Good Government Council Works to Help Community Understand Candidates, Issues

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The April election is less than three weeks away in communities throughout Western Wisconsin.

A non-partisan group of Eau Claire business leaders is working to help people in the community get to know the political candidates and their stances on the issues.

Next month, people in Eau Claire will get the chance to choose who they want to lead the city council and vote on a $21-million referendum.

And a voluntary group of business leaders say they're getting discouraged with what they describe as increasingly partisan local elections.

"The Chamber felt we need to be sure we knew where candidates who are running for public office stood on the issues, specifically those issues which impact the business community," said Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce President Bob McCoy.

That's why the Good Government Council was formed five years ago.

The group meets about a half-dozen times per year to develop questionnaires for candidates to fill out leading up the fall and spring elections.

"Sometimes it's business-related questions, sometimes it's just questions about where you think the community is going, why are you running," said Dan Riebe, president of People's Bank of Wisconsin in Eau Claire.

The council then compiles all of the responses and sends them out to the chamber's roughly 1,100 business members.

Dan Riebe is chair of the Good Government Council and president of People's Bank.

He says he hopes that if people read a candidate's response they don't agree with, it will push them to become more active in the political process.

This group of nine started, at first, contacting city council candidates.

But they now follow candidates for school board, county board and state offices.

Issues on the questionnaire include the budget and improving the quality of life in Western Wisconsin.

The businessmen we talked to say they find the information helpful.

"It's a way for us to be able to gauge which candidates will be good, business-friendly, will be good to the business community, and help us create jobs and help the Eau Claire economy," said Andy Schlafer, of Edward Jones in Eau Claire.