Priorities for the Future of Bloomington
I heard someone say recently 'The most dangerous people in politics are the ones who want to change everything, followed closely by the people who want to change nothing.'
I prefer a thoughtful, inclusive discussion on the future of Bloomington - one that builds on our strengths, acknowledges our weaknesses, and puts our City on a strong path for the future."
Here in Bloomington, we have good roads, safe neighborhoods, top-notch police and fire, and the best drinking water in America. Residents and businesses expect - and will continue to receive - those outstanding services. And staff-driven service improvement efforts show that that level of excellence is never taken for granted.
As a local elected official, no job is more important to me than being a careful, thoughtful steward of Bloomington tax dollars. I take seriously the responsibility of reviewing and prioritizing all property-tax supported City services each year and I firmly believe that dollar for dollar, Bloomington City Services are an outstanding value for residents.
That being said, there's no denying that the cost of city provided services has increased. About 70 percent of city expenditures go to critical services like public safety and infrastructure, while about 15 percent goes to quality of life activities like planning, parks and arts, and maintenance make up about 15 percent. I welcome any discussion on city spending, but it can't be limited to a demand to cut taxes. There must also be the important discussion of community needs and priorities.
Many homes and business nodes in Bloomington are at the point where revitalization can't wait any longer. The City of Bloomington has made significant investments into the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program and Curb Appeal Program that have helped hundreds of homeowners in recent years. The next important step is to renew neighborhood commercial nodes which the City plans to advance through the recently adopted development program for the Gateway Development District. The Development District strategy builds on the City Council's Strategic Priorities, planned infrastructure projects, the Comprehensive Plan updates, and leveraging community assets.
The work plan of the Bloomington Sustainability Commission is ambitious and includes many high-priority actions that will also be high-impact. I strongly support their efforts to focus on water quality and conservation, to create a framework for long-term natural resource rehabilitation, and to create a sustainable development checklist that can be used when buildings are redeveloped or rebuilt. I also strongly support additional work on organics recycling and developing renewable energy sources like wind or solar for our city facilities.
Strong and productive relationships between the City of Bloomington and local organizations such as Bloomington Public Schools, the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Normandale Community College, Dar Al Farooq, and local service providers like VEAP, Cornerstone, and Oasis for Youth make us all stronger. That will continue. As Minnesota's fifth largest city, Bloomington also has an increasingly important role to play in regional and statewide efforts.
The Town Hall Forums with the City Council were a great first step in improving connections with residents. Continuing and expanding those efforts, and building on the work of the City's new Office of Community Outreach and Engagement will help to connect and engage with both internal and external stakeholders.
Fueled by the vision of the community and the creativity of city staff, Bloomington has a long history of taking measured and calculated risks and of being on the cutting edge of innovative municipal government ideas. The Mall of America, the extension of the Blue Line LRT , and the indoor smoking ban are all examples of forward-thinking ideas that have made Bloomington a great place to live. More recently our new Opportunity Housing Ordinance and the Pathways to Policing program have shown that Bloomington is willing to be out front on ideas that create value and solve problems.
Continuing to seek out and take a crack at innovative, creative, and bold ideas - even if they sometimes fail - will make Bloomington stronger now and in the future.
For too many people, One Bloomington is just a slogan. This needs to be more than just words.