North Metro Mayors Association hosts candidate forum in New Brighton

•  By Sam Lenhart sam.lenhart@ecm-inc.com • Sep 19, 2018

This is an excerpt from an article in the New Brighton Sun Focus newspaper:

The North Metro Mayors Association hosted a forum at New Brighton City Hall on Sept. 12 to give voters a chance to get to know the candidates.

The forum, attended by approximately 40 people, featured District 41A candidates Connie Bernardy (DFL) and Susan Erickson (R) and District 41B candidates Tim Utz (independent) and Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL).

During the one-hour forum, the candidates were allowed to give opening and closing statements and were also asked a number of questions by moderator Kathi Hemken. Due to the number of questions asked, only select topics will be covered in this article.

District 41A

Moderator Kathi Hemken opened the forum by asking each candidate what issues they plan to address in District 41A.

Erickson suggested a committee to structure policies and standard procedures for the states failed programs.

“The quick fix is to pour more money into them but that is not a solution,” said Erickson. “A way to resolve these failures is to determine who is responsible and replace them.”

Erickson also proposes looking into the contract bidding process to pick companies with proven backgrounds to get the best results.

“Government and taxes should only be big enough to get the job done,” she said. “Taxes should be optimized and not blindly maximized. The tax conformity bill that was vetoed would have conformed Minnesota’s tax laws to the new federal tax cuts and reduce taxes for all.”

Erickson also said that health insurance costs are skyrocketing.

“There is a difference between health care and health insurance,” said Erickson. “Health care is the care you get from your doctors or a hospital and health insurance was supposed to be a form of risk management to protect from financial loss in a catastrophic event. Instead, it is morphed into a manage care system.”

Erickson said that single pair health insurance is not the answer.

Bernardy also said that when she goes door knocking the biggest concern she hears from residents is also related to health care.

“We are really in a crisis,” said Bernardy. “You can get insurance but it is often times really expensive if you are buying it on the open market and you don’t get very good coverage.”

Bernardy said that she will propose a Minnesota Care buy-in.

“That will help, not only people in the community, but also business owners,” she said. “Having the option to buy in to quality and comprehensive health care buy-in, people will have the opportunity to have quality health care at a more affordable price.”

Bernardy said that she also plans to advocate for affordable education.

Hemken then asked each candidate how they plan to raise funds for street and transportation improvements.

“We need to work together and come together for a solution that is not a shift or a gimmick,” said Bernardy. “We have major maintenance issues on our roadways so when you look at those across the state we are green and flying high but when you look deeper those roadways are crumbling.“

Bernardy said that the state needs to focus on sustainable and ongoing funding.

Erickson said funding could come from existing resources like “realigning the states budget surplus and restricting MnDOT resources.”

“Billions have been spent on a transit system that does nothing to help the north metro,” said Erickson. “People want to go where they want to go in a safe and timely manner. Eliminating congestion would be my high priority. I oppose a gas tax increase.”

Hemken then asked each candidate what their top priority, relating to the north metro business community, would be if elected.

Bernardy said she will focus on getting people the training they need to fill positions.

“Right now there is a gap and that is something that we need to focus on,” she said.

Erickson said that transportation is essential for businesses to move goods.

“In the north metro, 35W and 694 is the second busiest corridor in Minnesota,” said Erickson, “35W is a prime example of a missed opportunity to add two additional lanes instead of a MnPASS lane, which would have helped businesses in the north metro.”

Erickson said she hopes to expand 694 with additional lanes.

“Making Minnesota a business-friendly state will retain and bring new business to invest and expand and create new jobs,” she said.