(as published in the Woodbury Bulletin 10/27/10)
The primary function of government is the health, safety and welfare of citizens, which is reflected in the county budget as the top two areas of spending are for Health and Human Services and Law Enforcement protection. As I’ve canvassed my district, speaking with literally thousands of constituents this year, guarding the safety net (top examples include child protection and public safety), in spite of dramatic cuts to state and federal program aid, will become ‘job one’ of the county board as we work to bring a balanced budget forward in December.
In light of the historic state budget deficit looming at a projected $5.8 billion, the primary task of all local elected officials may be to define a ‘new normal’ for the next biennium and beyond. I would ask voters in District 5 for their support in the Nov. 2nd, general election as I pride myself on being a hard-working commissioner who thrives on public service and community involvement, always putting citizens first.
I pledge to address the county’s fiscal health while meeting its obligations by adhering to sound financial management with a keen focus on core values, while keeping property taxes low. Washington County is proud to be one of only 48 counties in the nation to hold a triple A bond rating, meaning the county may borrow capitol at lower rates at reduced costs for taxpayers. Out of 87 counties in Minnesota we currently have the second lowest tax rate and per capita spending in the state. I advocate for regional delivery of county services where it makes sense but only with counties that match our low per capita cost for services. We live in the best county in the state of Minnesota; I pledge to protect that heritage.
I am committed to keeping county spending under control through accountability, transparency, innovative reforms and collaboration. As we continue to face unprecedented economic times, new public-private partnerships may offer solutions. No one entity can create jobs, which is critical for the health of our collective future. I feel our Twin Cities communities have a greater chance of success if we partner together to grow jobs.
To that end I support a county contribution, based on population size, to a newly formed regional economic development entity (REDE), called the Itasca Jobs Task Force Project. This exciting and progressive opportunity is not another expensive government program. It offers concrete ideas in transportation planning, K-12 public education efforts and new ways to partner across sectors to create more living-wage jobs and dynamically grow commerce that will bring prosperity to our region, in spite of the faltering national economy.
The Itasca Group will bring value and new synergies to elected officials who set policy and need the support of a broad-base consortium in order to halt the negative effects of the recession and to lessen the property tax burden in Washington County, while growing healthy communities. I see the negative effects of the recession every day in my district; empty and foreclosed homes may bring blight. They serve as a horrible warning and call to action that doing nothing to stop unemployment and high taxation can destroy our collective future.
My many years of business experience and leadership skills developed in the medical device industry have been an asset to the county board and my community during my first two years in elected office. For example, we recently partnered with city leaders to successfully complete the Dale properties open space acquisition involving Washington County and City of Woodbury Land and Water Legacy dollars. My direct involvement contributed to preserving this beautiful natural resource for future generations of Woodbury and county residents.
In conclusion, I continue to feel that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. It’s a show of leadership to “know your limits” and chart a new course in operating paradigms. We are living in interesting times but I see that as an opportunity for growth. I’m the only candidate in this race to make a principled commitment to full-time service on the county board for another two year term, due to redistricting commissioner boundaries following the census results. I go beyond the title of elected official and am a true public servant who is willing to work hard to make the best better for our citizens and taxpayers.
Lisa Weik, Washington County Commissioner, District 5 – Woodbury