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Voter's guide: City council candidates

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Farmington, 55024
Farmington Independent
651-463-7730 customer support
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

We asked all candidates for city positions the same six questions and gave them each 900 words with which to answer. They got to use those words however they thought was best.

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The questions are:

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for this city council position?

2. What do you like about Farmington? What would you change?

3. The issue of a divide between north and south Farmington comes up a lot. Do you believe there is a divide? If so, what can the city do to address it?

4. What do you believe is the role of the city council in attracting commercial development to Farmington?

5. Cities have to balance the need to provide services with a desire to keep taxes low. What would your priorities be when putting together a balanced budget?

6. If you could address just one issue as a member of the Farmington City Council what would the issue be and how would you address it?

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Jason Bartholomay

Why are you most qualified?

I am the most qualified candidate because I have experience managing budgets in large organizations, successfully eliminating waste and planning for the future. I have experience optimizing capital budgets to reduce the cost of capital for the organizations I have worked for. I know I can bring my knowledge and experience to the city council to ensure our government is as financially efficient as possible.

I am dedicated to my community. As a veteran and active volunteer, I share the values of personal responsibility, integrity, and accountability our community expects from its elected officials.

What do you like? What would you change?

When my wife Jennifer and I moved to Farmington, it was based mainly on our decision of how we wanted to raise a family. We looked for a community where our children will be able to have an excellent education and live in a safe neighborhood. In order to keep these virtues, it is important for our city government to manage growth responsibly. We appreciate the excellent work our public employees have done to make our city safe and clean.

However, property values are declining due to the current housing market correction. It is important for our city to do its part to minimize this impact on its residents. I believe that keeping property taxes low will create demand to live in our city and help improve property values.

It is incumbent on the city council to balance spending with available tax revenue to ensure our budget is efficient. Earlier this year, the city council voted to increase its pay by 57 percent. I find this unacceptable at a time when homeowners are struggling. I will vote to repeal this increase and work diligently to weed out other unnecessary costs to our city.

How do you address divide?

I believe that some residents perceive a "north/south divide" issue in Farmington. I will work with both sides of this issue to gain common ground to mitigate concerns of our residents. I will work to reduce this from being a wedge issue among residents and solve the problem constructively. I can approach this on neutral ground.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

I will develop policies that are pro-business and have our economic interests in mind. Commercial development will increase our property values and tax base. This will help alleviate some of the burden homeowners shoulder today. Commercial development will bring good jobs closer to our residents. This will help reduce the cost and hassle of commuting.

What are your budget priorities?

My priority will be to increase property values through infrastructure development, commercial expansion, and decrease residential expansion. Balancing our budget to accomplish these goals will require a dedicated mindset to finding new ways to secure capital for our city without raising taxes. I know that we can be more efficient with the tax revenue we have and also find new sources of capital to improve the services of our city.

Just one issue?

Improve our financial plan.

Our bond rating of A2 creates an added interest cost to our city. I will work to increase our rating to AA or AAA. By increasing our rating, our city can reduce its expenditure of tax revenue on debt. This will help keep taxes low and further ensure we receive capital at the best rate possible.

In order to increase our credit rating, we must develop a financial plan that improves our capital structure so investment banks and credit rating agencies calculate a lower default risk for our city. In turn, I will also ensure our bond issuance is optimized to reduce associated flotation costs.

These changes will cost nothing to the tax payer and will free up revenue for other projects without raising taxes.

Terry Donnelly

Why are you most

qualified?

I feel my greatest strength is my common sense attitude and approach to problem solving. I won't make promises I can't keep but I will promise that any decision I make as a city council member would be made with the best interest of the city at heart. I can't promise I will raise your property values. I can't promise I will vote no on any issue that might raise taxes. I can't promise I will lower your taxes. I won't make these kinds of promises because I couldn't keep them. I will promise to work tirelessly to move Farmington forward and make this a city we can all be proud of.

What do you like? What would you change?

I love the small town atmosphere and the friendly people of Farmington. This is made obvious by the fact that I can go to town, step into one of the local businesses, and strike up a friendly conversation. On the flip side there is a growing frustration over local government and taxes that must be dealt with. This is not an easy problem to solve but a listening, responsive and professional city council would be a great start.

How do you address divide?

If you look at a map of the city one can see a northern cluster of houses and a southern cluster of houses. These two areas of the city have very different demographics. The northern section has a greater concentration of younger families with children in school. The southern section has a greater concentration of people who have called Farmington home for a long time. These two demographic groups have different needs and concerns. Because of this, I do believe there is a difference between north and south. To address this issue the city council must recognize that the difference exists and not take actions favoring one group over the other. The city council must ensure that both areas have equal access to police protection, fire protection and recreational spaces.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

My response will be focused on attracting business development which I consider a much bigger problem than attracting residential development. The city council has to provide the resources to the EDA and city staff to do market studies and whatever else it takes to identify businesses that are best suited to Farmington. After the best fit type of businesses are identified a plan must be developed and executed to actively market Farmington to those business types. The city council must also work to make sure Farmington is perceived as a business friendly city, a city with a "how can we help you" attitude. Farmington does not have the clout to dictate terms and conditions to businesses in the current business climate so it must show that it is willing to roll up its sleeves and get things done.

What are your budget priorities?

My first priority would be public safety. The top priority of the city must be adequate police and fire protection. The citizens must feel that they are safe and that assistance is only a quick call away. After police and fire comes the city infrastructure. Roads must be maintained at a level that ensures safety. The water and sewer system must also be reliable so as to provide an adequate and healthy water supply.

Just one issue?

There are many issues that need to be addressed but I feel there is one issue that overshadows them all and must be addressed before progress can be made on any issue. That one issue is improving the city's image in the eyes of people both inside and outside of Farmington. This tarnished image has many causes. The city/township annexation squabbles, the community education/park and recreation issue, the lighted bridge to nowhere, the Vermillion River Crossing developer squabble, the stormy city council/city administrator relationship (3 city administrators in the last 5 years), the Exchange Bank Building developer squabble, the city/school district new high school issue, the now empty old city hall issue and the city festival organizer frustrations. These are all examples of issues that are printed in the papers and contribute to tarnishing the city's image.

This image problem affects the city's ability to attract new residents and new businesses. It also causes those residents and businesses that are here to wonder if they made the right choice in the first place. In the past, the city's abundant supply of reasonably priced land and tax incentives helped mitigate the image problem. In the current economic environment that is not going to be the case.

Improving the image of Farmington needs to begin at the top, the city council. The council needs to act in a more professional and civil manner as it conducts the business of the city. Each member of the city council is certainly entitled to their opinion on an issue. Discussion on issues must occur in a civil and respectful manner. The city council needs to reach consensus on issues and then speak with one voice. Decision making by the city council must not be approached as a contest where there are winners and losers. Personal interests must be put aside and what is best for the city must be the primary decision making criteria. Finally, after the council makes a decision, all council members must acknowledge and accept the council's decision regardless of where they stood.

With this type of behavior as the norm, everyone will have a higher opinion of Farmington which will make tackling the real problems possible.

Adam Kneeland

Why are you most

qualified?

I feel that I have the experience in the areas that Farmington can improve on, one of those being economic development.  I work on a daily basis with developers of large and small corporations to research where and why they should build.  I want to bring this to Farmington to enhance our economic development.  This is a big responsibility of our city council which has admitted in the past that little is being done.  We need someone who is not afraid to approach commercial and industrial corporations and show them the benefits of Farmington.

What do you like? What would you change?

I enjoy the fact that Farmington is a smaller community with growth potential.  When my wife and I were looking at places to settle and raise our family, we were looking for a smaller community that would eventually grow.  Growing up in a small town, I understand the values of small towns and feel I can bring that understanding to Farmington.  One way to bring this small town feel to Farmington is to enhance our community programs for all residents, especially our youth.  Instead of cutting educational and recreational programs, we need to create them.  We also need more options for our youth such as a movie theater.

How do you address divide?

I feel there is a divide between north and south Farmington.  The city seems to forget about south Farmington and we need to enhance their business and values just as much as north Farmington.  The businesses and residents of south Farmington are just as important to our community and growth as the north, and they should not be forgotten about.  One option I have to bring the sides together is to hold regular meetings so the businesses can address any issues they have and how we can all work together to improve our community.  I feel we need to entice businesses to build in our downtown and the south side.  One thing I propose is to give some type of incentive to current and future businesses that build in our current downtown, as some of our neighboring communities do. 

What is city's role in attracting

business?

I feel that this should be one of, if not the most important, role of our city council.  We are elected by our residents and should take on the responsibility to enhance their community.  Some of the residents I talked with feel we do not have ample amount of retail in Farmington, such as Target or Wal-Mart.  We need to keep some of the revenue in Farmington instead of our residents going to our neighboring cities.  Everything stems from economic development; it creates more jobs and brings in more tax revenue for the city which in turn lowers the amount of taxes needed by our residents.

What are your budget priorities?

I feel that this is an important role for city council.  We have excellent services such as our police and fire department.  We cannot cut funding to these services as we all want them to be available when the need arises.  My approach is to go line by line in the budget to see what contracts we can possibly bid out for a lower price, such as phone services, office supplies, ect.  We also need to look at some of the pay increases given to certain departments which may not be necessary at this time.  This will keep our residents' taxes in line, which I feel is the ultimate goal; to look out for our residents.

Just one issue?

I feel that our residents' voices are not heard enough and their concerns are not taken as seriously as they should be.  Since we are elected by them, we should do what is in their best interest and not what makes the city council look good.  Many of the residents I talked with say they have concerns that never get brought up to other city officials.  I am running for them, I want to be the voice and ears of our residents and will not be afraid to address their issues/concerns to the council and do what we need to do to fix them.  For more information, please visit my web site.  I would love to answer any questions you may have.

Julie May

Why are you most

qualified?

I have been working since I was 16 years old. You can see my age. Do the math. I have been working full time for quite a while now. I have also worked in very diverse jobs -- in the retail, manufacturing, agricultural, energy and financial industries. This mix of employment experience combined with my educational degree in marketing and management make me a qualified candidate for city council. I have a passion for this town and it is proven in the volunteer work that I do. I am used to being busy and getting things done. I like to see results that make sense, assets being utilized to their full potential and people working productively in their jobs.

What do you like? What would you change?

Farmington provides me and my husband a safe environment to raise our family. We are excited about the opening of the new high school. We enjoy our church and neighborhood. Our community has a county fairground, parks, a senior center, a senior living campus and nursing home and a variety of small businesses. I would like to see more retail, extensions of our trail system and more industrial growth to provide more jobs in our community.

How do you address divide?

The divide should be considered nothing more than real estate ... not an attitude. When the city planned residential growth many years ago on the "north" side, I am sure they didn't do that with the intention of creating a divide between the old and the new ... the north and the south. They did it with the intention of creating growth for a community, to provide opportunities for land owners to benefit from the sale of their land, for the local builders and vendors to get work, for retail to come in after seeing the new rooftops. Now, just because that growth has slowed, we can't fault the people on the "north" side for living in those houses that were planned and built. After all, we are all part of the same town ... right? I think where some alienation now comes from is because it seems most of the talk about economic development is only about the "south" side. More talk and resources should be going towards discussion about development throughout the city ... not just downtown and east. If that was the area that the city was going to plan most of its real economic growth, then why did they put all of those houses on the north side? So ... the city needs to speak more in terms of development of the city ... not use the words downtown or east side or north side ... we are all in the city limits. The 2030 comp plan has to include considerations for all residential areas ... both current and planned. We have a unique downtown area that many cities are envious of. I believe that many of our new residents were attracted to Farmington because of its unique qualities. Those residents that have lived here for many years ... some for generations ... want to be sure that we maintain those unique qualities. I don't believe anyone wants to lose that. But, we need to open our eyes a little wider and see the big picture when focusing on new growth.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

A city council's responsibility is first and foremost to the residents of the community. We should ask the tough questions, be leaders, provide direction and not just criticize but be part of a team to create solutions.

What are your budget priorities?

Budget balancing time provides a great opportunity to review each line item on that budget. My priority would be to first examine all of the line items and ask the tough questions before any consideration could be made to new agendas. When I ran for council two years ago, I made the statement that we needed to stop the practice of including building permit income in the budget. That was not heeded then and is still included, although not to the degree it once was. But the point is, this practice must stop. This provides true fiscal responsibility to those we serve. Now we certainly need to include projections in our planning, but we should not be tallying up money before it is received. As building permit income comes in, we can then have discussions about needs and wants ... but shouldn't we collect it first?

Just one issue?

An important issue the city council needs to address is if our community is being portrayed as a pro business community. We need to examine what we can do to improve our image in this very competitive environment. What can we do to attract more industrial growth that will bring more local jobs? This type of growth can get our housing market back on track which will in turn bring in more retail growth. We need to be more cognizant of how our own residents feel about their city. After all, many are working outside of the community and have a huge network of business contacts. Now that most of the staff will be on the second floor of the new city hall or behind cubicles, they need to be aware of the image they are portraying to our own residents and to those that visit us. Are we really portraying a welcoming image. As they say, first impressions are worth millions ... so we need to make sure that we are capturing those opportunities to make those great first impressions to lead us on the path of strong economic growth and an upbeat thriving community.

David Pritzlaff

Why are you most

qualified?

I am the only candidate with experience as a council member. In my first four-year term I have worked hard on all levels for the residents. I have always made myself available to the public. I am aware of all services that the city of Farmington provides and the operations of them. I have built great relationships with other elected officials in our surrounding communities. I have also worked well with higher government officials. I have served on many different boards and represent the city on transportation issues. Continuity is very important with these relationships and if reelected I will continue to represent and work hard with these people.

What do you like? What would you change?

We have a lot of wonderful people living in Farmington. I have met and seen a lot in the past four to five weeks by knocking on doors. Most people have a lot of pride. Their yards and their houses look great. Certainly, some hard work out there. We also have a lot of challenges to continue building our community.

How do you address divide?

I don't look as if the city is north and south. It is obvious that when giving directions for someone we can use north and south as directions. I view residents and businesses north as part of a community. I have welcomed new businesses to Farmington as the good of the city. I would like to suggest that we all welcome any one including business to the city of Farmington as it grows and completes the community into a greater place to live. People downtown can benefit from businesses along Pilot Knob or any where else in the city and vise versa. 

What is city's role in attracting

business?

As of March of this year the city council are the members of the Economic Development Authority. I believe the more we do to promote economic development the greater success for companies to want to locate in the city. I have taken additional steps in the last three to four weeks and requested information be sent to a company. I believe us as the EDA we need to direct staff or head of economic development to do what we believe will help us. We have worked on issues for three years with consultants and need to move forward. A change to a economic development director could be what is now needed. I believe marketing is a key issue.

What are your budget priorities?

For me to put together a balanced budget would first mean expenditures cannot exceed revenues. If expenditures and revenues match it is a balanced budget. The key question here is the amount of the budget from one year to the next. We do need to provide day to day services for basic needs (i.e. sewer, water, streets, etc.). I also feel that we need to provide a certain amount of amenities to make it a livable community such as all recreational activities, parks, ball fields, walking paths, etc. while also including upgrades and/or additional services to Rambling River Center for our seniors. This city has diverse age population and to balance that need is a priority.

It is hard to take the phone call that we don't have a particular service or amenity but my goal is to keep taxes low. When asking for more money to improve services or amenities it's easy to hear from taxpayers don't spend more money.

We as a council have already reduced next year's levy limit from what was proposed to us. We've directed staff to reduce from 6.98 percent to a 5 percent levy increase by the Sept. 15 deadline. We also discussed reviewing the proposed budget and making any changes by the Dec. 31 deadline. Our next budget workshop is scheduled for Oct. 29 where I will recommend more changes to lower the levy amount. My goal is to use the property value of a house in 2008 and without the value of that property decreasing for 2009, I would like to see zero change in the city tax. With this particular property value dropping $7,800 from 2008 market value to 2009 value the city tax in 2009 would drop $23. If the market value stayed the same, with a 5 percent levy increase for 2009, the city tax would go up $11. I have some simple recommendations that would accomplish the goal of zero increase in city tax with the 2009 market value being what it is in 2008.

Just one issue?

If I could change one issue it would be contracted services. Any services that we as a city could not complete or provide needs to be bid out to a number of service providers. We all know with the competitive bidding process comes more aggressive pricing. Historical use of a contracted provider service should not be assumed to be the best value.

Ed Samuelson

Why are you most qualified?

I believe my integrity and management style will fit well as part of the leadership team that governs Farmington. I have been following the local political scene since we moved here and I am familiar with the working relationship between the council and city staff. I offer to the voters a voice of reason in a time of economic uncertainty, promising that every spending request will be scrutinized as to its benefit and return on investment.

I have been active in the city for the past 14 years when we first moved here. I have served on the senior center advisory board and am currently in my second term on the heritage preservation commission. I am involved with a local group that promotes community enhancement efforts as well as chairman of River Valley Project Explore advisory council which offers recreational programming to adults with disabilities. So I am a seasoned and proven civic stakeholder.

What do you like? What would you change?

Farmington has wonderful livability quality about it; we have good schools and teachers, great shopping and ample parks and trails. We also are in close proximity to the greater metropolitan area and also border several rural agricultural townships. These attributes are not found every where and certainly do not come without a cost, in our case it is a lack of commercial development that causes our residential tax rate to be higher than neighboring communities.

What I would change would be to reign in spending and recommend that city council implement government efficiencies commission to recommend ways that tax dollars could be saved. I think we need greater resident influence on our spending patterns and a more open form of local government.

We need to build a firm partnership with our school district and be on the same page when spending and taxation issues are discussed, striving at every step to cap expenses and limit the increasing tax burden being placed on our residents.

How do you address divide?

I feel there was a divide several years ago as north Farmington began to develop in earnest, especially among the business owners. There doesn't seem to be the same sentiments anymore as time and development has decreased the distance between the north and south ends. I think the city did the right thing by building the maintenance garage and public safety complex where they did.  

What is city's role in attracting business?

I see a need to establish a strategic economic development plan that accompanies and works in harmony with the 2030 comprehensive plan. I would like to see a business retention and expansion subcommittee formed. We need to partner with the local business groups and address issues they are facing head on with all the resources we can provide.

The city staff has done remarkable job in identifying and planning for future development. We need to now take proactive steps to begin that future by promoting Farmington as a place to not only call home but as a place to be for business.

We also need to encourage smart residential growth, encourage developers to a return to building a mix of affordable housing options. With roof tops in place, retail and commercial projects will follow.

What are your budget priorities?

Cities have to balance the need to provide services with a desire to keep taxes low. What would your priorities be when putting together a balanced budget?

Of course funding for public safety should be any council's number one priority. We should provide full funding for our police, fire and ambulance transportation departments. There are certain parts of the budget that are composed of fixed costs that cannot be tampered with, such as bond payments and employee benefit costs, however there are numerous areas in both the revenue and expense sides that can be looked at for increases or reductions.

It is easy to say to that there are areas of the budget that can be cut, however I believe that the role of council is not necessarily to debate each line expense, but to give guidance to our administrators that cost cutting measures should be in place.

I think every resident has accepted that death and taxation are a part of life, what we need to do is earn and maintain an irrefutable stance that we are doing everything possible to maintain costs and yet provide the best in services.

Just one issue?

I would address the level and quality of communication between the city and its residents. I would like to see improvement in our web site and a weekly column in the local paper as an effort to keep citizens informed of local issues and projects.

I also would follow the examples of the school district in having an electronic news update that can be emailed to residents with information concerning council meetings, workshops and other upcoming civic events.

I think the lack of communication is evident when recommended budget reductions are not made public or discussed until the release of the first budget draft. I feel there should be no surprises to staff or citizenry ever. The outpouring of support for the recent pool closure idea should serve as an example of the results of such closeted discussions and halt such an event from happening again.

The same runs true as many residents are unaware of the nature or reasoning behind the construction of the roundabout on Hwy 3. These projects should be constantly in front of the public and we cannot expect our local papers to provide this coverage, we need to create our own internal communication systems and improve upon the ones we have in place now.

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