Since taking office, I’ve worked hard to make sure that Ramsey County operates in a transparent, efficient, and cost-effective manner. We have restructured county government to best serve all our residents, and because of this, we have been able to effectively respond to the challenges that 2020 has brought us.
I’m proud of what I have accomplished during my time on the County Board.
Just to name a few:
- We have refinanced some of our debt, saving the taxpayers over $2 million.
- We’ve continued our positive employment growth,
- We’ve earned a AAA bond rating, the highest rating a county can achieve for fiscal management, every year since 2001
- We’ve expanded child protection services, to keep our children safe
- We’ve worked with our communities on creative solutions for road projects to make them safer for everyone – including bikers and walkers.
- We’ve expanded recycling opportunities for businesses and communities
- We’ve improved contracting opportunities for local and small businesses
- And we’ve worked to enhance our local libraries and increase hours
There is so much good work that we are doing that I want to continue being your voice on the county board.
What am I working on?
- Expanding our Community and Economic Development staff to partner with business and local partners to encourage development that will bring jobs and strengthen our local economy.
- Advocating at the State Legislature for funding for mandated services – to keep the financial burden from being shifted to our property taxes.
- Working to make county information more accessible to the public – including information on accessing services, getting questions answered, and Board meetings.
- Creation of County Navigator positions as a part of our “No Wrong Door” initiative.
- Prioritize the Continuum of Care in our community, from early childhood to our seniors – working with local and national partners to reform how we serve our residents and encouraging collaboration by breaking down barriers to comprehensive service
- Working with local High Schools to expand our Student Election Judge program
Police Brutality/Racial Injustice
I join with all of you who are standing up against police brutality and racial injustice. And I will do what I can to work to undo our unjust systems. As a member of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, I reaffirm to you our commitment to our guiding vision of a vibrant community where all are valued and thrive. As a community, our strategic work to transform systems together is more important now than ever. Deliberate strategies of community engagement and partnership for racial and health equity now expand across all of Ramsey County’s program and investment areas. This work is not business as usual. Transforming systems together is critical to achieving our goals of wellbeing, opportunity, and pursuit of prosperity for all. It is how we hold ourselves accountable to our community for being the change we want to see.
What happened to George Floyd is a tragedy that has been seen all too often, but it doesn’t need to be seen again. The grief and heartbreak of this moment is being used to spark long overdue change, and I am committed to doing my part to make a more equitable and just county.
Undoing centuries of racial injustice will not happen overnight, and I’m proud to be a part of a county which is working to make our community one where all are valued and thrive.
I am in support of the work at the legislature to take the important and necessary steps of reforming police practices. I am in support of the bills proposed by the POCI Caucus in the Minnesota State Legislature, which include:
- reforming the investigation and prosecution process of officer-involved deaths and wrongful actions
- increasing police accountability and transparency
- raising standards of conduct and support officer excellence
- partnering officers with the communities they serve
- repairing and building community trust to create community-centered public safety
This work also recognizes that police officers cannot be and should not be the first responders to every type of crisis, and that resources must be devoted to creating and expanding programs to match community needs.
Many calls to 911 are calls for help, not for law enforcement. We must recognize that different situations require different responses, and our current model of police response as the default must change. For example, having a mental health crisis is not a crime, but we dispatch the police the same way we would if someone were reporting a robbery.
Elected vs Appointed Sheriff: At a recent board meeting, a discussion took place about some recent actions taken by members of the Sheriff Department’s staff at the Adult Detention Center and an on-going investigation about a possible human rights violation by the State of Minnesota. During this discussion, the idea was brought up about the possibility of changing from an elected Sheriff to an appointed one. This discussion should take place in the context of the overarching discussion about police reform happening. We need to make sure that as we have done across the county, the Sheriff’s department is providing support and engaging with our community members in a way that is consistent with the Ramsey County mission, vision, and goals.
Over the coming months, I look forward to having additional discussions on this topic, both with my fellow board members, but also with members of the community.
It is important that any discussions about changing the status of the sheriff does not impede the on-going investigation.
Coronavirus Response/Public Health
The biggest challenge facing Ramsey County right now is surviving the COVID pandemic. Our already existing issues of food insecurity, homelessness, and economic instability are magnified during this time. The financial pressure of increased economic uncertainty will put an incredible strain on the residents.
Related to this is the high level of unemployment and economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. As of March, 30% of the workforce across the county had filed for unemployment due to the pandemic. We also have a large number of small businesses across our communities, and many of these are trying to navigate our “new reality” while still keeping afloat. Our Community and Economic Development and Workforce Solutions staff are working hard to step up and meet the needs at this time. This work will help us weather the current issues, and create a solid foundation for rebuilding once the pandemic has passed.
I am in support of developing programs to keep the county’s economy as stable as possible during these times, for businesses, for workers, and for all our residents
During my time on the board, Ramsey County has achieved national accreditation for our County Public Health Department, enabling a better response to COVID-19. We have been providing public health news updates about the pandemic, and transparently sharing data such as emergency room use, community health assessments, and the impacts of climate change on resident’s health, alongside coronavirus updates.
Many of the plans that Ramsey County created were used by other counties here in Minnesota as a model for best practices.
Climate change is an urgent problem. While on the board, we have taken steps to reduce the county’s impact on climate change, and study the effect it is having on our community and our health. We have expanded recycling opportunities for businesses and communities in order to make it easier to leave a smaller environmental footprint. As well, we have worked directly with cities and towns on creative solutions for road projects to make them safer for everyone – including bikers and walkers, enabling people to make environmentally conscious decisions about their commute.
Ramsey County has developed an internal plan to make the county operate more energy efficiently, from our vehicle fleet to our buildings. We are committed to doing our part to mitigate the climate crisis.
In 2016, Ramsey County Parks & Recreation created an eight-member energy action team to create a plan for the department.
- Some specific goals include:
- Reduce energy use by 35% at all Parks & Recreation facilities by 2025.
- Use 100% renewable energy at county park facilities by 2025.
- Increase awareness of renewable and energy efficient projects as part of the initiative.
- Plan for all future department facilities to be net-zero buildings.
- Educate the public about renewable energy and energy conservation.
We enhanced our local libraries and increased hours, improving accessibility. In Roseville, we listened to public feedback and reconfigured the entrance and exit to the parking lot of the public library, making it easier to arrive.
This has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as our libraries have been crucial support centers for our residents, and will continue to be moving forward. We are instituting Community Career Labs, to help out of work residents find jobs during this time; drop off boxes for county services; and providing access to computers and printers for those who do not have them at home.
Restructured County Government to remove silos, better serve our residents, and save money, and we are in the process of reviewing many of the County’s systems, including our continuum of care, juvenile justice, and solid waste system. We want to make sure we are effectively using resources to get the best outcomes for all residents. We want to work to break down barriers, encourage collaboration, and provide comprehensive services to give our residents the tools they need to survive and thrive.
I am proud of the work the County has done to find unique and sustainable solutions to our systemic challenges. I truly believe it is a testament to the hard work we have done to focus on residents first, that allowed us to effectively continue providing services.
Our “No Wrong Door” initiative amplifies this idea. We are working to make it so that accessing services from the county is easier for residents, and does not depend on someone having the right number or showing up at the right office. All residents should be able to access what they need the first time they reach out.
I strongly believe that no one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. The pandemic changes what this election is going to look like, but it can’t change who has access to the polls. I support voting by mail, as this will protect not only the voters, but election workers. Voters can apply for a mail-in ballot from the MN Secretary of State’s office, or from Ramsey County. The application can be found here: https://mnvotebymail.org/register/
Ramsey County partnered with local high schools to hire student election judges, teaching them about the voting process, and fostering a sense of civic engagement. Election staff would also help create ballots and lend voting machines to schools who were running elections for student council, in order to familiarize students with the process of voting, and make it fun. As a proponent of civic education, I was a proud supporter of programs such as these across my district.
Ramsey County must balance economic development with the needs of existing residents. While it’s important to bring new businesses and tax revenue into the county, we must always consider the impact on our residents, and act consciously so that our most vulnerable residents do not get displaced due to gentrification. It is essential that we build an equitable and sustainable tax base to fund our programs; this means supporting businesses who want to build or expand in the county, while paying attention to the impact these businesses will have on residents.
Smart development in Rice Creek Commons will be a huge benefit to the residents of Ramsey County, and increase business and visitors. We must make sure that with increased development, Ramsey County does not see an increase in displacement. This means seeking out partnerships with specific aims such as affordable housing to combat ever-increasing rent costs. As well, we must make sure that economic development serves to shift the tax burden away from residential properties.
Ramsey County has a long tradition of strong partnerships in this area as well. During my time on the board, we have worked with the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce, various developers, city planning and development staff, as well as non-profits to find unique solutions and further economic development in our communities. I have been an active participant in the Business Council meetings in both Roseville, and New Brighton so that I can stay connected to our business partners and their needs.