Tom Ellis and Sherise Gibson met with people during an open tea Saturday. Ellis is a candidate for mayor and Gibson is running for city council.
Approximately 30 people met with the candidates, who spoke on a variety of issues. The tea was hosted by Dr. Nadine Brewer and friends.
Ellis said he regrets not attending a candidates forum last week sponsored by Storm Lake Business and Professional Women and the Chamber of Commerce. However, he will be on Buena Vista University local access channel this week along with Jon Kruse for the weekly show "Focus." It will air at 6 p.m.
Ellis said he is concerned about the recent closings of several Storm Lake businesses. He suggested hosting a town meeting and asking businesses and merchants what they need from the city and the citizens to remain open.
"A Super Wal-Mart doesn't seem to be the answer... for our economy right now," he said. "I am all for new businesses to come to our area and will look for ways to attract new perspective business person to move to Storm Lake.
"When you kill the little mom and pop business and kill the business that has roots in a community, you essentially kill the community," Ellis said.
Ellis and Gibson both stressed their concern about the lake and want to work with the Lake Preservation Association to see how the City of Storm Lake can help with finding funding to dredge the lake. Ellis said the city needs to work with the county and state.
"We all benefit from the lake and what it has to offer," he said. "I believe that the lake is not just the DNR's responsibility, but should be the concern of everyone."
While he is not certain the city has funds to support dredging, if elected would spend the time to search every avenue available.
"I am open to suggestions and will be willing to listen to them," he said.
Ellis also voiced concern about a shortage of lower-income housing, but he is also concerned about low wages throughout the region.
"A recent survey of young people showed that 65 percent of the students will move out of the area because of low pay and lack of jobs," he said.
However, he said he can understand why youth are moving from this region to find better opportunities.
"Allowing our larger employers to continue to offer lower wages should be a major concern to everyone and should be addressed head on," Ellis said.
On Saturday he pointed out how the City of Alta is applying for a $350,000 housing rehabilitation grant. He would like to see the city move on such funding opportunities.
On diversity, Gibson said she would like to see the city's efforts at hiring bilingual staff members more publicized. She said she does not think the city has hired enough.
"The city needs to do more all the time to keep up with the changing times," she said. "I also would like to see our bilingual citizens play a stronger part in the governmental process."
If elected, Gibson said she would approached city employers to see if any employees would want to "step forward and give back to the community as volunteers and elected officials," she said.
Both Ellis and Gibson said some city residents are concerned about non-English speaking Storm Lakers. Both candidates agree that a business should pay for their employees to learn English.
"This will encourage the parents to speak English at home and their children will pick up the English language faster," Gibson said.
Ellis said he would promote the return of the neighborhood watch program to help relieve some pressures from the local police department.
Both candidates also said many residents have concerns regarding potential railroad crossing closings and a lack of lighting on some city streets at night.
"All these things costs money, we know that, but these are important issues that we want addressed," Ellis said. "We need to take care of basic things before we spend our money on the aquatic center."
He said BVU does offer its indoor pool for community use. "They have opened their doors and we should take advantage of the opportunity," he said.
Residents at Lake Pointe Villa discussed the problems senior citizens were having with lack of parking space in front of the senior center and other concerns that revolved around the senior community.
Ellis said that if elected he would form a panel and would definitely look into how the community could make the necessary accommodations or arrangements to assist them with their needs if at all possible.
If elected Ellis said he will try to be in the Mayor's office Monday through Saturday in the morning.
"I would encourage the citizens of Storm Lake to come to the Mayor's office with any questions, concerns or advice," he said. "I will be their mayor if elected and feel I should be accessible as much as possible. I want to be a hands-on Mayor."