By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
Neighborhood revitalization and collaborative efforts among various city groups and citizens were topics each of the five candidates for Mankato City Council discussed during a candidate forum Thursday night.
Held at City Center Hotel, Council President Mike Laven, his at-large opponent Chris Frederick, Ward 4 Councilman Charlie Hurd, Hurd’s opponent Jason Mattick, and Ward 2 Councilwoman Tamra Rovney took questions from the audience of about 20 people on subjects ranging from climate change to library funding.
One open-ended question resulted in the candidates discussing personal priorities for the city: What can Mankato do better than it does now?
Hurd was the first to bring up neighborhood revitalization, which has been an ongoing effort for the city in areas such as Lincoln Park, Washington Park and City Center. He said he wants to continue to expand those efforts, including downtown revitalization.
Mattick agreed, stating his support of the City Center initiative and his desire to make Mankato an urban center.
“(I want to) see our community grow, promote diversity — neighbors working together,” Mattick said.
Frederick said he wants to see Mankato expand on collaborative efforts such as the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour. And in his Washington Park neighborhood, he would want to see the city discuss ways to get people back into some of the abandoned homes, such as expanding rental opportunities.
Laven said he wants to see the Council create a “more seamless social service network.” He also said he wants to foster and build upon community policing strategies in which residents help monitor problems in neighborhoods. And he said he wants to find ways to attract seniors with disposable income to retire in Mankato as opposed to Arizona.
“Let’s be a destination for retirement,” he said.
Rovney said she wants to see the city be more green and efficient. She also said she wants to continue to promote economic growth and protect “livability services,” such as a strong park and trail system.
Another hot topic came from Mankato resident Jean Lovett who asked the candidates how each would deal with future cuts at the state level.
Mattick said he would prioritize what affects the most people. Frederick agreed, adding that a balance would have to be struck between tax increases and cuts, citing city parks as one area that might not be as essential as other city needs.
Laven cited his experience on the Council and city budget information from as far back as 2003. He said in that time state aid was as high as 9.8 million, and it’s now projected to be 6.2 million. “Tough choices” have had to be made, he said, including using cash reserves when necessary, reducing services and increasing property taxes.
“The reality is the city of Mankato has to continue to use that strategy,” Laven said.
Rovney added to Laven’s comments by pointing out the city has diversified revenue streams and has developed a capital improvement plan.
Hurd said the role of the Council is to prioritize the things the city needs and the things it wants.
“Every year the work has gotten harder and harder,” Hurd said.
Each candidate said they would bring passion to the job if elected.
“I am proud of the city of Mankato. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” Rovney said. “We’re not perfect, but we are doing our best.”
Hurd said he has brought good ideas to the Council, such as promotion of neighborhood revitalization and becoming a GreenStep city, and he hopes to be able to continue to do so.
Laven said collaborative efforts is what has made and will continue to make the city move forward.
Mattick said his philosophy is to “think globally, act locally,” and while he doesn’t have any experience, he does have “unbridled enthusiasm.”
Frederick said he looks forward to engaging with the community about what should be done differently, and he would bring enthusiasm and energy into maintaining a strong quality of life in Mankato.