I’ll have character with a side of change, please


After consuming this past week’s candidate forums hosted by the Fort Madison Partners, I’ve come to a couple conclusions.

Things are never as bad as they seem, but to the individual, they are as bad as perceived.

I saw some great things and some great passion, but I’m a progressive person with a minor in history… so all things get considered.


And it’s with that mentality that Pen City Current’s editorial staff (that’s me) throws out these endorsements for the upcoming city elections on Nov. 5.

Mayoral candidate Matt Mohrfeld is running on character. And the very many of us that know Matt know that he’s…. well, a character that’s always running.

Of the three candidates who boldly put their names on the ballot, Mohrfeld was the most polished and prepared for the debate. He gets my endorsement.

What does that mean? Just that he gets my vote. But since we are a news outlet and pay close attention to our government, our points have validity.

It wasn’t lost on me that Joe Helmick said at least once that he hadn’t prepared to be mayor, and on multiple occasions said he just threw his hat in the ring. Although Joe seems to be a man of the people, my advice is this. Get prepared… Do the diligence worthy of the chair as it is evident that you care deeply about this community. We could do worse than having you on the council.

Rodney Hoskins II, I believe has thousands of ideas in his head and shows up at meetings and wants to be informed, but had trouble staying on message Thursday. We clearly will need support from our legislators and governmental agencies and you don’t get a lot of time with those important people so you have to stay on message, be succinct and to the point. And… make the ask. Mohrfeld has better history with that work and therefore presents a better future.

He also ushered in this polarizing ordinance allowing golf carts, ATVs, and UTVs on most Fort Madison city streets. That move may have changed the course of the election.

One has to give value to the fact that most, if not all, city councilman have said they don’t care whether the vehicles are allowed on city streets or not. They stand on manufacturer guidelines that they are off-road vehicles, and squarely behind their constituents.

A Pen City Current poll that had more than 1,200 responses (eerily close to the number of people who voted in the last city election) showed 64% of those responding didn’t want the vehicles on the street. This will have an impact on the two council elections.

Remember, the Mayor in our city government doesn’t have a vote. People who want the golf cart ordinance changed may stuff the box for a candidate that represents that change.

Kevin Rink is being challenged by Jerry Hamelton for an at-large seat and Rink’s support for that measure could be his undoing. Kevin is looking to serve his fourth full term and played it somewhat safe last week. However he did say he was in favor of looking harder at a franchise tax to help the city navigate its choppy budget waters. Rink said he introduced the idea several years ago, but didn’t do his diligence to make it work.

Hamelton had the most passionate answer to any question at either forum when he said it would be morally corrupt to tax city residents any more than they already are. I was taken by that passion, but I think anyone that says something is off the table is a risky bet.

Hamelton brings a fresh voice and a lot of passion. We need passion and the current council, despite two seats not having incumbents in the election, needs freshening. Rink has served well for close to 15 years, Hamelton’s vitality and knowledge of the inner workings of law enforcement would give the council an added layer.

That brings me to the 1st Ward race between Rebecca Bowker and Chris Sorrentino. This could be tighter than you might think. Chris called me a couple weeks back fired up because I wrote that he “stopped short of saying he would take anything off the table” as far as the police/fire budgets, a responsible but unpopular position, but clearly said he wouldn’t support reduction in staffing in either department. Folks upset need to read what he said… he would not support reductions in staff in those departments.

He took a little flack for that and he shouldn’t have. Responsible spending is a big part of responsible leadership. No one wants to cut police and fire and I think we’re all safe in assuming that would be the last… last resort, but we’re irresponsible if we don’t think that there is a last… last resort.

Bowker is analytical through her career. She took a safer path through the forum saying she would need to see the data and information on most issues before she could say which side she landed on, whether it was the budget or other city projects.

Through her connections at the Iowa Department of Corrections, she would certainly have access to people in dealing with the Historic ISP site, and possibly other avenues for much needed resources.

Sorrentino is still cultivating those relationships. His desire to run, coupled with his passion for making an impact in the community he made home, makes him also an attractive candidate for an at-large seat in two years.

This was the toughest one to pick, but I was taken aback when Sorrentino said he’d spoken with representatives of “big box” chains and if elected would reach out to them again. Hey – don’t hold the voters hostage, smoke ’em if you got ’em. The point being, we would hope if you have those connections you would share that information and work those sources whether you’re elected or not.

As an aside, I’m delighted to continue to get to know Tyler Miller who will take Matt Mohrfeld’s 3rd Ward seat running unopposed. This young man is 21 years old, is moving in the circles and asking the right questions. I didn’t feature Miller because he’s unopposed but you should get to know him. He’s approachable, hungry for knowledge, and wants to engage the youth in our community and he’s up for a conversation with just about anybody.

Get to know him.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor/co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com

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