Voter's guide: Dakota County CommissionerWe asked both candidates the same questions and gave them each 1,000 words to answer. They got to use those words however they thought was best. The questions are: 1. Dakota County residents consider transportation issues – moving people more efficiently from one stop to the next, ongoing maintenance on existing roads – a major concern. With the always- present budget constraints, how should county officials face this issue/need? 2. How can Dakota County continue to ensure it is a “premier place in which to live,” while still adhering to its low tax rate? 3. What are the other major issues/challenges facing Dakota County in the next four years? How should they be addressed? 4. Why should people vote for you? 5. Other comments Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
We asked both candidates the same questions and gave them each 1,000 words to answer. They got to use those words however they thought was best.
The questions are:
1. Dakota County residents consider transportation issues – moving people more efficiently from one stop to the next, ongoing maintenance on existing roads – a major concern. With the always- present budget constraints, how should county officials face this issue/need?
2. How can Dakota County continue to ensure it is a “premier place in which to live,” while still adhering to its low tax rate?
3. What are the other major issues/challenges facing Dakota County in the next four years? How should they be addressed?
4. Why should people vote for you?
5. Other comments
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
How should county address
The Dakota County Board of Commissioners has made funding of transportation one of our top issues. We know it's a major expectation of our citizens to have a quality road and transit system in our county. We have to develop a system that moves people and goods with minimal congestion. Dakota County uses a five-year CIP (Capital Improvement Program), which allows us to schedule certain projects to maximize our dollars in coordination with local communities, state and federal governments. The state legislature passed a new transportation bill in 2008; this will provide our county with much needed funding to continue to upgrade our roadways.
Dakota County is also moving quickly to finalize the Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit System. With major federal and state grant dollars, this project will become a reality in 2010-11. This transit project will follow Cedar Avenue in Lakeville to the Mall of America in Bloomington with several stops in Apple Valley.
How do you
balance taxes and quality of life?
My goal is to make Dakota County “a premier place in which to live and work.” There are several items that we need to address now and for the future. It is important for us to have a sustainable and vigorous economic growth. Economic growth increases employment opportunities and living standards in our county. Providing safe and efficient transportation is necessary to support the economic vitality. Accessible and affordable, safe and decent housing is essential to all individuals. This will ensure a workforce that is able to sustain economic development. I want people to feel safe in their communities. I want to see Dakota County provide programs that will be proactive and not reactive to creating healthy communities. I want to see more facilities and enhancement added to our park system. Opportunities for recreation and enjoyment enhance the quality of life for our citizens. Having said all this, “Keeping Dakota County financially sound is my first priority.” Residents expect the county to spend their money wisely, maximizing government effectiveness and minimizing waste of resources. We must continue to evaluate all county services and re-prioritize programs if necessary. I pledge to keep Dakota County financially sound and responsive to the needs of our citizens. Dakota County has the lowest tax rate of all 87 counties across the state and I aim to keep it that way.
What’s a major issue for the
Growth seems to be identified in our citizen surveys as a major issue. This growth has put a tremendous strain on county-provided services. Transportation, libraries, parks, environmental issues, criminal justice systems, human services and community programs have seen annual double-digit increases in demand for services. Long-range planning to help meet increased citizen demands is critical. we must be proactive in creating these plans. Finding available resources in these economic tines will certainly be a challenge.
In addition, county governments across the state receive new legislative mandates to provide various programs without adequate funding from the state. This is becoming more and more of an issue for property taxpayers. I will work hard to keep property taxes affordable and also work with our state elected officials to reduce the unfunded mandates that end up unfairly on your property taxes.
The last issue I would address is the looming state deficit. There are projections of a $2 billion shortfall and maybe more. I've seen the state's budge fluctuate over the years. When the state budget is down, local units of government, like counties, are asked to provide more services. Dakota County has weathered financial swings very well in the past because we have had steady growth in residential and commercial valuations. Due to the current real estate market conditions, we cannot rely on that tool again. Tough decisions will have to be made and with my years of experience, I'm ready to meet the challenge.
My experience, knowledge and leadership abilities will be valuable assets as Dakota County works to deliver the right services for the right cost. People want better and safe roads, improvements to county parks and broader library service. They also want more programs that provide services to senior citizens, physical and mentally disabled, families and children. The demand for all these programs and many more has sharply increased. Balancing the checkbook is not always easy or popular, but it must be done. I take this responsibility of caring for your tax dollars very seriously. I will continue to bring a common sense approach to the county's decision-making process. I've enjoyed working for and helping citizens across my district and I'm looking forward to continue serving as your county commissioner.
I'm asking for your support on Nov. 4.
How should county address
As county commissioners, we must ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely and require strict accountability for all spending. With our multitude of transportation issues, we must partner with all available entities to complete mass transit and other transportation projects efficiently and as cost-effective as possible. With our present economy, we must be leading, rather than following, the curve in our ability to move commerce and citizens.
I believe we must be more aggressive in our desire for the Red Rock Commuter rail to Hastings. The Lakeville Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) seems to moving right along with studies and land acquisition, but after accepting a .5 percent sales tax in the transportation bill, there appears to be little or no concern for commuter rail to Hastings. This is a major concern to our citizens in District One, and we need solid information on the progress. If there is a reason for delay, we want to know what it is and when it will be resolved.
How do you
balance taxes and quality of life?
In my opinion, we need more access to information for our citizens in the activities of our County Board. Board meetings are televised on cable, but the viewer has no idea what will be discussed. An agenda could easily be added to the screen to periodically inform the viewer of today’s board topics. I also have a concern with tracking the progress of specific topics in the board minutes because there is no search mechanism on the Web site.
We need to inform our citizens on what our County Commissioners do and what these folks are paid for this part-time position. While campaigning the last few months, I have been asked those very questions, and following my response, they have been shocked. It’s interesting how we often hear that of the 87 counties in Minnesota, we have the lowest tax rate. That sounds positive, but if we are that effective in managing our revenue in some areas, how do we reconcile paying County Commissioners a salary of $64,700 a year for a part-time job? We know that the numbers can be manipulated to say whatever we want them to say, and it would seem to me that we need to know how such a positive number was arrived at. I believe, in the next four years, with our present economic downturn, we will need to look at all areas for revenue savings. It would seem that commissioner salaries would be a good place to start. Possibly, if salaries were lower, we would have fewer career politicians in Dakota County.
What’s a major issue for the
I feel that I’m the best candidate for County Commissioner because of my training in political science, my experience in teaching government, and my experience in the U.S. Navy as yeomen at the Pentagon. It was there that I experienced firsthand how our government works from a military perspective. For many years, I have studied the actions of government at all levels and have voiced my views in the form of editorials. Now, I will have the time and energy to devote my relentless ambition and integrity to make our government work for the people as it was intended. I feel it is time for me to work within our county government in ways that will improve our constituents’ understanding of what county government does and how it improves their lives. I believe my honesty, innovative thinking and organization will allow me to be a leader who can truly make county government work more effectively for the people of Dakota County.
The opportunity to meet the citizens of District One has been an interesting and rewarding experience. Our citizens have been very supportive and many have asked very enlightened and thoughtful questions. I would like to ask all voters in the county to consider government service in the next election cycle. Those citizens who may qualify for early retirement may be especially suited. The U. S. Postal Service has such an early retirement program, which I will qualify for in December. People who have worked in various careers and can retire early don’t need to stop working; they just need a change of scenery. Citizens may feel that they aren’t qualified, but I believe it’s like many positions in life where people try to finesse you with smoke and mirrors. They have much to offer our society, and society needs experienced decision-makers as leaders at all levels of our government.
I believe being a successful county commissioner does not require years of experience on the board, but people who have had many years of experience in decision-making and aren’t afraid to learn and use new approaches.