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South St. Paul City Council Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 South St. Paul City Council Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Bernie Beermann 

Bio: I’ve had a long history with South St. Paul. In the `40’s, I took the streetcar to the south pool.  In 1956, I graduated from SSP High School.  In 1958, I bought my first house on 242 E Dale Street.  I moved to Inver Grove Heights for more space, to operate my hauling company.  I returned to SSP when I retired and live at 206 E Spruce Street.  

While in Inver Grove Heights, I spent 8 years on the City Council.  South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights share a complicated border, especially near the airport.  I was pleased when South St. Paul and West St. Paul combined their fire departments. I hope we continue to work effectively with all of our neighbors. 

In the first half of my adult years, I owned and managed a company, which grew to 75 employees, serving 12,000 customers with trash and recycling services.  I learned to investigate, to understand, and to consider alternatives, before jumping to conclusions.  At that same time, I learned to anticipate what might go wrong, and to ‘be prepared,’ a skill which I actually learned as a boy scout. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

One of the biggest challenges facing our city, and maybe every city in the United States, is that there are ever increasing numbers of people that are willing to break our laws.  I would continue to be supportive of making sure that the public safety and services departments of our city have adequate funding and staffing.   

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Continue existing efforts that keep our city a safe place to live.

#2. Take the steps to acquire the necessary properties for benefit of community, conveniences and events.

#3. Expand our relationships with surrounding communities for the objective of improved economies and responses for mutual benefits. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

I am not aware of any move to cut back on any services currently being provided by the city. I’m always open to considering cost-saving proposals that might be brought to the council by our city administrator, which could include proposals that combine services with other entities for mutual benefit. 

Isaac Contreras 

Bio: I am native to St. Paul, married a wonderful South St. Paul HS graduate and have been raising my boys in South St. Paul for the last 12 years.  

Engaged in my communities since my return from active duty service in the Navy, I have served in several volunteer positions including as a founding member of the St. Paul Police Foundation, District 2 representative on the St. Paul Capital Improvement Budget Committee and President of a youth sports booster organization. 

I am a business owner currently serving on the South St Paul’s Planning Commission, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Council, and attending the South St. Paul Citizens Police Academy. 

With over 25 years of experience in operations, sales and leadership roles, I have been developing and advocating for the best interests of my family, peers, teams and clients with a simple yet effective “Do not let them outwork you” philosophy, which has led to a reputation for listening and acting on their behalf.  These are the same traits that I will bring to the City Council. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Perception.  There seems to be an issue with perception.  Internally, meaning how current residents are seeing the city and externally meaning how we are being looked at from the outside in.  In following the conversations that folks are having on Facebook, you would think that SSP is just falling apart at the seams, but when I have face-to-face conversations with the folks as well as those who have the direct contact with the issues that have been raised, it doesn’t match up.  Crime for instance.  We’ve had some very visible and highly disturbing incidents of crime over the last couple of years, but there are many longtime residents as well as those on the front line who will say that not much is different.  Externally, I think we still deal with an antiquated perception of the potential that is SSP.  Large dirt mounds and smells don’t help, but an Open for Business is an image that helps bring in new companies and new residents.  Working on the perception is an important piece to SSP growth.    

 What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Public safety – Additional support in appropriate equipment and personnel.  For example, equipping every squad in the fleet with spotlight infrared equipment that allows an officer to scan a dark alley for suspicious activity without having to turn into the alley.  This allows the officer to cover more ground.  In regards to personnel, hire and mobilize an officer/social worker team to identify and employ pre-arrest diversion tactics where mental illness and addiction recovery residents are better served.  

#2. Economic Development – “On the verge” may be a fair description of the current business climate. There have been a number of positive business accomplishments.  Not just talk, but actual ground-breaking.  With the opportunity that presents itself from the reconstruction of the Concord Corridor, we are “on the verge” of shedding the cow town image and being able to use words from 10-year-old planning documents like “Rediscover” and “Renaissance”. 

It’s important that we have a marketing mindset.  We know we have a good thing going on here, with access, a productive workforce, and a stable community, but waiting for it to come to us is not a successful approach. We must put ourselves in the path of the businesses and organizations that are at the growth stage. This includes our current businesses.  Retention and growth of our current business residents are critical, and this happens with inclusive economic round-table discussions.   

#3. Housing – One of the bigger challenges is our housing inventory.  It is stunting our growth and even though we welcome prospective Packers, where would they live?  We need to seek and secure developers that provide quality options to incoming and current residents of South St. Paul to support for retention and expansion of our tax base. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?   

Speaking from a candidate’s point of view that has watched the department heads repeatedly go back to their areas of responsibility, sharpen their pencils and work to submit reasonable increases in their budgets, I feel that we must hold the line on spending that is above inflation.  We can protect our budget by enlisting private sector specialists that audit, consult and integrate smart design, energy efficiency and cutting waste for long-term cost savings.

Sharon Dewey 

Bio: I possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and graduated with honors.  I also acquired a certificate from the University of Minnesota – Duluth for completing the Tribal Administration and Governance Program.  My leadership development education was acquired through the Bush Foundation’s Native Nation Rebuilder’s Program (Cohort 2), Tiwahe Foundation’s Oyate Network (Cohort 5), and John Maxell courses.  Our Bush Foundation training included community organizing workshops, facilitated by Peggy Flanagan of Wellstone Action (currently Minnesota State Representative for District 46A).  I was with the U.S. Small Business Administration for almost ten years.  As a Business Opportunities Specialist, I grew to love economic development and small business development.  I previously served an appointment to a term on South St. Paul’s Economic Development Advisory Board.  My experience also includes public service to the White Earth Nation.  As their Self-Governance Coordinator, I managed a multi-million-dollar contract, promoted the image and well-being of the community, conducted business with the Federal government, and coordinated special projects.  My volunteer life consists of involvement in a grassroots organization geared at educating tribal members on the importance of culture, values, governance, and the political system.  It also includes 6 years of direct service to a homeless shelter.  DEW it!  

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Good question!  I see a beautiful city – a small city, with a big town feel.  I love it!  I’d love to preserve that.  Ensuring South St. Paul combats the decline other cities experience will be key.  This will take a unified front to accomplish that; it’s not just a governance issue—it’s a community issue! 

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Economic development

#2. Public safety

#3. Environmental sustainability

I see these three categories as major components of community well-being. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?  

At this time, I will reserve comments because I don’t feel I have enough data to respond.  I would rather provide an informed response than portray myself as someone having all the answers.  However, answers I will seek!

Joanne Rothecker-Woods 

Bio: My leadership skills, my vast knowledge of the community, working with diverse people, and learning to mediate issues qualifies me to be the next City Council Member for South St. Paul.  

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Taxes and a workable budget.  It is the foundation of a strong community. With a stronger tax base with building on economic development, both businesses and residents will benefit. As a City Council, we need to continue to support and invite new businesses and opportunities to build the tax base which will allow for more programming including youth, police and code enforcement.  

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. & #2. Taxes and the budget would be my top two priorities to make sure it is balanced, affordable for the residents and businesses and that there is no frivolous spending.

#3. I will strongly support a strong economic development plan for South St. Paul, bringing in additional taxes, making South St. Paul budget stronger and a great place to live, learn, work and play. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?   

No, I don’t believe at this time that there are any services they should cut back on or eliminate. Because at this time with everything that is occurring within our city/community, all services are needed.  Also, there is always room to address/discuss ideas for new opportunities to share services.

Tom Seaberg 

Bio: Member South St. Paul City Council 1987-present, Member SSP HRA/EDA 20+ years, Member River Heights Chamber of Commerce, Past Board Member River Heights Chamber. 

Endorsed by the Southeast Metro Business Political Action Committee, for the 2018 City Council Election. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

The biggest challenge we face is to continue the momentum of the past few years in attracting new businesses and development and redevelopment to South St. Paul.  We have worked hard on attracting businesses to the Bridgepoint Business Park, we must continue to look for new businesses and redevelopment opportunities in that area and we must work in conjunction with existing businesses along the North Concord Corridor, an area that is ripe for growth.  We must also provide an efficient way for businesses to expand and thrive in the Southview-Marie Avenue business district, by encouraging existing businesses to reinvest in their buildings and partnering with the River Heights Chamber, Progress Plus and South St. Paul Future to create win-win, public-private partnerships. 

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Provide quality city services at a responsible cost.

#2. Work together with all parties on development and redevelopment.

#3. Provide quality housing options for all of our residents.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Yes, we are in the final contract negotiating stage of turning the management and day-to-day operations of both of our publicly owned high-rises, over to a private company.  We believe this will help us reduce the number of FTE’s dedicated to these operations and will help us keep our property taxes lower and allow our staff to focus on other areas of City operations.

Joe Kaliszewski

Bio: Hi. I’m Joe Kaliszewski. I am a native South St. Paulite, being raised and raising our family here in this great town for 5 generations. Graduating from SSP HS, I then attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I married Anita in 1980 and have been happily married since, raising two sons and now we have four grandchildren. Our community will always be most important for all of us to keep as long as we live, for generations.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

I feel one of the challenges is safer housing, especially those vulnerable, aging, and with disabilities. For those mentioned, I feel a staff person should be on staff for multiple people dwelling in these homes. Our public services are facing increased calls and care for something other entities should be funding and handling.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Continue the great services we provide.

#2. Have more public awareness and hearings for engineering projects.

#3. Have more newsletters sent to our community constituents.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Cutbacks/elimination- let’s start with the city planner. Before such a position was created just some years ago, the city engineer and the engineering department handled any issues related. I wonder if citizens would care to become more involved and empowered to police their neighborhoods for trash and parking violations, suspected drug use/distribution, criminal acts and such, reporting them to the departments.

***Information supplied by East Metro Voter Guide (http://www.eastmetrovoterguide.com/)

 

Inver Grove Heights City Council Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 Inver Grove Heights City Council Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Paul Hark

Bio: I am honored and proud to serve my first term on the IGH City Council. We have made very good progress on all issues concerning development in IGH and need to keep the momentum we have. I have many diverse professional experiences. I have owned two small businesses and am married to a small business owner. I understand the pressures involved in owning a business and creating jobs. I’ve worked in large and small organizations, and in the public and private sector. I served on the IGH Planning Commission for nine years, ending up as Chair. I understand land use issues and how they impact our business climate. I have been a ceaseless promoter of the IGH business community and plan on continuing this over my second and final term. I am a budget hawk and pay attention to the budget process.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing the city is effectively dealing with our population growth. It is expected that IGH will have 50,000 residents by the year 2030. We need to manage this growth and ensure that we have the right mix of housing and commercial opportunities.  The estimated growth will put pressure on our budget and affect the costs of city services. The growth will put pressure on our police and fire departments, cause more wear and tear on our roads and add pressure to our water and sewer systems. It will also create the need for additional open space (i.e. parks).  This all needs to be managed so we do not end up taxing residents out of their homes.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Actively manage the spending side of the budget (as this affects the revenue side of the budget)
  • Create a more effective Economic Development Authority to create a more development-friendly reputation for IGH
  • Continue to insist on First-Class Customer Service. We have initiated a new Customer Service policy and we need to insist that it be followed.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

Because Inver Grove Heights is in rapid growth mode, we need to proceed very carefully and strategically with regards to which services should be reduced, enhanced, or shared. These types of decisions cannot be made in the abstract but need to be fact-based and made relative to the long-term benefit of IGH.

Brenda Dietrich

Bio: Local business co-owner of Hardline Concrete & Masonry Inc., a family-owned business in Inver Grove Heights for over 35 years, Tri-district mentor for students at Henry Sibley Memorial High School, River Heights Chamber Ambassador and former Chair, board member and current Chair, Southeast Metro Business PAC (Political Action Committee) former secretary and Vice President, Delegate for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC (2015), Course study of the Government Affairs Curriculum, focused on the process of government at the grassroots, local, state and federal levels of government, involvement in Inver Grove Heights Local Issues meetings monthly with department leaders in the city.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing the city is developing open lines of communication between local residents, the city and business.  This foundation affects the success of all other factors.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Being a voice for residents’ concerns
  • Transparency & consistency
  • Smart business growth, fostered by open lines of communication stated above

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

This is a topic that I would need to get residents feedback from before eliminating or cutting back. I do believe in trying new things and assessing what is working and what can be done more effectively. I do think we can explore sharing resources with surrounding communities. Good ideas can come from anywhere, we need to listen and make wise decisions, learning from each other.

Rosemary Piekarski Krech

Bio: As an educator, urban farmer, child-care provider, daughter, sister, wife, caregiver, widow, lifelong learner, former mayor and current council member, I have developed a balanced approach of process and people-oriented problem-solving skills. I always try to work for consensus not compromise and maintain respect for everyone when dealing with city governance. I think as a city we have accomplished a great deal. We have added hundreds of new residents, new businesses have opened, we selected a new police chief, are on our way to finally build a fire station to serve Southern IGH, have added a Communications director, a new Development director, and still maintained a reasonable levy rate.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?
Financing the many needs of a growing community is our biggest challenge. We need to be fiscally careful and spend city money in a way that keeps us a competitive city in Dakota County.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

My top three priorities would be:

  • Sound finance
  • Completion and equipping the fire station
  • Sustainability

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

We are always looking at what is necessary and needed and have several JPAs and are always open to others.

Todd Kruse

Bio: Residents of IGH would benefit from my career experience as a city franchise agreement negotiator, my experience as a business owner/consultant to businesses, and as an MBA instructor specializing in strategic management which would be an asset to a city in need of innovative approaches to serving its constituents.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The business climate. The climate is stagnant and actually a deterrent for entrepreneurs since numerous business owners have informed me that contractors they wanted to work with have refused to work in IGH. This lack of competitive bidding on business and residential projects (such as a new garage or a deck on your home) becomes a form of hidden taxation since the competitive pressure to keep prices down and quality of service high is limited.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Re-brand and re-constitute the membership of the city’s Economic Development Authority
  • Reorganize the city’s citizen commissions/committees based on community feedback to guide the decisions.  Some commissions I would like to consider are: 1.) Arbor Pointe Commercial Area Commission, 2.) Empty Buildings Commission, 3.) City-to-City Regional Collaboration Commission, and 4.) Innovation/TED Talk Commission (could invite River Heights Chamber of Commerce as a participant).  I know firsthand that our current city leaders turn away volunteers interested in serving, so let’s harness interested citizens’ creative energy where the city needs innovative thinking.
  • Start working on 2020 city elections to recruit candidates who share my worldview to transform our city

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Hopefully, residents will agree with me that money pits like Inver Wood Golf Course and The Grove recreation center are not sacred cows that will ensure my election defeat should I advocate any changes. Imagine an IGH where our recreation center is managed by LA Fitness or Lifetime Fitness where membership rates are lower, AND members get the added benefit of access to other branches such as LA Fitness on Robert Street in West St. Paul or Lifetime’s Eagan facility.

Voters need to ask themselves – “Hey, since I am shopping at Hy-Vee in Eagan today, I think I will go swimming at the Lifetime location on Cliff Avenue…” simply because their The Grove membership now (assuming Lifetime or LA Fitness become the management company) provides them with a greater range of options for recreation throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

 

***Information Supplied by East Metro Voter Guide (http://www.eastmetrovoterguide.com/)

Protect our Local Business Community and Tax Payer – City Ordinances

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

Inver Grove Heights/South Saint Paul  (March 2018)– Over the last few years, the urban core centers of Minnesota have been the target for aggressive city ordinances by progressive advocacy groups that do not conform to state rules and regulations.  Instead of introducing and passing legislative items at the federal and state branches of government, these groups have focused their policy efforts at local municipalities to pass ordinances.

This movement began in New York and California to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  This effort, “Fight for $15,” became the launching pad to expand local wage increase ordinances along with additional workplace regulations such as scheduling, sick leave and safe leave.  In 2015, Minneapolis was the first city in Minnesota to introduce and pass sick and safe leave regulations, and 15.00 per hour minimum wage without any carve-outs for tipped employees.

Saint Paul has passed its own version of sick and safe regulations and is now considering a $15.00 minimum wage without any consideration for tipped employees.  As the President of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce, a local Chamber that borders the urban core, I’m on the front lines to defend my business community and other Chambers of Commerce in the metro, regional marketplace.   Patchwork regulations forced upon the business community is simply not good for our current commerce and certainly not helpful to attract new businesses to the region.

Groups that are proposing these types of local ordinances have strategically targeted municipalities where they are politically aligned and can force these mandates without the proper scrutiny for the public and elected officials to consider.   In November of 2017, the Minneapolis Star Tribune revealed that the city of Minneapolis lacks the funds to fully enforce the new labor laws that were passed.

On a state level, a fiscal review and note are produced when new legislation is being introduced and debated.  This helps in identifying what the impact will be to enforce the proposed law and what it will cost those who will be affected by it.  Unfortunately, special interest groups are aware that local governments do not have the same review process and the taxpayer might only learn of the cost after the ordinance is changed, when it’s too late.

Local chambers of commerce and municipalities need to be aware of this targeted effort and be prepared to have a thoughtful conversation in advance of proposals reaching our community.  I plan to sit down with our local officials to begin these discussions and make sure all the information is considered before entertaining a special interest group from outside of our community’s plan to target our area and leave us to pick up the bill.  Please contact me to share your thoughts on this issue by contacting the River Heights Chamber of Commerce at 651.451.2266.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer-driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

10,000 Business Grant – Dakota County Business Recycling Grant

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials, Marketing

The County is currently offering almost any business in Dakota County up to $10,000 plus technical assistance and training to employees, for companies to increase recycling, renovate their dumpster enclosures, purchase new bins, or begin collecting organics for composting.

“I truly can’t think of a down-side to this grant,” says Cassandra Schueller, Recycling Coordinator for Dakota County. The County partnered with Waste Wise which is an organization that helps businesses reach their diversion goals.

Show your stakeholders and community you’re committed to a healthier environment.

Your business plays an important role in helping keep our air, water and land clean. A robust recycling program says you mean business when it comes to conserving our natural resources and demonstrating your organization’s commitment to sustainability and your community. And, recycling more may help your bottom line.

For most businesses in Dakota County it’s the law to recycle at least three materials such as paper, glass, plastic, metal and organics including food waste and non-recyclable paper.

Dakota County has resources to help your business – check them out here: BusinessRecyclingProgramHandout

Learn more about the Dakota County Business Recycling Program Grant here

Public Comment Period for Dakota County’s Draft Solid Waste Master Plan: Now to Dec 1.

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

From Environmental Resources Department, Dakota County Physical Development Division:

Dakota County is developing its Solid Waste Master Plan to identify strategies to achieve state goals, including a 75 percent recycling rate by 2030.  The County is accepting comments on the draft plan through December 1.

The draft Dakota County Solid Waste Master Plan is now available for your review. Residents, businesses, municipalities, schools, and waste industry representatives are invited to provide comments on the Draft Master Plan through December 1. Dakota County would like to hear from businesses and organizations specifically about proposed trash and recycling strategies

 Comments can be:

  • Emailed to wasteless@co.dakota.mn.us, or
  • Mailed to Dakota County Environmental Resources Department, Attn: Renee Burman, 14955 Galaxie Avenue, Apple Valley, MN 55124

The draft plan includes educational, financial and regulatory approaches to implement a variety of tactics and increases accountability among all stakeholders. Strategies in the draft plan were developed based on feedback gathered during the County’s stakeholder engagement process, and incorporate required approaches identified in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Metropolitan Solid Waste Policy Plan.  More than 1,500 residents, business and industry representatives, cities and schools officials, and other stakeholders provided input on solid waste issues and potential strategies over the past year.

New Educational Leadership Series from the River Heights Chamber of Commerce

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing

The Government Affair: New Educational Leadership Series from the River Heights Chamber of Commerce

Inver Grove Heights/South Saint Paul – One of the River Heights Chamber’s goals this year was set to educate and Invigorate member involvement in advocacy with social media or an event.  Historically, the River Heights Chamber of Commerce has led the Dakota County Leadership Academy to build community leaders within the local Chamber of Commerce membership, however, the area Chambers have not revived the leadership program since the economic downturn more than 5 years ago, leaving a gap in leadership training through the Chamber.  Staff combined the goals of the Board of Directors with the desire to offer members a training opportunity to become more engaged in the community, in their business and in the Chamber.

The following course was developed with Connolly Kuhl Group in partnership with the Minnesota Retailers Association and approved by the Chamber’s Board of Directors for the Fall of 2017.

“Whether it be at the municipal, state, or federal level, advocacy is a crucial part of influencing how decisions are made. We consistently see businesses wanting to advocate on behalf of issues that will directly affect them, but do not know how to effectively do so. The Government Affair is a great opportunity for companies big and small to not only expand their knowledge of civic affairs, but learn how to actively engage with elected officials to benefit their organization and the business community,” stated Carl Kuhl, Connolly Kuhl Group.

What’s in Store for You…

It’s no secret… This four-part educational series from the River Heights Chamber of Commerce will commence this September and is perfect for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of civic affairs. Whether your experience with government is limited to voting for elected officials or you lobby your representatives on a weekly basis, this program will walk you through a comprehensive, non-partisan, grassroots experience at the local, state and federal level. This program will challenge participants to stretch their knowledge on all levels of government while learning from and networking with other business people and influential leaders.

Jennifer Gale, President of the River Heights Chamber noted, “The Government Affair will challenge and motivate course graduates to make a difference in their organization and community by learning about the grassroots process that keep our local communities a good place to do business in.”  Understanding how the process works is critical to influencing decisions being made every day impacting you and your customers. The Government Affair turns observers into power players,” added Bruce Nustad, President, Minnesota Retailers Association.

How Can I Benefit?

  • Individual Benefits: Develop a great network of individuals who play an active role in the business community; become a more effective and influential leader at work by understanding the process of civic affairs, and learn transferable tools for your professional tool box.
  • Employer Benefits: Gain company exposure, and develop a strong employee who understands civic affairs and increases their leadership talent within the organization.
  • Community Benefits: Support active participation in the community, and further engage the local talent in grassroots initiatives on all levels of government.

Meet Me…

This four-part series will meet from 1 p.m.  to 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month from September to December at a location relevant to the topic.  Each class will follow with an optional afterglow at a local establishment.

  • September 19, 2017 – Learn about the local commissions, city council process, development reviews and the role local government plays in sustaining a successful business community. Hear from city staff, elected officials and economic development professionals.
  • October 17, 2017 – Learn about the state legislature, lobbying, passing bills out of committees, how to participate in a grassroots campaign and who the players are. Hear from elected officials, capitol staff and professional lobbyists.
  • November 21, 2017 – Learn about federal government issues that affect Minnesota businesses. Get an inside perspective into Washington D.C. and how legislation impacts our local companies.  Hear from Fortune 100 government affairs professionals, congressional official/staff and a federal agency official.
  • December 19, 2017 – Learn how to influence democracy. Participants will learn how to effectively participate in a grassroots campaign for your company.  Graduation Ceremony to follow – guests are welcome.

 Series Investment: $199
The investment fee covers all course materials and graduation ceremony.  Series sponsorships are available. Contact the River Heights Chamber of Commerce at 651.451.2266 or apply online at www.riverheights.com/thegovernmentaffair.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

Stay Connected with the River Heights Chamber on our social media sites!

The Government Affair

Nicole Bengtson
0 comments
Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing

What’s in Store For You…
It’s no secret… This four-part educational series from the River Heights Chamber of Commerce will commence this September and is perfect for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of civic affairs. Whether your experience with government is limited to voting for elected officials or you lobby your representatives on a weekly basis, this program will walk you through a comprehensive, non-partisan, grassroots experience at the local, state and federal level. This program will challenge participants to stretch their knowledge on all levels of government while learning from and networking with other business people and influential leaders.
How Can I Benefit?
  • Individual Benefits: Develop a great network of individuals who play an active role in the business community; become a more effective and influential leader at work by understanding the process of civic affairs, and learn transferable tools for your professional tool box.
  • Employer Benefits: Gain company exposure, and develop a strong employee who understands civic affairs and increases their leadership talent within the organization.
  • Community Benefits: Support active participation in the community, and further engage the local talent in grassroots initiatives on all levels of government.
Series Investment: $199

Statewide Policy Tour Makes First Stop in South St. Paul to Deliver 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul (June 2017) – As a member of the Minnesota Chamber Federation, the River Heights Chamber of Commerce was proud to have long-time member, Waterous Company, host the first stop on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Statewide Policy Tour on May 31st in South St. Paul.

A little history about our host: Waterous has been making quality, American-Made firefighting related products since 1886. Waterous made complete apparatus including horse-drawn, steam-driven hose carts until 1929 when the focus changed to manufacture fire pumps. NOW – Waterous still builds revolutionary fire suppression systems and holds true to the philosophy “Cast, Machine, Assemble and Test our pumps in America.” You can count on Waterous to provide you with the utmost in quality products and customer service.

Statewide Policy Tour: The tour included 25 business representatives from Inver Grove Heights, South St. Paul, Eagan, Bloomington, St. Paul and surrounding communities who got to hear from Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Director of Environmental Policy and Director of Education & Workforce Development from the Minnesota Chamber, first-hand (days after the special session concluded), on results of the Federation’s legislative priorities that have weighed on businesses and families in our communities over the past year and prior.

The Minnesota Chamber lobbying team noted, “The Minnesota Chamber clearly delivered on your priorities this year. All the top priorities were signed into law except for one – the Uniform State Labor Standards Act – and that passed both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Dayton. Our legislative victories will better position your company, and all of Minnesota, to be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.”  They added, “The Legislature went into special session to avoid a government shutdown. Governor Dayton signed all the budget bills and tax bills, but more negotiations may be coming. He line-item vetoed the House and Senate legislative budgets in an attempt to force leadership back to the table to undo provisions he already signed into law: the repeal of the automatic inflator on the statewide business property tax levy and cigarette taxes; the increase in the estate tax threshold; teacher licensing reforms; and rulemaking prohibitions on drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. His vetoes are headed for a court challenge.”

The conclusion of this legislative session highlighted significant progress on a range of business needs stated below. Our successes are at the foundation of your success.

  • BUSINESS TAX RELIEF: We delivered biggest tax relief for all Minnesotans since 2001
  • TRANSPORTATION: We delivered largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008 – without increase in taxes or fees
  • HEALTH CARE: We delivered more options for small businesses to provide employee coverage
  • LAWSUIT REFORM: We delivered protection for businesses targeted with abusive lawsuits
  • ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS: We delivered reasonable and responsible improvements to state environmental review and permitting
  • EDUCATION/WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: We delivered on workforce needs including K-12 reforms, early learning, housing and childcare funding
  • LABOR/MANAGEMENT: We preserved the effectiveness of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council process
  • ENERGY AND TELECOM: We delivered savings on energy costs and improved communications infrastructure

UNIFORM LABOR STANDARDS
Our biggest disappointment was the Governor’s veto of the Uniform State Labor Standards Act that would have explicitly prevented local governments from mandating local wage and benefit packages on private employers. We adamantly oppose government interference – at any level – in private-sector employee benefits, especially a local patchwork of mandates,” added the Minnesota Chamber.

Our lawsuit continues against the city of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis and St. Paul paid sick and safe time ordinances are scheduled to go into effect July 1. The Hennepin County District Court has ruled that Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance against “any employer resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis” until there’s a decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals. As a result, St. Paul is imposing its ordinance only on those businesses with a physical location within its boundaries. Our lawsuit is scheduled for a July 11 hearing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which then must issue a decision within 90 days.

Members of the business community shared the following items they would like to see the Minnesota Chamber Federation continue to work on and advocate for in the 2018 Legislative Session: create uniform labor standards, create more health care cost solutions for small businesses and individual plans, secure social security tax relief and education reform for ensuring effective teachers and funding for early childhood education.

For more detailed information on each priority’s results, please visit the River Heights Chamber’s website here.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

Stay Connected with the River Heights Chamber on our social media sites FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

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How to Contact Your River Heights Area State Legislators

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy

Reach out to your local legislators on legislative issues important to you – they want to here from you!
Find the Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul District Senators and Representatives contact information here:

District 52:
Senator Matt Klein, M.D.
95 University Avenue West
Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 2409
Saint Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-4370
www.senate.mn/senatorkleinemail
www.senate.mn/senatorklein
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MattKleinMN
Twitter: @MattKleinSD52
Learn more here

District 54:
Senator Dan Schoen
95 University Avenue West
Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 2413
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 297-8060
sen.dan.schoen@senate.mn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorDanSchoen/
Twitter: @danschoenmn
Learn more here

District 52A:
Representative Rick Hansen
247 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
(651) -296-6828
rep.rick.hansen@house.mn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rick.hansen.90
Twitter @reprickhansen
Learn more here

District 52B:
Representative Regina Barr
553 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
(651) 296-4192
rep.regina.barr@house.mn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepReginaBarr
Twitter: @RepReginaBarr
Learn more here

District 54A:
Representative Keith Franke
567 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
(651) 296-4342
rep.keith.franke@house.mn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/keith.franke.984
Twitter: @teamfranke
Learn more here

Fighting Workplace Mandates on Two Fronts

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

Column By: Doug Loon, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

The Minnesota Chamber continues to challenge workplace mandates at the Legislature and in the courts. A recent court ruling underscores the importance of our parallel efforts.

A Minneapolis ordinance is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, that requires businesses to provide paid sick time to employees. St. Paul has a similar ordinance scheduled to take effect the same date. Duluth is considering enacting its own set of workplace regulations. It’s only time before similar measures come to a city near you.

In October 2016, the Minnesota Chamber brought a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis asking the court to do two things: No. 1, issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its “paid sick and safe time” ordinance on any businesses; No. 2, permanently rule the ordinance unlawful.

The Hennepin County District Court delivered a mixed ruling on January 19. Judge Mel I. Dickstein said Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance on employers “resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis.” He also ordered that, for now, the city could enforce the ordinance against employers within the city. We are appealing the decision.

The judge’s mixed ruling underscores the importance of our efforts at the Capitol to pass the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would prohibit local governments from passing their own mandates on wages, benefits and scheduling. The Act would keep Minnesota’s laws uniform, our communities open for business, and our economy thriving for all.

The legislation is being spearheaded by the United for Jobs Coalition, a broad-based coalition of local chambers of commerce and business associations led by the Minnesota Chamber.

We do not believe the state should dictate private-sector employee benefits. The only thing worse than state government dictating one-size-fits-all mandates on all employers is for local governments to do so, thus creating a patchwork of local laws for businesses to navigate across the state. Minnesota’s economic strength is due to a diverse business landscape. Distinctive operations and workplace needs require that employers have the flexibility to develop wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the mutual needs of employer and employees.

Borrowing a sports phrase, the best defense is a strong offense. Minnesota employers consistently receive national recognition for providing tremendous workplace environments. We will continue to challenge workplace mandates. At the same time, legislators also need to hear about the voluntary wages and benefit plans employers use to attract and retain employees in this competitive marketplace. Minnesota businesses increasingly are offering leave plans that meet the needs of employees such as offer paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick and safe leave, and other benefits– without state or local mandates. Please share your best practices by contacting Jennifer Byers at 651.292.4673 or jbyers@mnchamber.com.