Blaine City Council candidates weigh in on the issues

Blaine residents on Nov. 8 will face choices in each of the three wards for council members and at least Ward 3 will have a new representative.

〉〉Read more 2016 election coverage

In Ward 1, incumbent Council Member Dick Swanson is being challenged by John R. Wilcox.

Ward 2 voters will decide between incumbent Council Member Mike Bourke and challenger Julie Jeppson.

There will be a new Ward 3 Council Member because Russ Herbst decided not to run for re-election. Running for his soon-to-be-vacated seat are Andy Garvais and Maisa Olson.

WARD 1

Biography

DICK SWANSON

Address: 8702 Hastings Circle

Age: 71

Education: B.A. Mankato State University, M.P.A. Kent State University/DOT

Occupation: Retired Minnesota Department of Transportation Director of Finance

Years Lived in Anoka County: 33 years in Blaine

JOHN R. WILCOX

Address: 2811 Rice Creek Parkway NE

Age: 42

Family: Wife Melissa; daughter (Alison) and son (Austin)

Education: Attended Anoka Technical College

Occupation: Water treatment operator for the City of Minneapolis Water Treatment and Distribution

Years lived in Anoka County: 17 years in Blaine

Community Involvement: Treasurer of Spring Lake Park Swim and Dive Booster Club; active in several Ministry’s at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church Blaine; adult leader in local Boy Scout Troop; served on boards for parents raising special needs children.

1. What would be your top priorities if elected to the Blaine City Council?

SWANSON: My first priority is to maintain the city’s infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, trails and parks). Next, maintain Blaine’s status of lowest tax rate of any full service city in Anoka County, while providing the services our citizens expect and deserve.

WILCOX: Would be an advocate for the city and its leaders to be fiscally responsible for the decisions that financially affect the residents. Make sure the city continues to be clear and transparent in all aspects of city government. Blaine is growing and will continue to do so, our decisions are not what should benefit its leaders but rather those that hire us to be their voice, our neighbors.

I would be an advocate for your services. The city is responsible for services that effect our daily lives. We should turn on the faucet and have safe clean water, drive on our streets and have them clean and safe, live in our community and have public safety protect all that live and visit our city. I will be available for you, after all it’s you I work for.

2. Blaine would like to reconstruct 105th Avenue and add medians, roundabouts, turn lanes and extend the sidewalks on both sides of the road, but has not proceeded because it hopes to receive state funding. The city has $1.1 million from Anoka County. If Blaine receives no funding from the state during the 2017 legislative session, what should the city do?

SWANSON: The city has to repair 105th to the best status that available funds will allow. The city has about $3 million for the project. These funds are the $1 million the county provided when the city was forced to take back the road from the county. The council also allocated $1 million Economic Development Association funds and $1 million of Municipal State Aid Funds. These funds will be still $3 million short of the funds needed for the project but would allow the creation of a road that will not a be disgrace to the city.

WILCOX: The City of Blaine is responsible for making all the roads safe to travel on, for vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. Putting off the fixing of the situation on 105th Avenue, though expensive, will only get more expensive down the road. The price tag to make it right will only get bigger.

I say, fix it right. The residents of Blaine deserve safe streets. Residents want to see the results of their investments. Many of our streets have safety concerns, and that should be a priority of the city and funding for our safety should be a priority. What is the price tag for public safety?

3. The Blaine City Council will be appointing members to a new traffic coalition in January 2017 or shortly thereafter and the council will allocate the budget dollars. What should be the priorities of this commission?

SWANSON: The first thing the commission will have to do is review the cities comprehensive plan and the work of the earlier city transportation committee. The commission will have to understand the city’s current transportation and traffic policies. The commission will be expected to comment on those policies and offer revisions if desired. The commission’s roll in actual project decisions has not been determined.

WILCOX: The priorities of the traffic coalition should be to act as an advisory board on matters relating to the movement and regulation of traffic within the city, to coordinate traffic activities, to carry on educational activities in traffic matters, to receive complaints having to do with traffic problems, and to make recommendations to the City Council of ways of improving traffic conditions within the City of Blaine.

Getting more residents active in the local level is where we, as residents, can have the most impact on the day-to-day lives of ourselves and our neighbors.

WARD 2

Biography

MIKE BOURKE

Address: 83 103rd Ave. NE

Age: 61

Family: Wife (Susan), son (Michael), daughter (Samantha)

Education: Graduate of Spring Lake Park High School

Occupation: Sales manager for O’Reilly Auto Parts

Years lived in Anoka County: 32 years in Blaine

Community service: I have served 12 years on the Blaine City Council and six years on the Blaine Planning Commission and have been mayor pro tem,

JULIE JEPPSON

Address: 1702 116th Ave. NE

Age: 41

Family: Married to Nate for 18 years. We have two children, Ellie (12) and Aaron (8)

Occupation: Development Director for Stepping Stone Emergency Housing

Years lived in Anoka County: 12 years in Blaine

Community Involvement: MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce, Ham Lake Chamber of Commerce, Blaine/Ham Lake Rotary, served over six years on Executive Committee of Parent Teacher Organization of School District 16’s Northpoint Elementary

1. What would be your top priorities if elected to the Blaine City Council?

BOURKE: My goal is to continue to create jobs by continuing to support every new business and to support every new employer that comes to Blaine. Public safety is also a priority. I am going to continue to champion solutions for traffic issues. I have supported hiring two new neighborhood traffic officers to patrol and help solve neighborhood traffic problems. My third priority is to provide above average services such as great roads, updated utilities and maintained parks. I am going to continue this while SAVING TAX DOLLARS.

JEPPSON: My first priority is community safety. We need to support fire, police and other public service heroes, as well as ensure safe and efficient roads, parks and recreational activities that will withstand ever-increasing use.

My second priority is community development. We need to create a comprehensive plan which will renew the momentum of growth and prosperity for Blaine and strengthen the city’s relationships with small and large business, school districts, faith communities and families.

My third priority is community leadership. I will bring transparency and integrity by insisting on accountability in decision making and will work with community leaders and staff to do what is best for Blaine.

2. Blaine would like to reconstruct 105th Avenue and add medians, roundabouts, turn lanes and extend the sidewalks on both sides of the road, but has not proceeded because it hopes to receive state funding. The city has $1.1 million from Anoka County. If Blaine receives no funding from the state during the 2017 legislative session, what should the city do?

BOURKE: The solution to rebuilding 105th Avenue to Blaine standards is to use the $1.1 million Anoka County has provided, obtain additional funds through the State of Minnesota and the city of Blaine provide the rest.

Without the additional funds from the State of Minnesota the city has the funds to mill the old blacktop and do an overlay of new blacktop thanks to the funds provided from Anoka County.

JEPPSON: The situation surrounding 105th Avenue is very unique. Since it is used annually by millions of visitors from all over the world, we need to involve and seek out as many entities as possible that are able to provide funding. This includes going back to the state, going back to the county, working with the National Sports Center, and working with various civic entities, actively seeking and representing Blaine as a priority community.

There are many options of funding available. As a council member, I commit to be proactive, representing Blaine to make sure the necessary dollars are sought out and secured.

3. The Blaine City Council will be appointing members to a new traffic coalition in January 2017 or shortly thereafter and the council will allocate the budget dollars. What should be the priorities of this commission?

BOURKE: The reason I have supported the new traffic commission is to give the people of Blaine a voice in solving their neighborhood traffic issues.

JEPPSON: A Traffic Commission was unanimously approved by City Council in July 2016, to start in 2017 when a new council is elected. I am very excited about the idea of this program. It will give residents a forum in which to voice real safety concerns.

I believe that if the Traffic Commission is run properly, residents will be heard by a dedicated group of men and women whose only purpose is to improve our safety. This does not negate the role of the council, however. It is imperative that City Council members actively work with and support the commission. In the past, many residents in various neighborhoods have come to the council expressing extreme concern for speeding and unsafe driving that ultimately led to the tragedy in May of 2016 when one of our neighbors was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

Council members must partner with the commission by attending meetings, researching options and supporting recommendations. This is the only way that real change will happen.

WARD 3

Biography

ANDY GARVAIS

Address: 12744 Petersburg St. NE

Age: 31

Family: Wife (Krystal); Son (Vincent)

Education: Master’s of Public Administration from Hamline University and Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance from the University of Minnesota.

Occupation: Benefits Division Supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and Minnesota Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer. Non-commissioned officer for the U.S. Army Reserves.

Years lived in Anoka County: 2 years in Blaine

Community involvement: Serve on a state implementation team to end veteran homelessness

MAISA OLSON

Address: 12217 Radisson Road NE

Age: 38

Family: Husband of 17 years (Darren); daughter’s Sarida (12) and Sieayla (10) and son, Cruz (8)

Education: White Bear Lake High School and Century Community College

Occupation: Own and operate Appraisals Today, LLC. Real estate agent with Keller Williams

Years lived in Anoka County: 13 years in Blaine

Community involvement: I volunteer at our church and our public elementary school. Currently serve on Blaine’s Planning Committee and the Board of Equalization.

1. What would be your top priorities if elected to the Blaine City Council?

GARVIS: One of my top priorities when elected to the Blaine City Council is to ensure that were are engaging in smart and controlled growth. With very little undeveloped land left we need to be cognizant of what our community needs are and target specific business to develop and/or relocate to Blaine. We also need to identify and project issues with the traffic flow within our city. With more and more residents moving to Blaine we need to ensure that our arterial vehicle traffic does not conflict with our pedestrian traffic. We need to ensure that we are marketing our city appropriately to the businesses we desire and we need to have long-range plans on capital improvement and redevelopment so that our existing infrastructure and economy remain strong.

OLSON: Two of my top priorities would be traffic/safety and budget.

Traffic is a big issue for our neighborhoods and community. The Minnesota Department of Transportation stated Highway 65 contains several of the costliest intersections. Improvements have been made, and there are more needed. In addition, our neighborhood speeds have grown increasingly fast, with increased distractions while driving.

As a city, we need to do what we can to raise attention to this problem and find solutions. A great example of this is the new speed feedback signs located on 119th Avenue.

Managing growth and maintaining a budget. As Blaine continues to grow in residents, we need to grow our infrastructure and foster good economic growth. Blaine should be a place where our businesses thrive, and where other businesses ask to become part of our community. This creates strong tax base which in turn allows us to keep our budget tight. We have to spend money wisely.

I have not had the opportunity to be involved in Blaine’s budgeting, however, I look forward to getting involved and in touch with our residents in order to see where they would like to see their money spent, and where they feel we need to scale back.

2. Blaine would like to reconstruct 105th Avenue and add medians, roundabouts, turn lanes and extend the sidewalks on both sides of the road, but has not proceeded because it hopes to receive state funding. The city has $1.1 million from Anoka County. If Blaine receives no funding from the state during the 2017 legislative session, what should the city do?

GARVAIS: What we decide to do really depends on why we received no funding from the 2017 Minnesota Legislature. If there was wide support for the funding but we did not receive it because of the entire omnibus bill was not passed due to a controversial line item then we should assess our options.

Our options could include starting to reconstruct 105th by using the $1.1 million received from Anoka County and some city funds and focusing purely on the roadway and driving lanes themselves. We could prepare the site for additional add-on features if we believed we had support in the 2018 Legislature and backing to pass the funding separate from controversial issues.

If we did not have support in the 2017 Minnesota Legislature then we really need to look at the overall reconstruction of 105th and balance the complete redesign plan within the constraints of the city budget. This may include removing costly items such as tunnels or pedestrian bridges.

OLSON: If Blaine does not receive additional funding from the state, I believe it is important that we move forward in making the improvements.

A few options could be:

A. Increase cost for those who are utilizing the fields and Blaine Sports Complex facilities to support the funding of the project.

B. Also, the BSC is a critical piece to supporting our community and local businesses, so we all benefit from it being here. Therefore, the residents, both residential and commercial, should contribute to funding.

C. Have the sports complex contribute a majority to funding the project.

3. The Blaine City Council will be appointing members to a new traffic coalition in January 2017 or shortly thereafter and the council will allocate the budget dollars. What should be the priorities of this commission?

GARVAIS: Unequivocally the priority for the commission should be to function as the eyes and ears in every neighborhood and to categorically log all traffic issues within the city and to as a commission prioritize issues and make recommendations so that the city council can make decisive and meaningful decisions while balancing the overall needs that tax our city budget.

The commission members should become the subject matter experts regarding traffic safety and efficiency and should also look at innovative ways to solve our city problems. For example, instead of recommending costly six-figure traffic studies for our own city we can look at traffic studies and solutions that other growing cities have already implemented.

OLSON: As a resident for over 13 years, and having the opportunity to serve on the planning commission, I think a traffic commission made up of residents is a great idea. We need people to be ambassadors between the residents and the council.

We do not want to burden our city staff with any more than we have to. If we can find residents willing to participate, that is a win-win. I believe the residents chosen should be objective and open minded and consider all points made. Priorities should be to identify the areas of greatest concern and find solutions.

Andy Garvais Dick Swanson John R. Wilcox Julie Jeppson Maisa Olson Mike Bourke
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John R. Wilcox