Dan Christopherson

Dan Christopherson
The Plain Talk asked the five candidates in the upcoming Vermillion city election about their views on several city issues. Vermillion citizens will choose a mayor and one city council member from the Southeast Ward.

Mayor

Dan Christopherson


Age: 59

Family: Wife Gloria, retail store proprietor, Nook 'n Cranny & NeverNeverLand; son Michael, radio station program director in Los Angeles; daughter Megan, behavioral healthcare therapist in Sioux Falls; grandson Truman Daniel Spawn, age 1, advisor to Vermillion mayor.

Occupation: Retail business owner, rental property owner/renovator.

1. I am seeking re-election to the office of Mayor because I have been asked to do so by many citizens and taxpayers, as well as my family. We all have a responsibility to future generations to leave this world a better place than we found it, and public service is an honorable way to accomplish this. I believe there is still work to be done in areas where I can make a positive contribution to our community.

Two important projects are the upcoming Vermillion Sesquicentennial in 2009 and the construction of a new accessible, user-friendly and functional City Hall building.

I believe we should all take our turn at public service, but not make a career of it. Practically, however, two years is simply not enough time to accomplish all that I feel needs to be done and can be reasonably achieved at this point in our history. If given the opportunity by the voters to serve again as your mayor, my priority will continue to be listening to the wishes of the people, and striving to do what the majority wants, within the boundaries of a reasonable and taxpayer friendly budget.

I am a good listener, mediator, negotiator and consensus builder. I care about people's feelings and always consider emotional impact as part of my decision-making process. I have long believed that listening to the people is the main responsibility of an elected official. I think that the city council and I have done a good job of requesting and listening to input from the public. The citizens and taxpayers are the only reason we have elected officials and city employees, as the people pay for everything. It just seems to make very good sense that we should always ask the people who will be affected by the decision for their input before we decide.

There is much less chance of having controversy if you listen first and act second. A local government that listens to its citizens has an infinitely better chance of reaching consensus and compromise.

My goal is to continue a city government environment that treats all citizens as customers. Customer service, as well as all of life, is about feelings and emotions. People will eventually forget what you say and do, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Although we cannot always say yes to every citizen request, I want our citizens to know that they had a fair hearing and that we as elected officials made our decision based upon adequate public input and the principle of majority rule.

2. The concept of improving the appearance of historic downtown Vermillion began as a dream within the Clay County Historic Preservation Commission in the year 2000. As a board member of the CCHPC, I was privileged to serve as project chair, which culminated in the listing of the Downtown Vermillion Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, effective March 7, 2003. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of cultural properties worthy of preservation. It recognizes a variety of historic resources that have local, statewide or national significance. National Register listing can enrich local preservation efforts by publicly recognizing local properties and districts that are significant enough to merit national recognition. This is a great example of encouraging economic development while making the city a more pleasant and inviting place for everyone.

The Downtown Vermillion Streetscape Plan was approved by the Vermillion City Council and endorsed by the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company on April 29, 2004. Prior to this, three public meetings were held to receive stakeholder/citizen input. The $2.2 million (2004 dollars) in projects identified in the plan were purposely phased for implementation over a seven-year period, knowing that funds were not going to be available to accomplish every aspect of the plan in a single year.

The Downtown Vermillion Streetscape Implementation Committee (DVSIC) was appointed by the city council in July 2004. We have a hard working, hands-on group of dedicated citizens working diligently to build consensus and accomplish the goals set out in the Streetscape Plan. The DVSIC, with city council approval, has established a special city account (managed by the city's finance office) to accept tax-deductible donations for the project. To date, almost $10,000 has been placed in the special account. The funds have been used to purchase eight comfortable public benches and three bicycle racks.

With the assistance of U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, the city has received approximately $430,000 in federal funds for the streetscape project. The federal funds are administered through the South Dakota office of the Federal Highway Administration, with strict rules on allowable uses for the actual expenditure of the funds. The city staff is working with the DVSIC to establish guidelines for use of these federal funds within the parameters of the Downtown Vermillion Streetscape Plan, and in compliance with federal law.

It is important to point out that private improvements will not be forced upon any property owners. Streetscape committee members hope that voluntary private improvements will take place over time. Eventually, all building exteriors require maintenance, and when improvements are needed we will encourage owners to consider following the general guidelines in the streetscape plan.

Has enough progress been made on implementing this plan? The community, which supports the features in the plan, and I would prefer to see the plan's projects completed as quickly as possible. However, everyone knew this plan was going to be implemented in phases � over a number of years � as funds became available. To date, the city has assisted in purchasing period traffic signal poles, benches and bicycle racks in our historic downtown. Federal funds that the city receives this year will be used to make additional improvements in the downtown area as the community prepares for its Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2009.

Is there anything you would like to see changed in the final draft? The city council and the Chamber of Commerce and Development Company approved and endorsed the streetscape plan in its present form, and I agree with their decision. As with every planning document, nothing in the streetscape plan is set in stone and can be altered as the city sees fit. However, at this time, I don't anticipate any radical changes to the plan.

3. The Mediacom situation is responsible for the largest number of citizen complaints received by me on any topic by unhappy residents. I believe competition in the marketplace is the best solution for bringing down the high prices being charged by Mediacom for cable television and high-speed Internet.

The City of Vermillion is currently actively pursuing a competitor to bring these services to Vermillion. We are also looking into the possibility of the city itself getting into the communications business and providing cable and Internet. Regardless of who provides competition in this market, it will be a major investment in infrastructure requiring the complete wiring of the entire community with the latest in communication technology. This type of financial requirement is not taken lightly be either private industry or local government, and is a time consuming project both from a decision-making perspective as well as the actual construction of the necessary infrastructure.

If re-elected as your mayor, I will continue to diligently work on this situation.

4) Crawford Road

The Crawford Road extension has been controversial for several years and was

finally brought to a head at City Council meetings on March 20 and April 3.

We heard lots of public testimony at both meetings, and when the smoke

cleared it was pretty much 50/50 for and against at the public hearings.

The council voted 5 to 3 to not extend Crawford Road after the hearing on

April 3.

My personal opinion is not what counts, but rather the wishes of the people.

Since the public hearings were split fairly evenly, I had to rely on the

contacts I received at home, on the street, via email, via phone, via

letter, at the grocery store, etc. to get a sense of what the people wanted.

Of the people who made the effort to contact me, it was overwhelmingly

against the Crawford Road extension, and that is why I voted against it.

I certainly support the right of the people to refer a decision of the City

Council to a vote of the citizens, and I am in full agreement with having a

public vote on this issue on November 7, 2006. As elected officials, the

only way we can know your wishes is if you tell us. Many of you told me

prior to or on April 3; and now on November 7 it is my hope that all

citizens will exercise their right and privilege by voting on this issue at

the polls. This is how you can send your message loud and clear, and I will

certainly support the wishes of the majority.

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