BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A newly announced candidate for mayor of Fort Madison says the city has become stagnant and he wants to help restart growth.
Chris Sorrentino, who has taken out a petition to run for Mayor and already has enough signatures to satisfy the 30 he said were required to get on the ballot, said he wants to usher in an era where the city goes back to the basics, stops what he terms as “stupid spending” and bring the residents back into control of government.
The truck driver came to the forefront of local politics when he tried to fight an amendment to city code that prohibited him from parking his tractor on city streets or on his property. Despite his efforts the amendment was passed.
But Sorrentino said that setback isn’t what prompted him to seek office.
“I’ve been very impressed with a lot of the feedback I’m getting from people,” Sorrentino said Friday. “I feel that everyone is amply ready for a change. The residents I’ve spoken with have lost faith in the city’s government.”
Sorrentino said one of his main platforms is doing what is necessary to help the school district get a new elementary school built.
“Last November when we put the school on the ballot, you went to the ballot and you were voting for a new school and a new park. We don’t need a new park and there wasn’t enough discussion on it so people didn’t know what they were voting for and voted against it.”
He said the city council needs to be more engaged in the process because quality and contemporary education are a critical part of bringing jobs to the area. So the city council should have been h0lding meetings to help the school district get that measure passed.
“It needs to happen like that because at the end of the day regardless of who’s on the council and who’s the mayor, the city belongs to the citizens. They elect us to represent them and to do what’s right for them and by them. So they need to have a very big voice in what goes on.”
He said there is enough room on the new middle school property to have an elementary school and a high school on the property, which would save on transportation and help traffic flow.
“It’s tearing our city apart. If you go to Central Lee, there is a campus where everything is in the same location. Buses come in and they’re gone and that’s what needs to happen,” Sorrentino said.
With Fort Madison and Lee County still struggling with unemployment and dilapidated roads, Sorrentino said he’s frustrated with the lack of progress in a town he wanted to come live in.
“I’m disgruntled. When we moved to Fort Madison, I was living in Burlington. I’m not a big city guy, I’ve lived in metroplex cities and rural areas and I like smaller towns. The first time I visited Fort Madison, I came down with a buddy of mine and drove through here. And I looked around and said this is Fort Madison and he said, ‘Yeah, this is a podunk little town’ and I said, “I love it!”
He said he would also advocate for youth programs so they have places to go and have activities and get to know each other again. We need to include our fire departments and local police to help get those types of programs going.”
Other platforms would be increasing programs and aid for people with criminal records who are trying to get on the right track.
“Let’s have programs to give them reinforcement to keep them out of those ways of life.”
The economy is another area that Sorrentino feels is lagging behind other communities and without a lot coming in from outside the city, he said the city needs to be more responsible with its spending.
“Avenue G, since the theater opened, is starting to draw more traffic, but it’s local traffic,” he said. “But there is a lot of stupid spending on the city’s part. Unnecessary spending. Things need to be prioritized. There’s nothing to draw tourism here. We have our few events like the Rodeo and a few fishing tournaments but other than that nothing to draw tourism.”
We have a fort that’s in disarray and we have a riverfront that is just sitting there. We need to do something with that. We have a number of slips on the river that are sitting dormant. Those should be brought back up and put to good use, especially in the summer. Boaters have Burlington and Keokuk, but there’s nothing in the middle.”
He said one of the other things he’d like to see is once a month have a family day in Riverview Park, where families come out, fish, have games, maybe even twice a month, but he feels there’s just not a lot going on down there.
“We need to start drawing families back together. That’s not going to kill the city financially but other spending has to stop. One example is the city voting yes and spending an obscene amount of money on historic street signs for the historic downtown area, but they won’t redo the roads. And now they’re wanting to spend a half a million on that intersection. You need to step back and take a look. If there are no accidents and there’s not a general safety hazard then why spend the money. That’s stupid spending. I could see if there was an accident every day or once a week.”
Engineering studies done on the intersection in question, at Avenue L and 26th Street, show that it has the highest accident rate at .97 compared to the next highest at .78.
Sorrentino also said he thinks the money spent on rehabbing the waste water treatment plant is out of line.
“At some point you have to ask is it cheaper to do the overhaul or to rebuild it. The stupid spending will stop. I will stop it and everything will be looked at from every angle before it’s approved.”
He said his biggest effort will be on rebuilding trust in the city.
“You have to rebuild the trust. That’s part of the biggest hurdle I have. I’m not a politician, I want to go in there to represent the citizens. I actually had no intentions of ever running for office. I wouldn’t even before get into an in depth discussion on politics. But after watching the last two years and Fort Madison falling apart and nothing being done, a lot of it was mind-boggling as you watch what’s going on because you don’t know how to respond. You just sit there and go, ‘Really?’.”
Signature papers for those seeking elections can be taken out anytime from the Secretary of State’s website, but are turned in between Aug. 28 and Sept. 21 for the fall general election.
He said his career won’t get in the way of running the city if he were to win.
Tye are more than supportive of me doing this. My employer has told me that they give me the time I need if I were to win.
He has cut his routes to regional routes and focuses mostly on the east of Fort Madison.