Large pool of candidates square off for Dakota County City Council races

  • Article by: GRAISON HENSLEY CHAPMAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 7, 2014 - 9:03 PM

Primaries will be held in August to narrow the field for several local council races.

Half of Dakota County’s City Council races were competitive enough to trigger primaries in August, according to city election filings in the seven cities with early deadlines.

City Council races in Rosemount, Burnsville, Hastings, South St. Paul and Eagan all fielded more than twice as many candidates as there are seats. The Aug. 12 primary will narrow the field to double the number of positions.

No mayoral races will have primaries, and for all the five cities with early filing deadlines, just one is contested: West St. Paul. There, former Mayor David Meisinger is taking on current Mayor John Zanmiller.

Meisinger, a construction contractor, said the city has let costs for the reconstruction of Robert Street spiral out of control with “amenities” and consulting fees.

“Our city budget is $10 million,” he said, “and right now we have a $7 million gap on one project. It just doesn’t make sense for the economics of our city.”

Zanmiller, first elected in 2004, said the project is big and expensive because it has to be. Within two decades, 35,000 cars will travel the road daily. “We can’t fix this road with just a mill and an overlay,” he said. “[It’s] the largest public works undertaking ever done in this city.”

On the cost, Zanmiller said grants from the federal and state governments, as well as Xcel Energy and the St. Paul Regional Water Utility, are also paying for the project.

West St. Paul is also electing one council member from each ward. Incumbents are running uncontested in the First and Second Wards; John Bellows and John Ramsay are running to replace Third Ward Council Member Dave Wright.

Only a $5 fee is required to file for municipal elections in most cities. Candidates for the early period had two days to withdraw their filing.

Here’s what’s happening in other Dakota County cities:

Eagan

In 2012, just two candidates filed for two seats in Eagan’s City Council election. This year’s incumbents for City Council won’t have the luxury of an unopposed candidacy. Three challengers have filed this year against Paul Bakken and Gary Hansen.

“I think they need a voice on the City Council that isn’t afraid to say no to things,” said Eric Goodrich, one of those challengers. Goodrich opposes the city’s involvement in the financing of the Twin Cities Premium Outlets, the high-end mall opening in August, saying property rights were abused in the course of that project.

Goodrich also said the city shouldn’t be spending so much on its parks budget, including the public financing of a water park and community center.

Incumbent Hansen said Eagan taxpayers get their money’s worth. He cited a report by the state auditor that said Eagan has the third-lowest spending per capita for cities of more than 50,000. Hansen said he’s proud of his work on establishing the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit route as well as helping to improve Dakota County’s emergency dispatch center.

“We try to be very fair with the taxpayer’s money,” Bakken said. He said the city’s financing of a parking structure for the outlet mall is a priority people can disagree on. But he said the entire mall project would not have been possible without the city’s support.

Rosemount

New athletic facilities were the first priority for three of the four challengers in Rosemount’s race for two at-large City Council seats.

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