Cottage Grove City Council candidate Q-and-A: Matthew KowalskiA Q-and-A with Cottage Grove City Council candidate Matthew Kowalski.
What is the biggest issue facing Cottage Grove in the next four years and how would you propose to address it?
I agree with most Cottage Grove residents in that the biggest issues facing the community are: high taxes, lack of jobs and lack of retail. These issues can be addressed by lowering property taxes and city government spending. Having the lowest comparable property taxes would make it a huge draw to residents looking at where they should live. Having more residents and a lower property tax bill would make it more attractive for businesses to locate here. When more businesses locate here, it will make it so that more residents will want to move here. It ends up being a snowball effect and can lead to more prosperity for the entire community.
Why are you most qualified/best choice to serve as a member of the Cottage Grove City Council?
I have studied, been involved in and understand business, economics and history — more government spending does not equal growth and prosperity. I will listen to the concerns of citizens, not look for end-runs around their wishes. I am great at building relationships and am committed to making the city government completely transparent.
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?
The incumbents’ current approach is to increase government spending and bypass the wishes of its citizens. I am running in direct opposition to those current trends. In terms of spending, the city will spend $550,000 per year for the next 20 years on the construction of the City Hall building (a 5 percent increase in terms of this year’s levy). It will spend 3 percent more in 2013 and 8 percent more in 2014. On top of those increases, it might spend an additional $13.5 million for only the construction (not maintenance) of additional amenities if the current referendum passes. The mayor and incumbents seem to think that in the midst of the second worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, it’s time for the city to go on a spending spree. Are you doing the same with your household finances? Many people I know are making cuts to their budgets, not increasing them.
What also led me to run was how the current council chose to finance the construction of the new City Hall. It first chose to bond the $15 million project, in standard fashion. Then, when citizens knocked on doors and got 1,500 signatures to put the measure up for referendum, the council backtracked and chose to take the money out of the city’s savings so that it would not have to put it up for referendum. To top it all off, our mayor and council incumbents repeatedly falsely state that the way they financed the whole project has not raised our taxes. No, actually they were fortunate in that the Minnesota Legislature changed its laws and no longer takes $584,000 of the city’s property tax levy like it used to. (What if the state reverses that decision?) The city should have reduced the levy accordingly. Instead, it decided to use those added funds to pay back the savings accounts it took from. They thought they would have their cake and eat it too, and you would not notice the sleight of hand.
Occupation: Customer specialist at Walser Buick GMC in Roseville
Lived in Cottage Grove: 11 months
Family:Married to wife, Amanda; two children