Mayoral candidate says rural health care is No. 1 local issue

Published 10:20 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

George Marin, challenger for Albert Lea mayor, said the city needs to support competition in local health care.

Marin is challenging incumbent Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr.

George Marin

To Marin, rural health care is the top local issue, and Albert Lea needs to work with city, county, school and business leaders to change the landscape of local health care.

He said because of Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin, “a great blow has been dealt to our economic viability.”

“With the city actively involved in the attraction of and recruitment of second provider health care options, we provide a base for the retention of current businesses and attraction of new businesses,” Marin said. “The city needs to be in full support of competition in the arena of health care.”

He said competition has existed for a while locally, including dental, podiatry, orthodontic, chiropractic and dermatology services.

“Maybe we just did not realize it,” Marin said.

He called for the city being in full support of facilitating the health care industry in Albert Lea.

To Marin, the city must provide vision, direction and protection for health care.

“We need to ensure that what happened to our community will not happen again,” he said. “Members of staff and council are taking part in facilitated dialogues at the present time, which do not seem to be producing results other than what has already been decided by our present provider.”

He said the city needs to be proactive in creating ways to become attractive to building health care competition.

“We have been given a golden opportunity to reinvent our community,” Marin said. “We can learn from our losses and birth new opportunities of business growth and facilitation.”

 

Transportation funding

To Marin, the city will “have difficulties continuing to keep up the rate of repairs we are now addressing without some financial interventions.”

“We need to focus on rebuilding and growing our local tax base so the load of infrastructure costs can be shared by a greater number of constituents,” he said. “We need to continue to look at what other communities are doing in terms of policies and procedures to further benefit our residents.

“And we need to continue to network with our state legislators to ensure that our voice is being heard at the state Capitol to address our evolving needs.”

 

Community growth

Marin said he wants the city to “do much more effective community outreach to our business community and residents.”

“I believe that we can revitalize the south side corridor, address blighted properties and neighborhoods and rebuild our local economy,” he said. “We can do it together, and it is going to take all of us pushing in the same direction.”

Marin wants the council to “become progressive and proactive leaders in our community.”

“I want to increase our visibility and relationships with each other,” he said. “I want to see us grow our community from within and progressively seek to attract new businesses that pay living wages. I want to see us create and foster pathways whereby we can attract and retain our young people to live and work in Albert Lea.

“My platform is simple: prioritize, preserve, progress. We need to focus on the right needs at the right times. We want to appreciate what we already have and build on our successes. We want to grow together and in the future.”

 

Taxes

Marin said he does not believe the city will be able to continue providing similar services without raising taxes in the future.

“I question how we can continually be transferring funds from some areas to others and relying upon our enterprise funds, and franchise and various other fees, to support the general fund without a day of reckoning coming,” he said.

To Marin, the city transfers funds from other budget areas to reduce the levy, yet raise water rates and other funds.

“Where it appears there is no increase in taxes, there are continual increases in fees that negatively affect the business climate and taxpayers,” he said. “I would seek to look much closer at our financial and budgeting transactions and see how we can make our present services better.”

 

City weaknesses

To Marin, the city needs to improve customer service, community outreach and the amount of open, transparent communication.

“We work for the taxpayers, and not the other way around,” he said. “We need to examine model policies from other communities in how we assess our citizens for street improvements.” 

Marin said when projects, plans and ideas are proposed, council and staff need to reach out to the public, and he claimed the city often has a “my way or the highway” philosophy.

“I will seek to reverse that and create an even playing field for all, and equal treatment and respect for all,” he said. “I would seek to foster the sense of a ‘we’ community, where everyone gets a fair shake.

“We also need to build bridges of relationship with our business community in seeking their input and advice in our business decisions.”

Marin said he would seek counsel from “expert business people in our community” to seek counsel on decisions.

“We need to stay out of the real estate, land development and landlord businesses and leave these areas to our local businesses and experts in these fields,” he said. “The city should be supporting — not competing against — local businesses.” 

 

City strengths

Marin said the city has “extraordinary employees.”

“I am confident that some of the most brilliant minds are on our staff, and some of the most creative ideas can come from members of our staff,” he said. “Our streets/utilities, police/fire, park/recreation/arena departments do exemplary work,” he said.

Marin said he wants the departments to be sufficiently supported.

“I want to see them enjoy their work and provide the best service to our constituents,” he said. “I will work constantly to help foster an open, transparent, safe and equitable working environment for all, and desire our employees to know that the mayor and council are supportive and grateful for them.”

 

Attracting businesses and entrepreneurship

To Marin, “the real strength of economic development lies with the city council.”

“We must win back the heart of our business community through door-to-door visits from our mayor and council, building relationships with each owner,” he said. “Each owner needs to know the city is grateful for their business, and that we are on their team.”

He said the city must consult business leaders to address regulations and ordinances impeding growth and improve the city’s business climate.

Marin called for marketing business vendors, suppliers and clients to consider Albert Lea.

“We have approximately 11 empty storefronts on the South Broadway from Front Street to Seventh Street alone,” he said. “We must make a goal to see those filled with businesses again, within the next four years.

“With a strong, progressive council, I believe we will thrive as a community, because it all begins with leadership.”

 

Greatest assets

Marin said he wants to build a council-driven organization and foster transparent, open and honest communication.

“I would seek to help our councilors build strong bridges of relationship and trust with our entire community,” he said. “I will lead by example in building active connections between the council and our constituents, and in fostering the most welcome business climate in southern Minnesota.”

Marin said he offers “proactive, relational leadership,” and desires to connect with councilors and learn their “strengths, passions, interests, personality types and leadership styles.”

He advocated for conducting personality-type indicator assessments.

“I want to build a well-educated, well-informed, progressive team,” he said. “I would seek to lead  from a strengths-based perspective. I want to see each member well-educated and informed on each issue so that we together can make the best decisions on behalf of our constituents.”

 

City government attracting and retaining employees

For the city government to attract and retain employees, Marin called for the council to “model respect, gratitude and appreciation for our employees.”

“They are constituents as well as taxpayers, which means they are customers, too,” he said. “This modeling begins with the council and continues throughout the organization.”

Marin said the council can do more to publicly recognize their contributions and called for the council to “remain committed to ensure that they’re properly and sufficiently staffed, and not overburdened.”

“With the annexations of other areas surrounding Albert Lea, we will need to be more creative in the utilization of our employees and equipment,” he said.

He called for city departments and private businesses to be utilized to improve city government recruitment and retention.

 

Continuing to improve communication within city, county

Marin said the Albert Lea school board needs to be included on conversations between local government boards.

“Our City Council, school board and county board need to have at least semi-annual open public meetings where we can discuss current and future projects and significant budgetary items,” he said.

“We need to invite the public to speak to the major projects, allow our financial teams to work together to see how we can fund the projects, partner in staff sharing, etc., and then schedule major projects far enough apart so that we do not overburden our communities.”

 

George Marin is challenging incumbent Vern Rasmussen Jr. in the mayoral race. See Rasmussen’s Tribune election profile here.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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