As north metro voters head to the polls on Nov. 4, residents of several cities will choose mayors. Candidates in contested mayors' races in the north metro area were asked recently: What is the major issue facing your city, and why are you better-suited than your opponent to address that issue?
Turn to AA4 to read candidate responses, which were edited for length; some were submitted by the candidates by e-mail; others were paraphrased from candidate interviews. The races in Anoka and Ramsey were excluded because the Star Tribune has already reported on them.
ANDOVER MIKE GAMACHE
49, consumer liaison at General Mills (incumbent)
Continue the development of our commercial site at Andover Station and Station North and bring more businesses to Andover. These sites are vital in increasing our commercial tax base and also offer great shopping and dining opportunities for our residents. Increasing our commercial tax base is also important because it helps hold down homeowners' property taxes in these tough economic times. My years as mayor and my business background provide me the experience needed to keep our business community growing, our spending under control, and our city moving in the right direction.
92, semiretired farmer and real estate broker
I don't care if they vote for me or not; we've got a government here where it's not what you know, it's who you know. I'm getting my points across, and I'm making headlines with my points. I can tell you right now we've got a mayor ... they think they own your property. The way things are today you just don't know what's happening anymore.
RICHARD EDWARD KULKEY
Lots of jobs would be helpful, to help people stay in their homes and keep their homes as much as they possibly can. I've got the ideas and I don't have the money to back me up on them. [The folks at City Hall] are all thinking of things to make their lives better and I'm not after that. I don't have a lot of power; all I can do is talk, but it's going to take more initiative to get things going again. Today is the worst I've ever seen. To get the money going with all these people you have to come up with something like the Hoover Dam, but they just want to go build stadiums.
Kohnke did not reply to an interview request.
COLUMBIA HEIGHTS GARY PETERSON
70, retired (incumbent)
The biggest problem is home foreclosures and homes that need rehabilitation. We have been working on that for a while. I am a good one to work with because I have worked with the [city] departments and we have a good working relationship with Anoka County.
He said city economic development officials met last week with the county to request some of the federal funds available to mitigate housing problems.
The mayor and some City Council members have tried to pass an ordinance requiring homeowners to meet certain city building codes before they can sell their homes. But people heard about that and packed a council meeting in July. Then the council voted it down. At first it was just for homes, now it is coming back for rental property. I don't know if the council will bring it up again, but if they do I will be there and make sure they don't trample on our property rights. If people facing foreclosure can't sell without spending money to pass inspections, more properties will be foreclosed. That will affect me and the whole city.
CRYSTAL ReNae Bowman
55, records and information management consultant
The major issue is keeping property taxes down and the infrastructure intact. I am better qualified because I am not afraid to lobby and tell state and federal officials that their current policies sent our property taxes sky-high. We can't afford to tax people out of their homes. The quest for less government has shifted the tax burden to middle-class homeowners.
LAURIE ANN MOORE
Moore did not respond to an interview request.
DAYTON Doug Anderson
47, after-market sales manager for John Deere equipment (incumbent)
We have the same budget constraints and issues as other cities with declining home values. We have budgeted very conservatively and done aggressive planning. We are revising our ordinances so we are ready for the next wave of housing construction.
I have a lot more experience [than his opponent] because I was on the City Council 12 years before I became mayor. I am also on the boards of directors of the League of Minnesota Cities and the North Metro Mayors Association.
62, investigator for the Robins, Kaplan law firm.
I am running because about $33 million in bonds have been sold for a sewage and water system in the northeast part of the city. I'm afraid a city of 5,000 residents can't repay the bonds if more people don't connect to the system. When I was mayor four years ago, the tax levy was reduced and capital costs were paid for with funds set aside over the years for that purpose. If elected I would try to stop future bond sales and revert to the pay-as-you-go approach.
55, manufactured housing dealer and trailer park owner (incumbent)
Home foreclosures and declining home values are worrisome. To combat that we need strong code enforcement to keep property values up and a strong rental inspection program. We have held one session and will hold more with bankers and social workers to help people stay in their homes. If homes are abandoned it means lost taxes and will cost the city money to prevent vandalism.
I have proven my leadership ability to work with other government agencies. I have the experience, knowledge and integrity to be mayor.
55, Teamsters union steward at Honeywell
The biggest issue is the council and mayor seem constantly to side with city staff instead of focusing on citizen needs and concerns. A lot of people in Fridley are very concerned about the comprehensive plan draft concocted by the staff and approved by the council. They want to build a bridge over the Burlington Northern train yard (near the planned Northstar rail station) to connect 57th Street to East River Road. It would be near the Interstate Hwy. 694 bridge over the tracks. People say, "Why?"
Working 35 years representing union members gives me a leg up in helping people work issues through to resolution.
52, sales manager, FasTest Inc.
The No. 1 issue facing Mounds View is the reconstruction of our streets and infrastructure. The city has been trying to upgrade our streets for the past 10 years with minimal success. Since I have been on the City Council we have developed, with the help of a citizens task force, a total and complete plan that will have all streets done in 10 years. The cost to the citizens will be minimal. I have been on the council since the project started and I have the experience and knowledge that is required to bring this project to reality.
67, employer insurance consultant, Benefits for Groups.
Road reconstruction in a fully developed urban area is Mounds View's most important issue. Through many years on a watershed district board of managers, I am most qualified to work through water quality and quantity requirements. Of the mayoral candidates I am the most responsive to the citizens' wishes and will be a citizens' conduit to express those wishes to my fellow council members. To support the citizens' rights one must support the City Charter in its entirety, which I uniquely do.
NEW HOPE MARTIN OPEM SR.
64, retired (incumbent)
The national economy is causing a negative impact on city property values. That and state levy limits make it challenging to provide necessary city services.
I have a master's of business administration from St. Thomas University and four years in office. My past record has been fiscally conservative. We have increased police and fire department staff without substantial increases in taxes. My record and education prepare me better for a tenuous future than my opponent.
New Hope has a lot of empty businesses and housing. With some creative marketing and working with businesses and developers we can do more to fill up these businesses. Having more businesses means filling more houses. We need to recruit businesses, sometimes with financial enticements but also by being flexible in conditions set for them.
As chairwoman of the city planning department, I really know what our residents need and want because I have volunteered about 20 hours a week for 20 years with the schools, the Women of Today, the Northwest YMCA board and other groups.
SHOREVIEW BRUCE HODGIN
49, business owner
The major issue facing the residents of Shoreview is no different than all small cities in Minnesota. High property taxes along with declining property values and the ever-rising cost of everyday life, elected officials waiting to raise property taxes after the election. I see no reason to raise property taxes. As a successful business owner I see both sides to this problem. We need to generate tax revenue, with more housing and more retail businesses.
65, community volunteer/homemaker (incumbent)
A key challenge for Shoreview will be maintaining its high-quality city services and outstanding financial conditions while dealing with aging infrastructure, negative economic conditions and state budget deficits. It has always been my goal to make certain that citizens receive the highest quality services for their tax dollars. Experienced leadership is needed to deal with these challenges and to maintain our city's low tax rate. Over the years, I have demonstrated my experience, knowledge, and common-sense leadership style, along with my ability to work cooperatively with citizens, staff, neighboring jurisdictions and fellow council members.
ST. FRANCIS RANDY DRESSEN
63, subcontract program manager (incumbent)
The current economic crisis makes it challenging to balance the wants and needs of our customers. St. Francis is primarily residential and I would strongly promote the expansion of our current and new commercial/industrial base in our city. We have worked on an enabling resolution to create an Economic Development Authority, but we want to be able to fund a staff position and budget to make this an effective action so this has not passed to date. Together with our professional staff and my experience in managing major contracts, I am confident the city will make it through tough financial times.
Tveit did not reply to an interview request.