Five of the six candidates running for the Anoka County Commissioner District 6 seat attended a candidate forum last week to introduce themselves to the business community and discuss their priorities.
The Quad Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum Oct. 3 at the Tria Event Center. Cindy Hansen, Craig Johnson, Kevin Ryan, Jeff Reinert and Karen Lodico all attended; Donovan McGurie did not.
Chamber member Kevin Amile, of Express Employment Professionals, served as the moderator. Four questions were posed to the candidates.
If elected, would you be willing to serve on the taxation committee, and what would be your number one priority on that committee?
Johnson said the taxation committee is one of the most important committees there is and he would be willing to serve on it. “My basic priority would be to ensure that as we look at what we might levy to our residents, making sure that we have looked through everything,” he said. “What can we do to make sure that we are doing the best, to ensure we can efficiently change the processes or find ways to make cuts where we need to.”
Hansen said she would be willing to serve on the committee. “I really believe that no one wants to increase taxes, but there has to be a good balance between taxation and public safety and giving the residents the proper public safety that they need,” she said. “It is really a difficult balance. I have dealt with that as mayor, and I would want to do it again at the county level.”
Reinert said he would also be willing to serve on the committee. “I listen to a lot of people that say that they don't feel like they are getting an equitable return on the taxes that they pay to the county. Whether that is true or not for each district, I am not quite sure,” he said. “That's one thing that I would definitely do. Make sure that for specifically District 6 that we make sure that they are getting the bang for their buck and they are getting a return of investment on the taxes that they pay.”
Ryan said, “I think the number one priority would be to keep and maintain as much equity of the tax base in the taxpayers’ hands and not having extra property being held by the cities and municipalities. Unless the cities can demonstrate a plan to purchase that property for an actual project, then the property should be sold to private property owners and the taxes should be collected.”
Lodico said she would like to serve on the committee and said her priority would be business development. “We need to try to promote business development to offset the tax burden on property owners. I have lived in Circle Pines and Lino Lakes and those are higher-taxed areas. We want to have safety and security, parks and trails, nice roads, it is that balance ... It is not an easy job.”
If elected, what would you do to actively support economic development for the existing businesses in Anoka County?
Ryan said, “It is a basic outline to have roads, utilities and services available for businesses, but it’s my overall belief that the businesses are going to have to come and stand on their own. They are going to have to develop their own business plans. Babysitting them, giving away tax benefits, those sound really good, but they don't support strong, solid development.”
Lodico said she is a huge promoter of business development. “Centerville, Lino Lakes and Circle Pines are some of the highest-taxed cities in residential taxes because we don't have much business, and so that tax burden falls more heavily on our citizens,” she said. “I'd love to see more of that growth (like Blaine) happening on the other side of community so that we can offset that tax disparity, bring in business, bring in growth and have less of a burden on taxpayers.”
Hansen said she is a supporter of small business. “I have experience in creating TIF districts, changing zoning so that businesses can grow; I have also worked with a business where we were able to defer the SAC/WAC fees so that the business could succeed. I really want businesses to thrive in Anoka County,” she said.
Johnson said he is excited about the Minnesota Technology Corridor, which he called a great start to attracting new businesses to the county. “I am a marketing professional, and with the shrinking workforce we really need to be creative, market, show the value of Anoka County. We need to be actively involved and make sure people know that Anoka County is the place to be.”
Reinert said a lot of economic development is driven from the city level. “You need to keep the infrastructure in place and work with your partners. We put together a pavement management plan so that our roads are taken care of at a level they should be. We put together a park and trail management system that did the same thing.”
Candidates were also asked about whether they would be interested in shrinking the size/scope of county government and if they would support a I-35E and I-35W interchange at 180th Street to minimize impact to wetlands.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.