Forum staff reports , Published October 26 2013
At a glance: Moorhead mayoral candidates on the issuesMOORHEAD MAYORAL CANDIDATES RESPOND
Moorhead mayor serves a 4-year term and earns $19,476 per year.
If you were to be elected (or re-elected), what would be your top three priorities for the city in the next four years?
MARK HINTERMEYER: My three priorities: Economic Development, Transparency in Government and Quality-of-Life. Economic Development with business retention, expansion and recruitment in all parts of Moorhead is critical. Supporting the Arts for its dramatic economic effect is fundamental to our city. Transparency in Government helps residents understand what policy decisions are being made and relies on them to contribute in solving complex issues. Quality-of-life means we focus on maintaining and improving our parks, roads, infrastructure and working to resolve vehicle/train conflicts. We have an attractive community and I want to constantly seek opportunities for improvement.
MIKE HULETT: My first priority is to assemble a team of citizens to develop approaches for rebuilding and revitalizing downtown Moorhead. This includes assuring that established Moorhead businesses continue to grow and thrive. My second priority is to engage and assist homebuilders, developers, Realtors and residents in the process of building homes on the 520 buildable lots now available throughout Moorhead. This includes important work with the railroads to implement “whistle-free” crossings from downtown to the south edge of town. My third priority is to encourage additional commercial growth in the 34th Street/I-94 and 8th Street/I-94 areas near growing residential neighborhoods.
KEVIN SHORES: First, I would initiate the decriminalization of cannabis within city limits. With over 50,000 byproducts, it would be an opportunity to help create new businesses and jobs for the city and its residents. Second, I would initiate a salary cap within the city's employees … so that it would directly reflect on the average residence income. This would create an incentive for the local government to help raise the incomes of residents. Third, I would like to start a program where the homeowners and/or residents within the city would be able to work off a percentage of their local taxes.
DEL RAE WILLIAMS: My top three priorities are 1) Intentional Economic Development and Housing Development 2) Responsive government that is committed to listening to community needs to help Moorhead grow and 3) Working together with community citizens and organizations to move Moorhead forward. One of my strengths is in building teams and trust. I believe I can unite us in our common goals.
Attracting new restaurants and businesses to Moorhead has been a hot topic recently. What can Moorhead do to attract more businesses?
HINTERMEYER: Border Cities Legislation helps businesses in border cities reduce disparities between states. In the past it has saved millions of dollars for our businesses and also provided additional resources. We need to be aggressive in expanding this concept to all areas seeking to improve the competitive situation. In the case of restaurants, I led the effort to develop ideas to equalize the restaurant disparity. If we are successful at the legislature we would have a rough equality thereby helping current and future restaurants in the city. This needs to be a top priority for our community.
HULETT: The first step has been taken by the City Council with the recent hiring of our Business Development Manager. He has initiated a comprehensive effort to work with existing businesses, prospective businesses, other area economic development directors, and Moorhead residents to build a foundation of relationships that will result in significant progress to sell Moorhead. While we will continue to work with our State Legislators to maintain current “border cities” programs that help to level the business playing field in the region, we will be looking for new avenues of legislative support, specifically to encourage more restaurants locating in Moorhead.
SHORES: I would like to bring back the mom-and-pop based businesses. With this implemented, the majority of money brought in is kept locally. By bringing in corporations, the majority percentage of money they receive returns back to the corporation. This means that there has to be incentives found or created that will give these small businesses a better chance to survive.
WILLIAMS: Moorhead is a growing city. We will see new businesses fill in areas that have grown. It’s similar to the housing booms that happened simply because new schools were built. There is however more that we can do, as a City. We can work with the MN Legislature to streamline licensing, and make sure they incorporate pieces in the legislation that recognizes our border city needs. We can be pro-active with businesses that are seeking to start in our area, making sure they are aware of our City’s assets and be flexible to assist them with their needs.
What do you want to see in downtown Moorhead, and how would you propose helping the downtown area prosper?
HINTERMEYER: We have great businesses in our downtown. We need to focus on those areas that need to be redeveloped. I led the efforts to bring incentives to the downtown similar to the renaissance zone in Fargo. This provides help for anyone that wants to redevelop a site. Conflict with trains must be resolved. I would like to see more family friendly businesses, retail and arts/entertainment options in that area. I am excited to see the community coming together with ideas on how to build upon the successes. We need to capture this community spirit and get results.
HULETT: On September 5th, I introduced “Return to Center,” a plan outlining the case for revitalizing downtown Moorhead. 14,000 college students study and live a few blocks away. They need places to meet, socialize, eat, exercise and reside. Already in place are coffee shops, food and beverage establishments, a grocery store, a bakery, hardware, sporting goods, museums, bike trails and more. Let’s invite investors, developers, business owners, public officials, college officials and, most important, students and young professionals to initiate proposals to fill in bare lots, rebuild old structures, and bring in new business, jobs, and housing. Prosperity follows!
SHORES: As most people are, including myself, there is confusion when considering downtown Moorhead, in which it is pertinent to actually establish where it is. Since we are a government for the people and by the people, there should be a consensus amongst the community where their downtown Moorhead should/could be. Once re-established, then what does the community want/need to return the romanticism of a downtown?
WILLIAMS: At the Rourke event, I heard interest in Arts and Culture, and green, walkable space for students and families. Downtown is bookended by the Hjemkomst Center and its green space, the Rourke Museum and Woodlawn park’s green space. Moorhead owns a large amount of buildings and shovel ready lots. The combination of assets we own, with the community’s vision, will result in people engaged in the area. Businesses are interested in areas where people are and have a need for their services and products. I am currently working with Theater B to be a part of our downtown success.
Do you support Moorhead continuing to spend city tax money on the proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project?
HINTERMEYER: The new Joint Powers Agreement does not have Moorhead providing additional tax dollars. It recognizes that Moorhead simply can not provide meaningful contributions to the project. Our Legislature does not allow Moorhead the option to implement a sales tax and has not provided any money to Moorhead for the project. Our total property tax levy is about 8 million dollars which goes to providing city services. It has always been understood that the Legislature would be responsible for the significant dollars. Once the project is authorized in Congress the Legislature will indicate what their contribution will be.
HULETT: Moorhead and Clay County elected officials have invested very small amounts of money in just the design phase of the diversion project. As the project moves forward over the next 10 to 20 years, any substantial funds required to finance the small Minnesota share would have to come from the State of Minnesota. Because the diversion has significant regional impact, the Moorhead City Council will stay very much involved and will continue to be alert to financial implications for our taxpayers. We will not obligate our residents to pay for anything out of proportion to their minimal benefit.
SHORES: With the reoccurrence of the possibility of the Red River flooding, it is hard to argue the necessity of addressing this challenge. However my concerns are that, metaphorically, the diversion plan is like pushing a snowball off the mountainside. Where it is hard to determine how big of a challenge it will or may become and whether or not we will be able to direct it to reduce a possible negative outcome. With that in mind, it is absolutely necessary to get the input of the community.
WILLIAMS: I believe there are still crucial issues with the FM Diversion project that need to be resolved for Moorhead. We don’t have a ready source for the $100 Million cost. Some towns in Minnesota will actually see an increase in their need for flood protection, and Moorhead homes likely will not need Flood Insurance after this next Legislature’s appropriation. Fargo’s ability to stay dry and safe is, however, crucial to Moorhead. Over half of our citizens work in Fargo. I believe it’s important that Moorhead continue to be heard and play a part as the FM Diversion plans are developed.
Some residents and businesses have complained about poor customer service or getting the “runaround” in City Hall. How would you specifically address those concerns?
HINTERMEYER: Customer service and accountability to our residents are critical factors for a city to be successful. As Mayor, I would want to hear about any issue with the city so I can try to resolve it. I want to implement technology that helps ensure contact with the city gets results. Some examples, recording phone calls for quality control and using real time technology so residents can see our city in action. Recently I heard a developer with a major project in Moorhead indicate how pleased he was with our staff. I like hearing those kinds of comments as well.
HULETT: The City Council has instructed the City Manager to take firm measures to assure that customer service complaints are minimized. This has been done through professional training sessions plus implementing procedural steps to assure that staff members work in teams. The required outcome is to assure that dealing with the City as a resident or a business is transparent, seamless and timely. While there likely will always be a few folks that are unhappy with some particular encounter, the Council has recently received highly favorable comments about excellent City staff customer service from several new business owners and developers.
SHORES: There should be message boards that are created for each department of local government that are accessible to all residents who wish to participate on the Moorhead city website. This will allow residents to have an open forum and be able to raise/review their challenges, which should be addressed in a timely fashion. This will help bring back accountability to local government.
WILLIAMS: It is important that we are connected to our community’s views and opinions. It shouldn’t just happen during campaign time. Starting in January, I will hold a monthly Coffee with the Mayor event. I want our community to know that they can easily talk about concerns and possibilities with me. In the same way, I would like to hold structured Ward Listening events with each Ward’s council members. Much like the community event at the Rourke, it will give us an opportunity to dream about what we’d like our community to look like. I will be a Mayor that listens.
Do you think Moorhead is doing enough to keep its many college students engaged in the community pre- and post-graduation, and if not, how would you remedy that?
HINTERMEYER: We will always look for ways to improve our community so more students can enjoy living and working in Moorhead. The unemployment rate is low, so we need to have continued economic development to bring in more job opportunities. I look forward to new development in our city so students can choose Moorhead as the place they want to live. Maintaining our exceptional quality-of-life can also help retain students in Moorhead as they start a career and as they start families. Students are a critical asset and provide significant benefits to our community.
HULETT: I have served as guest lecturer at local colleges throughout my Human Resources career. Student contact is refreshing. I will initiate regular contact with students and officials at local schools to discuss the availability of training needed for specific work offered by local businesses. We must also know student needs for entertainment, shopping, and other activities as we work with them to develop quality student-oriented businesses, jobs, and housing in Moorhead. A critical factor to keep college students engaged in the community, both pre- and post-graduation, is to offer attractive housing and social activities near their schools and jobs.
SHORES: Both previous times that I “rolled for mayor,” I addressed this issue which is of major concern to me. There is an abundance of wealth and knowledge with the fresh minds of our younger residents, and it is a shame not to utilize this vast resource. Currently with most college students and Moorhead's youth, they get their education here and then leave. With this occurrence, there needs to be better communication in order to learn of their wants/desires and to create incentives for these young adults to see their potential of helping our community to grow.
WILLIAMS: Moorhead is a College town and that is a fact worth celebrating. As a City, we don’t always show that by our actions. Earlier this year, we had a towing fiasco at MSUM. Only two City Council members voted to reimburse students who were towed. My son started college in Winona this Fall. We could visibly see that the town values their college students. We want our students to find jobs here, settle and begin their lives here after college. We need to show that by our actions and our presence.
Some answers edited for length
Occupation: Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Two Term Council Member
Education: Concordia College, Bachelor of Arts: Political Science. Central Michigan University, Master’s: Personnel Management
Family: Spouse Laurie, married 35 years. Two adult children, married. One grandchild and another on the way.
Occupation: Human Resources Management Consultant
Education: BA Economics / Political Science, University of Minnesota
Family: Wife Janie, 5 sons, 4 grandchildren
Occupation: Disabled veteran
Education: Associates degree from Minnesota Community and Technical College, started B.A. at University of Minnesota (Main Campus) for Native American Studies
Family: 1 son, 3 daughters
Del Rae Williams
Occupation: Retired CPA
Education: B.A. Business Administration with an Accounting and Management Emphasis from Minot State University
Family: Ron Williams (Spouse, Civil Engineer and professor at MSUM), Lyndi Williams (daughter, 20, student at MSUM, works at Barnes & Noble), Sam Williams (son, 18, student at Winona State University)