We asked the candidates to answer five questions (to see full text of questions Click Here) and to add any other comments they felt would help us to better understand how they would serve as Hennepin County District 5 Commissioner
Andrew K Moller
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Reason for running: I am running for Hennepin County Commissioner because I am a common-sense fiscal conservative and believe that Hennepin County needs a fiscal conservative for the 5th District. Hennepin County expenditures are set to increase significantly in 2016 as compared to levels just two years ago. In 2014, actual Hennepin County expenditures were $1.627 billion. For 2016, County expenditures are budgeted at $1.943 billion representing over a 19% increase in just two years.
Before I retired in 2008, my professional career was spent entirely in the private sector. In business, spending must be closely monitored and tough decisions on expenditures must be made. My educational background (MBA Finance) and private sector background will enable me to bring a fresh perspective to Hennepin County government. I served as VP, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary of Christopher & Banks Corporation for 10 years before I retired. I have a great deal of energy and a strong work ethic.
Fiscal responsibility: Jeff Johnson indicated to me that one of the biggest drivers of the increase in Hennepin County expenditures is related to increased staffing and other costs increases associated with implementing the provisions of MNSure.
I believe Hennepin County Commissioners need to focus on thoroughly understanding how the County is impacted by MNSure. Findings should be summarized and communicated to key Minnesota Legislators.
The County has 8,000 full time equivalent employees. Staff members are closer to the details of expenditures so I will advocate for an incentive system that rewards employees for implementing cost saving ideas. At the end of 2016, Department heads should rank their actual spending in order of priority. If elected, I will sit down with each department head and discuss their department spending and ask them and how they can become a more cost efficient department in the future.
I would also like to start an internship program where college students work in the various departments and write project papers on ways for Hennepin County government to be more efficient.
Evaluating the County Budget: I believe it is the job of a Hennepin County Commissioner to challenge assumptions, ask questions, and make sure projects are scrutinized as much as possible. To increase my understanding of County operations I have read the entire 2016 Hennepin County Budget document. As stated above I will ask Department heads to prioritize their 2016 actual spending which I believe will highlight what projects should receive future funding.
Met Council Limits: I will support placing limits on the power of the Met Council. My belief is that future housing in the South metro should be determined by the market. A 2013 report by CityData.com indicates that Richfield has 19% of its population living below the poverty level, Bloomington has 12% of its population below the poverty level and Eden Prairie has 7% of its population below the poverty level.
Thrive MSP 2040 Plan: I disagree that climate change is a bad thing for the region. Winters are shorter likely resulting in less energy consumption and less fatal traffic accidents. In addition longer growing seasons lead to increased crop yields and lower food prices. Climate change may be caused primarily by sun activity and a cold cycle could return very quickly.
Given that we have limited financial resources I would like to see more frequent updates to the costs of all the projects under consideration. These should also be prioritized assuming that we simply can't fund all them.
Questions You’ll Ask about Light Rail:
1. Cost estimates for the previous lines have proved too low. Are you willing to wait before spending a lot of money so that cost estimates can be fully vetted?
2. How much are the annual projected operating and capital maintenance losses each full year going forward for each of the lines?
3. Are you willing to accept much shorter lines and use more shuttle vans and buses to bring commuters the last few miles?
United Health Group already runs several of its own shuttles between it buildings and it only seems fair to ask other companies to do the same.
4. How much additional staffing is needed to ensure that light rail users are paying their fares?
Support for County sales tax increase to fund SW Light Rail: No. I am opposed to an increase in Hennepin County property or sales taxes to fund additional SWLRT costs.
My sense is that SWLRT will be built in some fashion as more than $100 million has already been spent on the $1.79 billion project. With the State of Minnesota not approving a $135 million contribution to SWLRT it is time to pause and reconsider aspects of the SWLRT project. The MNDOT Guideway Status Report dated November 2015 (MNDOT report) estimates that SWLRT operating costs and capital maintenance costs will be $18.9 million in excess of fares collected in the projected first full year of operation in 2021. These operating losses continue annually into the future.
If SWLRT is to proceed, common sense tells me the route should be shorter. The proposed Southwest Station in Eden Prairie (Highway 5/Highway 212 corridor) is already well served by buses operated by Southwest Transit. Ending the route at the Golden Triangle Station will save significant project cost and ending SWLRT at earlier proposed stations will lower the project cost even further. The MNDOT report indicates that the proposed alignment will include new or restructured local bus routes connecting stations to nearby residential and commercial and educational destinations. Using more buses and shuttle vans with a shorter SWLRT route is certainly less expensive than building the full proposed line and stations.
Other comments: Public Safety is one of the most important roles of Hennepin County. Given the increase in terrorist attacks and shootings we must make sure that the Sheriff's department receives the funding, training and education to be fully prepared.
Hennepin County's library system has 41 library locations and a substantial online presence. Libraries are a resource that is available to all Hennepin County residents. Because I believe in the importance of the library system, I make an annual charitable contribution to support the Hennepin County Library system. However, just like all government services and agencies the budget of the library system should be monitored to make sure it does not expand beyond its intended purpose.
It is a privilege to be elected by voters to serve in public office. I strongly support term limits for Hennepin County Commissioners. Three four-year terms are enough for Commissioners to accomplish their objectives. Periodically electing new Commissioners who have varied backgrounds can lead to innovation and new approaches to creating a more efficient County government. Term limits are one of the most important keys to limiting government growth. Our founding fathers intended for citizens to govern for a limited amount of time and then return to the private sector.
Thank you for consideration and I respectfully ask for your vote on August 9th.