Cottage Grove mayor's race: Challenger Magle ready 'to listen to all'In 2009, as the city of Cottage Grove planned an extensive road and utility improvement project in the rural River Acres neighborhood, residents turned out at City Hall to vent their displeasure. They tried to persuade the City Council to delay the project — and the more than $5,000 in assessments each homeowner would shoulder if the roadwork went ahead. Among them was Chad Magle, who is opposing incumbent Mayor Myron Bailey on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In 2009, as the city of Cottage Grove planned an extensive road and utility improvement project in the rural River Acres neighborhood, residents turned out at City Hall to vent their displeasure. They tried to persuade the City Council to delay the project — and the more than $5,000 in assessments each homeowner would shoulder if the roadwork went ahead.
Among them was Chad Magle, who is opposing incumbent Mayor Myron Bailey on the Nov. 6 ballot. The city’s response—that, despite the large assessments, the city needed to go ahead with the project before the cost increased — was indicative of the city’s overall posture toward its residents, Magle said.
In short, Magle says, Cottage Grove’s elected leaders aren’t listening to their constituents. It is a criticism that has been repeated by opponents of Bailey and other council members, and one Bailey has said isn’t accurate.
Changing what he perceives as the biggest problem facing the city will be a top priority if he is elected, Magle said in a recent interview.
“I will — with an open mind and open heart — listen to all residents,” he said. “I will reach out to everyone in our business community. I will be a voice for all citizens. I don’t feel all citizens are being heard at this time.”
Magle, who runs a small construction consulting business and, in the past, owned and operated a small retail shop, said he would continue the city’s aggressive push to lure new businesses but would shift the focus away from retail and restaurants — where he said the city has paid the most attention — to manufacturing and tech businesses.
“When you have a full industrial park,” he said, “the retailers will follow.”
What the city needs, he said, are larger, high-tech businesses that will bring with them hundreds of jobs. “We could be called Silicone Grove if we focus on getting tech companies to come here,” Magle said.
He said he supports offering incentives to entice businesses to locate in the city’s business park south of U.S. Highway 61 and to those already located there to expand their facilities.
Magle also said he wanted to see the city’s property tax rate be the lowest in the state, though offered few specifics on how he would propose the city reduce spending enough to reduce the property tax levy and admitted “it is hard to see where you [would] go cutting things.”
Cottage Grove’s tax rate ranks among the median of 36 peer metro suburban communities the city measures itself against.
“It’s time we save for a rainy day,” he said. “I don’t know if [the city is] doing it [now]. I don’t think we’re doing it.”
Magle has also offered what he says is a solution to the problem of hefty assessments to benefitting properties that pay for 55 percent of city road maintenance projects, the issue that drove him to seek office.
Currently, the city’s general fund covers the remaining 45 percent of road projects not financed by assessments to properties in the area being improved. Under Magle’s plan, an annual street fee would be charged to each household in the city, with a smaller assessment — far less than the more than $5,000 he and his neighbors were charged in recent years — to homes impacted by the roadwork.
“We need to learn from our mistakes,” Magle said. “We’re here for the residents.”