Cottage Grove City Council candidate Q-and-A: Michael FoutsA Q-and-A with Cottage Grove City Council candidate Michael Fouts.
What is the biggest issue facing Cottage Grove in the next four years and how would you propose to address it?
The biggest issue facing in the next four years will be how we address the ongoing economic woes of the city. I believe success at revitalizing both commercial and residential sectors is tied directly to expanding our commercial base. I will do this via an aggressive marketing campaign targeting established companies that will bring high-paying careers into the city. This campaign will be centered on the planned commuter rail line and how now is the time for companies to take advantage of lower land values and construction costs. We cannot allow the Metropolitan Council (or our city council) to accept that Cottage Grove is nothing more than a “park and ride” city.
Why are you most qualified/best choice to serve as a member of the Cottage Grove City Council?
I am the best choice to serve on the council for two primary reasons. First, I will not participate in the “numbers game.” The current council likes to crow about the average homeowner paying over $100 less per year in taxes in 2013 than was paid in 2010. They fail to mention that this is, essentially, a 7 percent tax increase due to home values plummeting by nearly 20 percent in that same timeframe.
Second, I don’t accept where we are as a city. The current City Council talks as if everything is wonderful. Personally, I am not satisfied with our commercial and residential vacancy rates. I am not satisfied with a 1.6 percent foreclosure rate. The fact that we are “holding our own” (a term frequently used throughout the candidate forums by the incumbents) when compared to other comparable cities is not good enough for me. If you are satisfied with “holding our own,” re-elect the people who keep us from vaulting ahead of comparable cities. If not, vote for change.
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?
I believe the current council’s record on all of the major issues is abysmal. Ignoring residents’ voices and preferences when deciding to spend over $16 million (including the yet to be purchased land needed for the county land swap, soft costs, bridge over a dry riverbed, etc.) of their taxes on a project is shameful. The charter city concept will ensure no group of people is allowed to do this to the people of Cottage Grove again.
Recent commitments by Walmart and 3M can’t erase three years of commercial abandonment of the city. Look around the business parks and malls: how many are fully leased? Wooing successful companies into the city will, necessarily, lead to the development of the entertainment, housing, retail, and service industries to serve these corporations. Additionally, the increased tax revenue generated from this development will ease the tax burden of our residents.
Rather than increase property taxes during the economic downturn as the current council did, I would have decreased them. Rather than using $10 million of your taxes (from “savings”) to fund an unnecessary City Hall, I would have scaled back the project to include only what was needed — state-of-the-art public safety facilities. I will never view your money as the city’s “piggy bank.”
Please vote Nov. 6
Lived in Cottage Grove: 6 years
Family: Wife, Shannon; two sons, Peter and Gregory