NEW ULM - New Ulm City Council candidate Chuck Hanson is emphasizing the need for strategic planning for New Ulm's future growth in his run for Ward 3.
Hanson said continual budget shortfalls would be the biggest issue for the City of New Ulm for years to come. He laid the blame for the recurring problem at the feet of the Minnesota Legislature, which he said continually cu Local Government Aid to deal with their own budgetary issues. He said that LGA was too large of a portion of the City budget to end, so the Council needs to make an intense focus on lobbying the Legislature to make it more consistent.
However, Hanson said the next biggest issue for the CIty for years to come will be the need to strategically plan infrastructure developments to take advantage of its growth areas. He said that the controversy over the need for a water tower in Nehls Park could have been avoided if the City had planned for that need further in advance. He said that with more planning, there could have been time to maybe develop a less controversial site to meet the needs. He said the issue is particularly important given the need for developing infrastructure for the growth corridor out by Menards and WalMart.
For his specific ward, he said that he has a strong interest in building an outdoor water park in New Ulm, with his ward having several ideal locations. He said that he recognizes the severe budget challenges facing the City. But, he said that he finds it unreasonable to assume that it is completely impossible if the Council would focus on making it happen.
Beyond that, Hanson said the Council need to work on making the City a helping hand to business in town instead of burden with its red tape. He said that growing jobs was essential to increasing the number of young families that settle in New Ulm, which he said was essential for New Ulm future. He said that in his own experience with setting up a business in the downton area and on the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce, the Council was difficult enough to feel antagonistic to business. He said the his own store took a full two months to even get approval to hang a sign out front.
"I question if the empty storefronts [on Minnesota Street] are due to the recession or too much regulation by the City," said Hanson.
Hanson was asked what few services he would save if New Ulm suddenly found its self without half of its City funding. He said that basic public needs services like Police, Fire, Streets and the Public Utilities would be saved first. Past that, he said the city would need to save the City's rich park system and services to maintain its historic buildings.
On the topic of City subsidies, which may be cut in this upcoming budget, Hanson said he supports the City having subsidies for all local organizations with real need. He said the need should be judged on a case-by-case basis by the Council to determine if a given organization would try need City help and improve with it. He said the City should also maintain historic organizations that bring "charm and tradition" to New Ulm like the New Ulm Battery and the Concord Singers.
Hanson also brought up the recently approved pay raise for members of the Council. He said he considered the move "shocking" given the recession and the fact that non-union works rarely got a 3 percent pay raise compared to the 25 percent pay raise the Council received. He said that if elected he would work to bring the pay back down to the original $6,000 annual pay rate. He said that the raise should only happen during prosperous times for the City and only in connection with something like non-union employee pay raises.
Finally, Hanson was asked what big change he would make to New Ulm if he had the complete ability to do it. Hanson said would like to change the attitudes around town to be more open and interested in attracting young families and younger demographics. He said that people need to be interested in attracting these groups as a key to the city's future.
Hanson concluded by explaining how he felt he differed from his incumbent opponent Les Schultz. He said he has experience both in having been a business owner, which allows him to recognize their needs, and in being part of a young family in New Ulm, which allows him to understand the challenges they face. He said that he would use his business experience in how he would approach working on the Council. He said their needs to be a new focus on aspects of how businesses approach things, particularly in with the idea of positive customers service in how the Council interacts with residents.
In addressing some claims made about his candidacy, Hanson said he was fully capable of making each Council meeting because of the flexibility in his schedule. He said his boss has already told him that he will be able to leave early on days the Council meets to make it. He also said that he is interested in some day running for a higher office like a judge position, but he said he has no interest in making that run in less than eight years form now.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org