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Let us hope each candidate in each race has the courage and basic decency to show up for the session and to not torpedo any particular board seat forum opportunity. If you pay attention, and your board district is not featured, (aside from the seat not in play), the likelihood is an incumbent spikes things, not wanting to lose an advantage incumbency provides. Not always, however. Years ago when Todd Cook was a Ramsey council incumbent, it was challenger Matt Look who spiked things then. Cook showed up and was unhappy over being deprived of an opportunity to speak.
Matt debated well, and after the debate we talked a bit, ranging from sewer pipe sizing history in Ramsey, to differing opinions of the cost/benefit effectiveness of Darren Lazan, and to a possible McDonalds outlet in Town Center, (which to me is no big step toward nice shops and restaurants).
There's a McDonalds down next to Culvers in Anoka along the service road paralleling Highway 10. If you might drive to Town Center driving a mile and a half further to the fast-food strip in Anoka along Highway 10 by the Kmart is no bigger thing.
I suppose on foot walking the 3-1/2 miles from home to Town Center's west side and back for an Egg-McMuffin would trump the extra on-foot mileage to the Anoka fast-food-strip, but I believe the better expectation of people in Ramsey is for a restaurant selection a cut above what's nationwide franchise, and also already conveniently down the Highway.
Franchise fast food outlets, actual or tentative, are not cause to say the million plus paid Landform was soundly spent town cash.
The problem with swift embrace of fast-food is that while it is an easy Landform kill, for today's commission now, it seems it would be hard to undo and upgrade, once done.
What was distressing is that the LWV candidate forum was too disrespected by too many candidates, and that's a pathological thing that deserves disapprobation.
Matt Look and Allison Lister showed up and had a helpful range of discussion for Board District 1 voters. Julie Braastad and Andy Westerberg were contesting over which of them was the truer conservative, which bodes ill for the district either way, yet their discussion was interesting even with my not having a vote in that contest.
Dan Erhart and Scott Schulte provided the final discussion and the final act met expectations. Both were relaxed and well spoken. But saying different things. Erhart expressed a need for a wider vision beyond tax cuts of the moment with consequences later coming home to roost; i.e., having a perspective beyond the lowest common denominator, that nobody (outside of Ramsey politicians) would willingly waste taxpayer money chasing inefficiency.
Schulte in response to a question of what would you do to enhance jobs in Anoka County said "focus on medical and biotech." Come on. That's not a plan but a blind and largely unrealistic hope. The man either is clueless or had to know it was reaching, but went that way anyway. Communities nationwide would welcome high-paying high-prestige medtech and biotech business; and some communities, such as Cambridge, Mass., around Harvard and MIT, and Palo Alto with Stanford, and Berkeley with Cal-Berkley, and Baltimore, with Hopkins and its widely respected hospital - being communities having just a bit of an edge.
Yes, Medtronic as a mature firm has arranged to be headquartered in Anoka County, under terms and conditions unknown to me, but doubtlessly fiscally favorable to Medtronic.
That does not mean start-up incubation will sprout in Anoka County, and Schulte seemed to have no specifics of any kind in mind, or if so, he declined to share that aspect of his thought processes. Simply put, the "howto" part of the Schulte response was glaringly omitted. But, aside from such detail, Schulte had his response ready.
Yes, any fool on the street can say "biotech;" but venture capitalists know where to bet and I expect it is not Anoka County.
Nobody had (or expressed) any idea of how to gain attention and interest of venture capitalists for the community, and all likely could not identify venture capital sources if their lives depended on it. Perhaps Erhart could, from his having been in industry before politics, and from his wide-ranging contacts in and beyond St. Paul.
There were the obligatory "North Dakota stealing our jobs" references from a conservative speaker or two, whose only answer to the jobs crisis was cut taxes and they will come.
Some have. Not enough.
And firms do want infrastructure as part of a cause to relocate, and infrastructure costs money. So it is either borrow or exhaust reserves - eat the seed corn - or else you tax to build infrastructure, and even young children can understand that. After wars on the credit card, and seeing Ramsey reserves being "borrowed" from for Town Center speculative socialism - competition with private sector land speculators - each of us can have ideas about the wisdom of borrow-and-spend, or eat the seed corn.
A specific question, "what would you cut next as a county expense" was met by vague verbal dancing, the word "efficiency' and "efficient" being substituted for any true answer. I confess, I cannot say for certain where that came up, but I think it was in the battle for truer conservative status where it came up. The response was so trite that it made no lasting impression who said it, so let it rest.
BOTTOM LINE: The session was quite worthwhile - as far as it went. And that's halfway.
ABC Newspapers, before the event reported:
There will be elections in all but one of the seven county commissioner districts as a result of this year’s redistricting for population shifts that followed the 2010 U.S. Census.
Only the District 4 seat, which comprises, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, most of Fridley and the portion of Spring Lake Park east of Highway 65, is not on the ballot this year.
All candidates have been invited to take part in the forum.
In keeping with LWV policy, both candidates for a county commissioner seat must be present to ensure that a side-by-side comparison is available for responses to questions from voters, according to Geri Nelson, LWV ABC voter service co-chairperson.
“League of Women Voters ABC has been active in the area for over 70 years,” Nelson said.
“This forum continues a strong tradition of helping voters obtain information about candidates’ stands on issues.”
If you figure out that of six races, three were featured, you earn a gold star. Go figure what happened in the other three. Where all candidates were invited. I will name absentee names. Names earning shame.
Rhonda Sivarajah and her opponent each ducked out. Board chair no-show looks questionable, as if running on one's record is a delicate thing.
Dan Sanders was there and introduced, but Robin West, (again with a record to run on), stood him up so that Sanders could not share ideas with the group. Voters were denied the opportunity to know more about him.
Ditto for Carol LeDoux being present and introduced. Similar to Sanders, LeDoux lost the chance to share ideas and discuss her record, via her opponent's no-show.
GROUP BOYCOTT: I believe it is or has almost universally become de rigueur among some number of "true conservatives" here and elsewhere to earn their stripes by giving a single finger salute to LWV forums - a proof of stature or legitimacy, something like Indian youths as a rite of passage having to go into the wilderness and return with an eagle feather. Braastad and Westerberg together bucked that trend and are congratulated, as are Schulte and Look, known conservatives who were up to accepting an invitation to mix with voters and to speak their minds. Conservatives who did not duck out. That of course also means Erhart and Lister deserve absolutely equal praise. LWV rules are: Nobody could dance without a partner.
(Our town, Ramsey, has had its share of group boycott disrespect for LWV forums . But that's a separate story from any post updating here.)