Q&A With The County Commissioner Candidates: Jan Callison

Callison discusses key issues and how she views the job of county commissioner.

The race for the District 6 seat on the Hennepin County Board has become a lively one—with dueling yard signs and Internet comments.

There’s a good reason why. In the coming years, Hennepin County commissioners will have to tackle many complex issues.

To help you know how the candidates would tackle the challenges ahead, Patch asked the candidates where they stand on key issues and how they view the job of county commissioner. Today, we’re running an e-mail interview with incumbent Jan Callison. Click here for the interview with challenger Dave Wahlstedt.


Patch: What would your philosophy be toward your work on the County Board?   

Jan Callison: My philosophy is to thoughtfully consider the issues, listen to other points of view and decide responsibly with a focus on the long term.

Patch: How would you find a balance between a reasonable level of taxation and providing necessary services? 

Callison: My record demonstrates the balance that I have found, making county government more efficient even while serving more people. During my term:

  • Property taxes supporting the general operating budget decreased two years out of three and the Solid Waste Management Fee (assessed according to property value) was eliminated in 2010;
  • Overall tax levies grew at less than the rate of inflation;
  • County spending was kept roughly flat -- decreasing from $1.752 billion to $1.747 billion even as the need for county services has increased;
  • Spending on capital projects has slowed.  Proposed capital spending for 2013 is 8.4% less than 2012. 

Patch: How should the county foster economic development? 

Callison: The business community is clear that transportation investments are key to continued economic development in this area. As commissioner, I have advocated for Southwest LRT and other transportation solutions in Hennepin County. I have recognized concerns about property taxes from businesses by holding the line on property taxes and new forms of taxation. In addition, I understand that helping the businesses that are here to grow is crucial to creating a positive business climate, and I have supported business development strategies such as economic gardening and Open for Business. I am proud to be endorsed by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce PAC.

Patch: What role should county government have in caring for the less fortunate? 

Callison: Hennepin County is the social service arm of the State of Minnesota and is mandated to provide “safety net services” as directed by the State.

Patch: What relationship should county government have with cities and other local government entities?  

Callison: City and county government are intertwined. The fact that Hopkins is now in the county 911 dispatch system means that Hopkins residents are no longer paying property taxes twice for 911 services. The approval of a new county library in Excelsior will improve the quality of life for residents in the South Lake Minnetonka area and the vitality of the Excelsior business community. Road projects like County Rd. 101 (Minnetonka, Wayzata and Woodland), Shady Oak (Minnetonka and Hopkins) and 112 (Orono and Long Lake) are important to residents, commuters and the business community alike. The commissioner for this district needs to be able to speak effectively for the needs of these communities and residents.

Patch: What relationship should county government have with the state? 

Callison: Counties are created by the State and provide social services on behalf of the state and as mandated by the state. Moreover, state policies and actions directly impact the county including property tax levels and the demand for services. I spend time every legislative session meeting with legislators from this area regarding important county issues so that they will be aware of the impact of their decisions upon residents and businesses in our communities.

Patch: How well does the Southwest Light Rail Transit project fit the needs of the region?  

Callison: Southwest Light Rail Transit has gone through a rigorous federal process that demonstrates that it is one of the premier light rail projects in the nation, and that it is a cost-effective investment. All six cities directly affected by it have adopted resolutions of support. In addition, it has the support of the TwinWest, Eden Prairie and Edina Chambers of Commerce. This region is forecast to add 60,000 new jobs. The current roadway system will not accommodate these new employees and cannot be expanded without substantial cost and impact. We need a strong and diverse transportation network in order to compete nationally and internationally and to support our business community. Southwest Light Rail is a smart investment for this region.

Patch: What should the county's role be on the Southwest Light Rail project?  

Callison: The County has been the lead proponent of the project. It will continue to advocate and support it in conjunction now with the Metropolitan Council.

Patch: What new county efforts or projects would you like to introduce? What county efforts or projects would you like to end? 

Callison: I hope to continue the work of making county government more efficient, transparent and accountable while also focusing attention on improving results for those we serve. My decisions on supporting new projects or ending existing projects will be filtered through that lens.

Ron Esau October 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Our County spends approximately $225 million in staff and other costs to deliver the "safety net" options to approximately 155 thousand recipients (the population of Hennepin County is 1.2 million). Another $225 million is provided by the County. The Fed and State provide over $2 billion. While I was making my visit to the social service delivery system at the Rick's Supermarket building in Plymouth, I learned that there are approximately 84 programs in he database menu that the county service providers are happy to help the client apply for. My thought is that is time for a careful review of why we are promoting extended welfare...and what and how Commissioner Callison could lead in that intiative to help all of the citizens of the County, taxpayers and welfare recipients.
Norman Teigen October 26, 2012 at 10:16 AM
I have just completed the Fall 2012 Hennepin County Citizens Academy, a program initiated by Commissioner Callison. This seven week seminar made me aware of the variety and complexity of Hennepin County government activities and services. I believe that the citizens of Hennepin County have been well served by Jan Callison and I support her reelection.
Stan Berris October 26, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I support Jan Callison for County Commissioner. Jan has a wonderful track record as a Minnetonka City Council member and Mayor. As a home owner in Minnetonka, I appreciate the way in which she worked closely with the community members and especially other government agencies such as the Hopkins and Minnetonka school districts. She maintained open communications regarding programs that benefited the residents and students within the community. Minnetonka homeowners also benefited by having Jan as an advocate for controlling city spending, taxes, and services in order to ensure the most economical means possible for delivering benefits to our residents. She then went on to do the same for our County. Jan understands that we need better transportation in our community and the Southwest Light Rail project is just one of the many projects that will change the way we live and work in our community. Jan has my vote on November 6th.
Dave Lloyd October 26, 2012 at 07:56 PM
There is a terrific Dave Wahlstedt interview just posted by Patch. The fiscal approach in this election is clear between Wahlstedt and his opponent. A true and distinct choice. SW LRT will carry large operating subsidies. There will be a point that voting for city, county, state, special tax district and federal candidates that all present raising taxes and borrowing as solutions will hit the wall. This cross funding structure of for example federal money being laundered through to a project like SW LRT and perceived as free money to the recipients will not be able to last with deficits over a Trillion starting at the federal level and running down to other governments such as Hennepin County. There, Callison wants a train with $33 million of annual operating costs. Fares will not fund hardly any of that. The State will have to pick up possibly 50% of that tab. Some of you think that is great that Brainerd sales and income taxes in part indirectly will pay light rail operating costs. The game isn't sustainable. From a writer above there are 84 Hennepin County programs and growing. Safety nets may break, unforturnately. Vote Wahlstedt.
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