Debate helps show contrasts among Prior Lake candidates

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2012 - 11:39 AM

Downtown traffic, local jobs, Shakopee casinos, a fiber-optic proposal and eminent domain are among the hot issues.

No one can accuse the five candidates for Prior Lake City Council of being fuzzy on the issues.

On topic after topic in a candidate forum last week at City Hall, crisp differences emerged.

Some people talked about investing in the city's future; others spoke of cutting costs and regulations and letting the private sector bloom unhindered.

Some were open to eminent domain, the legal tool to force the sale of private property, even a longtime family home, for the community's needs. Others denounced it.

Some stressed the annoyances of coexisting with the casino-enriched Shakopee tribe. Others were much more enthusiastic fans.

If there was one issue on which it was hard to make out daylight between the positions, it may have been downtown traffic and downtown development.

But that seemed mainly because it's a thicket of difficulties without a lot of obvious or easy solutions.

There was even some amusing disagreement over the classic suburban issue of whether there's any place to get a great meal around here.

Asked what the city really needs, council incumbent Warren Erickson said: "More places to shop and have a nice meal."

His council colleague, Rick Keeney, took exception to that.

"This reputation that there isn't a nice place to get a meal is incorrect. There are over 30 restaurants in town, and you can eat in a different place every day of the month. To my taste, the VFW may not be upscale but it's the reason I live here. People enjoy the type of community we have. Why change it? It's fine."

As always in Prior Lake, there also was lots of arguing over whether the city is overspending.

Defenders of the status quo hauled out numbers to prove the city is miserly and spending has barely budged. Critics made it sound as though spending has exploded. Still others stepped in to explain why some numbers mislead.

For those interested in hearing the opposing sides, the candidate forum is online, with directions to it accompanying this article.

Turn to page four of today's section for an attempt to capture differing views on other key issues in ways that create mini-portraits of each candidate's way of thinking.

BASIC BACKGROUND

Richard Bump

Three-year resident after nine years in Savage; a businessman with executive experience.

Warren Erickson

Twenty-five year resident, including seven years on the City Council.

Richard Keeney

Arrived in the city in 2000, elected to the council in 2009.

Monique Morton

Resident since 2004, having grown up in Apple Valley; experience with financial oversight of large corporations.

Gene Tremaine

Seventeen-year resident; works in manufacturing.

TOP PRIORITIES?

Richard Bump

Apply metrics to understand what value the city's getting. Don't just cut for cutting's sake; services are important too.

Warren Erickson

Economic development, planning for growth, thinking of future needs.

Richard Keeney

Community development, natural resources such as clean water, transportation, safety.

Monique Morton

Maintain neighborhoods that are decaying; restructure city government around needs, not wants; prefer private sector risks, not public sector risks.

Gene Tremaine

Reduce spending, debt and regulations. Don't hire so many consultants.

SHAKOPEE TRIBE?

Richard Bump

Far more benefits to city than downside; city needs to leverage the huge draw the casino provides.

Warren Erickson

Does create challenges, and alcohol sales will create new ones; but a "great partner for the city," with a better working relationship these days.

Richard Keeney

Concerned that city isn't getting in taxes what it would if tribe weren't a sovereign entity, but "all in all, the city comes out ahead in this equation."

Monique Morton

Does have benefits, but competes with taxpaying businesses; city needs to be wary.

Gene Tremaine

"I only see benefits. ... I support them completely."

BIGGEST WAY TO IMPROVE PRIOR LAKE?

Richard Bump

Bring in more businesses.

Warren Erickson

"Crystal-clear lakes, if I could wave a magic wand, but realistically: More places to shop and have a nice meal and not having to travel half an hour to work -- having jobs closer to us would make this a lot nicer place to live."

Richard Keeney

People need to paint the house, cut the grass, "make things nice ... show we're proud to be here and care about each other."

Monique Morton

"People want to feel like they're being listened to" at City Hall. "Stop and listen -- that's the single biggest issue."

Gene Tremaine

Reduce regulations. "Stop telling people how often to mow the yard, how to take care of the pets, all the things they have to do."

PROPERTY SEIZURES VIA EMINENT DOMAIN?

Richard Bump

"I agree with it when it's for the betterment of the community. I don't take it lightly, but not making a decision is a decision."

Warren Erickson

Does not support any idea of taking out multiple homes near downtown. "If there is any way of avoiding it, we will not use it."

Richard Keeney

"If a project needs that help, if it can't be a private transaction, it should not happen."

Monique Morton

Loves city's quaintness and would not in all likelihood ever support it. "It's not a tool in a toolbox; it's a Pandora's box."

Gene Tremaine

"Only very, very sparingly, understanding what it means to take someone's home."

INVEST IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?

Richard Bump

"You don't save your way to prosperity. We have to invest. Maybe pad-ready [instantly developable] sites; maybe fiber-optics are needed to get people here, maybe not. We need to define what businesses we want and reach for them outside our city."

Warren Erickson

City needs to improve a bad reputation around business-friendliness and invest in creating developable sites, as Savage did with good results.

Richard Keeney

City has invested a lot in downtown and now needs to sit back and see what happens. Fiber-optic as a city project feels too risky.

Monique Morton

Fiber-optics are best left to industry. Too much risk of becoming obsolete. Monticello's problems show it's not a good plan.

Gene Tremaine

"Monique said it all. I'm not in favor of spending money on infrastructure. The most important thing is to reduce regulations" that can hike the cost of developing in the city.

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

  • TO LEARN MORE

    The candidate forum can be viewed on the city's website, www.city ofpriorlake.com. Look for the "Streaming Media" box on the home page.

    The forum also is being rebroadcast on PLTV, the local cable access channel.

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