City council, Ward 1 - Tony Alongi, incumbentHere is a profile on Tony Alongi, who is running to retain his seat on the Hastings City Council in Ward 1.
Q: Give us some background information, including how long you have been a resident of Hastings, your education, job position, community service and your previous and current connection with government.
A: My family and I have lived in Hastings since 1998. I have a degree in Economics from Carleton College, and one in Public Policy from Harvard University. In addition to community service through the local First Presbyterian Church, I serve on the boards of United Way of Hastings, Hastings Community Television, and the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council.
My first connection to government was through my parents. My father was a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and my mother was a teacher. Public service was (and is) an honorable calling. I’ve found my own path toward that calling in my day job, where I direct the State of Minnesota’s employment and training programs for laid off workers. I am also the current Ward 1 representative on the Hastings City Council.
There’s more information about me at www.facebook
.com/TonyAlongiForHastings and www.linkedin.com/in/An
thonyAlongi. Or stop by my place at 503 Ramsey and chat!
Q: Why did you decide to run for this position?
A: I am running for re-election because I would like to build off our city’s accomplishments and complete some critical work over the next four years. There’s detail below on some of this work. Of the candidates running, I have the most visible and proven record of success in keeping public promises and achieving results.
Q: What are the major issues facing the City of Hastings? How should they be addressed?
A: Hastings faces several major challenges over the next few years; in this limited space I’ll focus on “Two Big B’s:” building around a new bridge and balancing the budget.
Most visible is the Mississippi bridge. Building a bridge and the things around it means exciting and historic stuff, and it requires a lot of us. With more people coming more easily through Hastings, we need to ensure our businesses downtown and throughout the city have the infrastructure and other support to thrive. Keeping the community involved with the city’s property at the former Hudson building; maintaining logistical support for the Downtown Business Association’s summer historic car cruise-ins; and remaining open to new ideas from businesses and community members who want to try new things are all key strategies for making the new bridge as strong an asset as possible for Hastings. I will continue to lead, as chair of the council’s planning committee and one of its representatives on our city’s development authority, to seek strong consensus from multiple perspectives and balance government support with the central role that only our residents and business leaders can play.
The budget is also an important issue, though it doesn’t look as sexy as what we’re building on the river! Sharp-eyed observers may have noticed over the past two years, that while Congress couldn’t pass a budget and our State Legislature let Minnesota shut down for three weeks, the City of Hastings had no visible drama surrounding its most difficult two budgets in modern history; we as elected officials and staff ditched the political mumbo-jumbo, worked hard, and got it done on time. We used what the vast majority of Hastings residents, Minnesotans, and Americans support: a mix of strategies that resulted in shared sacrifice. America used to work this way all the time, and in some places it still does. Personally, my record on the council has been among the most fiscally conservative, and I’m proud to have sponsored last year the first successful proposal to reduce City Council salaries in modern memory. I will continue to push for and achieve thrift, accountability, and quality.
Q: With ongoing budget constraints, is the city handling its programs/services and staffing in the right way?
A: The short answer is yes, and any government can do better.
The longer answer is that I’m grateful to my council colleagues, city staff, and constituents for the thoughtful and responsible approaches we’ve taken during hard years. Any Hastings resident who’s asked for proof that the city understands what’s going on in the economy, that the city has flipped over enough rocks or tightened enough belts, has learned what I’ll write here: we’ve laid staff off, held off on important purchases like snow plows and fire engines, cut our own nominal salaries as elected officials...and then yes, we raised tax rates to prevent a collapse in basic services. While rates went up, they went up on reduced property values, and actual tax bills stayed the same for most. Still painful for households. The city – read, all of us – understood and shared in that pain.
Q: Is the city doing enough to attract businesses and industries to help offset increasing residential property taxes? What, in your opinion, is the right approach to accomplish this?
A: I hope you and readers will allow a more relevant question: what can government actually do to assist all three sectors, so that we can minimize the tax burden on everyone? Residents aren’t experiencing different tax rates because of high or low business attraction; they’re experiencing different tax rates because the real estate market continues to go through hard times. City government cannot control that. So let’s focus on what government can control – it can provide basic infrastructure like roads and fire protection for an efficient cost; and it can ensure more attractive residential areas by setting up and maintaining parks and trails; and it can convene and support businesses, residents, and other community leaders who step forward and say, – “we have this idea, we think it will work, here’s what we need from government, will you help us?” So really, the best approach for attracting businesses or residents, is up to businesses and residents. That’s where the power belongs.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for this position?
A: I have the most experience in achieving results and keeping promises of the candidates running. We have better roads and infrastructure, new strategies and equipment for emergency services, and greater support and consensus for how to improve our historic downtown, than we did eight years ago. I’ve been proud to play a role in those achievements, and I hope voters will see fit to let me keep working on their behalf.