Connecting the community while being a practical problem solver
MY PRIORITIES FOR HENNEPIN COUNTY
Individual mental health, and the mental health of our community as a whole, is a very important and personal issue to me. Hennepin County has an extensive mental health system, and making sure that it can provide stability for those who need it is critical. Those of us who have been involved in raising awareness of mental health issues have long known the challenges that adults and senior citizens face. But today, our children are dealing with a mental health crisis of their own. Social media, substance abuse, and the pressure of not knowing where they fit in has contributed to an alarming increase in the number of teen suicides. We need to find more ways to help our kids safely bridge these challenging times. Understanding the complexities that come with a system that has multiple touch points will enable more to be done to help those directly and indirectly affected by our growing mental health crisis. I have worked with the mental health community for 25 years, and I will leverage those experiences to help Hennepin County deal with this crisis.
Transportation & Transit
Hennepin County has 2,200 lane miles of roads and 147 bridges to manage. Funding the county’s extensive roadway infrastructure and bridge network is critical to meet our needs in the western metro and should be a priority for policy makers. With Southwest Light Rail construction underway, we need to make sure that we have a strong advocate in place to make certain this huge investment delivers on its economic development and worker transportation goals.
The western metro is the largest net source of property taxes for Hennepin County. In recent years, we have seen county property tax levy increases of around 5% per year. Those kinds of tax increases are not sustainable and have a significant impact on working families and fixed-income seniors. We need to keep a close eye on the budgeting process and make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely and responsibly. Standing up for taxpayers will be a top priority of mine.
Making sure that Hennepin County residents are safe and that they have equal access to our justice system is the most important job of a Hennepin County commissioner. As a business owner and state representative, I was a strong supporter of our first responders and championed laws to keep repeat offenders from harming and harassing people in our major cities. As a county commissioner I will support the sheriff’s office, and make sure that our jails and courts have the resources they need to do their work effectively. I also want to ensure that our first responders are fully able to deal with the increasing number of interactions they have with people experiencing mental health challenges.
As our region’s population grows, we continue to be challenged by a lack of affordable housing. A sustainable pathway to making housing more affordable will help our communities grow in numerous ways. For example, when seniors are able to stay in their homes the entire community benefits. And encouraging younger generations to put down roots in our suburbs is important for maintaining the vibrant growth that our cities need. Investments in naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) and utilizing Community Land Trust (CLT) agreements are just two ways to take positive steps towards these goals.
Our lakes and rivers are a part of the DNA that makes us Minnesotans. We are blessed in the west metro to be home to Lake Minnetonka and other watershed districts. There are various ways that the county can ensure that we are good stewards of the environment, whether it be through construction and road maintenance practices, recycling and trash, water stewardship, or other means. Currently 50 metro area lakes and rivers contain too much chloride (salt) due to excessive road salt use. Finding ways to reduce the amount of road salting is an issue that I worked on while in the legislature, and I will continue to lead efforts to protect our natural resources. Recreational users and sportsmen in the 6th District deserve to have clean water; whether it’s for swimming, fishing or any other activity. I have been a leader on environmental issues and will continue to champion the outdoors as a county commissioner.
Hennepin County needs to show continued leadership on issues such as climate change and sustainability. Reducing and conserving energy by enhancing the efficiency of our buildings, vehicle fleet, and energy sources is one way to help. In many of these areas, the county is already a leader – but we can do more. Using solar arrays as a clean fuel source is one way to move us towards a 100% carbon-free energy goal. I will continue to be an advocate for advancing clean energy and other solutions to help deal with our changing climate.
Nearly 75% of our region’s businesses have a difficult time finding qualified workers. By 2022 our region will need to fill 500,000 new and existing job openings. Working together, government, our educational institutions, and the private sector can create a qualified and diverse workforce that will maintain both the competitiveness and economic strength of our region. Hennepin County’s Pathways program is a good example of this kind of cooperation, and it will be a priority of mine to advocate for its expansion.
People should have access to affordable, healthy food. I’ve personally seen this affect many people, which is why I passed a bill during my time in the Minnesota Legislature to fund the largest food bank in the state, Second Harvest Heartland. People caught in between jobs or senior citizens trying to make ends-meet often rely on state systems like food banks and food stamps, and I’ve made every effort to ensure that they won’t be forgotten. As a volunteer and supporter of places like VEAP and ICA food shelves I have seen the value of these partnerships. I will continue to leverage the relationships I have forged on this front in the business, non-profit and public sector to continue to help with this essential human need.
Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) is a prominent tenant of Downtown Minneapolis, but the Hennepin Healthcare System that it is a part of extends its reach into the suburbs. A subsidiary of Hennepin County, Hennepin Healthcare System has a level 1 trauma center, is a trusted and respected teaching hospital, is a safety net hospital to many residents of Hennepin County and the region, and provides quality daily care at its clinic locations. Additionally, Hennepin County EMS (paramedic/ambulance service) is immensely important to the health and safety of citizens in the west metro area. Given the immense importance of the County’s Healthcare system, I will support these services by making sure we provide adequate funding for them, and I would advocate to have a new EMS station based in the west metro to help increase the safety of our citizens and improve response times.
Equity and Inclusion
Hennepin County is an incredibly diverse county and we need to celebrate that diversity, but we also need to better understand and address what those differences mean. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions: why are minorities over represented in the criminal justice system, where are the gaps to progress low income and minority residents in the workforce, how can we heal communities while promoting public safety, what are the barriers to safe and stable housing? We know that education is a strong contributor to success. As a county our graduation rates have slowly improved, but minority students are still falling behind at rates that are unacceptable. As a legislator, I served on two education committees and I look forward to collaborating with our talented superintendents to make sure that every student is given the same opportunities to succeed.
I will invest in the county’s center for innovation and excellence (CIE) so that as an organization we can systematically research how disparities have impacted the services that we provide and the communities that we serve. We need to have the data to back up the decisions we are making so that we know that we are truly getting to the core of our shortcomings and holistically building people up. Through advancements in the county’s CIE we will use a data driven approach to move us forward. I am prepared to have the conversations that need to be had, but more importantly, I will make sure that we make smart, targeted investments to actually change the system for the better.