During my six years as County Commissioner, Dakota County paid off all county debt, making us one of the only debt-free counties in the country. We also earned the nation’s top award for public safety and were named the country’s best local health department, out of over 3,000 counties nationwide. Remaining debt-free, together with protecting public safety and health, continue to be top priorities for Dakota County. Notably, however, rapid development approved by local City Councils means we also need to work even harder to maintain our excellent county transportation system and preserve more of the natural areas, woodlands and wetlands that make Dakota County such a special place.
Dakota County is now Minnesota’s lowest-taxed county, with the lowest county property taxes per person of any of the state’s 87 counties. This directly impacts housing affordability, since a typical homeowner here pays over $1,000 less in county property taxes than they would on the same-valued home in neighboring counties. Availability of affordable senior housing by the Dakota County CDA also helps, enabling seniors to sell their current – and more affordable –homes available to new buyers.
Dakota County does not make election laws; we enforce them. While our election officials take all steps necessary to make voting accessible, including to those with disabilities, the County Attorney’s Office does not hesitate to prosecute voter fraud if it occurs. An example took place in Coates when the owner of a strip club illegally registered to vote over 100 customers and dancers who did not reside in the community. Criminal charges were filed and successfully pursued.
Our biggest challenge is the unpredictability of State funding for State-mandated programs. In spite of this challenge, Dakota County has earned a top national reputation for excellent mental health and crisis intervention services. Others often look to Dakota County for the most effective and cost-efficient approach. For example, our grant-funded Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response and Treatment (SMART) Center trains first responders in effective crisis intervention and de-escalation.
Being debt-free helps Dakota County weather tough economic times. Not having to pay tens of millions of dollars in interest on debt like other counties enables us to hold down property taxes while avoiding cuts to the most important county services. However, if cuts were needed, core services that have the most impact on safety and health would be most critical to preserve.
#1 Listening to residents of the district #2 Mental Health #3 Public Safety. When we progressively address these key issues for district two, we solve issues for the entire county. Oftentimes the current priorities are based off of old initiatives and not taking into account the changing district demographics and expectations of residents. #1 is listening, residents currently don't feel they are being heard. #2 One in three deal with Mental Health issues and we need proactive mental wellness options. #3 Public Safety needs our support and some rethinking. Because of #1 listening, I have learned #2 Mental Health and #3 Public Safety are linked and Jimmy Francis will make them a priority moving forward.
Action should be taken with data provided. I would like to ensure the projects that are being built and implemented today are now considered for transportation patterns, stress to the system of our EMS, Fire, Police and that we have appropriate amounts of retail and services available to support the new growth. Using that data I would be better able to take any kind of action that best supports the county’s future decisions in this area. Don't overload the cities capacities to meet county goals
Election laws have been in place for decades and not until things went digital did barriers seem to emerge. I have trust in our County and City Clerks that election integrity is good in Dakota County. If there are some digital or technical issues or questions with equipment to track and tally, I'd consider the investment in a dual tracking system. Keep the current and cross check with an independent system. Do this for several election cycles and report the results. Trust and verify.
Dakota County is behind in our investment to address mental wellness. Currently the county only funds crisis care, and that only provides a safety net, we need to keep funding crisis care and invest twice as much in a 25 year proactive plan using intellectual capital to address mental wellness needs of tomorrow. We also need to pay mental health partners fair wages and invest more than “pilot programs” to address mental health and wellness. Invest in Mental Wellness = Solution to the challenge.
A better question for this debt free county might read “what are the top two areas Dakota County should INVEST in?” my answer would be. #1 Dakota County Sheriff's Department and #2 Social Services, these two areas, my district has told me are most essential to their wellbeing. We should be invested in and rarely cut these areas from budgets. Attention and appropriation of budget will result in a quality of service the entire county would benefit from and preserve vitally important programs.