Decorum rules at council debate

Lake Elmo candidates focus on issues, not personalities

Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin
Lake Elmo city council candidates Justin Bloyer, left, Anne Smith and Brett Emmons take a moment to relax after participating in a candidate forum at Lake Elmo City Hall Thursday night. A fourth candidate, Greg Hall could not attend due to a medical emergency.

LAKE ELMO — City Hall was not the place to be if a person was looking for political fireworks Thursday night.

Three of the four candidates seeking two spots on the Lake Elmo City Council focused on discussing issues instead of personalities at a Gazette-sponsored forum. The only departure came when one candidate made a reference to partisanship slipping into a non-partisan race.

Incumbent council members Anne Smith and Brett Emmons and challenger Justin Bloyer spent much of the hour-long forum discussing issues that included the new city library, development and council meeting decorum.

A fourth council candidate, Greg Hall, could not attend the forum due to a medical emergency, according to moderator Marguerite Rheinberger.

Both Bloyer and Smith said they opposed the city leaving the Washington County Library system and opening a city-run library.

“No, I don’t think it was a good idea,” Bloyer said, claiming Lake Elmo residents had little or no input in the decision.

“I’m not opposed to having our own library. I just felt we needed more time,” Smith said.

“It was something we all struggled with,” Emmons said. “We debated this for over a year. I know that the building was somewhat controversial. But the way it was priced at the time, it was a good deal.”

The three also said development will be something the council will address for the next several years.

Smith said one major task is getting Metropolitan Council-mandated water and sewer service to the Interstate 94 corridor and the old village area.

“Getting that water and sewer service to Lake Elmo residents is a large task, a daunting task. There’s a lot of things we need here,” she said.

“Development facing the council is the biggest issue we have,” Emmons said. “I don’t think we can bury our heads in the sand and say there won’t be development.”

“Development and how to manage that growth is an important issue for Lake Elmo,” Bloyer said. “Development is driving us. I feel time is of the essence and we need to put forth a plan.”

Emmons and Smith admitted there are times when decorum at council meetings is an issue, but both said members are working to improve the atmosphere at meetings.

“We get a little more drama than we need. We’re still learning organizational dynamics and philosophies. I think it’s definitely gotten better,” Emmons said.

“When you have five people getting together at a table, you’re going to have disagreements,” Smith said. “We have a timer. I don’t like it. I think it’s inappropriate.”

“I don’t know the inner workings of the council,” Bloyer said. “We all have different backgrounds and different political philosophies.”

The three also said they would work to keep Lake Elmo’s taxes low.

“We have the lowest tax rate in the metro area and we have a wonderful future,” Smith said.

“We’ve been trying to be fiscally cautious. We do have a low tax rate,” Emmons added.

“My goal on the city council is to keep taxes as low as possible,” Bloyer said. “We do have to decide if we want to have rural or city services. People have to decide if they want to be urban or rural.”

As the forum was ending, Emmons gently criticized what he said called subtly increasing partisanship in what by state law is a non-partisan election.

“I look at this as a non-partisan race. I would like to keep it that way. I would prefer that partisanship stay out of the race,” he said.

“I understand the partisanship issue comes up a lot,” Bloyer said. “I understand this is a non-partisan office, but people do have opinions.”