Michael McDonough, Elk River City Council
Family: I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family. The love of my life, Chelsey, is devoted and passionate. She owns and operates an in-home childcare, in addition to her full-time job of wife and mother. Our daughter Carmen is four, loves the chicken dance and is excited to be a “big” sister in February.
Occupation: I am currently employed as the Operations Manager at Long Haul Trucking in Albertville. Long Haul Trucking operates 275 specialty tractors and trailers servicing the contiguous United States, Canada and Alaska.
Previous civic and community involvement: I have not previously held an elected office. I have had an interest in the political realm for a long time. I was elected a delegate for the Senate District 30 BPOU and elected an Alternate to the State Republican Convention. I participated in State Convention and was seated as an Alternate each day. My community involvement in Elk River is mostly with the church. I mentored as a small group leader for confirmation students for 2 years. I have also worked in the music ministry with the church. I play bass guitar and sing. In the community of Faribault, where I was raised, I worked extensively with youth ministry as well, performing similar acts as with the church in Elk River. In college I worked as a volunteer for the “Walk to defeat ALS” Mankato Chapter , volunteered with the American Diabetes Association, and participated in Model United Nations. I attend Elk River City Council meetings and the monthly Town Hall meetings with Mayor Dietz, Most of all, I try to be a good neighbor and lend a hand where a hand is needed.
1. What prompted you to run for the Elk River City Council?
Elk River needs to be affordable and attractive for businesses and residents. I believe that hard earned money should stay in hands that earned it. Businesses should engage in commerce without penalty of excessive tax. Residents should have more dollars to support local business. This idea will make Elk River attractive and affordable for all. We must lower the tax rate.
2. What makes you qualified to be a member of the City Council?
My business experience qualifies me. I have an understanding of how business is done. I efficiently manage the dispatch department and oversee operations of a company having sales of $60 million annually. My employment has given me the experience of working with legal documents, sales, contracts and rate schedules. I will bring these same efficient ideals to the table.
3. What are the top three issues facing the City of Elk River?
Elk River must be attractive, affordable and properly funded. I believe to make Elk River attractive and affordable taxes must be minimal and a budget must be responsibly kept. There should be a healthy tax base, balanced between businesses and property owners, with no party having an unfair tax burden. Community sponsorship can balance budget cuts made by the council.
4. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you a better choice for the position?
It’s about bringing meaningful jobs to Elk River. I have a firm understanding of business. My family has employed people for 51 years. I have an understanding of the private sector and what drives business.
Government should foster not restrict commerce. I will work with the EDA, the chamber, and the council to court business and promote the vitality of existing jobs.
5. What decisions of the council have you liked, and which ones have you disliked?
I approve the decisions to not approve a pawn shop, to delay approving a budget for water run off, and keeping the mini storage lot in accordance with the 2010 FAST for 171st Avenue . These decisions show that the current council works for its citizens. I feel that better communication about the business of the council is needed. We should encourage involvement with residents.
6. What should the city’s role be in improving transportation in the short-term and the long term.
I believe that in the city should work to improve infrastructure. Traffic flow and access will be an issue that will need to be continually addressed. As Elk River grows so will the traffic volume, the city should be responsible to ensure that proper planning is in place to handle growth and that our city streets flow in accordance with MNDOT and the Federal DOT.
7. A new administrative structure has been devised? What makes you excited about the new structure? What will be the key to its successful implementation?
Cal has laid out an impressive plan using his very strong administrative skills. I am excited that Cal has been an excellent leader. His leadership is reflected by the staff. Cal has laid out a plan that is very clear and directly points to what duties are held by individuals. I believe it is crucial to trust in the abilities of the staff and to support and foster growth.
8. What can be done to attract new business and jobs to Elk River?
Without businesses there will not be jobs in Elk River. It is imperative to show savings in conducting business in Elk River. We need to make certain that our infrastructure supports the ability to conduct business. Adjusting the tax rate to appropriate levels, will show cost savings. Providing access will prove that business can happen in Elk River. Together jobs will come
9. What can be done to help existing businesses?
I believe that the City and the Chamber can work together to promote local business. Whether it be through a city wide promoted sale or a program to receive a credit from Elk River Municipal Utilities for supporting Elk River. Some incentive needs to be provided to “buy” in Elk River. Private schools use scrip, Elk River could start a similar program to promote business
10. What partnership opportunities do you foresee with other governmental agencies.
The city, county and state coop on many levels, touching on everything from Public Safety to Maintenance. I believe that it is important to keep resources usable by all and keep costs low. I believe that other agencies should be involved in the planning process to ensure that we maximize the ability to keep costs low for all agencies. Our taxes cover these costs.
11. Balancing the budget has been getting increasingly difficult in the lean economic times. What would be your breaking point as it relates to holding the line on the levy?
In hard times, hard cuts must be made. The problem with a tax is a taxpayer does not determine where that sum of money goes. It is up to the administration. I would aim to remove all inefficiencies and waste. I believe that programs that are capable, must be self sufficient. I believe citizens should assist to reduce the financial burden of the city by any means they can.
12. What would you like to be able to say about downtown Elk River 10 years from now that can’t be said now.
Ideally, downtown would be easily accessible. If traffic flowed smoothly and there was ample parking, I firmly believe that downtown would be an inviting location for all things. Downtown would be the center for entertainment, dining, commerce, and living. Downtown is a special place. We need to encourage growth while preserving the heritage and history of Elk River.
Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions
How should the City of Elk River address the impending need to fund MPCA mandates if/when they finalize storm water management rules to meet state and federal requirements?
I believe that until the final legislation is passed, that the city council should delay discussing funding. It is very difficult to determine how to fund something when it is not known how much is needed to be funded. There is already a budget in place from the previous permit. Once legislation is passed there will be a grace period in which the city will be allowed to become compliant. Common thought is to have a rainy day fund, but I cannot make a rainy day fund on money that is not my money, especially on an unknown item. There are many ways to fund things, the methods of funding will exist whether the legislation is passed or not. The discussion is whether or not to enact these said methods. I believe the responsible thing to do, and in all efforts of eliminating waste, is to not fund any more than is absolutely needed. Protecting the environment is the right a nd responsible thing to do, but I have stronger convictions to ensure that money earned is kept in the hands that earned it.
What steps would you consider to reduce the property tax burden to local businesses?
I would start with reducing the budget. If waste and inefficiencies are eliminated, the amount that the city needs to collect will be reduced, thus reducing the tax rate. Secondly, I would recruit more businesses to town to broaden the tax base. More payers means that the amount that each needs to pay should decrease some. When jobs come to town, more residents come to town again adding to the residential property tax. This will also decrease the burden of businesses here in town. I would also like to implement a loyalty abatement program to encourage businesses that are here in Elk River, to stay in Elk River. Once a business meets a quota of years, they are eligible to receive a tax abatement in the form of a percentage, as long as certain criteria is met.
Should the City of Elk River provide funding to remodel the Ice Arena? If yes, how do you recommend it be funded?
I am a firm believer of community partnerships for funding. The city has the means to be able to fund the Ice Arena, but where is the sense of community pride if the city provides the majority of the funding. I hear lots of talk of being able to host large elaborate hockey tournaments drawing in teams from all over the region and Canada to play in our arena. With that being said, we are competing with a certain large corporate sponsored state funded sports complex containing a “super rink” 20 miles away. While I don’t think the goal is to be be nearly large as the National Sports Complex, I do believe that it would be an ideal time to receive a major sponsorship and give them naming rights. I believe that the users of the facilities, being primarily the hockey association and the figure skating club, meet a fundraising goal. Once a corporate sponsor and association fundraising goals are met, then the city will fund the rest again with general obligation bonds.