City council, 4th Ward, incumbent Danna Schultz, running unopposed
Q: Please share with us your background information, including information about your family, your education, your career and community and government involvement.
A: I have lived in Hastings for the past 26 years, and have been actively involved in the community the entire time. I have served on the City Council representing Ward 4 since 2000; prior to that I served as Hastings Planning Commission chair and as a member of the Parks Commission.
As a council member, I serve as the chair of the Finance and Utility committees and am a member of the Public Safety and Administration committees. I am also a member of the Hastings Economic Development and Rehabilitation Authority (HEDRA). In the past I have served on the Planning and Parks committees.
I am currently a member of the Hastings Women's Tennis League (serving two years as president), and am a parent volunteer with the Hastings Show Choir. I am also a member of the Hastings Heart Restart Steering Committee. I am an active member of St. Philip's Lutheran Church.
I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota and for the past 16 years have worked for the Minnesota Senate in research and communications.
My husband, Doug Schultz and I have been married for 27 years and have two daughters: Libby 21, a senior at Augsburg College and Abigail, 18, a senior at Hastings High School.
Q: What makes the city of Hastings a good place in which to live and work?
A: Hastings has a rich history and tradition--our community is 155 years old, has a "stand alone" downtown and has a small town feel that gives it an identity that is well-known in the Metro area and across the state. This is a quality of life fact that makes Hastings unique and remarkable. We have strong community identity and pride. These are positive attributes that make Hastings a stand-out place to live, work and visit.
Hastings is a beautiful community that has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources. We are situated at the confluence of three rivers--the Mississippi, Vermillion and St. Croix, which gives us access to many recreational opportunities. Our natural beauty plays well into our robust trail and park system that provides our residents and families further recreational amenities which also enhance tourism opportunities and bring people to Hastings from all over the state.
Hastings provides quality local government services--good schools, well-maintained roads and a quality park system. These are positive selling points for families and businesses that want to locate/re-locate to our area.
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: Hastings is responsible for the maintenance and reconstruction of over 100 miles of streets. And as our community ages, our roadways and infrastructure need replacement and reconstruction. In our 2011 survey, Hastings residents gave high marks to the city for its street maintenance, and I feel it's because we have a well-thought-out and reasonable process for that maintenance.
Other cities in Dakota County charge an across-the-board tax to all city residents for street maintenance. A system of this kind hasn't had strong support here. I believe the current system is working well; the city has a debt ceiling that helps keep our bonded debt within reasonable levels but also provides quality street and infrastructure services to our residents. (Our general obligation debt cannot exceed 35 percent of total budgeted expenditures. We are currently at 19.7 percent.) Strategies like this help us maintain our AA bond rating.
Q: The city parks and recreational facilities get top marks. How can we ensure that continues?
A: Hastings has over 25 miles of trails, which are used extensively by cyclists, walkers and joggers. I believe these trails are jewels of our community and they really enhance our quality of life.
I believe we need to continue to use partnerships with other local governments and the state to help us enhance our parks and trails system, the way we did with the new Vermillion River trail that just opened last month.
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 of Hastings, along many other municipalities across the state, has faced serious budget challenges. Over the last 10 years, Hastings has lost $1.2 million in local government aid--a complete elimination. Since 2009, the city has seen a loss of $5.3 million in total market value, which means less revenue coming into the city to pay for services.
Because of this changing dynamic, we must design a leaner budget and we must prioritize what services we offer and how to do that as efficiently as possible. For example, as the housing market declined, we eliminated some planning staff positions and consolidated some jobs. As retirements have occurred, we have streamlined some departments and saved staff costs.
As the Hastings population changes (goes older, becomes more diverse), we will need to assess what services we provide. In the 2011 survey, city services such as police, fire, snow plowing and park maintenance got high marks and support to continue them was strong. We will use this sort of citizen response to help determine future budget priorities.
As we move forward, we will base our responses on our CORE values: Communication, Respect for Resources, SeRvice and Enthusiasm.
Q: How can the city's tax base be broadened to decrease the property tax burden?
A: A stronger economy would help broaden our tax base and decrease the property tax burden for Hastings' residents and businesses. Hastings property tax base is about 70 percent residential and 30 percent business/commercial. This is a dramatic difference from other communities in Dakota County such as Burnsville, Eagan and Apple Valley.
So we need to bring in more businesses, and the city is working to do that. HEDRA (economic development authority) is making overtures around the state to entice business expansion and is working with the Chamber of Commerce to develop marking opportunities. Hastings has a lot to offer. We are the only city in the Metro area that offers industrial property for $1. The city will also invite business prospects to tour the Hudson property next month to determine interest and potential uses for the riverfront space.
The completion of the new Hastings bridge gives us an enormous opportunity to bring more people, businesses and tourists to our city. We need to capitalize on this asset.
In short, we need to work hard to expand our tax base, and grow our community; we have some great opportunities to do that the next few years.
Q: Why should the voters on Nov. 6 mark their ballots for you as their City Councilmember?
A: I believe that I have the experience and expertise to best serve the residents of Ward 4 and the city as a whole. I have a strong commitment to make our community an even better place to live, work and raise families, and I pledge to work hard the next four years to continue Hastings success.
I also pledge to find solutions to the challenges that lie ahead by working with my fellow council members, the mayor, city staff, Hastings residents and our other local and state elected officials. Together we will move our city.