Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Roseville candidates discuss issues in debate

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The four candidates seeking office this fall in Roseville met Oct. 19 at Roseville City Hall for a League of Women Voters sponsored candidate forum. Mayor Craig Klausing and his challenger, current Council Member Amy Ihlan, were on-hand, as were Dan Roe and Karen Schaffer, who are seeking to fill the Council seat of the retiring Dean Maschka.

The Council chamber was nearly full with curious residents, many of whom participated in the forum by submitting written questions that were read to the candidates.

Each candidate highlighted why they are running during their brief opening statements.

Ihlan told the audience - as well as the home audience watching on cable-access television - she thinks Roseville needs new leadership as it moves forward. She also pointed to a passion for environmental issues as another reason for her candidacy.

"We need just good common sense leadership," Ihlan said, adding she thinks good leadership is about building consensus.

In his opening statement Klausing mentioned his community roots that go back to his childhood. As for his tenure as mayor, Klausing noted his commitment to the community visioning process and his work on the property maintenance code, the dangerous animal ordinance and the re-establishment of the ethics commission, as achievements.

Schaffer told the audience people always ask her why she's running for the City Council and she tells them, "I am committed to this community." She added she wants to see Roseville continue to be a place to live, raise children and retire.

Roe thanked voters for supporting him in the primary and laughed about being dubbed a perennial candidate. This is his fourth campaign in four years. He described the work he's done on the Twin Lakes Stakeholder Committee and as a member of the city's Planning Commission.

"Roseville is not one-dimensional," Roe said.

The first question of the night asked the candidates what they regard as some of the most important issues facing Roseville in the future.

Klausing pointed to the health of neighborhoods and maintaining housing stock as well as finding good ways to allow the older members of the community to sell their homes to younger families but continue living in the community.

Schaffer said she wanted to make sure commercial and retail property doesn't dominate neighborhoods. She also said she would like to work on ways to draw younger people into the community.

Roe said he would like to work on maintaining and improving neighborhoods as well as the city's parks and pathways. He added he thinks community discussions should better reflect the community's values and foster civic engagement.

Ihlan said she thinks more should be done to preserve the city's natural environment. She added she would like to continue examining the pressure development puts on community life.

The candidates were also asked how they would implement the recommendations that come out of the current community visioning process.

Schaffer said the City Council should be faithful to the recommendations.

"So it's very serious," she said.

Roe said the City Council develop a process to implement the recommendations and then check progress and make changes where and when necessary.

Ihlan said she hopes the current visioning process is only the beginning and would like to see Roseville move into more of a community based planning system.

Klausing said he hopes the City Council can meet in January when the visioning recommendations are made and then craft a plan to implement them. He also noted the importance of finding a funding source to help implement the recommendations.

The candidates were also asked if they supported bringing back the city's ethics commissions as well as the new ethics code.

Ihlan explained she voted in favor of the ethics commission but voted in opposition to the ethics code because she didn't think it was strong enough. She also cited the fact the ordinance doesn't cover the city attorney as another element she disagreed with.

Klausing said he was supportive of both though there were some things he didn't like about the new code, adding sometimes you have to accept half-a-loaf.

Schaffer said strong ethics are a hallmark of good leadership and she would have voted for the new commission and code and if she's elected next month would vote in favor of improvements to the ordinance.

Roe said he supported both the new code and commission and agreed with Klausing that you don't always get you want when working with a legislative government body.

In their closing statements each candidate touched on some of the themes that had come up during the evening.

Roe said he wants to see meaningful implementation of the community-visioning recommendations and would also like to see Roseville move to a five-year budgeting plan rather than the current annual plan.

He also said he thinks the City Council should focus on plans rather than personalities.

Roe then added he will not be "anyone's automatic third vote." The comment came after the issue of the current City Council deciding many issues on a 3-2 vote (with Ihlan often in the two-vote minority) came up several times during the forum.

Schaffer said she has the commitment and experience to serve on the City Council and pointed to her work experience as an attorney for Dakota County which required her to manage both a staff and a budget. In response to Roe, Schaffer said leadership is about more than pledging not to be anyone's automatic third vote.

Klausing began his closing statement by asking, "Are we a community better off than we were four years ago?"

He said he thinks the answer is a "resounding yes" and added he's eager to get back to work.

Ihlan said if elected she would work to separate policies from people and find a way to get people to work together. She said she would also work to build community consensus on difficult issues.

The election is Nov. 7.

Content 2006 Lillie Suburban Newspapers