Election 101 Voters Guide: County Board: Paul Bergman
Hometown: Two Harbors
Years in office: Four
Family: My wife Jan and I have a combined family of seven children and 16 grandchildren
Profession: Jan and I own and have operated the Vanilla Bean Café for 13 years, employing many local people
Favorite spot on the North Shore: Lighthouse Point at daybreak. My second-favorite spot is anywhere there is a group of people positively discussing how we can make our county better.
Q What are some accomplishments in your life that would lend well for the county board position?
A As an incumbent I have two success stories that I feel are very important to this election. One is, of course, the Lake County Broadband Initiative. The other is our property taxes. Since question No. 2 is about broadband, let's talk about taxes.
One of the biggest success stories in this election is I have a record of not raising your property tax levy and my challenger has a record of raising it. Lake County for the years 2010 and 2011 will have no increase in our property tax levy. On the other hand, my challenger, who is the city council president, raised the Two Harbors 2010 tax levy over 5 percent and the city has a preliminary levy increase of 9.5 percent for 2011.
I have to chastise my challenger as this is not the time to raise taxes. First Solutions just laid off many employees. We have senior citizens on fixed and low incomes, along with too many people unemployed. How will the city keep existing businesses and jobs and attract new ones if it keeps raising taxes at this rate? How many of the voters in District 4 have had a 9.5-percent pay raise?
Elected officials are re-elected on their record of how we spend your tax money. When you voted me into office four years ago, you put your trust in me to spend your tax dollars wisely. I have done that.
Q Broadband is likely coming. What are the next steps to make best use of the technological advances in the county?
A The Broadband Initiative is the largest county project in our history and I am very proud of it, as should be county citizens. The jobs this network will create during construction, for network operation, and future new jobs could not have come at a better time. The increased money spent in this community alone will be a huge benefit to our economy.
The broadband committee, of which I am a member, has a daunting task ahead of us with oversight of the design and construction, proper spending and reporting of the funds and hiring oversight professionals to work solely for the county.
During this time we will be educating the citizens, schools and businesses on the best use of this network. We have to engage everyone to find any special needs this network may be able to address. We have to have an Internet presence, marketing Lake County as a place that offers ultra-high speed fiber network that will enable businesses to start-up or to expand. Planning must be done for housing new employees and business districts need to be recognized for possible zoning changes that may occur. We have many challenges ahead.
Q What are the most critical issues facing the county today and how do you plan to take them on?
A The budget is the most critical challenge for our county. Keeping a watchful eye on what the state and federal governments are doing in respect to cutbacks as they have conditioned us to expect decreases in funding. Remember most of this funding is to pay for mandated services required by law or help lower our property taxes.
Another issue is a new public safety communication tower system set up by the state. Because of the higher frequency equipment needed, the cost to our county, cities, and townships is $2.5 million. That money does not exist right now. We are working very aggressively on grants to pay for a large percentage of this expense.
County roads always are important for our businesses and citizens. With the price of up-grading roads to mill and overlay of the bituminous (blacktop) it has become very expensive. On the Waterfront Drive and the First Avenue projects, all the road sub-surface and bituminous, curb and gutter, street lights and sidewalk are paid for by the county while Two Harbors only pays for the utilities like sewer and water under the streets. We even pay the city for plowing these streets.
As you have read from these examples, everything revolves around the budget. I feel I have been a very good steward of your tax dollars. With the Broadband Initiative I have brought new permanent jobs and $70 million to help our local economy. I enjoy working for you and in these challenging times, I feel you need my experience. On Tuesday, please give me your vote and support. Thank you.