Grand Island Mayoral candidates take on the issues

The field is much wider this year with three candidates in total, the incumbent Roger Steele, Doug Brown, and Julie Wright.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 10:03 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Back in 2018 Roger Steele ran unopposed, now flash forward to 2022 the scene is very different.

The field is much wider this year with three candidates in total, the incumbent Roger Steele, Doug Brown, and Julie Wright.

One of the major issues all three candidates will need to handle is public safety, according to the FBI Grand Island has a crime rate of just over 465. Which ranks them in the top four crime cities in the state.

The crime rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes reported by the population and then multiplying that number by 100,000.

Now on top of that grand island police are having a shortage of officers, which Mayor Steele says he has worked to fix during his first term.

“Now Grand Island is in the same boat as most American cities, in that it is very difficult to recruit police officers right now so I have done several things to make recruiting easier,” Steele said.

Fellow candidate Julie Wright says she would like to work on helping law enforcement innovate.

“A lot of crime is not happening on the street as it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago,” Wright said. “A lot is happening online or at least a lot of the hints of crime are happening online and so by supporting the public safety we have now and being innovative with the technology we have now that would be one way we could expand our protection.”

Doug Brown told Local4 News conversations need to happen with people leaving the force.

“Well I think you have to have communications with the people that are retiring, find out why they are retiring same with the people that’s moving to other places why are they moving to other places and you have to sit down with the officers you have here and see what we can do to keep them to bring in new officers and to bring in new blood,” Brown said.

Workforce shortages are also playing a big role in the 2022 elections. The race for Grand Island Mayor has one person who understands the struggles of having to staff a business.

“As an entrepreneur workforce is always top of mind not just now but it should be always and I feel like now with this crisis level we are at it’s really something we are talking about and I am glad we are,” Wright said. “There are several pieces that go into the workforce and childcare is one of them that is often pushed to the back burner.”

Doug Brown said the goal should start with holding on to in-state talent.

“Well we need to make sure that our high school kids when they graduate and they’re going to college or they’re going out into the workforce that they stay here or come back here that’s the big thing,” Brown said. “Then we need to attract younger people to come here and work.”

Current Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele has a more optimistic view of the current shortage.

“We have people who have a great work ethic, we have people who want good jobs so I think those things will level out,” Steele said. “Right now we are dealing with high inflation and a worker shortage, but I think the economy is going to readjust.”

With the need for more workers comes the need for housing for those workers. As Mayor, Brown said he would look into the funds available to the city.

“We could get public, federal, and state grants,” Brown said. “It’s all communications, sit down with builders find out what their needs are, and with future buyers. We need to make it affordable, I mean you have to be a first-time home buyer and be able to afford the house.”

Julie Wright says the term affordable housing means something different to each person.

“Oftentimes affordable housing is kinda the buzzword, and honestly, we all want affordable housing, but I feel affordable means something different to everyone,” Wright said. “We really can’t focus on affordable housing until we have attainable housing and accessible housing right now there is a shortage and so until we can get enough houses the prices are naturally going to be raised.”

The Incumbent said he has already put in work to help the housing issue.

“We’ve changed our zoning for mixed-use development, and what that would mean is you see it at a lot of malls around where you allow some residential housing to go into a retail area that’s very popular around America,” Steele said.

After Tuesday’s election, the top two candidates will move on to the mid-term elections in November.

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