Cottage Grove City Council candidates guide: Derrick LehrkeAfter a narrow defeat in '08, Lehrke running again and says he won't "simply be a fifth yes vote."
Occupation: Self-employed property manager
Lived in Cottage Grove: 31 years
Civic experience: Member of Parks and Recreation Commission
Why are you the best choice for Cottage Grove City Council?
First, it’s important that our council members have a good understanding of the city and its residents. It obviously helps that I was born and raised here, but what really makes a difference is the thousands of doors that I have personally knocked on. What you do with that information is also important. I see my role as councilperson less as a dictator and more as an advocate. I will spend my time researching and investigating city issues and concerns. I have already spent countless hours doing this. Independent research and thought is key to making the best decisions. I will not simply be the fifth yes vote on each matter. This city has been a great home to me. I look forward to serving you and serving our great city.
How should the city jump-start business growth and expand its tax base?
Put yourself in the shoes of a large, medium, or small business, maybe looking for a location in Cottage Grove, or already here and thinking to expand. What would play a role in choosing Cottage Grove? There are many factors, but only a few are truly controlled by the city council. I would say there are two main things we can do. 1) Taxes. This is a delicate balance. We all know government must be funded, but we must ensure we do so wisely and efficiently. 2) How the city interacts with business will not only impact those already here, but businesses entertaining coming to our city. If it is difficult for owners to build, expand, or operate, it will be no surprise when we continue to see empty buildings. We need to encourage and nurture business growth. Not only will it make life here more convenient, but businesses pay a large portion of the taxes.
Is now the right time to move forward with building a new city hall and public safety facility?
The council made a mistake in two key areas. The first is the way this project was pushed through. At the public hearing where the council approved up to $17 million in bonds, citizens asked many questions for over 40 minutes. The Council did not answer a single question about the project, just simply voted it through. The council decided not to let the citizens vote, so a petition was filed legally requiring a referendum. The Council has now said they will avoid the referendum by using different, higher interest rate bond. Not only is it wrong to avoid a referendum for such a large project, but could increase the cost by about 10%. Should we spend millions to avoid a vote? The second issue is they are not exploring other solutions to the problem. The current plan is not the only solution, just the largest and most expensive.
Was the city's decision to drop its opposition to 3M's incinerator plan the right call?
It seems clear the city does not have any power in this matter. The permit is given or denied by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. I do encourage citizens to stay informed and be involved. My understanding is there will be up to three public hearings on this matter, and whether or not I win this election I will be at those meetings.