City, state candidates talk business at chamber forumMayor, council and legislative candidates participated in Monday forum. DFL candidate Mike Germain boycotts forum.
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
Business was the clear focus of Monday night’s Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum at Rosemount City Hall.
Both mayoral candidates showed up, as did three of the four council candidates to express their views on a variety of topics facing the city. Tim Judy was absent due to injury.
After giving a brief introduction all of the candidates were asked the same questions by moderator Don Sinnwell and given one minute to answer. The questions started with what candidates think is the most important issue facing the city in the next two years.
Both mayoral candidates, incumbent Bill Droste and challenger Kurt Hansen, focused on the economy and how to beef up Rosemount’s. The responses set the tone for the rest of the night.
Hansen said Rosemount needs to invest in infrastructure and create jobs to get ahead. He added that the city needs to review the way it does things and streamline many processes.
“I’d like to embrace the opportunity to bring new ideas and new blood to city hall. We can do things better,” said Hansen in his closing statements.
Furthermore Hansen criticized how the city has done things in the past. In particular he said the construction of Waterford Commons in downtown ruined the small town feel of Rosemount.
Hansen owned the land the development was built on. The port authority took the land through eminent domain in 2008. Hansen settled with the city to avoid a costly court battle.
Droste said the city needs to continue to work with its partners including the University of Minnesota to beef up the economy. He also defended the way the city operates but added that the council is always looking for ways to improve.
Going forward, Droste said the three major issues facing the city are economic development, which includes bringing jobs to Rosemount, keeping the tax rate down and the development of UMore Park.
Another point of contention between the mayoral candidates was the city’s permitting process. While answering several of the questions Hansen pointed out that the city’s permitting process is cumbersome and expensive. He believes the process scares businesses from opening shop in Rosemount.
Droste argued that the council continually reviews its processes and tries to streamline them as much as possible but that the city has to do its due diligence.
On the council candidates side of things discussion stayed pretty basic. Joe Kurle the only newcomer in attendance, said he thinks the city needs to focus on economic development and reducing city spending. He also said the city’s processes should be reviewed annually to keep the things in check.
Incumbent Kim Shoe-Corrigan said the city needs to continue to focus on responsible budgeting and paying down debt.
“I believe the city budget should be run like a family budget,” said Shoe-Corrigan.
In addition to the city’s budget Shoe-Corrigan said she would like to focus on economic development and the UMore development.
DeBettignies identified a number of issues that he would like to focus on during another term. He said safety is a big issue for him as is building or creating a center for the city’s seniors.
Additionally, he said he wants to focus on stimulating commercial and industrial development.
As for budgeting, DeBettignies said the city should not take one more dollar in tax money than the city needs to function.
37B House of Representatives
While the council forum was fairly civil, the 37B House of Representatives candidates got a bit contentious at times. Both candidates, Kurt Bills (R) and incumbent Phillip Sterner (DFL) took shots at each other Tuesday night.
Both candidates frequently took parts of their one-minute response times to respond to comments made by his opponent.
During his opening comments Sterner, who owns an insurance agency, said he has always had a passion to serve others and asked for the opportunity to continue his service in the State House of Representatives.
Sterner said he has worked hard for small businesses - including authoring the Angel Investor tax credit - and education. Sterner said he will continue to work hard to get the state out of its tough financial situation.
“I’d like to continue my work,” said Sterner.
Bills, an economics teacher at Rosemount High School and a member of the Rosemount City Council, said he wants to bring an economics lesson to the capitol.
“Being the one who brings it to kids has energized me to get involved,” said Bills.
Bills said his goal as a representative would be to lower the state’s debt like he’s helped the city do as a council member.
Bills said the house needs to concentrate on finding long-term solutions to problems. He then criticized the Angel Investor tax credit as short-term solution.
The credit provides incentives for investor that put money up for startup and emerging companies.
When asked how to improve Minnesota’s economic climate, Sterner answered that the state should eliminate the JOBZ program and lower corporate taxes.
Bills said the state needs to concentrate on creating jobs. He said while going door to door, he has been horrified by the number of foreclosed home there are. He said the solution is getting people back to work.
Education issues seemed to draw the most ire. When asked how the state could help close the achievement gap, Sterner said the education system needs to concentrate on getting and retaining high quality teachers and keeping class sizes low.
Bills said the system needs to concentrate on early childhood development.
“Early childhood development is economic development,” said Bills.
When asked about their position on vouchers for students to enroll in private school, Sterner said he is not in favor. Bills said he is in favor of families having options.
When asked about the School District 196 levy Sterner said he will vote in favor of it. Bills did not give a direct answer but said residents will have to look at their individual situations when voting.
The candidates also touched on energy. Sterner said he would like to further investigate green energies such as wind and solar. Bills said he would like to see the moratorium on nuclear energy lifted.
In closing Bills said he hopes to be elected to help lead Minnesota into the future.
“We do face difficult times but our finest moments come when facing difficult times,” said Bills.
In his closing comments Sterner said he has worked hard to make a difference and to get legislators on both sides of the aisle to work together.
“I’m all for building bridges and not building barriers,” said Sterner.
37 State Senate
Chris Gerlach (R) had the run of the floor in this forum Monday night as his opponent, Michael Germain, did not show.
In a phone interview Germain said he made the conscious decision not to attend because he felt the forum was biased and unfair from the beginning.
“I don’t miss an opportunity like this lightly,” said Germain.
Germain said the chamber has already decided on who it will endorse and that the questions would be biased. Additionally Germain said he feared the video editing of the forum for television would work against him.
The Town Pages was not able to reach the chamber or Gerlach for comment about Germain’s allegations.
At the forum Gerlach talked about his history in the senate and explained why’s he’s running for another term.
“I have strong opinions on what government ought to be and what it ought not to be,” said Gerlach.
He went on to add that he would like to bring his good judgment back to the capitol.
Gerlach said the state government has a spending problem that needs to be addressed.
“Revenue is going up but spending is going way up,” said Gerlach.
Gerlach said everyone in the state government is going to have to push to lower the state’s deficit.
Gerlach said he’s been honored to serve the people of District 37 and hopes to continue doing it. Going forward he said the government needs to keep spending and taxes in check and concentrate on creating more jobs.
“I’m proud to be endorsed by job creators,” said Gerlach.
The forum will be available online for residents to watch on the city’s web site through the election season. Visit www.ci.rosemount.mn. us to watch it. The forum also will be played on the cable access.