Johnson, Wells battle for open Coon Rapids at-large seat

Roger Johnson and Steve Wells are candidates for the vacant at-large seat on the Coon Rapids City Council in the Nov. 6 general election. Incumbent Councilmember Scott Schulte is not seeking re-election.

1. Biography.

Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

Johnson:  I am a 38-year homeowner in Coon Rapids.

I was born, raised and educated in Minnesota. I joined a labor union at age 15, am a lifetime member of the AFL-CIO and endorsed by major labor unions in this election.

Married to wife Vicki Johnson, we raised two grown sons, both Eagle Scouts, who played all sports through the CRAA and were educated in Coon Rapids public schools and MnSCU colleges.

Such family activities gladly kept me involved in Y-Indian Guides, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts, as an adult leader and troop committee chairperson. CRAA activities included assistant coach in hockey, baseball and soccer.

Our three grandchildren continue to deserve our attention and they receive it.

I have a number of graduate degrees and certificates from several colleges {bachelor of physics, masters in science education, certificates in astrophysics and nuclear engineering and completed all doctoral courses in educational administration}.

I taught college-level physics and engineering in both public and private colleges, and have a long list of volunteer experiences in numerous governmental agencies and civic non-profits.

These include roles and leadership positions as a city commissioner, Anoka County ambassador, school district task forces, area community colleges and chamber of commerce.

Steven Wells
Steven Wells

Wells: Steve Wells, age 57, married 36 years to Paula. Son Matt, a Coon Rapids firefighter, wife Kelly and children Colton, Allie, Brynn and Tori. daughter Kristin and husband Paul Perez, son Wesley.

Education: A.S. in law enforcement from North Hennepin Community College. B.A. and M.M.A. from Metropolitan State University.

Career: Coon Rapids police officer from 1978-2010; chief of police 1998-2010.

Past affiliations: president Coon Rapids Youth Hockey; board member Coon Rapids National Little League, youth coach, baseball, basketball and football; L.O. Jacob parent volunteer; Coon Rapids Senior Class Party security chairman 1997-1999; charter member and past board chairman Coon Rapids Youth First; Salvation Army Advisory Board.

Current affiliations: Coon Rapids Rotarian, board member Emma B Howe YMCA, FBINAA Northwest Chapter, Coon Rapids Parks and Trails Task Force, member Faith Lutheran Church.

2. Do think the council’s proposed level of spending and 2013 property tax levy is about right, too little or too high? Please give your reasons and indicate what you would cut if you think spending is too high and what you would spend more on if you think it is too low?

Johnson: The city’s proposed levy is up 4.46 percent, and its HRA levy is up 3.03 percent.

These are too high with respect to the inflation rate and the general income growths of both retirees and those employed who live in Coon Rapids, whose incomes have either been reduced or leveled off during this economic downturn.

I have analyzed all 305 pages of the proposed budget.

One of its weaknesses is the absence of real details of why we need the items in the enterprises and special revenue funds, which are up 5.5 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.

I’d reduce expenditures in the housing program, public communication and recycling to prior levels.

I’d stop acquiring property, issuing home loans with taxpayer money and spending the lodging tax receipts.

I’d shrink costs of Summer in the City and expansion of the newsletter.

I’d eliminate full-time marketing of our city to its own inhabitants, check carefully any automatic comparable-worth pay increases and require golf and the ice arena to operate on self-generating revenue.

Finally, we need to get rid of the facility construction account, and instead take the monies left after bonded indebtedness is paid off and give it back to the taxpayers in the form of annual levy reductions.

Wells: I am comfortable with the level of spending established in the 2013 budget.

The popular answer would be to say I would make cuts to the budget.

In a $26 million general fund budget it is not difficult to find items that are important to some and unnecessary to others.

I respect the six-month process of formulating a budget and the compromises staff and city council make.

The city has trimmed staff by almost 20 full-time positions in the past few years as well as many part-time jobs.

Public safety is now 50 percent of the general fund budget up from 45 percent just a few years ago.

This is not due to hiring additional police and fire personnel, but rather the decrease in spending in other areas.

That reflects the council’s priorities and I agree with those tough decisions.

My goal on the council would be to strive to bring quality service to the citizens in the most efficient way possible.

It is important to continue the use of technology to improve service and reduce costs.

We must also re-evaluate past practices such as replacement schedules for vehicles and equipment.

The operating losses at the new ice arena are also a concern, just to name a few items to reassess.

3. What steps should the council take to stimulate development/redevelopment on Coon Rapids Boulevard?

Johnson: Coon Rapids Boulevard has been on the council’s radar for far too long without a business-like model for addressing it.

I am encouraged that city staff last month launched a business retention and expansion program.

It’s designed to stimulate economic development and growth for the city’s existing businesses.

But we need to add a dimension to it that continues to attract new businesses to Coon Rapids.

While we are partnering with the University of Minnesota Extension (and some local partners) to survey existing businesses, we ought to spirit an outgrowth of data to alter existing ordinances and regulations to smooth the way for new businesses.

While it’s nice to work for expansion of existing businesses, as we strategically plan to utilize the last 5 percent of our city’s land, we ought to be assuring our residents that we will bring new businesses and new jobs to Coon Rapids.

Let’s couple the core group of business leaders, now visiting businesses and reporting specific opportunity areas, reviewing feedback and suggesting solutions, with a formalized, permanent economic commission that reports to the council.

I’d advocate giving the MetroNorth Chamber a permanent place at the table, along with local area business development residents and leaders.

Wells:  The redevelopment of Coon Rapids Boulevard is the number one concern among many residents.

The reality is there are no quick or easy solutions.

The city has to use every resource available to facilitate and stimulate growth on the boulevard.

Exciting things are happening on the west end with Mercy Hospital being the catalyst to new development and good jobs in related medical fields.

There are also opportunities to partner with the county, state and school district to develop the area around the new ice arena.

An Anoka County Library on Coon Rapids Boulevard would be an excellent addition and potentially lead to private sector growth.

Any facility built by the city would have to be within our means and not operate at a significant loss for it to garner my support.

The city has hired a consultant to study business extension and expansion, but we need to utilize the business leaders already here and tap their knowledge as well.

They have a vested interest in the city thriving.

I have been endorsed by the MetroNorth Chamber Leadership Fund because I understand how important its investment is in our city.

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