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A positive exchange of views

Trio of mayoral candidates meet in public form Tuesday

Incumbent Democrat Richard Kopczick, left, and Independent candidate John T. Brooks listen as Republican Drew Muffler makes a point during a mayor forum presented Tuesday evening by the Morris Kiwanis Club.
Incumbent Democrat Richard Kopczick, left, and Independent candidate John T. Brooks listen as Republican Drew Muffler makes a point during a mayor forum presented Tuesday evening by the Morris Kiwanis Club.

The three candidates for mayor offered their vision for Morris Tuesday Night at a Mayoral Forum.

Democratic incumbent Richard Kopczick, who has held the office since 2001, touted his experience and said his goal was to continue to improve the community.

Republican candidate Drew Muffler, who has been the Third Ward alderman since 2009, called for a reduction in the size of government and spending.

And Independent candidate John Brooks, who has been involved in the United States military for 21 years, called for more creativity to reduce crime, get more money to schools, and promote job growth.

The forum, which was hosted by the Morris Kiwanis Club and held at the Morris VFW, was a mostly civil affair that several residents in attendance described as “informative.”

The candidates fielded nine questions — which came from a list of 19 developed by community members — and delivered brief opening and closing statements.

Questions ranged from general topics, such as the challenges facing Morris, to specific issues, such as the candidates’ opinions on the new municipal services building and the expansion or addition of a new landfill.

There were numerous overlaps in the candidates’ positions.

None of the three, for example, supported constructing or expanding a landfill, each citing the need to explore new waste disposal technologies.

Both Muffler and Brooks disagreed with the construction of the municipal services building.

But there were, as you would expect, some differences in opinion.

Muffler and Brooks each criticized the current city budget.

Brooks said the city is spending too much.

“[Taxpayers] are cutting back and reining in their spending,” Brooks said. “So should the city.”

Muffler, in his answer, echoed Brooks and said the city should stick to its core needs.

“I don’t run my house like this and the city shouldn’t either,” he said.

But Kopczick said the city budget does operate like a family budget, and that the city has saved up to pay for projects like the municipal services building, which he said was built for the future.

Another point of contention was the viability of eliminating the garbage fee.

Brooks said he would repeal it.

Muffler said the city is currently being overtaxed and that he would also seek to repeal.

“If elected, I would do everything in my power as mayor to reduce the fee with the overall goal of eliminating it,” he said.

Kopcizck disagreed.

“I don’t know how we would do that without raising taxes or expanding a landfill,” he said.

The occasional jab was traded, such as when Brooks described the choice faced by Morris voters April 9 as one between “two good old boys” and one offering a change for the city.

But mostly, the gloves stayed off, the candidates instead opting to let their differences speak for themselves.

Morris resident Carl Kramer came into the event undecided. He said the range of questions will help him decide next Tuesday.

“It was really informative,” Kramer said.

Morris resident Kim Struck, a teacher at Saratoga School, agreed and said the event, moderated by Kiwanis member Tim Malmquist, was well-run.

“I was able to get a feel for what each candidate wanted to accomplish,” Struck said. “It was a positive way for everyone to get their views out there.”

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