NEW ULM - New Ulm City Council candidate Ron Larsen is focusing his run for the councilor at-large seat on his vision for making New Ulm prosperous into the future.
Larsen's most ambitious suggestion for the town is create plans to build a new, modern downtown areas next to the current downtown area. He said his plan is part of his effort to address his serious concerns about how many empty storefronts exist in the downtown area.
"I'm concerned that people will drive through our downtown and get the wrong impression that it's on a downhill slide," said Larsen.
Larsen said his idea would also provide diversity between old and new looking locations to set up business while providing existing downtown business an alternative to the regulations of the Minnesota Street historic district.
"I think something like this would be vital for the longevity of New Ulm," said Larsen. "With more people staying at home and sending their money in cyberspace, we need to make people want to walk through the shops."
He also said that his plan would help create a more normalized local economy. He said the City's emphasis on tourism to bring in money warped where cash flows in town, often in a way that did not benefit all the residents and could be shaped by random factors like weather. He said that by having more practical stores available in town, New Ulm residents could afford to spend more locally in a way that better spread out the economy.
He said that he thought so strongly of the idea that he would make creating the new downtown his radical change to New Ulm if he had the funds and abilities.
Larsen also emphasized the importance of finding a final solution to the City's reliance on Local Government Aid (LGA) as a major funding source. He said that the state government shutdown in 2010 was a turning point because it showed the State of Minnesota fundamentally could not be relied on.
"[Now], you know nothing is sacred at this point. If it happened once, it could happen again. It could be more severe next time around," said Larsen. "We at the local level will have to start expecting to fend for ourselves. The [Minnesota] Legislature is too fickle."
He said that he hoped to bring leadership and foresight for planning the City's way out of reliance on LGA if he is elected.
Next, Larsen emphasized the need to keep and attract young families into settling in New Ulm. He said that he would tackle this and simultaneously help local business by working to control rental rates and utility prices. He said he would be willing to go as far as a rent control ordinance to achieve these goals.
"We have close to a one-third of our population being senior citizens. It's a staggering number. We need to get in young people if we want to have a future," said Larsen.
Larsen also said he wanted to remake the Council's public image by making it more people friendly. He said a good option for this would be to have each councilor hold a monthly meet-and-greet in their ward to just talk with people about their concerns. He said he would attend each of these meetings that he was capable of attending. He also said he would like to institute a procedure where councilors would each positively mention something a resident of their ward did at the end of Council meetings, such as a resident recently re-siding their home.
Regarding the City's subsidies for programs like the New Ulm Battery, which may be cut in the upcoming budget, Larsen said he thought the City should stay out of subsidies altogether. He said that subsidies only burdened the City while opening it up to accusations of favoritism if it funded one program and not another.
When asked if the Council should ever get involved in advocacy for issues beyond New Ulm-specific topics, Larsen said he was open to all kinds of advocacy if there was a strong push for it from residents. However, he said that the Council would have exercise extreme caution when approaching contentious topics like social issues.
Larsen concluded by saying he felt he differed from his incumbent opponent Charles Schmitz by bringing an analytical mind from his background in journalism. He said that he would be able to catch anyone trying to pull one over on City. He said he would also be able to get to the bottom of trends that cost the City.
He added that if elected, he would make implementing the largest Fourth of July fireworks display in the county for next year's celebration one of his top priorities.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.