NEW ULM Candidates Ron Larsen and Charles Schmitz for the Councilor at-Large position discussed what they felt was the Council's role in New Ulm's future during the candidate forum held Tuesday at City Hall by the New Ulm League of Women Voters.
Larsen introduced him as a former reporter for The Journal. He said his experience covering the Council gave him an early start in working on it. He said that his major concern was that many people telling him that they felt they could neither communicate nor have their opinions heard by the Council.
Schmitz said he had served in the position for four years and tried to always focus on what was best for all of New Ulm, even if that brought him in conflict with a few people.
The first question was what they considered the role of Councilor at Large. Schmitz said he felt his role was to keep the meeting running smoothly and to cast his own important vote. Larsen said the role was huge, with the person in the position being the major contact between the Council and the City. He said the position also handled the important functions and actions in each Council meeting.
The candidates were then asked how they planned to balance the need to maintain city functions against rising costs. Larsen said it was a very challenging situation that may require the City to restructure so they did not rely as much on state funding like Local Government Aid (LGA). He said that with events as dramatic as the state government shutdown, the City could no longer assume state assistance would always be there.
Schmitz said the focus needed to be on maintain what the City offers as close to its current offerings as possible without adding more.
The next question was what they would do to encourage factories to move to New Ulm, thus creating jobs. Schmitz said the City needed to focus on what it could do to keep costs down, so it would not prevent businesses from coming to New Ulm nor drive current ones away.
Larsen said the focus needed to instead be on attracting many small business instead of industries. He said that with industries only representing 16 percent of the country's GDP, they were not as important as they had been in the 1960s and 1970s.
On the Council's recent pay raise, Schmitz said he was not the one who brought up the idea, but he took responsibility for the increase. He said he approved its move forward, saying it was something he was responsible to do as Councilor at-Large. He said he believes the objections to the pay raise to be unfounded because people do not realize the extensive amount of extra work councilors perform before and outside the Council meetings. Larson said he did not object to the raise.
Their final question was what they would do to improve quality of life for young families in New Ulm. Schmitz said he would focus on the local park system. He said he showed this in action by opposing any cuts to children programs offered by the City during the current discussion over budget cuts.
Larsen said the focus needed to be on growing the town so younger couples would want to stay. He pointed to working on things like living expenses for young couples.
In the closing statements, Schmitz said he served for four years and tried to perform the best job he could for the entire City.
Larsen said he had made New Ulm his new home since moving here and wanted to help the City grow. He said he would focus on improving the relationship between the Council and residents while also focusing on taking actions to keep young couples in town.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)