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Ramsey County Commissioner District 5

County commissioners are the county s key policymakers. They oversee the administration of the county, set county budget, and participate in county long-range planning. County services that they oversee include a wide variety of social service and welfare programs, as well as certain public health programs. Learn more about the day in the life of a county commissioner in this video from the Association of Minnesota Counties. (https://www.mncounties.org/meetings_and_education/day_in_the_life_of_a_minnesota_county_commissioner.php)

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  • Candidate picture

    Bill Hosko
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Rafael E. Ortega
    (NP)

Información Biográfica

If elected, what will your top three priorities be and why? (750 characters)

What actions would you take, if any, to address affordability of housing in your county? (500 characters)

How would you ensure election laws do not create barriers to Minnesotans’ freedom to vote while also ensuring safe and secure elections? (500 characters)

What do you see as the biggest challenges to mental health and social services in your county, and how would you address them? (500 characters)

If there were to be budget cuts during your term, what are the most essential county services that you would advocate to preserve? (500 characters)

As a county native, 32-year business owner (29 years downtown) & long-time civic booster: Commissioners just voted themselves another pay raise while the years-long rises in crime & other problems in our county continue. ‘In Our First 90-days’ we’ll adopt plans to address them. Focus on welfare programs for those most in need & for those suffering from financial hardship brought by events outside their control. Helping them be self-determining again is very important. Development-wise addressing: commissioner-led Union Depot’s massive years-long financial losses, West-site’s $20 million demolition debacle (No development agreements were in-place beforehand!) with a viable re-use plan & commissioner plans for ‘honor-system’ LRT on West 7th.
Commissioners don't explain - creating privately-owned ‘affordable’ rental housing requires permanent taxpayer subsidies. Another reality - the number one driver of ever-higher housing costs is leadership’s spending ever-more money in ways they would never do if it were their own & raising property taxes to do it. If elected, citizens will have referendums to give them a choice on raising property taxes in the future - the public should have more over-sight over proposed spending increases.
I will work to ensure requirements are adopted that ensure citizens will know easily, via mail, email & social media, where their nearest polling location is. Particularly when it has been relocated since the last election. Regarding ‘ensuring safe & secure elections’ most people today would prefer not to see ‘Ranked-Choice Voting’ coming to county elections & to see hand-counting of Votes again. We can make election-night a live-streamed exciting event. No chuckles out there, we can do this!
Many parents who’ve taken their children out of public schools cite lack of order in classrooms as being their number one reason & that it is damaging children’s ability to learn well & to properly socialize with others. When too few boundaries exist for youth regarding school behavior, conduct on public transit & for low-level crime, etc. they know that we don’t care very much about them. Collectively & over-time, this is part of why more mental health & social services are needed. WCDB!
My first ‘budget cut’ ensures commissioners’ ability to vote themselves pay-raises can only be done via voter-approved referendums. Priority funding: 1. law enforcement & emergency response services, 2. adequate & beyond - maintenance for county roads, buildings & parklands, 3. social services to help those most in need & to help as many as possible become self-supporting again, 4. very importantly - ensuring enough social workers are there for our most vulnerable children & adults.
1. To continue to build our transit system to get people where they need to go safely and reliably. 2. Strengthen our east metro economy by supporting developments on the downtown riverfront, in Arden Hills, and elsewhere in Ramsey County. 3. Continue to shore up our food, housing, and mental health infrastructure so we are ready to serve our most vulnerable citizens through good times and bad.
To address homelessness, we opened two new shelters in my district in 2020. In 2021, we created the HRA (Housing Redevelopment Authority) Levy which will produce $10 Million in seed money that we will use to build affordable housing every year. This year, we are building over 400 units of housing and with Saint Paul and the federal government we have made $74 Million available for new housing. It's still not enough but we are doing our part.
Minnesota elections are the best administered in the United States. People are able to vote absentee without excuse. We have plentiful polling places. We have short waits, and people are able to register and vote right through election day. At Ramsey County, we have expanded our in-person absentee voting locations as well. I will continue to be a strong voice against any change in our voting laws that limit people's right to vote or their access to polling places.
As one the few elected officials in Ramsey County who is a licensed social worker, I understand this issue better than most. I recently met with several constituents who provide care for people with mental illness or suffer from it themselves. The challenges are many, including some sufferers not knowing that they have mental illness. Stressed workers and burdensome paperwork are also difficult. We are carefully assessing our challenges right now.
We always have budget pressures and we are always careful spending taxpayers' money. That's part of the reason that our average annual levy increase is only 2.2% and that we are one of only four counties in Minnesota with an AAA Bond Rating every year since 2001. I will always fight for our services to the most vulnerable first, services to folks with disabilities, shelter for the homeless, and access to these services for everyone who needs them. But libraries, parks and transit remain crucial.