Brian MeekHere is a profile on Brian Meek, who is challenging Tony Nelson in the city council race for Ward 3
Q: Please share with us your background information, including information about your family, your education, your career and community and government involvement.
A: I believe that the most important role in my life is to be the best father and husband that I can be. I have been married to my wife Beth for six years and we have two wonderful children, Edwin and Lucy.
I am a Navy Veteran and am currently the Safety and Human Performance Manager at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA).
Q: What makes the city of Hastings a good place in which to live and work?
A: Hastings is a wonderful place to live. I was not born here, but chose to make Hastings my home. Being in the Navy, I have relocated to many different areas around this country, but there are a few things about Hastings that I have not seen anywhere else in America. There is a strong sense of community that permeates the residents. The people of Hastings have common ideals, and a sense of togetherness. The people of this city are willing to help each other out when times are tough, and celebrate the good times. The small locally-run businesses outnumber the big-box stores that populate other metro area cities. These local businesses are very important and central to the sense of community that we have.
Finally, the parks and community services give us a place and a means to raise our kids, enrich our lives and grow old gracefully. These are a few of the great aspects that make me proud to call Hastings home.
Q: Each year, the city agrees to a certain number of infrastructure projects, including street improvements and water line upgrades. Is this a good plan? How can it be improved?
A: I feel that there are certain necessary infrastructure projects that the city must maintain to prevent deterioration and encourage growth. However, I feel that the proper long range plan will incorporate the right projects at the right times. This type of planning would allow for more flexibility and greater cost realization than the current method.
Q: The city parks and recreational facilities get top marks. How can we ensure that continues?
A: The parks must be included in a regularly scheduled preventive maintenance and upkeep plan. By benchmarking our city to other cities that have equal or higher ratings in relation to parks and recreation facilities, we can incorporate a plan to maintain the high quality of the parks and forecast for future expansion and rehabilitation of older facilities.
Q: Are the city’s financial issues being addressed correctly? How should an increased demand for services with a growing population be addressed?
A: The city’s financial issues are not being handled appropriately. I think that most people would be surprised and appalled to know that last year $300,000 was taken from the fire department equipment fund and transferred to the city’s general fund to pay various bills. This money had been set aside to purchase a new fire truck. The current ladder truck is so old that some replacement parts are not even manufactured any more.
This year, during 2013 budget talks, the council decided to use a “shotgun” approach to financing the city. Rather than determining the necessary revenue required to fund the city and ensuring that key services are rendered and extraneous projects are cancelled, the city council arbitrarily decided to raise the tax levy by two percent and “make the budget work” within that constraint. How did they arrive at two percent? By using the “scientific” question of “I don’t know, what do you think?” during the budget meeting. This is not fiscal responsibility and cheats us, the citizens of Hastings, out of getting the most for our tax dollar.
Q: How can the city’s tax base be broadened to decrease the property tax burden?
A: To broaden the tax base, we must increase the diversity of income. The city council currently relies on an outdated city plan that advocates the creation of manufacturing jobs by offering low cost land in the industrial park. The problem is that manufacturing is not a growing sector and is not forecasted to grow in the next decade. In addition to that, every city in the country offers cheap or free land for manufacturing.
My plan is to target specific sectors that have forecasted growth this decade and are currently underserved in the Twin Cities area. We have a prime location and opportunity to attract high paying jobs which will increase the corporate tax base and increase home purchases, which increase the residential tax base. I believe the first area for opportunity lies within the technology sector and should be focused on creating a dedicated technology park on the west side of town to attract potential businesses.
Q: Why should the voters on Nov. 6 mark their ballots for you as their city councilmember?
A: Voters should vote for me for because I bring diversity of thought to the city council. I have a fresh perspective and can invigorate the city government to work for the citizens.