Candidates show gap in opinion on key issues

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2002

Mayoral candidates Mark Anderson and Jean Eaton showed their differences in approach Friday night at the League of Women Voters mayoral debate at Riverland Community College.

The candidates were each given two minutes to introduce themselves and then they answered three questions from the league.

Anderson focused on the importance of staying positive through hard times. He said that while there are hard times right now that there is plenty to look forward to in the future.

Email newsletter signup

He said that a recent economic study of southern Minnesota cities had shown that they were doing well. Anderson said that there were four main factors for these towns, but said Albert Lea needs to improve on what it has in order to attain many of the factors.

&uot;First, it must be close to the metro. I’m not quite sure we are. Second, the presence of a Fortune 500 company, we don’t have that yet either. Third, the presence of an Indian gambling casino. Fourth, though it was not the strongest factor, location on a super-highway,&uot; Anderson said.

Anderson continued by saying that it is important for the city to build its strengths, develop a technically trained workforce, and make available affordable, quality housing.

Eaton, in her introduction, focused on her wide range of work experience in Albert Lea, including working retail, being the head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, owning her own business, banking, being the Dean of Riverland, and currently, working as the United Way director.

&uot;I’m running on a platform of proven leadership and can-do spirit,&uot; Eaton said.

She spoke of the need for an educated workforce and hoped for more positive thinking

and belief within the community and people of Albert Lea.

The first question asked by the League was whether the present form of city government, with a hired city manager doing most of the administrative work for the city, was a good form.

Anderson said, &uot;I believe it should be maintained.&uot;

He said he thought the current form was good for a city of Albert Lea’s size. He said the system is designed so that there aren’t politics in the every day government duties. He also pointed out that it is a system that has been adopted by many other Minnesota cities because of its success in Albert Lea.

Eaton said she hoped that the city council get a little more power and said it was up to them to do so. &uot;The city council and the mayor need to direct the city manager to run the city,&uot; she said.

Eaton likes the current system but would just like to see more council and mayor input into it.

The candidates were then asked about what they’d like to see with the Farmland site.

Eaton said she would like to get as much public input as possible on the project, but said she was interested in seeing very recreational and tourist based site. Her list of possibilities include a park, green space, rentals, a hotel,

among other possibilities.

Eaton said she thought tourism could be a very important industry to the area, and mentioned that waterfront development in Duluth, Waterloo, Iowa and in other cities has worked well to bring money into those cities.

&uot;This is an opportunity waiting to happen,&uot; Eaton said.

Anderson asked rhetorically, in response to the tourism idea, &uot;What if I were to run on a platform of minimum wage, seasonal jobs?&uot;

Anderson said he thought it is a perfect site for a light industrial company. He feels that it has very little possibility as a tourist site because it is surrounded by busy roadways and railways, and isn’t directly on the lake.

Anderson said the city must work to replace the 500 jobs lost at Farmland with very aggressive employer recruitment.

Finally the candidates were asked about the past proposal of a half percent sales tax.

Anderson, as he has in the past, said, &uot;I do not favor a half percent sales tax because its not good for Albert Lea.&uot;

Anderson said the sales tax makes sales more expensive in Albert Lea and therefore makes the city less competitive with other southern Minnesota markets.

Eaton, on the other hand, said, &uot;I think it’s an option we perhaps need to look at.&uot;

&uot;We haven’t moved forward as we could have lately and it won’t happen unless we do something like that,&uot; she said.