Spring Grove City Council Candidate, Nancy Nelson
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 7:35 AM
Six candidates are seeking two positions on the Spring Grove City Council. Incumbents Steve Kemp and Rachel Storlie face challengers Nancy Nelson, Rachel Olerud, Dave Peterson and Roger Taylor. They all responded to the questionnaire from the Spring Grove Herald. Below are their responses listed in alphabetical order. Each response was limited to 150 words.
Nancy Nelson, age 69 - Retired Attorney, Educator
1.) Please tell us about yourself and why you are running for office?
I have lived in Cincinnati, Las Vegas and the Twin Cities for job reasons, but I always intended to retire to Spring Grove because I am not a big city person. My family (Berquam, Holum, and Karlsbraaten) were early settlers here. My parents went to northern Minnesota to farm, where I grew up, but we were down here frequently. I have owned a house here in the 1970s and '80s and then came back in 2001.
I have B.A. in government, an M.A. in political science and a law degree. I have been a high school government teacher, a junior high librarian and a lawyer in private practice. I spent 16 years as an assistant county attorney, doing both civil and criminal cases. All my experience was excellent preparation for city government; I previously served on the Spring Grove council for four years.
I chose Spring Grove because it has the necessities: grocery store, clinic, reasonably priced restaurants, car repair, hardware store, etc. And it did have a low cost of living, which is important to retirees and lower wage earners.
2.) The Main Street project has seen its share of controversy. Do you agree with the current council's proposal of improvements? Tell readers why or why not and what changes you would make.
Main Street should not be narrowed; that is a safety hazard. We need new sidewalks, but not wider, fancier ones. The current streetlights are OK. As they die, they should be replaced with LED lights, which cast a better light, last a very long time and are low maintenance. The planters etc., will not last and are just obstacles to the handicapped.
The trenchless method of sewer pipe replacement allows sewer pipes to be replaced anytime through one small hole. The utility pipes, while old, are apparently still OK. The new plastic piping leaches toxic chemicals and often fails.
The public meetings were phony. Clearly, the decisions had already been made behind the scenes with nonresidents very involved.
3.) How do you feel the city has done the last year on transparency, and is there any room for improvement?
Transparency in Spring Grove city government has been a problem for about six years. Things are decided behind the scenes. In the past three years, there have been "meetings" with MnDOT in Rochester with no minutes kept and no access by citizens. Yet, decisions have obviously been made there. How money has been spent is often difficult to ascertain.
As an assistant county attorney, I taught seminars on Open Meeting Law and Data Practices. The bottom line is that, with rare exceptions permitted by law, everything should be discussed and decided in public. And, meeting notices and agendas should be posted all over town and online so everyone is in the loop.
4.) Do you feel that the city needs to look at reducing its current budget, and if so, what areas would you look at cutting?
The city budget can be reduced. Last year, I found $100,000 without cutting essentials as there's a lot of padding in some of the line items to allow for nonessential spending. The capital investments can be cut (new city hall?) City equipment can run longer. Cut consultants. Reduce the city hall staff to two. Cut the $27,000 to the EDA as it has its own income.
The city budget and expenditures should be online. All the major vendor payments should be online. The actually charge card bills should be reviewed by the council before being paid as required by the state auditor. The city should comply with state law, which requires the council to review bills (except for routine ones like utilities) before being paid. These [current] policies, which were put in eight years ago, violate state statutes and the State Auditor's Rules; they must be repealed. Putting the budget controls back in the hands of the council is one of the immediate tasks at hand.
5.) Tell us why you feel you are the best candidate to serve on the council.
I have a great deal of experience and training with years of government employment, budgeting and public issues as well as four years on the council before. I understand what is necessary to make a small town work- having essentials like the school, the clinic, drugstore, grocery store, bank, nursing home, hardware store. People don't live in a town where they have to drive for their daily needs. The arts are nice, but only as frosting. Lanesboro has "stuff" but it is steadily losing population. Small town life is a good quality of life. Also, as a retired person, I have the time.
6.) If elected, what are the top three issues you want to see addressed in the next four years?
1) Public Works will see retirements. Restructuring should be considered and contracting out some technical duties.
2) We need to get grants to get a sewer line to the EDA Industrial Park and go after industries which fit the area such as a cheese factory for the area dairy farms, furniture making to match up with local loggers, walnut processing for the food industry, etc. Jobs are a problem everywhere, and many of Spring Grove's went to China. We need to lobby for federal regulations to get these jobs back.
3) We need to help our local businesses survive. One is to cut back on the down time for Main Street because it is a killer. The other is to get the Fair Trade Act back into federal law. This act required manufacturers to sell at the same wholesale price to small stores as large stores.