1) Why do you want to serve as County Commissioner for District 4? (100 words)
Jim Ische: I truly care about what happens here in Carver County. I have lived on the family farm my entire life and I firmly believe that residential development should be directed towards our cities and our rural area preserved for farming and agricultural use. My grandsons are the 5th generation of our family living on our farm land. As a County Board member, I strive to make good choices and common sense decisions for our future generations.
Jim Walter: I’m a working class / business owner who pays my taxes and wants less government involvement in our lives. I doubt anyone in Carver County has knocked on more doors in this county than I have. I personally hear the concerns of thousands of taxpayers in regards to county spending and county involvement with private sector business. The county imposes its rules and regulations on citizens of this county, yet the county does not have to abide by its own rules.
When elected I’ll change that, close the “open checkbook” spending and stop county overreach in the private sector.
2) When it comes to the county budget, are there programs or services that should receive less funding? Are there ones that should receive more funding? In what cases would you support a tax increase? (250 words)
Ische: The County Board has held to a very conservative budget for the past seven years. 2013 will be the eighth year in a row that the county portion of your property tax has gone down. The Board has made many reductions and cuts in these past years. Our employees have done an excellent job of creating efficiencies and helping get through this economic down turn. One area that I would like to see receive more funding would be Public Works and our Road & Bridge Fund.
No one has the appetite to raise taxes in this economy. If there was some type of major disaster such as recent major flooding in Duluth, that washed out roads, culverts, bridges and storm sewers, or a major criminal investigation, such as Carlton County experienced in the Katie Poitier case or a major infrastructure expense, these would be examples of a need to raise taxes.
Walter: Services that should be cut are services that can be done in the private sector and set up on as-needed contracts. No wages, benefits or liability on the county. I’d support more funding for improving infrastructure such as roads, bridges and city streets and less funding for projects such as ballrooms, flower shops and regional trails. I would not support a tax increase. I feel we pay too much already. I will re-evaluate all county services, taking into account input from my constituents, to see where cuts can be made instead of increasing taxes. After all, it’s the taxpayers who pay the bills!
3) What ideas do you have to help promote business and job growth in Carver County? (250 words)
Ische: Maintain a favorable tax climate because this is a top concern of business owners. To help promote business and job growth, Carver County uses every tool available. The county works with our cities by assisting with tax increment financing. The county may also help with needed improvements to roads and intersections by using tax abatement. Our biggest asset, in regards to helping and attracting new business is the Carver County Community Development Agency (CDA). The CDA helps businesses find grants and low interest loans when possible. Carver County and CDA also work with the state’s marketing arm called Positively Minnesota. They hold numerous trade shows each year and our CDA has an opportunity to market Carver County business.
Carver County and CDA have members on the recently formed Greater MSP Economic Development Partnership. This model is designed to help attract business to all of our cities from the smallest to the largest. It has been very successful in other parts of the country and we are excited about it.
Finally, we are told that one of the first questions a business is looking to start up or re-locate is do you have fiber? Our fiber optic ring is nearing completion and will be very beneficial to our schools, libraries, cities, and most important, the county investment is paid back in five years and the county owns the fiber.
Walter: To promote business and job growth I would be aggressive in regards to projected year property tax breaks along with exercising tax incentive financing to aid city and business projects. There are far too many empty storefronts and the domino effect on existing businesses which end up with more of the tax load needs to stop.
4) What is the most pressing issue in Carver County? If elected, how would you address it? (250 words)
Ische: Most pressing issue in my opinion would be transportation. Our road system is critical to our local economy. People driving back and forth to your work or farmers hauling grain, milk or livestock to market or business moving goods and services to their customers all have a common need and that’s good roads.
As oil prices have stayed high likewise blacktop costs are very expensive. Agricultural land prices have gone up substantially causing right of way costs to be very costly. Fuel prices alone put a big strain on our budget and cause the bids for road work to increase dramatically. Couple these facts with less state and federal funding and your ability to overlay or upgrade or repair roads get tougher each year. An example would be instead of overlaying 10 miles of road per year we overlay eight miles per year. You can do that for several years, but it is not a long term plan. Using that scenario, in three years you have paved 24 miles on the fourth year you need to pave 16 miles to catch up. That’s not affordable. We have worked very hard to keep Carver County roads in good shape, but it gets to be more of a financial challenge each year.
I want to give credit to our Public Works employees. Whether it signing our roads, summer maintenance or winter snow and ice control, they do a great job.
Walter: The most pressing issue in Carver County is accountability. Our current commissioners seem to think that stimulus, Met Council and grant money is “free” money. I’ve read statements made by commissioners that we can buy this or install that because we are getting paid back with stimulus or Met Council money. Where do they think this money is coming from? You, and I, the taxpayers. There is also the issue of the commissioner’s expense check of $500+ per month with no accountability of expenses. How can we hold county staff accountable for spending when the commissioners are not held accountable? I would also encourage county staff to reduce spending by offering an incentive program for cost savings.
5) What makes you the best candidate to serve District 4? (100 words)
Ische: My experience and relationships with my constituents are why I have the best background for this job.
I served as a Hancock Township Supervisor. I’m the current Chairman of the Carver County Board of Commissioners. I’ve worked closely with the five cities and seven townships in District 5 to learn about any issues or concerns they may have with the county as well as how we can partner on projects.
My committee experience includes Association of Minnesota Counties Board of Directors, Metropolitan Emergency Services Board, Carver County Fair Board, Carver County Planning Commission, Carver Soil and Water, Carver District Courts Committee.
Walter: What makes me the best candidate to serve is I don’t tell people what they want to hear. I say it the way it is. I’m constantly having people share their concerns about county issues with me. The taxpayers of this county want to be heard and their input taken seriously. This isn’t happening right now. If you don’t like the path that your current commissioner is taking you down now, I’d like the opportunity to take you down the path of accountability, credibility and respect.
6) Please tell us about your background and/or experience. (100 words)
Ische: I graduated from Central in 1970 and married my high school sweetheart. Pam and I live on our family farm in rural NYA where we raised four children. We operated a dairy farm until 11 years ago when a tree cutting accident occurred and four vertebrae were broke in my neck. Eight months later, I was asked to consider coming to work for Medallion Cabinetry in their newly formed Engineering Department where I am still employed today.
The committees I’m on and the boards I represent as stated earlier have given me experience that make me a very viable candidate for District 5.
Walter: I owned a restaurant/bar for five years and dog training and kennel operation for 27 years while also working as a sheet metal fabricator for 30+ years. I have experience in budgets, payroll and employee relations. I was elected State Delegate for the Republican Party and have received the Republican endorsement. I’ve been a sponsor for Pheasants Forever, MN Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, and a life member of the Friends of the MN River Valley.
District 5: Benton Township; Camden Township; City of Carver; City of Cologne; Dahlgren Township Precincts 1 & 2; City of Hamburg; Hancock Township; Laketown Township Precinct 1; City of New Germany; City of Norwood Young America; San Francisco Township; and Young America Township.