Little Canada council candidate forum pits youth against experience


Andrew Henderson

Michael McGraw

Rick Montour

Little Canada residents got a glimpse of their three city council candidates at a forum Sept. 27: Two longtime council incumbents and a younger, upstart candidate looking to strip away government rules on citizens. The three are running for two seats. 

The Roseville Area League of Women Voters-sponsored event at Little Canada City Center featured challenger Andrew Henderson and sitting council members Rick Montour and Michael McGraw. The event was moderated by the League’s Linda McLoon.

In his opening statement, Henderson wasted no time in laying out his thoughts on government.

“I’ve seen way too much government overreach, too many stupid laws on the books,” he said, adding, “Hopefully, I can educate the public on the insanity going on in government.”

Both Montour and McGraw introduced themselves as experienced council members. Each served on the city’s planning commission before making the jump to the council; Montour was first elected in 2000 and McGraw in 2008.

On the challenges facing Little Canada in the next two years, McGraw spoke of maintaining the city’s bond rating and continuing to provide expected services.

“[Residents] want an orderly type of government and I think we give that to them,” he said.

Henderson said the city needed to temper its overreach when it comes things like Little Free Libraries and regulations on people improving their homes, while Montour said Little Canada, a fully developed city, needed to focus strongly on redevelopment.

Touching on the police killing of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July in nearby Falcon Heights, McLoon asked the candidates what they thought the city council could do to be prepared should something similar happen in Little Canada. 

Noting the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office provides police service for Little Canada — the city does not have its own police department — Henderson said there’s little the council could do to prepare.

“It’s out of the control of the city as far as I see it,” he said.

McGraw said much of the city’s preparedness happens “behind the scenes” in discussions with the sheriff’s office. He also said he was pleased with Sheriff Matt Bostrom’s approach to policing and that police shootings are prevented by never allowing them to happen. 

Montour agreed with McGraw, adding, “What happened in Falcon Heights was a tragedy.”

 

Home and housing

Asked how they would vote on a subdivision or home addition brought before the council that was largely opposed by neighbors, the candidates showed their different approaches to the situation.

“Eighty percent of the time we would vote with the neighbors’ wishes,” Montour said, noting, “We have to look at the whole scenario.”

“I would definitely vote ‘yes’ to just about anything,” Henderson said, noting he would do so as long as the change didn’t hurt anyone.

“It’s really on an individual basis,” McGraw said, adding that when people move into a city they are essentially agreeing to abide by the city’s code.

On creating more affordable housing in Little Canada, Henderson said the city needs to target vacant properties as possible building sites. Montour said the city should look to Ramsey County for help, while McGraw said the city doesn’t need any more apartments.

“We have more than enough multi-family housing,” McGraw said, adding the city should focus on rehabbing its current housing stock, and using its money on its current residents.

Closing out the forum, McLoon asked the candidates, “How do you see Little Canada in 10 years?”

Henderson said more young people would live in the suburb, and that he hoped to see mixed-use developments, buildings with retail and restaurants on the first floor with apartments above.

With many longtime residents approaching retirement, Montour predicted the average age in the community would continue to grow older. He said that the city would need to focus on retaining residents.

McGraw said, “I hope we stay much the same.”

Election Day is Nov. 8. Go to www.ramseycounty.us/residents/elections-voting  for details on early voting.

 

Notebook

• Forum attendees submitted questions for the candidates on note cards. Asked about their positions on legalizing recreational marijuana, Henderson said he was in full support of legal marijuana in Minnesota, and recounted his recent trip to Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal. Montour and McGraw said it was beyond the purview of the Little Canada City Council. McGraw said he was personally against legal marijuana.

• Asked about a book they’d recently read that they’d recommend, neither Montour nor McGraw said one came to mind because they spend much of their time reading for their council duties. Henderson recommended “Authoritarian Sociopathy: Toward a Renegade Psychological Experiment,” by Davi Barker.

• On their favorite thing about Little Canada, McGraw said it was the suburb’s “small town feel.” Montour said it was the city’s volunteers. “My favorite thing about Little Canada is convenience,” Henderson said, noting it’s proximity to St. Paul and Minneapolis.

• The candidates’ outfits seemingly illustrated their different approaches to government: Henderson wore a black ‘No Rulers” t-shirt, bearing a version of a well-known anarchy symbol. Montour and McGraw wore suits.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

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