Cottage Grove City Council candidate Q-and-A: Tina FolchA Q-and-A with Cottage Grove City Council challenger Tina Folch.
What is the biggest issue facing Cottage Grove in the next four years and how would you propose to address it?
The reason I want to make a difference as an elected official is because I believe this next decade is going to be a very challenging era and I am the most qualified of the candidates to assist in steering the helm. The biggest issue that Cottage Grove needs to brace itself for is the impact of the impending federal “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases. Furthermore, I am concerned that the Walmart opening in 2014 is going to have a detrimental impact on our small business community.
I believe the city needs to be concentrating on two separate tracks: one of proactive strategic planning and the other on continuity of operations planning for the city. First, work proactively with the business community in the creation of a strategic plan to sustain small businesses that will be competing with Walmart. Our community needs business expansion, not a slew of closings due to large corporate competition. Secondly, the city should engage in continuity planning efforts for its services by undergoing a process of inventorying, prioritizing, determining the length of time services could be suspended and building contingency plans for maintaining critical functions. Having been the planning chief to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) during the 2011 state government shutdown, I know how important it is to have contingency plans for dealing with financial crisis.
Why are you most qualified/best choice to serve as a member of the Cottage Grove City Council?
My background includes having obtained a master’s degree in public administration and management. Professionally, I have dedicated my career to pursuing excellence in government and have been privileged to work for the League of Minnesota Cities, DEED and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. These experiences have given me a wide breadth of expertise in law enforcement, transportation, emergency management, economic development and good government administration. As a volunteer, I have served Cottage Grove for two years on the Planning Commission and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. Previous to that, I served on the Cedar Avenue Corridor Transitway Study Commission. Our community needs to have well-informed, proactive leaders, who know to analyze situations, plan strategically and facilitate community conversation; these are skills that I excel in.
How would you change the way the current City Council has approached big issues like the new City Hall, attracting commercial investment, budgeting and property taxes? What do you disagree with, if anything, that caused you to run?
This past year my neighborhood streets were replaced and each house was given a $5,500 assessment bill. Conveniently, the city provided us a financed option with a $164 monthly bill. Imagine if all of Cottage Grove residents were given a nearly $2,000 increase in their yearly property taxes? The City Council has to strive for greater equity, fairness and efficiencies in government. I promise to always ask the hard questions, demand clear answers and put the interests of our entire community first. Moreover, I am committed to taking a conservative financial approach to future community investments in light of national concerns and ensure that no subset of residents are imposed with substantial property tax increases.
Occupation: Administrative Services Director, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Lived in Cottage Grove: 15 years
Family: Two sons, ages 8 and 11