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Monday, November 02, 2009

Gina Bauman Sets the Record Straight

As in most political contests it is starting to get ugly out there. In a post on Enlighten New Brighton Council Member Gina Bauman corrects some of the misconceptions that are apparently being spread by the competition in the New Brighton City Council and Mayoral races.

As a unabashed supporter of Bauman's re-election I'm glad she has chosen to address some of the absolute garbage that is going around and have reproduced her post in its entirety here:

Door knocking the city with Dave Jacobsen, who I hope will be our next mayor, has been an eye-opening experience. I have been hearing some misleading and downright false statements being made about what I have said, done, or will do if I am re-elected to the council. So as the campaign draws to a close I would like to make some clarifications to set the record straight before you go to the polls this Tuesday to place your vote.
  • I have never proposed to sell or develop the golf course. Council member Doffing was the only representative that I recall to ever bring that up in a work session with no other support from any one.

  • The average salary for city employees (not including public safety) is approximately $90K a year based on full time equivalents. Mayor Larson is playing fast and loose with numbers, counting job-sharing and part time positions separately and telling people that the average is about $65K a year. My calculations come from the city employee salary and benefit summary, which shows that approximately 49 FTE employees make approximately $4.4 million a year before benefits. Salaries and benefits for ALL employees is $9 million a year out of a $13 million dollar city budget. The reason this has become an issue is that for the last two years the 3.9% city tax levy increase was used for salaries and benefits only for all city employees while expenditures were covered by reserve funds. This prompted me into asking for a salary and benefit breakdown for all employees, which is I believe the first time any council member or mayor has asked for this information. While our staff does a great job, I feel they are very fairly paid for a city of our size, so I championed a 2010 freeze on salaries. This is contrary to what you will read on another council candidate's (Graeme Allen) handout, which implies that it was the employees who voluntarily made the sacrifice to freeze their salaries.

  • As to council and mayor having paid health benefits available to us, I understand to a point that this could be controversial. During the League of Women Voters forum on October 19th the question on rescinding this benefit was asked. I explained that the mayor and another council member take the health insurance - this is a true statement. While Mayor Larson voted against the resolution in a 4-1 vote, he still chose to drop the state-run health insurance in which he was previously enrolled in favor of the city sponsored plan. In fairness to Mayor Larson it should be noted that he does pay the employee contribution portion of the premium himself, which has led to the "does he take it or not" controversy. Council member Phillips is the only other council member currently taking the benefit with an approximate cost of $6000 per year. Because of health issues both of them are difficult to insure. Since this has become such a hot button issue, council member Phillips brought forward in our recent work session that he will bring this issue up for discussion in the next council meeting on Tuesday, November 10th for a vote to rescind the benefits. In that same work session I posed the question to the mayor that since he did not vote for the resolution in the first place, why did he enroll in the plan? After his numerous public proclamations on how he was the only one who voted against the benefit he probably should not have, on principle, taken it regardless of whether or not he pays the employee contribution. I am curious to see how he votes when the question comes up at the next council meeting as he said he was going to talk with his lawyer when council member Phillips brought up not offering health benefits to the mayor and council regardless of who pays the employee contribution of the premium.

  • I have heard from many people around town that there is a council candidate (Paul Jacobsen) and/or some of his supporters knocking on your doors and implying that although he differs with me on some issues he believes in the same fiscal responsibilities that I do as part of his request to put a sign in your yard. I want to make it clear that I am not endorsing any other council candidate, as you can see from the signs I display in front of my business.
  • The next rumor I need to address made my jaw drop when I first heard it tonight (11/1). Did any of you know that I purportedly, single handedly mind you, drove out the hotel from wanting to build on the Quadrant with my stalling tactics? This is certainly news to me. I didn't realize I had such power. This ridiculous and mean-spirited rumor is being spread by none other than Bob Benke, who in the worst way needs Mayor Larson re-elected to retain his membership in the the "good old boys" network behind the scenes. And where is Benke getting this so-called information from? He knows that I no longer want the city taxpayers to pay the $10,500 per year it takes for Mayor Larson to belong to the North Metro Mayors Association. This organization is nothing more than a lobbyist group that is very self-serving to its members. Although there is no real benefit for the city of New Brighton to belong, there is a definite benefit to Mr. Benke as he receives payment as a lobbyist for that association that depends on how many cities belong to it.
I would also like to address some of the statements and/or responses that other candidates made at the two candidate forums.

One candidate (Paul Jacobsen) stated that the city is short two police officers and a deputy director. The city is NOT short two police officers. The city has one police officer who is serving in Iraq until February 2010 (who we should all thank for his service and pray for his safe return). The second police officer would be a 29th police officer. A few years ago, there were two different occasions when the police department did try hire for that NEW position, that did not work out either time. Recently New Brighton put in an application for not one, but two, more officers under a federally funded program grant that would have paid for the two new officers for three years, bringing the count to 30 officers (which we never have had). The city was turned down for the grant based on our low crime rate and no new population growth. We don't meet the criteria for federal funding and I don't believe we meet the criteria to have the citizens of New Brighton pay for the additional officers either. We have some great police officers and I support them wholeheartedly, but at this time it is my opinion that we do not have a public safety need to add any more officers. Regarding the deputy director, that position was vacated due to early retirement offered to all employees by the city. This was a $98,000 a year position that may possibly be filled sometime next year, possibly by promotion within the department. When the time comes then I will support hiring a police officer to fill any vacancy created by a promotion.

The candidate who made these erroneous statements about public safety staffing is being coached behind the scenes by an outgoing council member who sometimes focuses on Public Safety as if it is the only department in the city. Council candidate Paul Jacobsen needs to inform himself better on this issue before running on it. And please do not buy into the innuendo that some are spreading that I am anti public safety. I have a brother who is a member of the St. Paul Fire Department while his wife is a sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department. I know first hand how critical their responsibilities are. I also have a family, business and a home in this community, all of which would be negatively impacted without the top-notch Public Safety department New Brighton is fortunate to have. 

I have just seen the campaign handouts that are were delivered bundled together this weekend for Steve Larson, Char Samuelson and Graeme Allen. I found them fascinating to read since many of their "solutions" to the issues are not what they have expressed before (at least in the cases of Larson and Samuelson who have current or past council experience). Larson and Samuelson have been like-minded for many years, going back to when they served on the council together and have been on what has proven to be the wrong side of many issues that led to several of the problems the city currently faces. Something that also surprises me is that the mayor is backing Allen, who has only lived in his apartment in the city for the last year and half. I find this curious because when it comes to commissioner appointments, Mayor Larson, as a matter of principle, will not vote for anyone who has lived in the city for such a short period of time.

The bottom line is this is a very important election for New Brighton. We need our elected officials to put the interests of the people and the city first. It seems that some people run for office without a good understanding of the issues involved or fully appreciative of the privilege and responsibility that goes with the position. Others appear to just want to extend their careers and keep in lock-step with the past.

I believe that if you re-elect me as your council member and elect Dave Jacobsen as your new mayor, along with one of the current council members we will have the three votes it takes on the council to represent you with the financial responsibility, good judgment, and accountability needed to move New Brighton forward to a better future.

Please vote on November 3rd for Gina Bauman for City Council and Dave Jacobsen for Mayor.

Gina Bauman
New Brighton City Council

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