We should not add an extra line item on every receipt for a Blaine city-wide sales tax. This will only make it harder for small businesses to compete. A city-wide sales tax on everyday products and groceries will hit lower income families harder. Yes, visitors will have to pay but at a certain point items and services become cheaper elsewhere.
To keep a lid on property taxes we need to limit our spending. Blaine's budget has increased 8-9% each year for the past few years! Normal inflation is 2%. I also want to look at our TIF (Tax Increment Financing) budget. While it's important to grow, I think it's time to take a look at why developers are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in tax assistance from money belonging to Blaine taxpayers. While some projects are worth giving money towards to help Blaine grow, we shouldn't be financing new housing developments or apartment complexes with tax payer dollars when the building would be happening regardless! Blaine's TIF account has $9 MILLION dollars in it this year! Blaine needs to put property tax money into our roads, schools, libraries, and other essential city budget items. We don't need to continue giving money to these big development companies to in order to help Blaine grow.
Not many know, but Blaine is under capacity when it comes to police officers. For a growing city of 66,000 we only have 6-7 on-duty officers at a time! As I'm writing this, I think it may be even less due to COVID-19. We need more officers on our streets to minimize speeding, drunk driving, and theft. Part of a safe city is police presence. Hiring new officers is challenging, but as the pools to choose from get smaller, it's all the more reason to invest in more police for our future.
After speaking with our deputy chief of police, my plan is to bring our allocated number of officers up from 71 to 91 over the next four years. This will bring our police to citizen ratio up to MN's standards while providing the department with lieutenants to properly manage the force.
Blaine's fire chief Charlie Smith has been advocating for a new fire station in north east Blaine for many years. I think it's time for a new fire station to keep our north east neighborhoods safe. We can't let distance impact the efficiency of our great first responders.
As many Blaine residents know, driving on HWY 65 can be a nightmare. What many don't know is that HWY 65 actually has the most high risk intersections of any highway in the state! It is more dangerous than any other road in Minnesota. We need to fix this. MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) is conducting a deep study into HWY 65 through the summer of 2020, and we need to hold them accountable to securing funding to fix HWY 65 for good.
In the 2019-2020 school year there have been over six suicides at Blaine High School. As a community we need to do better reaching students and families. We need to continue to invest in youth programing, sports, and helping teachers and parents impact students.
We also need to ensure our elderly are getting proper care in our nursing homes. The city should be investigating any and every complaint of elder abuse or nursing home negligence in our city.
I want to continue to see Blaine be a business hub in the North Metro, however, we also should develop the arts! I would like to partner with our state legislators on ideas to foster growth for artistic businesses such as theaters, fine-art studios, and even film studios! I also would love for Blaine to get a city bandshell for music and city events in the summer.