Council candidates discuss role of governmentVaried opinions on the size and scope of government accounted for most of the City Council candidates’ differences during a public discussion Thursday.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Varied opinions on the size and scope of government accounted for most of the City Council candidates’ differences during a public discussion Thursday.
The five candidates tackled a range of issues in the first League of Women Voters candidate forum at City Hall.
Current Council President Ralph Rauterkus and Erik Fridell both are running for the combined Wards 3 and 4 slot on the council.
“I’m proud of how I and City Council members have been fiscally prudent in our actions,” Rauterkus said, noting he wants to continue that work.
Fridell emphasized transparency.
“I just want more open government,” he said. “That’s all I care about.”
Craig Livingstone is running for the same position representing Ward 2 as current Council Vice President Lisa Bayley.
Livingstone said his main aim is to cut government spending.
“I believe that what is represented by the council on a regular basis is the status quo,” Livingstone said. “I want to challenge that.”
Bayley said government needs to be efficient but effective at providing core services.
“Efficiently doesn’t mean cheaply,” she said, adding Red Wing is “poised to make some great leaps forward.”
Jason Sebion, the candidate for Ward 1, has no opponent. He would fill the seat left open when Council member Dan Bender announced he would not run again.
Sebion said he wants to be the person on the council to bring a new perspective to issues and always will be available for constituent calls.
“Complaints, compliments,” he said, “my phone’s always on.”
Public safety and infrastructure were top priorities when candidates discussed the 2013 budget. Saving money also was key, though candidates differ on how to best do that.
Livingstone said he favored freezing the budget and said the city doesn’t need more revenue such as through the proposed local option sales tax.
“All the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” Bayley countered. “Now we have to come up with some pretty major changes.”
“I’m committed to right-sized government,” Rauterkus said. “Not cutting for cutting’s sake.” He also said there is a need to reinvest in public safety after reductions made in recent years.
Fridell said maintaining services, parks and bonding infrastructure were his top priorities in the budget.
Sebion named public safety and “keeping everything in good working order” such as roads and parks as priorities.
When asked if the proposed sales tax would negatively affect local businesses, Sebion and Livingstone said they do not favor the half-cent tax, which will be a question on the Election Day ballot.
Fridell said he doesn’t think the tax will hurt business, though he also isn’t in favor of it.
Bayely said the city should work to make sure the projects are as efficient and streamlined as possible if the tax is approved by the voters. And most said they are happy locals will have a say.
“It gives voters an opportunity to weigh in,” Rauterkus said, and also noted the projects in the proposal have been discussed for years.
@Normal1: The incinerator was another point of some contention. “It’s costing everyone money to run it,” Livingstone said. “My goal is to wrap that up as soon as possible.”
Bayley said incinerating waste is the best way to go, but thought other options could be explored.
“To me it’s an investment,” Rauterkus said, but said work with Xcel Energy to utilize its incinerator should continue.
Fridell, who currently serves on the Sustainability Commission, said if the waste isn’t burned here, it is dumped in landfills, which is environmentally problematic.
When asked about the city owning operations such as the golf course, marina and water park, it came down to offering amenities versus the cost.
“Philosophically, I think the city should not be in competition with private enterprise,” Rauterkus said, though he said the marina is an exception.
Bayley said she agreed the city shouldn’t compete with businesses, but some services do need to be provided.
Livingstone said the city should not be involved in business-like efforts.
“I’m always suspect of government when it gets too large,” he said.
For others the experience trumped the cost.
“We need to take care of our citizens,” Fridell said. “We’re a community, that’s why we live here. … It’s a quality-of-life issue.”
Sebion also said the services such as the water park are part of the community experience.
Candidates also discussed options for spent nuclear fuel. Bayley said there needs to be more pressure on the federal government to honor its requirement to collect and store nuclear waste, and others agreed a federal solution needs to be reached but is stalled by political actions at the nation’s Capitol.
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.