Incumbent's view: Look past the headlines to this incumbent's record
Earlier this month, the News Tribune wrote an editorial under the headline, "County Board caught doing something right." A backhanded compliment at best, but nevertheless, it was a positive perspective on the three straight years the county decre...
Earlier this month, the News Tribune wrote an editorial under the headline, "County Board caught doing something right." A backhanded compliment at best, but nevertheless, it was a positive perspective on the three straight years the county decreased its portion of your property taxes.
Then several weeks ago, three editorial headlines began with, "Fire (insert incumbent commissioner's name)." The editorials then endorsed three candidates backed by AFSCME. One should be asking: What was News Tribune editorial board thinking, especially in light of an AFSCME flyer posted on county bulletin boards that read in part, "Contract Negotiations Start at the Ballot Box"? Are you to believe that county property taxes would remain flat and that the creative redesign of the county's service delivery systems would continue should the newspaper's endorsees be elected? Not likely!
Additional county stories in the newspaper must have you scratching your head as well. Did the News Tribune editors come into this election season with an agenda? That would be my guess. Need some proof? A story about County Board travel expenses said board members spend taxpayers' money with little or no oversight. That's nothing short of an opinion. Minnesota Statutes 383C.58, .581, and .582 outline the technical oversight. Each year, the county's administrative staff and a county budget committee, whose membership includes commissioners, collectively recommend expenditure levels for the commissioners.
In January of each year, the board recommends who should represent it on a laundry list of committees and boards. Commissioners set their schedules accordingly. I seldom miss assigned gatherings and attend more than 50 percent of the community meetings in my district. Check commissioners' expenses to see who is active and who is not.
My traveling expenses average about $1,100 per month or $13,450 per year. Does it matter that the county received $1.6 million in new money in 2009, up from $800,000 a year earlier, on just one line item from my lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.? Or that the money will continue for 10 years into the future?
Over the last four years much has been written about the current St. Louis County Board and about me specifically. That's how it should be. As citizens, we should know who our elected officials are and for what they stand. Elections are a time for that summary. The trouble is my opponent doesn't have a record to challenge. I could tell you about why he lost his only City Council re-election campaign or about his personal decisions throughout his life. But I'm not asking you to think about him; I'm asking you to think Fink. I'm also asking you to recognize that leadership stimulates conflict. Going along to get along, as my opponent promises, is management theory.
Hopefully, you are electing leaders. The board hired an administrator to manage.
So here's the issue. This election is about money -- your money. It's about you and your expendable income, if you even have an income. It's about how government is either planning to access that income for its purpose or is helping you protect it. With a struggling economy, candidates tell you how they plan to solve government's cash shortage. Most include tax increases. But in St. Louis County, we have held the line on taxes for three straight years, and 2011 looks like more of the same. Yet the News Tribune paints the County Board with a single brush, suggesting that nothing else matters. I think that's wrongheaded.
In District 1, I have demonstrated that I'm for protecting your income and I have the record that proves my determination. Whether my opponent has a similar resolve is yet to be determined. The question is: In today's economy, can you afford to take that risk? Think Fink.
Dennis Fink is the incumbent St. Louis County Board member in District 1. He's challenged on Nov. 2 by Frank Jewell.