Downtown Anoka is the heart of the city and when it is healthy and active, the rest of the city draws strength from it. The city’s role is to act as a facilitator between private enterprise and public good. We need to ask how we can help make the next event a big success like the food truck festival or classic car show. But more than events, the city has owned many pieces of property for a long time waiting for large developers to step in and spend multimillions of dollars. In the meantime, years pass and many small and midsized businesses have become frustrated and built outside of Anoka because these locations were not available to them. There is enough opportunity to go around, an as a city we have an important role to play. When we do that job well, Downtown Anoka and the rest of the city benefits.
Our neighborhoods are a great strength to our city. They are unique and diverse. Our housing rebounded after the recession in the 2000s because Anoka’s homes and neighborhoods have character. We are a destination, a place where people want to land not pass through. I have had many friends live elsewhere but return to Anoka as a place where they want to live and raise their families. They are attracted to our rivers, our downtown, our historic homes, and our sense of place that is hard to find in the suburbs that surround us. As a result of this influx, historic homes are being restored, mid-century neighborhoods are getting remodeled and updated, and newly constructed homes can be of higher quality as a result.
From two rivers to nature areas to neighborhood parks and trails, Anoka’s natural assets rival what the best cities have to offer. As a park board member for nearly a decade, maintaining those assets has been just as important to me as creating new ones. As a teenager, I volunteered to transform Peninsula Point Park from a former sewage treatment plant to one of our premier parks. 20 years
later, that park has become one of our city’s favorites but there is always maintenance. All our parks require repairs, mowing and weeding, occasional signage, playgrounds and other facilities. If we want to showcase them with pride, we need to make sure they are maintained.
In addition, one of our jobs is to provide safe roads and sidewalks for people to move about town as well as reliable water, sewer and electric service to our customers. Some of this infrastructure is over 80 years old and requires reinvestment. Patching the same potholes year after year and digging up roads to repair old pipes is a poor use of our time and money. We need to prioritize upgrades in our budget because when the city chooses to replace the streets in a neighborhood, oftentimes homeowners choose to do upgrades as well. By working together, the city and its residents take pride in their neighborhoods and reinvest in Anoka.
Just like Amanda and I restored our historic home, every day other homeowners and businesses do their part to preserve these treasures that make up Anoka’s soul. Over the years the city has been its own worst enemy having played a large part in the destruction of many of its resources. Grand public buildings demolished for generic boxes, parks split apart and sold to to developers, and historic neighborhoods bought up piece by piece until nothing is left. Fortunately some of this is changing, and I believe the city should be a leader in the preservation of our natural and historic resources. These are the things that make Anoka unique. We are stewards of what came before us, let’s do our part keep them for the kids of tomorrow.
I am a supporter of fiscal restraint and a realistic levee. This starts with prioritizing spending. There are many things the city must do outside of funding core functions like police and fire protection, and infrastructure improvements. I believe many priorities are being underfunded while we spend too too much on property acquisition. Spending millions of dollars every year to buy, demolish, and oftentimes sit on land is very inefficient and sometimes detrimental to the city. This reduces tax base, costs more than if we acted as an intermediary for reinvestment, and takes funds away from more important priorities. Also, it forces the expense on less transparent forms of revenue like utility bills, fees and other special assessments and levees. Reinvesting in any older city is important, and in order to keep our Downtown, Neighborhoods, Parks, and Infrastructure strong, we need to make sure we have the resources to do so.