My top three priorities, if elected, are to bring back meaningful discussions to the County Board, find common ground to build consensus, and engage the entire County in collaboration to address common problems.
County Commissioners are elected to address hard issues. Avoiding them is not a sustainable plan. Working together, we can help the County meet its full potential.
The County Board should focus on policy and not ground rules to control dissent. Before core responsibilities like Health and Human Services, public safety, roads, and bridges, the environment, etc. can be appropriately addressed, communication between Commissioners needs to improve.
The Southeast Minnesota Multi-County Housing Rehabilitation Authority (SEMMCHRA) is the County’s housing authority and administers the City of Winona’s section 8 housing voucher program. However, the City of Winona also has a separate housing authority. This creates a disjointed, inefficient approach to affordable housing in Winona County. The County should work with the City of Winona to explore options to develop a unified approach to affordable housing for the entire County.
The County does not create election laws, but there are ways the County can help ensure the fairness of elections. While there is no specific evidence that the Winona County election process is problematic, the County should strive to make the election process transparent.
The County should review its election processes publicly and continue to ensure that the public is included on the ballot board. The security of the election machines used by the County should be investigated.
There are gaps in the mental health and social services continuum of care that can be filled using existing resources. The challenge is identifying the gaps and coordinating services from the many well-meaning public, non-profit, private, and quasi-public agencies providing mental health, public health, and social services. The County should establish a coordinating body and invite everyone in this sphere to the table.
The existing Criminal Justice Coordinating Council might serve as a model.
Much of what the County spends money on is mandated by the State or restricted to specific revenues.
In the face of budget cuts, I would avoid cutting public safety and social service programs like Treatment Court and the Winona County Re-Entry Assistance Program. These programs are designed to help people live independently and productively, and they are a good value for the community.
I would also advocate continuing road and bridge maintenance, including snow plowing and summer patching.
Lets support our Soil and Water Conservation District financially so that they can advocate and implement best farming practices to reverse the trend of ground and surface water nitrate contamination.
We need to improve the delivery of Health and Human Services programming. The last 6 years have focused on revenue recovery from the state, which is important, but now the county needs to improve access to services for our residents.
Winona County should improve collaboration with the cities inside our borders on joint needs. Planning together for housing, workforce, child care, economic development, or mental health crisis services, improves the chances that we can all move forward together.
Winona County is currently part of a cohort in the MN Housing Partnership Institute, learning how to access state and federal funds for different kinds of housing. We have a need for emergency, supportive, low-income, and affordable housing. Establishment of housing trust fund and staffing to put together projects are first steps and it may be possible to use American Rescue Plan Act funds. We would also benefit from a county-wide housing study and more collaboration with our cities.
The County Board’s role is limited but we must follow state law and Secretary of State regulations Our Auditor Treasurer is the elected official that runs the elections. This year our County Attorney provided “chain of custody” documentation to the public on handling of absentee and mail-in ballots. We also extended the duties of the partisan members of the ballot board. I support providing adequate space for early voting, safe and secure ballot boxes and transparency for those with concerns.
Counties administer Health and Human Services on behalf of Minnesota, but we are not fully reimbursed. In addition, we rely on local community agencies or healthcare facilities but they are being forced to drop services because of low funding and worker shortages. We lobby the legislature individually and as a group and we raise the levy to pay the bills. We also apply for grants and innovate where we can. Treatment Court in Winona has an 85% success rate and saves $3 for each $1 spent.
Counties are mandated to provide certain services in MN, for example Health and Human Services, or a county jail. We might try to find cost savings, get grants, find innovative ways to staff, or find contractors but we must provide mandated services. In many ways Winona County has already reduced or eliminated non-mandatory services like Economic Development or outsourced others like surveying. Thus, Winona county’s share of the property tax levy for the last decade is among the lowest in MN.