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City of Otsego Candidate Forum Answers

City of Otsego Candidate Forum Answers

City of Otsego Candidate Forum Answers

Try as we do, sometimes technology is beyond our ability to control.  Due to technical difficulties, the City of Otsego Candidate Forum recording is not available. All candidates were sent the opportunity to provide written responses to the list of questions asked the night of the forum. You can find the answers from those that responded below. 


Candidate: Corey Tanner
1. Introduce yourself and tell us your top priorities and why you are running for this office?
A: My name is Corey Tanner, and I am running for Otsego city council in the community I’ve lived in for 16 years.  I want to preserve Otsego’s small-town values while making fiscally responsible decisions while ensuring the safety and development of our community. I support focusing on developing Otsego’s business community economy, ensuring public safety, and expanding our city communication efforts. Further information can be found on my website www.vote-tanner.com

2. Taxpayer supported incentives are a popular method used by municipalities to attract new development. What type of projects should be incentivized with local tax dollars in the City of Otsego?
A: I do not support using Otsego tax dollars to fund projects, but rather, support that applicants and municipalities seek incentives through County, State and Federally sponsored economic development incentive programs for public assistance. The State of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is an example of a state agency that offers incentives in the form of state grants for development and infrastructure funding.
 
3. We hear from businesses throughout the region that they are struggling to find enough employees.  Should Otsego adapt its housing policies to help attract the necessary workforce? Why or why not?
A: I do not support revising Otsego’s housing policies because data indicates that Otsego has the demographics to support the current workforce. Our city has experienced tremendous growth over the last 10 years, which has resulted in Otsego becoming the largest city in all of Wright County with 21, 289 residents: according to the State of Minnesota Demographer’s website. When I was a member of council during 2017-2020, Otsego welcomed 12 new businesses, which resulted in 750 jobs for industrial, retail, and professional services and my plan to focus on our business community will help make that even better.
 
4. Recently the City adopted a new Comprehensive Plan which part of the plan do you see as a critical next step for the growth of the city?
A: Building off the Comprehensive Plan, I would like to establish, implement and execute strategic plans for both economic development and communication.  In both cases, we need to perform current state vs. future state analysis to define what sorts of things our city is lacking, I would include a reach out program to our residents to find out what their desired needs are for build-out as it applies to business needs, services and amenities. The communication end of it would help come up with a plan for establishing a city identity, separate from being the little brother of our neighboring cities.
 
5. The City of Otsego is growing and its need for public safety. Do you support the addition of police and / or fire departments as part of the city budget, or should they continue as they are currently outsourced to other jurisdictions?
A:I am 100% behind our law enforcement. We continue to have a strong relationship with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department in addition to our three fire services providers. The City of Otsego and our service providers are proactive in adding more service hours when needed. We need to build our fire station and I also believe that our fire service providers should have “Otsego” on them too.
 
6. Recently the City adopted a franchise fee which is an assessment on all residential and businesses paid through their utility bills. This revenue will be used to fund the Pavement Management Program, which is designed to help with street maintenance including seal coats, mill and overlays, full depth reclamations, and reconstruction (renewals). Do you agree with this method of generating revenue, why or why not?
A: I do agree with eliminating very costly property assessments that are imposed on residents when roads that they live on are reconstructed, which can result in a property owner having to pay thousands of dollars over a 10-year period. The franchise fee system collects dollars each month from the overall community (businesses included). The Minnesota state statute for franchise fees requires that municipalities collect franchise fees from property owners via public utility bills. I do find it very unfortunate that the communication wasn’t such that a lot of people knew what this new fee was when they got word of it. I also know that we have a great and hardworking city staff who know the laws and have the very best intentions for our city. In my opinion, I just think the city has grown so much that we have hit a point or threshold that is making it clear that we need to explore establishing a communications department, which is one of my priorities if elected.
 
7. For quite a few years, the levels of traffic on Parrish Avenue have been steadily increasing. Even before the added pressure from the Redefine 169 project, backups have extended from the Main Street bridge, all the way back south, past 93rd Circle during peak times. The problem not only affects the homeowners living on Parrish, but also for those living in the neighborhoods to the West of Parrish, and anyone wishing to get into Elk River in general. These backups constitute not only an inconvenience, but also a safety hazard to pedestrians and bike traffic, as frustrated motorists then use the side streets, private driveways, and sometimes yards to turn around and go a different direction. Many residents feel the problem stems from the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection, a problem which will require multijurisdictional cooperation to solve. What specific steps would you take to help alleviate the current safety concerns and move towards a more permanent solution?
A: I would first work with city staff to reach out to all the stakeholders to facilitate a meeting to take the necessary steps to start this process. It would certainly be a very costly and long project. Before any development along this road takes place, the cities of Elk River, Otsego, Sherburne County, Wright County and MNDOT need to come together to remedy the growing traffic concerns. I certainly am against adding an apartment building along that road, that will make things worse. I believe a great deal of the traffic congestion has to do with the intersection on Elk River’s side of the bridge 





Candidate: Ryan Dunlap


1. Introduce yourself and tell us your top priorities and why you are running for this office?
A: I have been a Minnesota resident all my life. My wife, Melissa, and I decided to move to Otsego 7 years ago to build our dream home. I have 20 years of experience in the financial industry with 8 years as a manager. At Wells Fargo I established a new site in St Louis with a staff of 40, including training new managers. I worked with auditors and created training materials and programs to ensure compliance with complex government regulations. I managed a team of financial and business analysts and was responsible for a $3.6B budget.

As a leader, I focus on being transparent and treating others with dignity. Leadership means holding yourself and others accountable and having the integrity and honesty to make tough decisions. I consistently show up and listen and will continue to do so for the benefit of all Otsego citizens.
 
I am running in order to be an advocate for the taxpayers and citizens of Otsego. My priorities are to:
- Reduce property taxes
- Eliminate the multi-million dollar city surpluses and advance responsible budgeting
- Improve transparency and communication
 
2. Taxpayer supported incentives are a popular method used by municipalities to attract new development. What type of projects should be incentivized with local tax dollars in the City of Otsego?
A: The way to attract and retain the right business is to reduce property taxes and then put a cap on that increase so that businesses know you're not going to gouge them every time the city wants more money, like we did with franchise fees.
 
I know some of my opponents have spoken favorably about TIFs (Tax Increment Financing) in the past. The voters should know I am against TIFs, and here's why:
1. TIFs are a form of corporate welfare and it's the city picking winners and losers. I don't think that's the proper role of government.
2. TIFs don't work, and we know that from our own experience here in Otsego. Studies have also shown that TIFs do not increase development in an area.
3. TIFs are a vehicle for corruption and political favors. That is also something we have seen here in Otsego.
 
For these reasons I am against TIFs.
 
3. We hear from businesses throughout the region that they are struggling to find enough employees.  Should Otsego adapt its housing policies to help attract the necessary workforce? Why or why not?
A: Some of my opponents have stated that the city needs to act towards creating "affordable housing." That is one of those terms that is not well defined. However, the city council cannot claim to be concerned about housing at the same time that they are taxing retirees and others on a fixed income out of their home. You cannot work towards improving the housing and employment situation by adding franchise fees to the utility bills of residents and businesses. Franchise fees are a regressive tax because they disproportionately impact those with lower property values.
 
I do not believe that the city should be in the business of flipping neighborhoods and forcing people out of their homes.
 
4. Recently the City adopted a new Comprehensive Plan which part of the plan do you see as a critical next step for the growth of the City?
A: We need a balance of preservation and organic growth. The Prairie Center building has some historical significance. As our second city hall, it was built in 1993 to replace our original city hall. That building still stands about a mile north of Prairie Center, although some council members want it bulldozed. When it came time to build the new city hall at a cost of $450,000 the residents and members of the council at the time rolled up their sleeves to help build it and save the city some money.
 
As I go door to door residents have expressed a fear that we are losing that sense of community. I think those fears are justified when I see that our council wants to build a new $45MM city hall and parking facility. To me, that signals the end of our sense of community.
 
There is one thing curiously absent from the Comprehensive Plan: farmers. While I will never stand in the way of a farmer that wants to sell their land, I do not subscribe to the theory that the success of our city is determined by the increase in our population, or the cost of our city hall.
 
5. The City of Otsego is growing and its need for public safety. Do you support the addition of police and / or fire departments as part of the City budget, or should they continue as they are currently, outsourced to other jurisdictions?
A: We have had a contract with the Wright County Sheriffs Office for longer than we have been a city. As a result, we are able to keep costs low because we benefit from economies of scale.
 
I am not in favor of starting our own police department. The Sheriff has done an excellent job of keeping the contract rate low, and the Sheriff is directly accountable to the citizens of Otsego as an elected official. Creating a city police department would increase property taxes as much as 40%.
 
For many of the same reasons, paying for a new fire department is not the right solution for our city at this time. To do so will likely increase property taxes by at least 50%. In surrounding cities that have their own fire department, residents pay 164% more per capita for fire services than the residents of Otsego do.
 
Despite that, our city has purchased properties in order to build fire stations that our own consultant said might not be the best place to have them. 
 
Having contracts with our neighboring cities puts us in the best negotiating position, and we should be utilizing that.
 
6. Recently the City adopted a franchise fee which is an assessment on all residential and businesses paid through their utility bills.  This revenue will be used to fund the Pavement Management Program, which is designed to help with street maintenance including seal coats, mill and overlays, full depth reclamations, and reconstruction (renewals). Do you agree with this method of generating revenue, why or why not?
A: At first glance, the promise of franchise fees is seductive: for only $8/mo all our roads will be taken care of. Here's what they're not telling you: 
 
There are 7,460 residential properties within Otsego. Of those, 4,712 will be paying more under the franchise fee than the increase in the levy would cost them. That is over 63% of Otsego residents. Remember: they can raise that fee any time they want more money; there is no limit. Here's how this impacts you, as a resident: if your home is valued at $379,000 or less, the franchise fees are going to cost you more.
 
Let's not forget who is paying for this. Minnesota state law prohibits collection of taxes on: churches, non-profits, and disabled veterans. The city website implies that this fee was implemented in order to circumvent those protections. The tax system should be applied equally, and it should be transparent and accountable to the people. Franchise fees violate those principles.
 
If elected, I will be seeking the support of my fellow council members to repeal the franchise fee because it is a backdoor tax that is anti-business and has no accountability or transparency.
 
7. For quite a few years, the levels of traffic on Parrish Avenue have been steadily increasing. Even before the added pressure from the Redefine 169 project, backups have extended from the Main Street bridge, all the way back south, past 93rd Circle during peak times. The problem not only affects the homeowners living on Parrish, but also for those living in the neighborhoods to the West of Parrish, and anyone wishing to get into Elk River in general. These backups constitute not only an inconvenience, but also a safety hazard to pedestrians and bike traffic, as frustrated motorists then use the side streets, private driveways, and sometimes yards to turn around and go a different direction. Many residents feel the problem stems from the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection, a problem which will require multijurisdictional cooperation to solve. What specific steps would you take to help alleviate the current safety concerns and move towards a more permanent solution?
 A: The first step is to stop contributing to the traffic problem. There is currently a plan to build an apartment complex right off of Parrish Avenue. That developer has had to ask for several variances to city code in order to develop that plan. While I understand that the developer is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it should be an easy "no" at this point. That development will clearly make the traffic situation worse.
 
As a county road, any improvements to the traffic on Parrish will need to be part of a collaboration with Wright County. My concern is that this road is in danger of becoming a "stroad" which is a combination of a street and a road. It's a bad situation for pedestrians and those who have their driveways directly onto Parrish. We'll need to work with Wright County to make the road safer.





Candidate: Tina Goede

Introduce yourself and tell us your top priorities and why you are running for this office? 
A: My name is Tina Goede, and I am seeking re-election of City Council candidacy of Otsego.  I have represented the City of Otsego for the last four years on City Council.  If re-elected I will continue to provide sound leadership to the Otsego community.  I became a resident of Otsego 10 years ago and have lived in Wright County for over 20 years.  We have 3 kids; 2 boys, Braydon & Devin; & our daughter Reese.  We are members of St. Michael Catholic Church/St. Albert's Catholic Church. We are deeply rooted in this community.  My education includes a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, in Corporate Community Health Promotion/Physical Education. Professionally, I work as a Key Account Manager.  My hobbies include working out and spending time with my family in the outdoors. 
 
I am seeking re-election for Otsego City Council with plans to continue to sustain the continued advancements of our community. My vision remains focused on our community’s future: to enhance our city by maintaining essential services, limiting tax burdens on our residents, and stimulating economic growth. Supporting our local businesses and encouraging new development will remain imperative throughout my tenure. It is my goal to see projects complement our Otsego community.
These past few years I’ve addressed several concerns facing our community. I will continue to partner with neighboring cities on collaborative efforts to save money and deliver more efficient services.
 
2. Taxpayer supported incentives are a popular method used by municipalities to attract new development. What type of projects should be incentivized with local tax dollars in the City of Otsego?
A: I believe that something like this should be used for a developer that is looking to build a commercial site.  A smaller development, not a corporate project or residential building.  This is, I believe how we as a community can build up our city to offer some financial advancements to those in need.
 
3. We hear from businesses throughout the region that they are struggling to find enough employees.  Should Otsego adapt its housing policies to help attract the necessary workforce? Why or why not? 
A: No, I don’t believe in that type of policy.
 
4. Recently the City adopted a new Comprehensive Plan which part of the plan do you see as a critical next step for the growth of the city?
A: It’s not glorious, but I truly think that the sewer/water utilities are “critical” for the stability of our growing city. Since I became a member of the council, I have stated that we need commercial representation on the westside of Otsego.  Along with that a nice “SIGN” that welcomes you as a resident/outsider from Albertville to Otsego.
 
5. The City of Otsego is growing and its need for public safety. Do you support the addition of police and / or fire departments as part of the city budget, or should they continue as they are currently, outsourced to other jurisdictions?
A: Yes, I do support the addition of a fire department, but NOT a police department.  Wright County Sheriffs department does a very nice job for our city, and we have a nice cohesive working relationship that is “solid”.  With that said, I DO believe it is time for a fire department.  It makes sense to have our own department.  I’m just not sold on the location.
 
6. Recently the City adopted a franchise fee which is an assessment on all residential and businesses paid through their utility bills.  This revenue will be used to fund the Pavement Management Program, which is designed to help with street maintenance including seal coats, mill and overlays, full depth reclamations, and reconstruction (renewals). Do you agree with this method of generating revenue, why or why not?
A: Yes, I do.  I voted to make this change.  It was better than the alternative that the city has been doing for the last several years.  The dollar amount needed to be collected through taxes and assessments was expected to increase significantly over the coming years as infrastructure constructed in the last 25 years aged. Increasing the property tax levy and special assessments to cover the increased needs of street repairs was considered but not found to be the most viable option. Property taxes also exempted non-profits, schools, and other entities that utilize the street infrastructure. The property tax option would have changed yearly based on annual changes in the values of homes and businesses properties. Having a dedicated fee ensures local control of predicable revenue and that repairs stay on schedule in accordance with the Pavement Management Plan.
However, the communication to the residents of Otsego on this change was UNACCEPTABLE, in my opinion.  We as a city should have been proactive in educating our residents of this change before it happened.  It’s unfortunate because I truly believe the outcome would have been better.
 
7. For quite a few years, the levels of traffic on Parrish Avenue have been steadily increasing. Even before the added pressure from the Redefine 169 project, backups have extended from the Main Street bridge, all the way back south, past 93rd Circle during peak times. The problem not only affects the homeowners living on Parrish, but also for those living in the neighborhoods to the West of Parrish, and anyone wishing to get into Elk River in general. These backups constitute not only an inconvenience, but also a safety hazard to pedestrians and bike traffic, as frustrated motorists then use the side streets, private driveways, and sometimes yards to turn around and go a different direction. Many residents feel the problem stems from the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection, a problem which will require multijurisdictional cooperation to solve. What specific steps would you take to help alleviate the current safety concerns and move towards a more permanent solution?
A:Just to preface I’m not an Engineer. But I do agree, this is absolutely a safety concern as I personally drive it quite a bit and see the back-ups and issues with pedestrians.
My suggestion would be to first, take care of the safety by re-building the bridge connecting Elk River/Otsego with access to walking paths on both sides of the bridge for walkers/bikers, reducing the risk to the pedestrians (like Monticello’s bridge).  As for the congestion of cars, remove the stop sign and median from Main Street and put a roundabout for smoother flowing traffic.  I believe that would eliminate the back-up of traffic.  Also, eliminating the backflow of traffic going into neighborhoods.  Doing all this with the collaboration of Elk River.





Candidate: Ali Rothschild

1. Introduce yourself and tell us your top priorities and why you are running for this office? 
A: My name is Alexander “Ali” Jarvinia Rothschild.  I have been in politics for the past twelve years on both Republican and Democrat sides.  I am currently a Cab Driver for Christie Cabs
As Mario Cuomo once said in a speech in 1984, America today is not a shining city on a hill, but, rather, a tale of two cities. In Otsego, we have a tale of two cities. On one hand, we have seen new buildings being built such as Townhouses that start at over $400,000. To the affluent, Otsego is that shining city on a hill that Ms. Jessica Stockamp and others in City Council have said. However, Otsego has a hidden side – the side of poverty and a locking out of the American Dream for the working-class. For every townhouse that is built in Otsego, there are people who must commute thirty miles just to be able to afford rent in a desolate part of the urban area. There are parents who lacks the means to send their children to daycare facilities, forcing people to call-in sick for the day, losing money to care for the ones they love. We need change – that is why I am running.
 
2. Taxpayer supported incentives are a popular method used by municipalities to attract new development. What type of projects should be incentivized with local tax dollars in the City of Otsego?
A:
a. First, build attainable housing in the city.  There are many retail workers (such as Target and Coborn’s) that cannot afford the $1,500 per month (One Bedroom, One Bathroom) apartments in Otsego.  Because of this, the retail workers commute and live at Elk River at cheaper rates.  Businesses are making money through this in Elk River; and tax revenue is generated in the city. Otsego should allow temporary tax breaks to companies that build attainable housing in the city, such as a $950 per month 1BR apartment.  Unlike Minneapolis and St. Paul where Rent Control is destroying the Urban area, the city can raise rent based on inflation and profit margins.
b. Second, build a recreational center for our youth and a daycare center. Otsego is a burgeoning town with retail, apartments, and two convenience stores. According to the Comprehensive Plan this year, 16.9 percent of Otsego workers (1,109) commute between 45 to 59 minutes away.  That means that many Otsego children are without parental influence during time after school.  Having a program where youths can exercise, train, and be taken care of through volunteers is a step forward.   

3. We hear from businesses throughout the region that they are struggling to find enough employees.  Should Otsego adapt its housing policies to help attract the necessary workforce? Why or why not?
A:
a. Yes.  We in Otsego currently have a housing bubble. Right now, inflation is causing already expensive townhomes to become unattainable for most residents.  For example, a house that was valued at $400,000 last year is now being advertised as $500,000 this month.  Without people buying expensive houses, the city is losing millions in potential tax revenues through yearly property taxes.  The land that could have been used to build apartments and businesses are now being vacated and decrepit.  This is akin to the housing bubble of 2008.  Fifteen  percent of adults in America live alone[1]. If the numbers are translated into Otsego, we need at least 1,000 more apartment units in the city.
b. The solution that we need is to, as I have explained earlier, is to build apartments that offer tax credits to both the renter and rentees.

4. Recently the City adopted a new Comprehensive Plan. Which part of the plan do you see as a critical next step for the growth of the City? 
A: “Expand Otsego’s tax base through economic development promotion of commercial and industrial opportunities within the City to assist in paying for needed services and reduce tax impacts on housing costs” on page twenty of the plan.  This can be done through many ways.  First, the City must allow for a third convenience store to be built.  This allows for increased competition and tax revenues, as well as lower gas prices.  Second, building THC (the recently legalized ones) can attract customers throughout the state.  Third, use the vacant lands between Elk River and Otsego to build restaurants and fast-food places not seen in the area, such as White Castle and Raising Cane’s.  Doing this increases revenue and lowers the need for taxes.

5. The City of Otsego is growing and its need for public safety. Do you support the addition of police and / or fire departments as part of the City budget, or should they continue as they are currently, outsourced to other jurisdictions? 
A: I would support having the police and public safety department outsourced to other jurisdictions. Otsego is not like Minneapolis. We have only 1.206 violent crimes per 1,000 people. The only murder one sees in Wright County in the Star Tribune was in Buffalo, Minnesota last year in a Hospital. Until Otsego has significant violent crime, let Wright County supply public safety employees.
Nonetheless, I do believe that the city of Otsego needs to increase the pay of public safety employees by at least ten percent per year in order to incentivize employees to provide enhanced public service. The budget of the 2022 public safety expenditures was $3,015,037. If we were to increase the cost of our expenditures by ten percent and chip in a salary increase for our public safety employees, the city of Otsego would only have to pay an additional $301,504 per year. Remember, the city of Otsego has $51 million in a “rainy day” fund.
Some candidates argue that the city Government would see a rise of 42 percent in property taxes if a system of adding our own city Police is formed. I agree with that sentiment.

6. Recently the City adopted a franchise fee which is an assessment on all residential and businesses paid through their utility bills.  This revenue will be used to fund the Pavement Management Program, which is designed to help with street maintenance including seal coats, mill and overlays, full depth reclamations, and reconstruction (renewals). Do you agree with this method of generating revenue, why or why not?
A:
a. As they said during the Revolutionary War in 1776, “no taxation without representation.”  Without a public forum to debate on the issue, the City Council merely adopted a motion that forced fees onto businesses such as CenterPoint Energy and Northern States Power Company. 
b. Otsego, in their addendum, argued that the city would generate over $833,904 from these fees. This number is deceptive, A residential would pay, on average, $8.  There are less than 20,000 residents in Otsego.  Even if every man, woman, and child paid for the fee, that would average out to only $160,000.  Granted, there are other additional revenue generators; but the point is that in reality, very little revenue will be truly generated compared to estimates.
c. To generate $1 million in revenue to replace this corrupt Franchise Fee, I would encourage the city to allow a third major Convenience Store to be built in Otsego.  The tax revenue through competition would boost tax revenues, lower gas prices, and establish Otsego as a city.

7. For quite a few years, the levels of traffic on Parrish Avenue have been steadily increasing. Even before the added pressure from the Redefine 169 project, backups have extended from the Main Street bridge, all the way back south, past 93rd Circle during peak times. The problem not only affects the homeowners living on Parrish, but also for those living in the neighborhoods to the West of Parrish, and anyone wishing to get into Elk River in general. These backups constitute not only an inconvenience, but also a safety hazard to pedestrians and bike traffic, as frustrated motorists then use the side streets, private driveways, and sometimes yards to turn around and go a different direction. Many residents feel the problem stems from the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection, a problem which will require multijurisdictional cooperation to solve. What specific steps would you take to help alleviate the current safety concerns and move towards a more permanent solution?
A: As Cicero once said, “Salus populi suprema lex esto [the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law].”
I offer a clear solution: transition Parrish Avenue into a place of public transportation through buses and streetcars. The state of Minnesota this year has a surplus of $9.25 billion[2].Public transit in Parrish Avenue reduces congestion due to many people using the same bus or streetcar. During inconvenient weather conditions, residents are sheltered from coldness, wetness, etc. The city, through bus and streetcar fares, would generate revenue for the city, meaning taxes would be lowered since the city would have less of a need to generate revenue through taxes. Best of all, it is the State – not the city – that would pay the bulk of startup costs.
 


[1] https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/563786-living-alone-in-america/
[2] https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/SessionDaily/Story/17164#:~:text=State's%20projected%20budget%20surplus%20swells,Daily%20%2D%20Minnesota%20House%20of%20Representatives




Candidate: Tom Darkenwald

1.  Introduce yourself and tell us your top priorities and why you are running for this office? 
A: My name is Tom Darkenwald and I am running for re-election to the Otsego City Council. I am the only current Councilmember of those running in this election that grew up in Otsego.  Knowing where we came from and having a vision for the future of Otsego to continue to grow in a responsible manner distinguishes me from others seeking election.  I will continue to ensure we are one of the most fiscally conservative cities, while providing the services our citizens need and expect.  Many of the homes our citizens live in today were because of the foresight we had many years ago.  After listening to our citizens (both old and new) and serving our great community for 18 years on Planning Commission and City Council, we are on the right path as we grow together.  It is important to respect those who have lived in our community and paid property taxes for decades.  I am married to Franchesca and we have one child.  I have served in many local organizations including serving both as a board member and Chairman of the I-94 Chamber of Commerce, President of the I-94 Coalition, Director of Wright County Economic Development Partnership, Otsego Councilmember for 16 years, and Otsego Planning Commission for 2 years.   I am also a local business owner.

2. Taxpayer supported incentives are a popular method used by municipalities to attract new development. What type of projects should be incentivized with local tax dollars in the City of Otsego?
A: Otsego has used taxpayer supported incentives only in limited circumstances primarily for infrastructure that benefits the City and not any one business; which in turn, the city also receives more taxes from the new growth.  The City has also sought grants from the State and Federal government to improve roadways to bring in new business to Otsego. We have successfully been able to use these programs to bring in the businesses and build the infrastructure for businesses like Michels, Coborns, P&F Machining, Bury and other companies who relocated their businesses here in our east and west industrial parks. The only time I can support a tool such as Tax Increment Financing is if it is for infrastructure and job growth and then only as a last resort implemented as a pay-as-you go incentive so that there is not a burden onto Otsego taxpayers.

3. We hear from businesses throughout the region that they are struggling to find enough employees.  Should Otsego adapt its housing policies to help attract the necessary workforce? Why or why not? 
A: The City’s policy is to provide a balance of housing types to meet the needs of all ages. The City emphasizes single family neighborhoods as the foundation of the community and defines the extent to which townhouses, apartment, and senior housing can be added and where these types of housing can be built. I am proud of the mix of housing types that we have at this time and support continuing the City’s current housing policies going forward.

4. Recently the City adopted a new Comprehensive Plan which part of the plan do you see as a critical next step for the growth of the City?
A: The recent Comprehensive Plan update has not yet been adopted. The City undertakes this update every 10 years to make sure the framework for development in Otsego is consistent with the community “vision” of the City.There is no doubt Otsego and surrounding communities are one of the fastest growing areas in Minnesota.  The Comprehensive Plan is based on policies preserving natural areas for future green space, growing management to allow City services to keep pace with development, a housing supply oriented to single family homes, commercial areas providing goods and services, and industrial areas for employment.  We have done a good job thus far following the Comprehensive Plan starting with the first document adopted in 1990 and evolving into the goals of today.

5. The City of Otsego is growing and its need for public safety. Do you support the addition of police and / or fire departments as part of the City budget, or should they continue as they are currently, outsourced to other jurisdictions?
A:The Wright County Sheriff’s Office provides an amazing level of service and resources for police protection in Otsego.   The City Council works closely with the Wright County Sherriff on an ongoing basis to ensure that police protection is meeting the needs of the community.  Looking to start a local police department that could provide the same services and resources does not make fiscal sense as it would cost exponentially more than the current Wright County Sheriff’s Office contract. As far as fire services, the contracts the City has with Elk River, Albertville, and Rogers have increased by 33% in the past two years and only will continue to go up as Otsego grows.  The City Council has is concluding a years-long study with fire professionals plan for and deploy an Otsego Fire Department.  I believe we can provide fire services more efficiently by building our own within improved response time and space for local ambulance service and disagree with other candidates that state it would cost more for an independent service having been involved in the studies and budget discussions.  An Otsego Fire Department would also provide the City greater control over the budget and services for fire protection than currently exists without ownership in the current contracted services.

6. Recently the City adopted a franchise fee which is an assessment on all residential and businesses paid through their utility bills.  This revenue will be used to fund the Pavement Management Program, which is designed to help with street maintenance including seal coats, mill and overlays, full depth reclamations, and reconstruction (renewals). Do you agree with this method of generating revenue, why or why not?
A: Otsego has a lot of older streets that were constructed when Otsego was still a township as well as when development of neighborhoods with water and sewer utilities started in the early 2000’s that will be coming due for major repairs.  The Pavement Management Plan provides schedule to redo those streets in the most cost-effective manner for all residents living in Otsego.  The long-term need to budget funding for these street projects cannot continue to be done through assessments and, because the amount varies from year-to-year, funding through property tax levies is not consistent.   I agree with franchise fees as a way to spread the fee evenly across all those who use the streets within the City including residents, businesses, schools, and churches.  Every City surrounding Otsego uses franchise fees, which the Finance Department has shown will save residents money over the life of the streets and avoids large one-time assessments. Our City Council already maintains a very conservative budget and looking out for the taxpayers is our #1 job, while still providing a high level of service and maintaining existing infrastructure for the people that live here.

7. For quite a few years, the levels of traffic on Parrish Avenue have been steadily increasing. Even before the added pressure from the Redefine 169 project, backups have extended from the Main Street bridge, all the way back south, past 93rd Circle during peak times. The problem not only affects the homeowners living on Parrish, but also for those living in the neighborhoods to the West of Parrish, and anyone wishing to get into Elk River in general. These backups constitute not only an inconvenience, but also a safety hazard to pedestrians and bike traffic, as frustrated motorists then use the side streets, private driveways, and sometimes yards to turn around and go a different direction. Many residents feel the problem stems from the Main Street and Parrish Avenue intersection, a problem which will require multijurisdictional cooperation to solve. What specific steps would you take to help alleviate the current safety concerns and move towards a more permanent solution?
A: I have driven Parrish Avenue for 44 years. When the bridge over the Mississippi River was built it was never intended to have the volumes of traffic there are today. It’s a constrained area at an intersection with the Mississippi River, US Highway 10 and Railroad with traffic from businesses, and homes to the west causing congestion. To fix this it will take shared efforts from Otsego, Elk River, Sherburne County, Wright County, MN/DoT and the Federal government that will take time to come together.  In my roles with the I-94 Chamber, I-94 Coalition, and Councilmember, I have been to Washington D.C. to meet with US Senators and Representatives and testified before committees at our State Capital for funding for the I-94 expansion projects just now being completed, which benefitted all of the communities in this region both for safety and for future commerce.   A similar effort will be required by all of the stakeholders to provide for a solution to the traffic issues occurring on Main Street in Elk River. Also, in 2003-2004, I was one of the people at the table with the city and county when our family donated approximately $9M worth of property to make HWY. 101 safer.  This saved the citizens of Otsego and County millions of tax dollars to create a safer community and lives.
 

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