The race for the District 6 seat on the Hennepin County Board has become a lively one—with dueling yard signs and Internet comments.
There’s a good reason why. In the coming years, Hennepin County commissioners will have to tackle many complex issues.
To help you know how the candidates would tackle the challenges ahead, Patch asked the candidates where they stand on key issues and how they view the job of county commissioner. Today, we’re running an e-mail interview with incumbent Jan Callison. Click here for the interview with challenger Dave Wahlstedt.
Patch: What would your philosophy be toward your work on the County Board?
Jan Callison: My philosophy is to thoughtfully consider the issues, listen to other points of view and decide responsibly with a focus on the long term.
Patch: How would you find a balance between a reasonable level of taxation and providing necessary services?
Callison: My record demonstrates the balance that I have found, making county government more efficient even while serving more people. During my term:
- Property taxes supporting the general operating budget decreased two years out of three and the Solid Waste Management Fee (assessed according to property value) was eliminated in 2010;
- Overall tax levies grew at less than the rate of inflation;
- County spending was kept roughly flat -- decreasing from $1.752 billion to $1.747 billion even as the need for county services has increased;
- Spending on capital projects has slowed. Proposed capital spending for 2013 is 8.4% less than 2012.
Patch: How should the county foster economic development?
Callison: The business community is clear that transportation investments are key to continued economic development in this area. As commissioner, I have advocated for Southwest LRT and other transportation solutions in Hennepin County. I have recognized concerns about property taxes from businesses by holding the line on property taxes and new forms of taxation. In addition, I understand that helping the businesses that are here to grow is crucial to creating a positive business climate, and I have supported business development strategies such as economic gardening and Open for Business. I am proud to be endorsed by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Patch: What role should county government have in caring for the less fortunate?
Callison: Hennepin County is the social service arm of the State of Minnesota and is mandated to provide “safety net services” as directed by the State.
Patch: What relationship should county government have with cities and other local government entities?
Callison: City and county government are intertwined. The fact that Hopkins is now in the county 911 dispatch system means that Hopkins residents are no longer paying property taxes twice for 911 services. The approval of a new county library in Excelsior will improve the quality of life for residents in the South Lake Minnetonka area and the vitality of the Excelsior business community. Road projects like County Rd. 101 (Minnetonka, Wayzata and Woodland), Shady Oak (Minnetonka and Hopkins) and 112 (Orono and Long Lake) are important to residents, commuters and the business community alike. The commissioner for this district needs to be able to speak effectively for the needs of these communities and residents.
Patch: What relationship should county government have with the state?
Callison: Counties are created by the State and provide social services on behalf of the state and as mandated by the state. Moreover, state policies and actions directly impact the county including property tax levels and the demand for services. I spend time every legislative session meeting with legislators from this area regarding important county issues so that they will be aware of the impact of their decisions upon residents and businesses in our communities.
Patch: How well does the Southwest Light Rail Transit project fit the needs of the region?
Callison: Southwest Light Rail Transit has gone through a rigorous federal process that demonstrates that it is one of the premier light rail projects in the nation, and that it is a cost-effective investment. All six cities directly affected by it have adopted resolutions of support. In addition, it has the support of the TwinWest, Eden Prairie and Edina Chambers of Commerce. This region is forecast to add 60,000 new jobs. The current roadway system will not accommodate these new employees and cannot be expanded without substantial cost and impact. We need a strong and diverse transportation network in order to compete nationally and internationally and to support our business community. Southwest Light Rail is a smart investment for this region.
Patch: What should the county's role be on the Southwest Light Rail project?
Callison: The County has been the lead proponent of the project. It will continue to advocate and support it in conjunction now with the Metropolitan Council.
Patch: What new county efforts or projects would you like to introduce? What county efforts or projects would you like to end?
Callison: I hope to continue the work of making county government more efficient, transparent and accountable while also focusing attention on improving results for those we serve. My decisions on supporting new projects or ending existing projects will be filtered through that lens.