City council candidates face off

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2002

Albert Lea City Council hopefuls from wards two, four and six, debated over city government form, half percent sales tax, and recent courthouse issues, at the League of Women Voter’s debate Friday night at Riverland Community College.

Second ward candidates Randy Erdman and incumbent Dave McPherson were the first pair to speak.

Erdman criticized the current council for not being as strong, vocal and forward thinking as they could be. He also said he would like to see more citizen activity in the events of Albert Lea. &uot;With all the assets we have we need to get more community involvement to market our city,&uot; he said.

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McPherson focused on his experience as a councilman as one of his strong points. &uot;I am positive about what has happened in Albert Lea over the last eight years and am positive about the future of this community,&uot; he said.

Both agreed that the form of city government was fine as is, but Erdman said he thought the council could be a bit more proactive.

On the local option sales tax both stated that they’d supported it in the past. Erdman pointed to his leadership on the half percent sales tax and McPherson said he’d fully supported it when it had come to the council last year.

In the second city council debate, fourth ward candidate Jeff Fjelstad and incumbent Ron Sorenson spoke.

Fjelstad made a bold offer in his introduction saying that if he couldn’t get power back to the council and away from the city manager within six months of being elected that he would &uot;quit and give the money back.&uot;

&uot;I’d like to think that I could make that difference after six months. If I can’t you’ll get your money back,&uot; he said.

Ron Sorenson concentrated on his experience as a local, regional and national leader of the Eagles club, his dedication in working through tough issues on the council, and his 16 years of leadership on the city council.

Fjelstad said he would like to see a change in city government so that the council has more power. &uot;We need to be directing the city manager,&uot; he said. &uot;That power has to be evened out.&uot;

Sorenson said he thinks the form of government has worked well and will work well in the future. He said that the council does have control and that the whole story of how the council makes its decisions is not usually told, rather, it is the Monday evening decisions that everyone notices. He said that councilors work hard, from their Thursday night meetings through Monday, to make decisions about the issues at hand.

Incumbent Al &uot;Minnow&uot; Brooks and Keith Porter Jr. of the sixth ward discussed the half percent sales tax as well as the city government in their debate.

Porter said on the sales tax, &uot;It would have to come down to the will of the people.&uot;

Porter said if passed he would like to use the majority of money from a sales tax

used for lake clean up and the rest of the money for economic development.

Brooks said he thought the sales tax has worked well in other communities and said he felt it would work well in Albert Lea as well. &uot;We need a way to generate money here by ourselves,&uot; he said.

Porter and Brooks both agreed that the current form of government works well.

In his closing statement Porter said, &uot;I’m ready to go. All I need is the support of the people to give me a chance.&uot;

Porter said he feels his experience in being a union leader in the community will help him to be a leader on the council. He added that he is a leader of the people, not of certain groups. &uot;The only special interests I have are my kids and my grand kids,&uot; he said.

Brooks said he would like to see more council involvement in business recruitment visits and meetings. &uot;I think we should have a rotation so that one councilor is at every meeting that the city has with a business. That way we can be more informed and have a better understanding of the situation,&uot; he said.

Brooks closed by saying he thinks his experience along with his vision are reasons he should be reelected.

&uot;I want this community to be a place that people can come and raise their families in safety and in comfort,&uot; he said. &uot;I want this to be a place we are proud of. All we can do is go up from here.&uot;