul Schollmeier voted for the plan to strangle Broadway. Now it’s their time to own it.
Nobody can say that they weren’t given fair warning. Winona was crystal clear and remarkably vocal on this issue from the start. For most, the memory of all of the beautiful mature trees that were destroyed in order to widen Broadway was still fresh and raw. Why turn Winona’s busiest east-west thoroughfare into a glorified bike path? How are city plows going to navigate the bump-outs? How dangerous will it be for Broadway residents to back out of their driveways? Is Broadway really as unsafe for pedestrians as advertised? All good questions, but satisfying answers were in short supply from a City Council that already had the votes in the bag, wanted to get Broadway paved for free, and wasn’t about to listen to the people that voted them into office.
The residents of Winona, blissfully thinking that they might have a voice in the matter, tirelessly tried to convince the City Council to reconsider the smothering of Winona’s favorite through street. Hundreds endured an incomprehensible and biased online survey. Hundreds more called their council representative to state their case. Business leaders and concerned citizens wrote thoughtful, convincing letters to the editor, and personal letters to the council. It all fell on deaf ears.
The liberal wing of Winona’s City Council: Pam Eyden, Paul Schollmeier, and Eileen Moeller voted with Mayor Mark Peterson to put a stamp of approval on the Broadway Diet Plan. Peterson is retiring at the end of his term as mayor, and in fairness agonized about the decision before going back to his Eagle Scout roots and voting for “safety.” Moeller isn’t up for election until next year. We’ll see how that works out. Michelle Alexander, George Borzyskowski, and outgoing councilperson Al Thurley fought valiantly to validate the wishes of their constituents, but the fix was in. They never had a chance.
Neither Eyden nor Schollmeier have run much of a campaign this time, either succumbing to the arrogance of incumbency and letting their actions speak for themselves, or because they don’t want to explain their votes on the doorsteps of their constituents. Both have serious challengers in this election. Eyden is running against Will Gibson in the third ward, and Schollmeier is facing Aaron Repinkski for the at-large seat. Both challengers come into the election with no-nonsense fiscal conservative backgrounds and have no hidden agendas. Both mayoral candidates, Jovy Rockey and Scott Sherman are so unabashedly liberal that they make the progressive soon-to-be-former mayor Peterson look like Barry Goldwater in comparison.
Both Gibson and Repinksi will be able to team up with Michelle Alexander and George Borzykowski and either Steve Young or Chris Meier to prevent Eileen Moeller and the eventual mayor from doing too much harm to our city and our pocketbooks. The new council is going to have to wade though an ever-growing Winona administration wish list that includes the Masonic Temple, Senior Center, bluff trail system, new fire station, and Levee Park overhaul. It is worth noting that in the past, the Winona City Council focused on jobs and industrial development. Recent councils have focused on parks and arts. Future councils would do well to adopt the mantra that former mayor Jerry Miller uttered every time before the council was about to vote on a tax increase: “Imagine how this will affect a retired widow on a fixed income.”
Finally, I have a possible solution for the Broadway Diet Plan that should be considered once the dust from the election settles. It should make both sides upset, so it is probably a workable plan. We have already accepted the money for the project, and it is extremely unlikely that the city will return the grant money. The bump-outs are the most troublesome part of the project and are not required by the grant. Why not get Broadway paved for free, forget the bump-outs, and paint the street with the lines of the Broadway Diet Plan? Let’s try it out for three years and see if it delivers the safety numbers that are promised, without strangling commerce. Then a reasonable City Council can listen to the people, weigh the facts, and make a fair and informed decision on the future of Broadway.
You heard it here first!