A glimpse of the District 59 legislature candidates

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NorthNews asked Minnesota Legislature candidates three questions we hoped would illuminate personal style as well as how they sort out the complex issues facing the district. We did not suggest a word limit. But, because of printed space considerations, just one of the three questions will be explored on this page with some answers edited for length, and the entire article will appear online at www.MyNorthNews.com.

See page 2 for information on how to find where you vote, and voter registration info.

The two questions not addressed in print were: What has surprised you most about what you’ve heard, or about the process of running for election/re-election? Between low voter turnouts, narrow margins, and diverging public opinions even among supporters, it’s highly likely that elected officials can’t say they have a mandate from the voters. Does this concern you, and how would you deal with it?

The answers below are to “Now that you’ve been out campaigning, what are you hearing from the public as to what is the most important local issue, and what are your thoughts now, on solving it?”

HOUSE DISTRICT 59B

RAYMOND DEHN (DFL)

Many voters are concerned about the economy and how long it has taken for the state to recover. In some areas of the district there is still very high unemployment and many folks continue to look for work with little success. A strong economy will have a significant impact on getting folks back to work, but until then we need to be sure that we are being smart with the public money that is meant to assist people in securing meaningful employment. I would contend that if we align and focus federal, state and local dollars in areas where high unemployment persists, we will have a greater impact. This in turn will put more dollars into these areas which would stimulate more economic development.

TONY HILTON (Ecology Democracy Party, placed on the ballot as result of a petition)

The issue I hear brought up most frequently is that the politicians don’t listen to the people, they don’t fight for the people’s best interests. You can solve it by taking corporate interference out of local government.

GARY MAZZOTTA (Republican)

There are two major themes I have heard, jobs and safety. Regarding jobs, I believe we need to encourage small businesses to grow in our district. This would mean removing excessive regulations, revamping the tax code and incentivizing new businesses to set up shop in our district as well as creating incentives for current businesses to hire, train and retain employees.

By strengthening our communities, are neighborhoods naturally become safer. When new businesses open, when existing businesses grow, the community becomes more vibrant and naturally safer. Currently, our law enforcement organizations do a wonderful job and deserve the recognition they receive for the work they do, but law enforcement and government organizations must do a better job of sharing information in an effort to prevent criminal activity before it happens.

SENATE DISTRICT 59

BOBBY JOE CHAMPION (DFL)

Jobs, education, health care and housing, combined into one bucket of “quality of life.” We need to continue to create an environment for job creation. How we spend our state dollars for the greatest level of inclusion for women, minorities, veterans, with a mindset of eliminating disparities. Poverty is now a common denominator.

The greatest equalizer is education. We need to invest more in early childhood education where the return is $7 for every $1 invested. To help close the achievement gap we need to fully fund education. Pay back the schools the $2.4 billion the state owes and fully fund a vigorous, quality education. We need to make college and other post-secondary training affordable.

On housing: Foreclosures not only affect the individuals, they affect the rest of the block. Non-profits need to do mortgages based on ability to pay. Getting people back in the houses will help increase the values for those who stayed. Housing stabilizes families, and children who are not so mobile do better in school.

A most common cause of foreclosures is job loss or expense due to health problems; health care is a big expense for small businesses. We need to focus on preventative care.

JIM LILLY (Republican)

The public is expressing most of the same concerns as six years ago when I ran for the senate seat: Crime, poverty, welfare benefits, education, employment, transportation, and housing. Foreclosures are a new issue, diminishing as an issue, yet the impact (loss of 9,000 households) remains.

Laying beneath all of these social issues is the near-total collapse of a “father-mother-children” family structure. Even the “mother-child” family is showing signs of weakness. (Significant numbers of children are being raised by grandmothers, aunts and great-aunts.) Most important is to rebuild both the nuclear, father-mother-child family and to encourage and strengthen the extended family structure. Areas to begin working in:

Education: Teaching basic family skills…relational, financial, and communication. Vocational education for the 60 percent who don’t finish high school. “Prepare every child for life” rather than “every child prepared for college” which has been a failure.

Employment: Preferential hiring policies for parents of children and encouraging on-the-job training programs by companies who hire parents. Transportation: Move urban people to jobs in the suburbs, develop bus-rapid-transit routes in lieu of light-rail.

Evaluate current policies that hurt families and make them help and build father-mother families, implement assistance and counseling plans to keep families together. Pass the current “Marriage Amendment.”

HOUSE DISTRICT 59A

CINDY LILLY, Republican, is recovering from shoulder surgery and did not answer the questionnaire.

JOE MULLERY (DFL)

There are two major issues: One, the huge effect of the foreclosure crisis which continues to plague North Minneapolis neighborhoods. The other is the lack of jobs and high rate of unemployment.

I have been the leader in Minnesota and a leader in the country on protecting against foreclosures. I often hear from people whose home was saved by one of my many foreclosure laws. The Republican majority so far has refused to even have a hearing on my other ideas. They range from requiring lenders to comply with criteria for modifying loans, speeding up the decisions on modifications and short sales, providing a longer foreclosure period for homeowners who paid down a large percentage of their mortgage and recently lost their job because of the recession, requiring the lender to offer a home back to the borrower under the same conditions as a possible new buyer, requiring lenders to take care of foreclosed houses or turn them over to the city so they won’t depreciate the surrounding area, prevent the houses of foreclosed homeowners from being sold to absentee landlords.

Just last March, I had the honor of sitting next to the second-ranking person in the U.S. Department of Labor for lunch. He told me the Obama administration spent two years researching the best ways back to full employment and decided that it involved extension of technical and vocational training. I’ve been the leader in the legislature on technical training ever since my first term. The Obama advisers indicate that this country can greatly increase employment by taking the lead on creating, producing and servicing products, but we need a highly trained workforce. Third world countries can assemble widgets, but we can do better than them on specialized goods. Dozens of manufacturers indicate that with highly trained employees they have been beating competition from other countries. We need to end the K-12 education gap so many of our Northside youth face, and then provide very low-cost post high school training.

Along with the education and training, government can help business in many ways, especially small business. Government can aid small businesses in getting affordable expertise and services at a cost similar to the low cost big businesses are able to achieve because of scale, such as consultants on various aspects, health and other insurance, marketing, connections between research and development at our universities and help for our our businesses (this would also help our big businesses), speeding up permitting and making sure regulations are needed (without weakening public protection), credits for aiding our societal needs (such as hiring disabled and those with a criminal record), up to date infrastructure, etc. I’ve been a leader on many of these issues and that is why I was endorsed by Small Business MN.