My three top priorities are housing and jobs, community health, and transportation networks. With the recent increase in housing prices, it is becoming harder for Dakota County workers to live in the county. The county's Health Department is highly accredited, however, the increase in social service calls and substance use disorders are two areas of concern. Transportation networks must be scalable to accommodate vehicles, pedestrians and a transit system that works as Dakota County continues to grow.
Housing is a complex issue that involves builders, cities, counties, and the state. All parties influence outcomes and the current shortage will require everyone to work together on solutions. Governments need to minimize regulations that inhibit growth and look for ways to incentivize affordable units. Community stabilization grants, workforce homeownership programs, and first-generation homeownership grants are several examples of reasonable investments.
In the last two election cycles, the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential elections, Minnesota had the highest percentage of voting-eligible participation in the United States. In 2018 it was 64.2% and 79,96% in 2020. I believe transparency of elections (election judges}, providing reasonable early voting and absentee ballots are the areas that should be protected to insure voters trust our system.
As mentioned earlier the county's Health Department is highly rated and I applaud them for their service and dedication during the COVID-19 Response. In a post-COVID environment, mental health issues and substance use disorder are two areas impacting every community. My goal would be to provide more resources and access to services for all individuals. Public education would be a key component of the strategy.
If budget cuts were required, two areas I would protect are public safety and public health. In a county with a growing population, staff cuts in these two areas will often cause more demands on resources and deteriorate public safety. The sheriff’s department, the courts, and public health are core responsibilities of county government and should be driven by population and demand.
First is the issue of public safety. All residents and businesses must feel safe pursuing their law-abiding activities. Office bearers must engage with civic leaders, schools, and law-enforcement to develop fair and effective measures to maintain safety. Second is focusing on mental health. We must destigmatize this aspect of health and work with trained personnel to find resources that are accessible to all. Third is to improve housing and childcare affordability. We need to develop policies that allow for more families to feel secure about housing, without having to sacrifice daily necessities, and develop more affordable childcare options so that working families can be confident that their children are in a nurturing environment.
The County should partner with the Minnesota Housing Department to address these issues. This includes obtaining financial assistance from the State Department and Federal sources. Funding should be delegated in a fiscally responsible, transparent, need-based approach, with funds given to discrete items. Funding could be provided for rental assistance, decreasing evictions, helping first time homebuyers with better loan terms, and providing housing stability to those who need it most.
The right to vote is a fundamental part of our democracy and it is the County’s fiduciary duty to maintain the integrity of elections. Voting should be easily accessible to all and must be secured by maintaining cybersecurity. Election laws must be followed to ensure accurate voter lists and ballot counts. Any potential voting irregularities need to be supported with evidence and will require collaboration with State and Federal election commissions for further investigation if necessary.
Mental health challenges cause an impact on the overall health of individuals and communities. Dedicated resources, trained personnel, and specific action plans should be easily accessible to all citizens who may need assistance. We must have open dialogues about the challenges our neighbors are working to overcome, and the County should engage with leaders at the local, state, and regional level, while also involving non-profits and healthcare organizations, to provide guidance for this cause.
My priorities for the County’s budget include improving public safety, expanding access to mental health resources, developing more affordable housing and childcare facilities, and investing in our infrastructure by improving our green spaces and transportation systems. We must also have open conversations with all citizens and businesses to identify which resources are most needed for their wellbeing and have a transparent budgeting process open to input from businesses and residents.