City Council - Ward 5 Candidate: Todd Jensen
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: I am a 49-year-old native of Minnesota. My wife Peggy and I have been married for 29 years and have lived in Alexandria for the past 18 years. We have four grown children and 11 grandchildren. I have been employed as the sales manager at KEYL/KXDL Radio for the past 13 years.
My entire adult life has been spent in sales and management. With roughly 30 years of sales experience dealing primarily with business customers, I have learned that the most important quality a person can have is the ability to listen to the wants and needs of the people they are dealing with or representing. city council members need to constantly remind themselves that they are not on the council to serve their own interests or agendas, but rather to serve the needs and interests of the people who reside in, or own businesses in, the wards they represent.
My knowledge of our local business community along with the communication skills I have worked to develop over the years are additional qualifications I hope to bring to this position. I will work hard to represent first and foremost the needs and interests of the people of Ward 5.
Q: What would you view as the biggest challenge facing Alexandria right now and how would you deal with it?
A: The biggest challenge we face is getting the city's spending under control. It seems every time we pick up the paper or listen to the radio, the city is starting or proposing another project. I understand that in a city the size of Alexandria there is a level of new construction, renovation, remodeling, equipment purchases and addition of services that are inherently necessary. However, this must be balanced with a fiscal responsibility to the citizens of this community because they are the ones ultimately paying the bills.
Expenditures need to be evaluated not on a "want" but rather a "need" basis. The council needs to start being more creative by seeking ways to share services with the county to reduce costs, contracting services that can be performed more cost effectively than the city can on its own, and moving projects and purchases into the "maybe when the economy rebounds" or "when it can be done without adding additional tax burden" categories.
I urge the residents of this community to become more involved. Attend city council meetings when possible, reach out to your ward representatives, and make your voices heard. Council members are elected to serve the wishes of the people. It's time to start holding them accountable.
Q: What are your feelings about having an event center in the city? How much involvement should the city have in such a project?
A: I will not commit to a position on the question of an event center until I have had an opportunity to completely review the findings and recommendations of the study that the city council has already approved commissioning. I will base my opinion on that information along with input from the residents and business owners of Ward 5.
It's the responsibility of the council members to represent the wishes of the people of their wards, not their own personal agendas.
I will however say that I go into this issue with great caution. Current economic conditions call for prudence in our spending. I cannot and will not support such a project unless it can demonstrate an immediate need and can be done in a fiscally responsible manner. This is not a time to mortgage our city's future on projects that are unnecessary, unneeded and sometimes unwanted by the people of this community, which I believe has happened far too often under our current council members' watch.
Q: Is Alexandria doing enough to keep local property taxes low? What are some specific cost saving ideas you have for the budget?
A: The city council is not doing enough to keep property taxes down. Our city administrator recently stated that although there was going to be a budget increase for 2013, that due to annexation, the property taxes for individual property owners would actually go down. This was only a partial truth.
I do not believe he took into consideration the levy increase that the Alexandria HRA was granted by the city council. He also did not factor in the insinuated property tax increase that was contained in a recent letter from Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District. Recent state property tax increases, the school levy, HRA levy increases, a 3.8 percent increase in the 2013 city budget and the threat of further increased taxes by ALASD guarantee property taxes will increase dramatically.
The city administrator is hardly comforting. A lot of people of this community are struggling to pay their bills and keep their homes. Many haven't seen a pay raise in several years. So the city council considering non-essential projects, giving every employee of the city a 3 percent pay increase for next year, giving themselves a 3 percent raise for 2013 and another 3 percent for 2014, is evidence they are not doing everything possible to keep property taxes down.
Q: Is Alexandria drawing enough high-paying jobs to the area? What are your ideas for improvement?
A: I've learned over the years that before we go looking for more in life we need to make sure we're doing the best possible job taking care of what we already have. Too often the focus is on what we desire and not enough on what we already have.
The more important question here is not what we can do to bring in more jobs and businesses, but what are we doing to take care of the businesses that are already the lifeblood of Alexandria?
Unnecessary property taxes and assessments frustrate business owners and may result in them looking elsewhere. Being involved in sales for over 30 years, I've learned it's easier and more beneficial to keep the accounts you have than constantly seek new ones to replace them.
Focusing on doing the best possible job we can to take care of the businesses already in this community will result in growth as a bi-product, without losing the "place we want to live" atmosphere that my wife and I fell in love with when we moved here 18 years ago. Growth is a good thing, but not at the cost of what we already have.