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Contested race in New London

Banda challenges Barrington for council seat

By Bert Lehman

Incumbent District 3 Alderperson Mike Barrington is being challenged by Debbie Banda in the election on Tuesday, April 5.

The help provide voters with information about each candidate, as well as where they stand on the issues, the Press Star sent a list of questions to each candidate. Here are the questions as well as the responses from each candidate.

Why have you decide to run for New London City Council?

Banda: I have thought of pursuing a position in city government for some years. I have always been vocal and passionate about my feelings on what is happening to the city I was born and raised in. The longer I live here the more I see that we are headed in a downward direction.

My choice to run was made this year because I received an anonymous letter saying that I should pursue my thought on improving the city. Because I see that there is interest I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and should I not win the election I still have the right to state my opinion if I am opposed to how taxpayer’s money is spent or maintaining the historical downtown, and the cemetery.

Barrington: My decision to run has really been based on the fact that people have asked me to represent them. I have lived in New London most of my life, and it has been good here for me and my family. I would like to give back to the city by continuing to listen to what people need, and continue to work with others to improve the city of New London.

What qualifications, either personal or professional do you have that would help you when serving on the council?

Banda: I am a third generation New London resident. My parents both were business owners here in town. My father, Pete Kielbasa, was the owner of a gas station in the 1960s called K&K Sinclair. It was located where the parking lot is on N Water Street to the east of Dairy Queen. My mother, Mert Kielbasa, took ownership of Manskes Bar from Lou Schneide in the late 1980s. It was known as Mert’s Tap.

I do not have any ties to the business or corporate areas of New London, although I know that does not work in my favor. I am here not just to work for the people of my district but also for the citizens of New London that aren’t computer educated or are living on a fixed income. Lastly, I have been married for 45 years and my husband Larry was employed at Simmons for 34 years until its closing in 2005.

Barrington: I have served on a parish council for over 10 years. I have also served on the New London City Council for over five years. During that time, I have been on the Board of Public Works Committee and the Finance Personnel Committee. I have demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively with other members of the committee to research and identify lower cost equipment options, which has saved the City money towards the budget.

I am also active in the community, attend many athletic events, and I feel I continue to meet new people, all who feel comfortable talking with me about ideas and suggestions.

What are the two most important issues facing the city of New London?

Banda: First and foremost is bringing jobs to New London. I cannot fathom why Hortonville, Clintonville, and Greenville, just to name a few have their industrial parks full of jobs. Why did everyone leave here? Where are the incentives? Secondly, I know that change is inevitable and good but it has been years of business closing their doors or having to make concessions if they want to stay here. Beautiful historical buildings are torn down and parks and parking lots replacing them. Paying a traffic person to mark tires downtown to ticket consumers that are doing what we want — shopping, using our library, etc.

Barrington: The top two issues for me are improving city streets and staying within our budget. We have to do more work on city streets and continue to execute the already nine-year plan. We constantly modify this plan, if necessary, to ensure we work within our established budget.

It is important for the city spending to remain within budget, as that has a direct impact on taxes. We want to be able to attract new people into the city of New London and ensure our tax rate does not cause people to move to other communities that offer a lower tax rate. This makes decisions on spending complicated, so we need to remain focused on the key improvements, and manage those to the approved budget.

If elected what would you do to find solutions to these issues?

Banda: To correct these and all issues is best done by cooperation within government, on a single, committee or team basis. Unfortunately we have this problem of a few making the decision for the masses in all forms of government in the current time. I am here to represent my district and what they are telling me needs to be addressed. I will do my best to keep them informed on what or why their problem was or was not addressed. I have had comments made from my area that aldermen have been confronted about problems they thought were important and they never received a return call or comment regarding their thoughts.

Barrington: We have to keep working to bring more industries and tax revenues into New London. This is not an easy job, as other cities are doing the same thing and offering incentives to bring the same into their municipalities. We need to become more competitive with what we can offer businesses, through incentive programs that benefit the businesses that relocate or are looking to establish here.

Why should voters elect you?

Banda: I can tell the voters in my district and the citizens of New London that I am running here to try to do the right thing in managing your tax dollars, to keep you informed of things if you don’t have a computer, internet access or can’t afford a local newspaper to see where your money is going. I have ideas on how to keep you better informed on government issues and make improvements to New London. All I can promise is my best effort.

Barrington: I think I am doing a good job. I am readily available to people and have always answered any phone calls and any questions people have had for me. I have many friends and family members that live in New London, and I would like to help to keep it prosperous and a good place to live for years to come.

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