The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election News

October 20, 2010

North Mankato City Council candidates field wide range of topics

NORTH MANKATO — Let’s get this beat-a-dead-horse question out of the way first:

All four candidates for two open North Mankato City Council seats  reiterated Wednesday that they see no reason nor worth in the city merging with Mankato — now or when the cows come home.

Moving on...

Incumbents Diane Norland and Ken DeWitte and challengers Kim Spears and Bob Freyberg vied to put their best feet forward in the latest round of Greater Mankato Growth-sponsored public candidate debates leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

The event at South Central College used the organization’s standard tack of asking the candidates to give 60-second answers to audience-generated questions — 17 of them in a little over one hour.

The spin-it-in-a-minute format puts a premium on concise and cogent responses, and for the most part all four acquitted themselves well.

Also for the most part, the candidates appeared to be in agreement on topics ranging from the city’s economic development efforts to property tax concerns.

Only one question, which asked candidates to assess the value of North Mankato’s economic development arm, the Port Authority, produced a schism.

 Spears stood alone in saying it should be scrapped, contending its role should be included among the duties of the City Council.

On the question of how to best address impending budgetary challenges in light of state-aid cuts:

Norland said local government entities can look to stretch their dollars by implementing measures such as joining “buying pools” with other  government groups.

Spears said cities must re-prioritize and revisit every spending avenue.

DeWitte cited the value and increasing importance of doubly-skilled city workers that, he said, North Mankato possesses.

“We’re all multi-taskers.”

Freyberg said the city must maintain a sharp emphasis on growth.

“If we do that some of these budgetary issues will take care of themselves.”

All candidates lauded the city’s park development efforts, though Spears made it a point of saying they’re far less vital than fire, utilities and police services.

Candidates also were in agreement on a question regarding the city’s role in supporting restaurants, citing in particular the defunct Christy’s Cafe that received start-up help from a Port Authority grant.

The four essentially said such private businesses should be expected to make it on their own.

“We’ve got to get out of the business of funding restaurants and grocery stores,” DeWitte said.

Freyberg added that it’s not the business of government to subsidize private businesses.

“Plus it’s discriminatory. If you subsidize one you have to subsidize them all,” Freyberg said.      


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