A heated discussion about the city's legislative agenda occupied nearly 40 minutes of the City Council's regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 12.
Council member Peggy Rehder passionately defended her position that the city should hold off on asking Minnesota lawmakers for funds this year. The former Washington, D.C., lobbyist said that, after successfully receiving $19 million in state bonding last year, coming to the Legislature with our hands out in 2018 would be a waste of time.
"I disagree," Council President Kim Beise said. "I think you present them. It may take years to get them through, but if you don't try you don't even get a chance. I don't know how many years it took us to get the bridge."
Others on the council, Evan Brown and John Becker, agreed they would support more direct discussion of the 21 topics presented.
"A lot of these policies are carried over from last year, so a lot of them aren't new policies," City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
Administrative Business Director Marshall Hallock said that he is happy to receive input from the council on what items make up the city's policy agenda. He said that one new item regarding the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Passenger Rail Study was added this year at the request of Mayor Sean Dowse.
Many other items, such as e-commerce taxation and workforce housing, were carryovers from the city's 2017 policy agenda. Details about the city's state bonding appropriation request have been updated from last year, with Red Wing city staff hoping to lobby for trail funding, renovations to the Goodhue County Historical Center and infrastructure redevelopment on Old West Main.
Brown said that he supports the council having a more open and direct discussion of the city's policy agenda on a point-by-point basis. He indicated that a one-on-one conversation with Hallock last year about the Coalition of Utility Cities, a policy position which Brown believes should be reviewed, seemed to go nowhere last year.
"Coalition of Utility Cities, there's a lot of synergies there with the coal industry," Brown said. "The coal industry - I'm sure representatives of Xcel will all tell you, and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission - is a very interesting industry right now in the state and I don't know we should be tying our horse too closely to that one."
In the end, the council voted 4-3 to accept the policy agenda as written, with Brown, Rehder and Becker dissenting. However, the City Council plans to continue this discussion at a future workshop, which has yet to be scheduled, and may yet make changes to the city's 2018 policy agenda.