Q: Please share with us your background information, including information about your family, your education, your career and community and government involvement.
A: My wife MaryJanice, our two children 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/AnthonyAlongi. Or stop by my place at 503 Ramsey and chat.
Q: What makes the city of Hastings a good place in which to live and work?
A: We have a beautiful river, a unique Minnesotan history, innovative businesses downtown and throughout the city, a thriving art community, strong schools and many churches and non-profits like Hastings Family Services who engage in our neighborhoods and extend a helping hand.
It also helps to have a city with well-run services — police, fire, roads, parks and trails —that residents and businesses and depend upon to protect and enhance the quality of life here.
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: Yes, this is a good plan. We regularly review the condition of over 100 miles of roads and about 90 miles of water mains throughout the city, adjust the improvement and replacement schedule and engage in open dialogue over several public meetings with affected residents regarding the costs and charges for each project. As a member of the council’s Operations Committee, I’m proud of the terrific work our public works staff do to ensure safe road and water infrastructure.
Any plan can be improved. It’s typical of most government services to appear a bit mysterious to residents. So let’s do better. I’d like to see broader, more visible dissemination of the current improvement plan, along with the criteria city staff and council use to set priorities. Putting this in plain English before residents would help everyone understand and adjust those priorities.
Based on the uncertain quality of sod we’ve seen over the past couple of years’ worth of road projects, I’d also like us to review the standards we use for lawn replacement by contractors, so that residents who put up with the headache of street replacement can have confidence that routine maintenance will result in great-looking lawns to go with those great-looking streets.
Q: The city parks and recreational facilities get top marks. How can we ensure that continues?
A: I’m pleased to serve on the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, which meets regularly to consider improvements to the city’s 33 parks and nearly 30 miles of beautiful trails. What do we do to ensure these assets stay strong? We listen to the residents and tourists who enjoy them, both to keep up with maintenance needs and identify new opportunities.
We also need to continue the kind of excellent behind-the-scenes work that brought us the new trail extension along County 46/47, which just opened this summer. This deeply popular addition was the result of years of concerted effort by city staff, volunteer members of our commission and private property owners. This stuff doesn’t make for flashy headlines, but it’s the kind of thing people considering living and raising families in Hastings look at.
Q: Are the city’s financial issues being addressed correctly? How should an increased demand for services with a growing population be addressed?
A: Yes, we are addressing the city’s financial issues correctly: through dialogue, hard work, and compromise instead of posturing, empty promises and gridlock. Here in Hastings, we give residents the kind of government we could only dream about in St. Paul or Washington, D.C. — a non-partisan, drama-free approach that focuses effort on timely, appropriate results.
You don’t need to believe the guy who’s running for office! Look at the opinion of those whose money depends on assessing our finances correctly. Our professional approach has resulted in a strong bond rating, which lowers the cost of borrowing for things like street projects — which means we can charge residents a bit less when we do an improvement project.
We need to maintain the considerable fiscal restraint that got us here. I continue to press city leadership to let staff attrition do its work, so that we can keep staff levels constant, push remaining staff to continue to find new efficiencies and innovation within their teams and keep the tax amount the average household pays virtually constant. 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: How can the city’s tax base be broadened to decrease the property tax burden?
A: Broadening the tax base requires attraction of new businesses and residents to Hastings. People move their homes and businesses for simple reasons — they want a good quality of life, they want to raise their kids in strong schools, they want crime as low as possible, they want things affordable and they want to be near people and resources that fit their needs.
So if we want to attract new businesses and residents to Hastings to broaden that tax base, we have to demonstrate that high quality of life. Our government must control what it can — strong basic infrastructure and services for an efficient cost, attractive amenities like our park and trail system and partnerships that support creative ideas like the Historic Downtown Cruise-Ins that attract thousands of people each year.
Q: Why should the voters on Nov. 6 mark their ballots for you as their city councilmember?
A: I have more experience in achieving results and keeping promises to constituents than my opponent. Hastings has 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.