I Voted sticker election voting

On Nov. 6, Shakopee residents will elect a new mayor from a pool of five.

Mayor Bill Mars has been in office since January 2016, and he is running for re-election with four contenders: Joseph Ditto, City Councilor Mike Luce, William Strunk and Jeffrey Thom. Whomever is elected will serve a four-year term.

Joseph Ditto

About how many Shakopee City Council meetings have you attended?

Joseph Ditto

Joseph Ditto

I monitor agendas and engage in meetings when something is happening that concerns me. Examples of past meetings I’ve attended include when the city forced rental licensure requirements on landlords, when the city was considering subsidized housing, when the city forced $34 million in debt on us to build the “community” center addition, and most recently when the city gave away $84 million in tax subsidies to Canterbury Park.

With what do you most agree or disagree in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft? Is the overall plan in line with your values and vision for Shakopee? If not, how will you handle that?

I agree with the general high-level goals within the plan such as providing opportunities for our neighbors to interact with nature and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I agree with a general direction to improve the downtown corridor and improve riverfront development and access, however I would encourage private developers to do this rather than use taxpayer funds.

The remainder of the comprehensive plan reminds me of metropolitan Minneapolis where residents are forced into high-density housing and onto public transit. We moved to Shakopee because it had a great historic downtown with a small town feel and I am absolutely not supportive of forced growth, managed growth, or excessively restrictive zoning requirements.

We love Shakopee because of its relaxed suburban atmosphere where we can watch or kids play soccer without worries of high traffic dangers and high crime. I will not support the radical proposals by unelected bureaucrats pushing a highly urbanized Met Council agenda related to “sustainable development” which serves to squash our individualism and force us to live in a concrete jungle of apartments.

I believe communities are best served when the government gets out of the way and allows investors to determine market needs and implement solutions that best serve our neighbors. Shakopee is a world class city filled with awesome people who don’t need the government to tell them how to live.

The city’s tax levy decreased by .15% for next year’s property taxes. Do you want to maintain the current level of services in the city, increase them, or scale them back? How do you see your vision for the city impacting the tax levy?

I don’t believe government is being transparent when they refer to the levy percentage in a way that indicates there was a property tax decrease. Spending went up. They added an energy tax. They transferred money away from the county and our schools to developers and businesses via Tax Increment Financing. Over the past 15 years my property taxes have increased 134 percent. When I question the increase they say “oh, we didn’t increase the percentage – your home went up in value.”

What is it about homes going up in value that makes city services 134 percent more costly? It’s a ridiculous excuse. My vision for city government is that it should provide basic services and do them very well. I would maintain funding for roads, infrastructure, parks, police and fire protection. If elected mayor I will be only one vote on the council, however I will work collaboratively with council to responsibly reduce spending in areas that are not related to these essential services. If elected with a supportive council I’m confident that we can increase efficiencies and reduce wasteful spending resulting in overall actual tax cuts (in actual real dollars) beginning with the 2020 budget year.

As mayor, how would you handle discord among council members?

Our council and city are extremely divided right now. I believe this is what happens when government does things it shouldn’t. When our elected leaders force through unpopular measures it’s a recipe for divisiveness. I’ve talked to thousands of my neighbors in this campaign and nobody is arguing about plowing the streets. Nobody is arguing about funding the police or firefighters. My goal is to refocus government on the things that matter so that we can all get along again.

Why should voters choose you on Nov. 6?

I’m the conservative in the race. If you’re looking for someone to unite rather than divide – vote Ditto. If you’re looking for someone to cut taxes rather than manipulate and raise them – vote Ditto. If you’re looking for someone to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of city services – vote Ditto. If you’re looking to end forced government growth and return to the natural, organic growth that made Shakopee great – vote Joseph Ditto on or before Nov. 6.

Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony? If so, what were the charges and were you convicted?

Never.

Mike Luce

About how many Shakopee City Council meetings have you attended?

I have attended every council meeting since I was elected almost five years ago. I am the only council member during that time frame that has not missed a single meeting or workshop. I attended a council meeting two hours after being discharged from the hospital. Prior to being elected I attended council meetings as far back as the late ‘70s. Not sure how many.

With what do you most agree or disagree in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft? Is the overall plan in line with your values and vision for Shakopee? If not, how will you handle that?

Mike Luce

Mike Luce

First things first. The comprehensive plan is only a guide, not set in stone. The current council has amended the current comp plan numerous times. When the comp plan is amended the Met Council has to review and OK all changes. The 2040 comp plan is an unfinished document, which looks to me like a compilation of an insufficient number of citizens and staffs wish lists. Less than .02 percent of the citizens provided input for the document. The comp plan vote has already been delayed until after the next council is seated. I believe that staff believes that the next council will be easier to work with because the comp plan needs a super majority vote, four out of five, voting yes. Who among us has any ability to predict the future, which is what the comp plan is referencing. As I stated in an earlier article, my crystal ball is still in the shop and without it I am unable to see the future. How many predicted the e-commerce phenomenon? The council has yet to discuss any part of the document. I believe that the plan is full of huge expenditures and no mention of how we are going to pay for even the tiniest elements.

I believe that the plan over reaches on almost every phase of future development. The area around Marschall Road and 17th Avenue is a mass of high density housing. Our current council agreed early on that we did not want clusters of high density housing. Clusters of high density housing provide a greater possibility for one bad property owner’s lack of proper maintenance and renter screening to draw down other owner’s responsibility to all residents. This provides a greater tolerance for crime and violence, which no one wants.

I believe that my deciding votes to move forward with the downtown housing development along with the Canterbury Commons development will provide our city with a large tax benefit within the near future possibly less than 11 years. The millions of dollars of tax revenue may help provide funding for many of the wish list items that are part of the 2040 comp plan. I was looking to the future when I cast my votes. I wasn’t looking for instant gratification.

The city’s tax levy decreased by .15% for next year’s property taxes. Do you want to maintain the current level of services in the city, increase them, or scale them back? How do you see your vision for the city impacting the tax levy?

I believe that the city provides abundant services for the amount of taxation required by the city. There are areas that we could lower costs and some areas of service provided should be provided by property owners. Other cities have curtailed some services previously provided which are now the responsibility of property owners. I believe that as with all cities ours has a few staff members who do not provide the citizens who pay their salaries with a fair days work for the paycheck that they receive. Some abuse city vehicles by smoking which is a violation of the cities employee handbook. One has caused the city vehicle they drive to need to be detailed twice in order for others who may be allergic to smoke the able to use the vehicle. Others who abuse city equipment without being held responsible. This all relates to your property taxes. Unlike some council members I attempt to listen to staff and citizens. I believe that as a city we have the ability to serve our citizens better than we currently serve them.

As mayor, how would you handle discord among council members?

Council discord of the type we currently have is a compilation of three people with big egos who have found that they do not have to compromise. The current mayor decided early on that he could push his liberal agenda with the help of the two progressives on the council. As they proved, money and taxation are of no consequence to them. Spending $50 million on the community center on a 3 to 2 vote was criminal and should have been put on the ballot for the citizens to vote on. Over 60 percent of the community center cost was just for hockey and the able bodied who use the ice. The city's award-winning, state of the art inclusive playground cost the city less than $175,000 with the remainder being fundraised by a very small group of citizens. This $475,000 playground provides recreation for a greater percentage of citizens, along with numerous children and adults who previously were unable to find recreation within the city of Shakopee. You tell me, how does one deal with other council members who censure another member who attempted to test the local areas ability for generosity and provide an even larger area for those with special needs to be able to live a life that we all desire? How does one not have discord with people that are as self-engaged as those who only think of themselves?

Why should voters choose you on Nov. 6?

I am self employed and able to provide whatever amount of time needed to properly conduct the office of Mayor. I am totally dedicated to the job and find it more difficult to spend the taxpayers money than my own. I go the extra mile to investigate whatever comes before the council, along with verifying information provided to the council using independent sources. I recently forwarded a new TIF financing proposal to staff in an effort to maximize the use of city funds. The proposal provides an ability to earn added dollars from city funds safely. I concluded after dissecting the Canterbury commons and old city hall developments, they would benefit all the citizens of Shakopee with minimal negative impact to very few.

Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony? If so, what were the charges and were you convicted?

After I spoke with the DNR about trapping nuisance squirrels, I was cited for trapping squirrels that were chewing holes in my house. DNR was OK with trapping not poisoning, but the police department was not and I was charged as not providing food and water to an animal. I paid fines on all charges. How many reading this have similar violations that have not been charged and if you draw any attention to yourself you will be charged? City codes are used as a control device to keep citizens from speaking out against those in control. City code citations are not used evenly.

Bill Mars

About how many Shakopee City Council meetings have you attended?

Somewhere over 200 overall.

With what do you most agree or disagree in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft? Is the overall plan in line with your values and vision for Shakopee? If not, how will you handle that?

Our Envision Shakopee 2040 Comp Plan draft is much different than the past several Comp plans that I have been involved with. While the basic components are still required and included, it’s our residents that help shape it, over 3,000 residents offered valuable input. We have never had that much engagement. This is the single most important thing about this plan. Our draft plan is about our community’s future and our residents are played a major role. This involvement is significant. It is not just five people on the council making decisions, it’s about major civic involvement. I support the 12 Bold ideas, from enhancing economic clusters, diversify our housing options, fostering civil spaces, to enhancing our riverfront. I believe we are focusing in the right direction for our community long term. This is a Comp Plan and one must remember it is a plan and it will change, much like the last 3-4 plans. That being said, we need more details on how to achieve some of these bold ideas. This is long term planning. Yes, we have revised each of the last four comp plans when our community has changed and evolved. For example, we have seen change in the Southbridge area where commercial was once planned, now the plans are changing to residential. Our west end is expanding and this growth is offering new opportunities that need long-term planning. Our downtown is evolving and growing. If 10 years ago I said we will have two apartment buildings with in a four-block area of downtown what would you have thought? My point is that this is a long-term planning for 2040 and plans do change to some degree.

The city’s tax levy decreased by .15% for next year’s property taxes. Do you want to maintain the current level of services in the city, increase them, or scale them back? How do you see your vision for the city impacting the tax levy?

For the first time in over 10 years we have a tax cut. In the last three years we have transformed our budget with transparency and brought more efficiencies to city hall. In three years, our city has grown by $500 million in overall market value, we have added to our diverse tax base and now we have right sized our budget. In regards to our budget, just think three years ago our city added $30 million of new debt with our new community center, built a new city hall and now we have a tax cut. I find that amazing. Our city has over a 42 percent reserve cushion to offer protection and safeguarding of our community. On top of these achievements, we are working towards a AAA bond rating which would be significant, as less than 5 percent of all cities have that top rating. We are not growing at hyper speed as some suggest, we are not in the top 10 fastest growing communities in the metro area. We are growing strategically. Going forward we will continue to work within our means while being conservative with your tax dollars.

As mayor, how would you handle discord among council members?

We have built consensus on many long-term issues. Some believe we need to be unanimous in our decisions. Consensus means a majority, which we have achieved. We are not governing based on yesterday or short-term thinking. As Mayor and the council, we are looking and planning long-term. Many of our votes over the last three years have been 5-0 or 4-1. I have always asked council members for input and to understand their point of view. At times it has been challenging because of a censured council member, but together we have made progress for the betterment of our community.

Why should voters choose you on Nov. 6?

I am an experienced leader who has been actively involved in many aspects of our community. With my financial background, experience, integrity and understanding of long-term planning, these qualities make me the strongest candidate for Mayor in our community. I have no party affiliation and I make decisions based on what is best for Shakopee in the long term. I have no agenda other than continuing to make our community a great place to live, work and enjoy. I am experienced in government, educated in business and finance while being committed to my family and community. Re-Elect Mars for Mayor.

Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony? If so, what were the charges and were you convicted?

Misdemeanor in 1993 — Convicted of Driving Under the Influence.

Misdemeanor in 2005 – Convicted — animal at large. It was the cat’s fault. (For full disclosure my recollection was this was a code violation for which I paid a fine).

Jeffrey Thom

About how many Shakopee City Council meetings have you attended?

I have not attended any Council Meetings due to my volunteer work with coaching my nephew’s football team and other engagements. I do regularly watch the meetings online and also pay close attention to how council members interact with each other.

With what do you most agree or disagree in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft? Is the overall plan in line with your values and vision for Shakopee? If not, how will you handle that?

Jeffrey Thom

Jeffrey Thom

Incorporated into the envision Shakopee report there are many great things that would make the city a better place to live. I want to focus on our community and who is moving into the city and more importantly who is not. The report shows that we are seeing a decrease in young adults and young children moving here. One factor I believe for this is the lack of starter homes available.

My plan for Shakopee is to develop a plan to add more affordable housing. We also have people commuting out of the city for higher paying jobs. People that commute out of town make an average of $21,000 more. Going forward and promoting our city I want businesses that want to call Shakopee home and provide well paying jobs, including corporate positions. Shakopee’s greatest asset is our location and as we continue to grow and develop into a premier suburb we have the ability to bring in these jobs that allow people to live, work and play in the same city.

The city’s tax levy decreased by .15% for next year’s property taxes. Do you want to maintain the current level of services in the city, increase them, or scale them back? How do you see your vision for the city impacting the tax levy?

As I look at the tax levy there are numbers that can be very confusing for people to look at. The levy as described is the maximum the city can have. The city shows taxes are going down but moved the EDA levy to a new tax line and we still have that $29.5 million bond to keep paying off. It is important to plan for the future and have reserves on hand for expenditures at current costs, which having a budget with no extra income does not provide. One thing that is overly concerning is that we are raising property taxes by an average of $11 for the lower end of home values. This should have been spread out evenly between all residents. Our service needs will continue to rise as we grow and we need to plan accordingly.

As mayor, how would you handle discord among council members?

For any progress to be made and make Shakopee a better place, all members of the Council and Mayor need to have positive dialogue and listen to all sides. There cannot be heated arguments over issues but instead a professional fact-based discussion is needed for a resolution to be made. It’s time to work together as an administration and put personal biases aside to promote Shakopee for business, investors and families to live.

Why should voters choose you on Nov. 6?

Voters should choose me as Mayor of Shakopee because I will bring professionalism and transparency back into our administration. All financial documents will be required to be presented in a understandable and supportable format. All “other” and “miscellaneous” categories will have easy to locate documentation to show how final numbers are achieved for a full understanding of city financials. I will also continue to grow our relationships with other governmental agencies that can aid in support of the city. My goal is to have a more open forum for citizens to share ideas and listen to the city’s plans for the future. Making changes that will benefit all of Shakopee. This is great city to call home and we all can have a greater sense of community for the area.

Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony? If so, what were the charges and were you convicted?

No.

William Strunk

About how many Shakopee City Council meetings have you attended?

Three or four. Many more on TV.

William Strunk

William Strunk

With what do you most agree or disagree in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan draft? Is the overall plan in line with your values and vision for Shakopee? If not, how will you handle that?

I agree we need some planning, but only if there is a clear way of paying for it. Growth should pay for itself. TIF should be more limited in scope. Free market economy should drive development.

The city’s tax levy decreased by .15% for next year’s property taxes. Do you want to maintain the current level of services in the city, increase them, or scale them back? How do you see your vision for the city impacting the tax levy?

I would like to see the current level of service maintained. Things change and we don’t want to be caught off guard. If we need more, then let the people vote.

As mayor, how would you handle discord among council members?

As adults we should be able to reach a consensus and compromise on the issues before us.

Why should voters choose you on Nov. 6?

I have a love for this town and its people, its history and its future.

Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony? If so, what were the charges and were you convicted?

I have had DWIs in my past.

Reporter and Lifestyle Guide Coordinator

Amanda McKnight has been a Southwest News Media reporter for four years. Amanda is passionate about accountability journalism and describes herself as spunky and assertive. She enjoys running, knitting, exploring nature and going on adventures with her hu

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