Voters in Savage next week will have a chance to weigh in on two starkly differing conceptions of the role of government.
In topic after topic, from senior centers to the historic Savage Depot to the controversial seasonal dome, one set of candidates for City Council supports a fairly aggressive role in providing services and ambience while the other seeks to yank on the reins and minimize risk.
But both groups find the city’s existing debt load unsettling and vow to bring it down.
Both incumbents, Gene Abbott and Jane Victorey, are seeking to return to office. Four men — Shaun Alexander, Chuck Boisvert, Jeremy Seykora and Josh Welter — seek the two contested seats.
What follows, drawn from a lively candidate forum last week, is an edited version of each candidate’s thoughts about a few key issues. There’s a full video on the city’s website.
What’s most important to achieve?
Gene Abbott: Reduce long-term debt. We’re 39th of 225 larger communities in the state in debt, and that’s too high. We did reduce it 20 percent after a 2009 debt study and we’re coming up with a plan again to reduce it by another 35 percent. And we got fund balances back in line; we have the second highest bond rating you can get.
Shaun Alexander: Fiscal responsibility. Fundamentally, the purpose of local government isn’t to buy real estate. We owe on the Depot, we spent to renovate municipal liquor stores to compete with Lakeville, and I don’t agree with that. I don’t want people to say, ‘Why do you live in Savage, taxes are so high there!’
Chuck Boisvert: Let’s focus attention downtown. Every amenity used to be down there: police, city hall, fire, library, post office, all left that area. It’s kind of a sad thing. There’s no way to bring all that back, but I’d like it to be vibrant like it was.
Jeremy Seykora: Live within our means. Retire debt. We’re $85 million in debt — $2 million a year in interest alone.
Jane Victorey: Finances. Reducing debt. And fire response times — we have problems finding people for daytime fires, and that hurts response times.
Josh Welter: Finances, debt, economic vitality. Let’s get jobs and commercial enterprises coming here, expanding tax base and allowing us to pay down debt.