Bloomington voters will face a full city ballot on Nov. 5, with 10 candidates competing for five of the seven City Council seats.
With longtime council members Vern Wilcox, Steve Peterson and Karen Nordstrom not seeking re-election, at least three of those seats are guaranteed to be won by newcomers.
Council seats are considered nonpartisan, and candidates span the political spectrum.
Here’s a rundown of some of their positions.
At-large, four-year seat
Cynthia Bemis Abrams vs. Zavier Bicott
Abrams, a public-relations and leadership consultant, and businessman Bicott are running for the seat held by Nordstrom for the last eight years.
Abrams, 49, is a former member of the Bloomington school and park boards. A lifelong resident of the city, she describes her political views as middle-of-the-road and said she has lived in all five Bloomington ZIP codes.
She said one big challenge is attracting new residents and involving them in city affairs, while managing demand for senior housing and maintaining older properties. “Some neighborhoods might need more love,” she said.
Abrams said that Bloomington is well-managed, but that it may need to increase outreach to neighborhoods and better shape city communication to residents.
Her website is www.council-at-large.com.
Bicott, 29, has lived in Bloomington for 15 years. He sells numismatic coins, and said his business experience means he better understands the fiscal issues facing the city. He has been endorsed by the Libertarian Party and the local Tea Party group.
A first-time candidate, he would like to see voluntary solutions that emphasize personal responsibility to maintain community standards “and still live in a peaceful and lawful community without the city telling us what to do.” He said he questions using tax dollars to support private business development in the city.
His website is http://www.zavierbicott.com/.
District 1, Two-year seat
Richard Bohnen vs. Dwayne Lowman
Richard Bohnen, a service station owner, is running against Dwayne Lowman, a workforce management specialist, for the seat that Steve Peterson held for 14 years.
Bohnen, 36, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state House last year. He grew up in east Bloomington, and said that while he thinks the city is run well, he believes taxes should be lower.
“Everyone’s home values tanked, but the taxes didn’t follow,” he said.
He would like to see the reconstruction of the Interstates 35W and 494 interchange begin soon, and said loosening some regulations would spur redevelopment.
His website is http://www.rickbohnen.com/.
Lowman, 35, is an independent who also grew up in east Bloomington. He was once a planning intern with the city. His priorities include maintaining the city’s Triple-A rating with credit rating agencies, figuring out ways to involve more residents and doing more to preserve old housing and to calm traffic.
“People are looking at us to be leaders and to make their lives easier,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about cutting, but looking for efficiencies.”
His website is http://dwaynealowman.com/.
District 2, Two-year seat
Thomas Hulting vs. Andrew Carlson
Incumbent Thomas Hulting, a salesman with a natural gas company, faces Andrew Carlson, a project manager with Minneapolis public works.
Hulting, 66, was elected to the council after getting Republican endorsement in 2009. He said he believes that taxes should be lower and that “the cost and size of Bloomington city government is growing faster than people’s incomes.”
He said that the city does a good job providing critical services such as police and fire, but that some city functions could be done by volunteers or private industry.
He points to home inspections as one area that could be privatized, and said he believes the city could cut taxes without cutting services.
His website is http://tomhultingforcouncil.com/.
Carlson, 38, has never run for office. A member of Bloomington’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, he describes himself as a political moderate.
Preserving aging housing has to be a priority for the city, he said. “We are a mature suburb, but those homes are still desirable,” he said. “They are the lifeblood of our community.”
He said preserving the quality of life, safe neighborhoods, having a competitive workforce and having the city partner with the private sector are important.
His website is http://carlson4citycouncil.com/.
District 3, four-year seat
Jack Baloga vs. Steve Peer
Incumbent Jack Baloga, a small-business owner, is being challenged by Steve Peer, director of marketing for the Child Neurology Foundation.
Baloga, 67, was elected to the council in 2011 and describes himself as a political moderate. He has served on several city groups, including the Planning Commission.
As a retired commercial real estate developer, he said he wants to see through unfinished business such as redevelopment in the South Loop area. Preserving the city’s excellent credit rating is important, he said, as is holding down taxes. He would like to see more funding go to a program to preserve older housing.
He was the driver behind an as-yet-unfinished study on the future of trash and recycling collection in the city.
His website is http://jackbalogaforcitycouncil.com/.
Peer, 58, is a longtime volunteer who has not run for office but who has worked on DFL Party communications. In the next few years, high-level retirements among important city personnel are possible, he said, and that requires council leadership. “Those things are delicate,” he said, saying it’s an area he has worked in before.
He proposes setting up a district residents’ council to get feedback, and he believes city programs to rehab housing should be expanded.
After hearing from older residents that they will vote no on the school referendum mainly for financial reasons, Peer said the city needs to look at its own budget but should work to preserve amenities that attract new residents.
His website is http://www.peersteve.com/.
District 4, four-year seat
Ken Johnson vs. Jon Oleson
Ken Johnson and Jon Oleson are running for the east Bloomington seat vacated by Vern Wilcox, who represented the area for 20 years.
Johnson, 72, is a conservative who has lived in his house for 48 years. He and his wife sell archery products worldwide. He had worked on Wilcox’s campaign but has not run before.
At a candidates’ forum earlier this month, he choked up and said the city had to “stop treating east Bloomington as second-class citizens.”
His main issue is reducing taxes to ease the burden on homeowners and stop what he sees as the deterioration of that part of the city, he said.
His website is http://www.vote-ken.com/.
Oleson, 68, is a retired teacher and school administrator who also worked in conflict management. In 2010 he ran for U.S. Congress as a member of the Independence Party. He has lived in east Bloomington for 10 years and is a member of the Planning Commission.
He said he wants to solve problems and prevent extremism on the council, “finding what’s the right Bloomington way instead of tearing down and starting over.”
The city has emphasized the development of the South Loop near the Mall of America but needs to be as attentive to maintaining aging housing stock in that part of the city, he said. And, he said, it needs to preserve excellent services like street maintenance and its high credit rating.
His website is http://www.olesonforiv.com/.
More information: For more information on where candidates stand, see the candidate forums at: http://tinyurl.com/qj9u677.