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Forum staff reports , Published November 02 2013

Q & A with the Moorhead City Council candidates

INFO: Each candidate is running for a four-year term as one of two representatives for each ward. Council members are paid $10,212 per year.

FIRST WARD

THE CANDIDATES

Mari Dailey

Age: 54

Occupation: Teacher at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Middle School

Education: A.A. Broadcast Journalism and Advertising, Brown Institute, Minneapolis, MN; BST Psychology & Geography (and 7-12 Social Studies), Minnesota State University Mankato; MAEd work, Hamline University, St. Paul.

David John Hallman

Age: 56 years old

Occupation: Social Worker. 16 years. Clay County Social Services. I license over 160 group homes for adults in Clay County. Retired from US Army in 1995.

Education: Associate in Arts Degree in Criminal Justice. East Lost Angeles College 1979; Bachelor of Science in Social Work, Moorhead State University, Magna Cum Laude, 1997.

Alex Huseby

Age: 30

Occupation: Owner/operator of Huseby Commercial Services LLC

Education: Moorhead Senior High School, I studied economics at Queen Mary’s University of London and MSUM.

THE ISSUES

If you were to be elected (or re-elected), what would be your top three priorities for the city in the next four years?

DAILEY: Build a more balanced economy in Moorhead, inviting new businesses and housing, as well as maintain and enhance those which are already established; Make our downtown an inviting place for small, independent businesses, college students, and the arts; Finish current flood protection projects and entertain permanent flood protection plans.

HALLMAN: Open Moorhead for business/home development; Infrastructure. This includes flood control, streets, railroad crossings and the north bridge; Truth in taxation. The city needs to be transparent in all tax matters to include property tax, bonding, user fees and our utility company.

HUSEBY: If elected a member of city council, my top three priorities would be as follows: Work to craft tax incentives to encourage new business and housing growth; Urban redevelopment of older areas of Moorhead; Maintaining current levels of public services while reducing city debt.

What do you want to see in downtown Moorhead, and how would you propose helping the downtown area prosper?

DAILEY: We need to reinvent our city center with incentives for small, unique shops, restaurants, bars, and arts (visual and performing); include college student, family, and senior-friendly businesses; and incorporating useable green spaces, such as community supported agriculture with floral and vegetable gardens, creating a place where people want to be.

HALLMAN: To improve Downtown we need to first solve the Railroad Crossing situation. Then we brainstorm with our citizens/developers to agree on a concept for downtown expansion. A theme, whether it is the arts, retail stores or restaurants needs to be put into action.

HUSEBY: Downtown needs a social rejuvenation. The council needs to give more social permits. Moorhead’s college students want an atmosphere where they can go to multiple establishments without driving and walk home. When downtown Moorhead becomes the place to go, market forces will draw new businesses and housing opportunities.

Do you support Moorhead continuing to spend city tax money on the proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project?

DAILEY: With too many “unknown variables” I cannot commit to the diversion project until all monies are appropriated and accounted for, in entirety. That is NOT to say that I wouldn’t support permanent flood protection, but am concerned about potential property tax increases for generations of Moorhead taxpayers.

HALLMAN: I support the concept of the diversion. We are not being asked for city funds in the current stage. If the Diversion is approved/ funded by the federal government, Minnesota will be asked for funding. Then will be the time to reassess the project to determine if the Diversion still merits our support.

HUSEBY: I support the diversion. The risk of not having regional flood protection is too high. Moorhead is getting a great deal on benefits vs. cost. The city is only paying a couple million in a multi-billion dollar project. I’m open for other options but have not seen a better plan yet.

Some residents and businesses have complained about poor customer service or getting the “runaround” in City Hall. How would you specifically address those concerns?

DAILEY: Minnesota Relay for the Deaf (Moorhead) provides exceptional customer service. I would like to see the City incorporate training of that nature for all levels of City Hall, with consistent individual evaluations. The stakeholders’ concerns need to be the priority and handled in a courteous, efficient, and professional manner.

HALLMAN: My experiences have been with the website and the ability to actually find the right person to address the problem I have. The website needs to be more user-friendly and the employees should go through customer service training as we did at the county level a few years ago.

HUSEBY: The problem is Moorhead’s debt service has grown to be a larger expenditure then operations. Paying debt has left city services under-staffed. If elected I would be mindful of where we are cutting and how that affects services. I would encourage any resident who is having these problems to contact me personally.

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?

DAILEY: Moorhead is not doing enough to engage students. We need to officially welcome them on their very first day. We also need to tighten regulations on substandard off-campus housing with absentee landlords, and downtown needs to feature recreational outlets within walking distance. More businesses mean more career opportunities right here.

DALLMAN: We aren’t doing enough for the college students. We ask them to help fight our floods and buy from our businesses, but we don’t provide much in the way of entertainment or retail outlets for them. We need to promote development that meets student needs.

HUSEBY: No, I do not think Moorhead is doing a good job. The city needs to continue business growth to give college students a post-graduation reason to stay in Moorhead. Capitalizing on the student population is going to be the catalyst to keeps Moorhead growing in the next twenty years.


SECOND WARD

THE CANDIDATES

Mark Altenburg

Age: 42

Occupation: Director of Advancement, M|State Moorhead

Education: BA, North Dakota State University; MALS, Hamline University

Jim Haney

Age: 63

Occupation: Professional Photographer and frontman for Poitin Band, playing Irish/Celtic music. (pah-CHEEN, Irish Gaelic for ‘Illegal Homemade Whisky’)

Education: Graduated from Central Lakes College in Photographic Technology

THE ISSUES

If you were to be elected (or re-elected), what would be your top three priorities for the city in the next four years?

ALTENBURG: Finish flood control in Moorhead; Encourage more business growth in Moorhead. We need to use our education infrastructure to attract more jobs in software, biomedicine, engineering, social media, and the arts; Continue to fight to preserve and improve our older neighborhoods through investments in parks, streets, and infrastructure.

HANEY: To attempt to change the psychology of the City government from ‘You Can’t Do That’ to ‘Yes, We Can.’; To facilitate a Renaissance in the downtown area; To improve the climate for both businesses and people. Improve infrastructure. To help the town thrive in spite of higher taxes and stifling regulations.

What do you want to see in downtown Moorhead, and how would you propose helping the downtown area prosper?

ALTENBURG: We need to connect the new Second Street levy project to the Highway 10 corridor along 1st Avenue. We need to invite more college students to live downtown by encouraging the development of high quality housing. We need a Downtown Partnership in Moorhead that celebrates current businesses and encourages growth.

HANEY: One idea is that a downtown Moorhead theater/concert hall seating 500-600 for plays, live performances and films could be a great anchor to facilitate downtown rebirth. Eating and drinking establishments would follow, a boutique hotel, shops, galleries, Trader Joe’s, and a parking ramp. … Affordable housing for students downtown would be a boon.

Do you support Moorhead continuing to spend city tax money on the proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project?

ALTENBURG: The State of Minnesota, Fargo, Cass County, and the Federal Government will need to cover the ultimate construction costs of the project. Moorhead does not have the money to pay any more. In addition, we need to make sure that our neighboring communities south of town are treated fairly.

HANEY: Moorhead has already spent close to $100 million on flood protection and mitigation. We are favored by slightly higher elevation. It should be up to the larger entities – the State of North Dakota, the Federal Government, the Army Corps of Engineers – to continue with this much-needed project.

Some residents and businesses have complained about poor customer service or getting the “runaround” in City Hall. How would you specifically address those concerns?

ALTENBURG: The residents of Moorhead deserve high quality services for the tax money they invest every year. We need year-to-year improvements in customer response and efficiency. I respect our City employees and believe that with strong support and leadership we could see real improvement in customer support and service delivery.

HANEY: Change the existing perceived reality by cutting red tape and training to ameliorate apathy. Performance review. As someone recently said, “Customer Service, #1.”

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?

ALTENBURG: We need to work with our college students from orientation to graduation (and beyond) to make Moorhead their lifetime community of choice. We are a college town. We need to use this educational infrastructure to make Moorhead the best place in the Metro to live, work, learn, and raise a family.

HANEY: We were playing at Dempsey’s. A young doctor came up … told us she chose to come here after completing her residency because … she happened to see us play few months prior. Said when she saw the “Red-Headed Fiddler, standing on the bar,” she knew she was in the right town. Music can engage young people and keep ’em here.


THIRD WARD

THE CANDIDATES

Julian Dahlquist

Age: 27

Occupation: Regional Field Organizer, MN DFL

Education: 2004 Moorhead Senior High graduate; 2011 MSUM graduate

Brenda Elmer

Age: 42

Occupation: Regional Director at Associated Builders and Contractors of MN/ND

Education: Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Mass Communications, MSUM; Masters of Arts (MA) in Public Administration, Hamline University

NOTE: Although registered, Bohmer told The Forum he is no longer running for the 3rd Ward seat. His name will still appear on the ballot.

THE ISSUES

If you were to be elected (or re-elected), what would be your top three priorities for the city in the next four years?

DAHLQUIST: We need to nurture residential and commercial growth in downtown Moorhead, and in that order. My pledge to shop exclusively in Moorhead has only solidified that.; Green space in town needs better maintenance. The city needs to provide for its neighborhoods.; We need an underpass in the heart of town.

ELMER: We have made tremendous strides in flood protection in my first term and we must complete it. We must also aggressively continue economic development, including downtown revitalization. Growing Moorhead will strengthen our financial situation and keep taxes in check. Finally, I will work to improve aging public infrastructure, including streets.

What do you want to see in downtown Moorhead, and how would you propose helping the downtown area prosper?

DAHLQUIST: The arts are an integral part of my vision for downtown Moorhead. Moorhead High has an Emmy-award winning theatre program, and we have great art programs at MSUM and Concordia. We need to think creatively and offer unique options. Mimicking what others have to offer won’t get us anywhere.

ELMER: Our residents and students continue to express they want more options in their downtown experiences. Addressing traffic signals, railroad tracks, and walkability and green space is key. We must remove or minimize impediments to downtown revitalization, use every tool at our disposal, and attract developers to work with the city.

Do you support Moorhead continuing to spend city tax money on the proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project?

DAHLQUIST: On each level of funding (local, state, federal), we require approval and appropriation of funds. Additionally, residents have expressed mixed feelings towards 500-year flood protection, which, by FEMA’s standards, has a .02 percent chance of actually occurring. There are too many red flags for me to endorse the project at this time.

ELMER: Moorhead remains at the table on the diversion project for the future of the greater Fargo-Moorhead region. While we have made small financial contributions to get the project off the ground, we don’t have a local sales tax or other significant revenue sources and rely on the state of Minnesota.

Some residents and businesses have complained about poor customer service or getting the “runaround” in City Hall. How would you specifically address those concerns?

DAHLQUIST: Residents deserve proper, courteous response when addressing those at City Hall. I have heard complaints regarding various offices, and I find that wholly unacceptable. Our job is to serve the people. Once elected, I will follow protocol, not micromanage city staff, and work towards building a rapport with city employees.

ELMER: Most city staff are dedicated public servants. Those under scrutiny fail to understand our citizens have choices where they reside. We must solicit more customer feedback. Our city manager form of government and current city charter greatly restrict the Council’s authority over staff other than the city manager and attorney.

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?

DAHLQUIST: Currently, no. We are a college town and, as such, we cannot neglect our vast student population. We have 15,000 students among Concordia and MSUM. By embracing our student population, we increase the likelihood of them prolonging their residency, which benefits Moorhead as a whole.

ELMER: Moorhead’s colleges are tremendous assets cultivating vibrancy, enrichment and economic development in our community. Although individual City Council members often engage with students outside of formal meetings, our city must do more to engage our colleges and students. This increased effort will pay dividends. Our students are Moorhead’s future leaders.

FOURTH WARD

THE CANDIDATES

Ben Anderson

Age: 33

Occupation: Regional Director, University of Minnesota Extension

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, University of St. Thomas

Newzad Brifki

Age: 29

Occupation: Kurdish Community of America

Education: Pursuing an MBA

Chris Floberg

Age: 37

Occupation: Customer Service Manager

Education: Studied Biology at NDSU and MIS at MSUM

Chuck Hendrickson

Age: 41

Occupation: Technical Writer at Intelligent InSites

Education: B.A. Concordia College – English Writing and Political Science; MBA, University of Mary

Cassandra L. Lougheed

Age: 47

Occupation: Stay-at-home Grandma/Mom raising 22-month-old granddaughter and Licensed Foster Parent

Education: Associates degree in Business, Wright School of Business

THE ISSUES

If you were to be elected (or re-elected), what would be your top three priorities for the city in the next four years?

ANDERSON: Improve policies to make Moorhead more competitive, see increased economic development, and become a better place to live and do business. Develop and implement a plan to restore downtown. Establish partnerships with and among community leaders and organizations to help guide city policies and strengthen Moorhead’s sense of place.

BRIFKI: Downtown renovation, train problem and more abatement for homes and businesses.

FLOBERG: Infrastructure, creating a more appealing job climate and reinvesting in the community.

HENDRICKSON: Business and Economic Growth – We must promote a business friendly climate for existing and new businesses.; Infrastructure, including Permanent Flood Protection – We need to replace our aging infrastructure … We must also continue to work towards permanent flood control.; Balancing Moorhead’s Budget – We need to make fiscally responsible decisions.

LOUGHEED: Marketing Moorhead in terms of business and residential use.; Rejuvenating Downtown and making it alive and vital like it once was.; Making sure that City infrastructure is well and intact in order to support current residents and Businesses and to support my first two priorities.

What do you want to see in downtown Moorhead, and how would you propose helping the downtown area prosper?

ANDERSON: We have to restore downtown with the type of storefronts and buildings typical of a downtown neighborhood, which would draw a mix of businesses. Steps to improve the traffic challenges need to continue, including underpasses at railroad tracks. Greater incentives and marketing are needed to attract more developers and enterprises.

BRIFKI: I want to walk around downtown and feel like I live in a city not a village.

FLOBERG: Moorhead has a wonderful community feel to it. I would like to see a downtown that continues the feeling that this is still a small town. In the past, we tried to show that we were a city larger than we are. We are seeing those growing pains now.

HENDRICKSON: I would help bring a business complex to the downtown that targets college students who attend college in Moorhead. I would specifically target sit-down restaurants and bar-and-grill businesses that cater to the college crowd and young professionals. I would also encourage family friendly venues, such as a downtown movie theater.

LOUGHEED: Urban Renewal of years ago left Downtown not a downtown. Moorhead should make maximum use of tax financing and incentives. Grade separation projects would help Downtown from being isolated from the rest of Moorhead by trains. A variety of shops, businesses, arts, and multifamily housing would keep people coming downtown.

Do you support Moorhead continuing to spend city tax money on the proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project?

ANDERSON: I support the diversion and believe Moorhead’s participation in the project is essential and our level of investment appropriate. We need a permanent, modern, long-term flood solution that eliminates the risk to our metro community and economy. Moorhead should not have to face this threat anymore, directly or indirectly.

BRIFKI: Yes, this is important for us. Besides Moorhead is not subject to the tax amount that Fargo has to pay. So our share is very low and fair.

FLOBERG: We are all a part of this community. … During the flood fight years since ‘97, I have sandbagged on both sides of the river … The diversion project is another item that the community needs to be supportive about. Without the support of the community, we will have division.

HENDRICKSON: I support the flood diversion project. The public safety of Moorhead citizens and economic development in Moorhead are some of my primary concerns. If permanent flood protection is not established, it has a negative effect on economic development. In addition, families might be hesitant to move to and live in Moorhead because of the threat of floods.

LOUGHEED: Yes and No. The Metro area needs to be protected with minimum harm and maximum benefit. I am not sure the diversion is to that point. While Moorhead is protected largely by its own efforts and natural elevation, Moorhead needs to have a say to help maintain a vital Metro area.

Some residents and businesses have complained about poor customer service or getting the “runaround” in City Hall. How would you specifically address those concerns?

ANDERSON: City officials and staff need to be mindful of the fact that they work for the residents of the city more so than the organization created to manage the city. Listening to constituents and respectfully responding should be a priority and will help guide the city’s policymaking and structure.

BRIFKI: If people are complaining than City Hall should look into those complaints. Obviously those areas or departments need better customer service and training.

FLOBERG: Transparency is key. When asked a question, elected officials need to be able to follow up and provide clear direction or explanation to constituents. The answer may not always be in favor of the one asking the question, but it should be fair and have documentation in place to back up the decision.

HENDRICKSON: I would have customer service calls recorded for quality assurance and have those calls evaluated for quality. I would also add a survey link to the city’s website to gather feedback about face-to-face customer service interactions. The information gathered can then be used as part of an employee’s annual review.

LOUGHEED: Appropriate customer service training for employees. Make sure employee evaluations are done when they are supposed to be and deficiencies identified are corrected. We should give residents and businesses the opportunity to complete a “customer satisfaction survey” after their dealings with City Hall and act on deficiencies identified.

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?

ANDERSON: The city needs to increase its efforts at this. I would involve college students in the process and maintain an on-going, productive dialogue with them so their ideas, perspectives, and feedback can be brought forward. Economic development policies should correspond with academic programs so that students can obtain local jobs.

BRIFKI: No. The college students barely have any opportunities in Moorhead. Most of the jobs are in Fargo or other parts of the state and country. We need to make Moorhead more of a hip city for the college kids. … Let’s give (them) opportunities (to build) their career here in Moorhead.

FLOBERG: I would like to see the city of Moorhead create an atmosphere or investing in the future through tax incentives for companies that are willing to move to Moorhead and/or reinvest in the area.

HENDRICKSON: No, we are not engaging our college students. I would offer incentives to build more affordable housing for college students in the downtown area. Moorhead could develop off-campus student housing that leverages the most current technologies and is within walking distance to the campuses.

LOUGHEED: We could do more. I would like to create a “Student/Business Liaison” position to assess ever changing student needs. This position could promote Moorhead at Job Fairs that are conducted by the Universities and Schools. By continuing to pursue residential, business and Downtown development, we will help raise student retention.

NOTE: Some responses were edited for length.