Mayor candidates talk budget, citizen involvementThe first public Red Wing mayoral forum focused on issues from the incinerator to the budget to silica sand mining.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
The first public Red Wing mayoral forum focused on issues from the incinerator to the budget to silica sand mining.
Current Mayor Dennis Egan and candidate Lavergne Dickerson participated in the Red Wing League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday evening, the first of three to be held before the Nov. 6 vote.
Egan was elected in a special election just more than a year and a half ago.
“In a mayor’s position you’re really looking at someone who is an innovator and who can help make change happen,” Egan said in his opening statement. “You also need to be an ambassador.”
Dickerson said she has lived in Red Wing for about 10 years and has been active in the community. She said her aim is to encourage more participation from locals.
“I think we need to fall back to grassroots and engaging residents,” she said. “I’d like to try to bring people back to the table.”
That citizen involvement came up throughout the night, including when the candidates were asked about the future of taxation through referendum, such as the local option sales tax on this fall’s ballot.
Both candidates said they would look to the citizens’ response to the tax question.
“I think the democratic process will stand,” Dickerson said. “I think the residents speaking through their vote will tell it all.”
Egan had vetoed the question to push for a smaller package than the up to $14.88 million one approved, but the council overrode it.
Revenues and spending also were part of the budget discussion.
“We need to continue to ask the question are there opportunities for innovation and change,” he said. “That is part of the role as mayor is, in a collaborative way, a checks and balance.”
Dickerson said the budget needs to be reconfigured and reassessed. “We need to look at that as a city and see where possibly we are imbalanced,” she said.
Another facet of the budget and spending discussion was Red Wing’s incinerator, which has been costing the city money and is in need of infrastructure upgrades.
Egan said he favors working toward an agreement with Xcel Energy to utilize its incinerator for city waste rather than keeping the city’s open.
Both Egan and Dickerson said options needs to be explored, especially if the cost continues to be an issue for the city.
Finances also were key when it came to the question of whether the city should own and operate a golf course.
“I have been an advocate that we need to look at something differently where the city does not own and operate a golf course,” Egan said.
Dickerson also said if Mississippi National Golf Links isn’t financially beneficial for the city its ownership should be reexamined.
The golf course will be an ongoing issue, both acknowledged. Operator Wendell Pittenger announced at the beginning of this month he plans to close the course effective Nov. 1.
When asked about silica sand mining, Dickerson said she is not in favor.
“The benefit-versus-burden scale I use in my life says that would be more burden to our community than benefit,” she said.
Egan said mining itself likely isn’t a good fit for the area, and he would especially oppose anything that would affect the bluffs or river. But if the right regulations were in place he would favor allowing actions such as transporting the product from the bulkhead, he said.
Regarding economic development, Egan said the responsibility for filling downtown storefronts should be more defined but that the businesses that are there are generally doing well.
“We are really poised to not only retain the businesses that we have but to help cultivate them and make sure we are an environment that will allow them to grow and expand and attract new businesses as well,” he said.
“Downtown needs a collaborative effort,” Dickerson said. She also said people should encourage each other to buy local.
“The only way I can really see us flourishing is if it’s a communitywide effort,” she said.
Videos of the mayoral and City Council candidate forums will be replayed on Channel 6 and also are available for viewing online at redwing-mn.pegcentral.com.
Two more candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters remain:
•Sept. 27: State Senate and House candidates
•Oct. 4: District 5 County Commissioner, Red Wing School Board candidates
Both will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Red Wing City Hall.