City council candidates talk about revitalization
By Mark Anderson
At the Oct. 19 candidate forum sponsored by LEAP, Staples City Council and Mayor candidates discussed downtown revitalization, a healthy community and a perceived divide between the south side and north side of the city.
Council candidates Benjamin Johnson, Roy Miles and Lisa Toepper were joined by mayor candidate Ron Murray.
Council candidates Sean Bhogadia, Blake Gerard, Mary Jo Goff and mayor candidate Doug Case did not attend.
All of the candidates were in favor of the one-half percent sales tax to help the Staples Community Center. Miles said “tried to get revenue over and over, this is the best way.”
Murray said he would like to see the city grow in a healthy way. He suggested more social opportunities and entertainment businesses would be valuable to the community. He pointed to the Batcher Building proposals as a potential to be a “huge success” for the city.
Toepper said she would like to see some of the run-down homes in the community be fixed up, and suggested the city could offer incentives for homeowners to remodel or rebuild.
When asked about using community knowledge to help the city, Toepper said different people involved, such as firefighters and mail carriers, “all have different types of knowledge.”
Johnson said the city should work with local businesses to improve the downtown. He pointed to Brainerd reversing their downtown area into a nice, walkable place.
Johnson said the city could help find grants for the owners of the Staples Movie Theater and Batcher Building, to improve the two biggest empty buildings in the downtown.
Miles said he didn’t want the city to get too involved in the Batcher Building or movie theater. “I think it should be an outside entity,” he said.
Some of the candidates differed when asked about the differences between the south side and north side od Staples.
Murray said the city has done a lot to help remove blighted properties on the south side and there is an upcoming loan application to help fix up homes on the south side.
Toepper pointed out that most children in Staples go trick-or-treating on the north side, and thought that improving homes on the south side would make it more welcoming.
Johnson said the south side has improved over the last 10 to 15 years, and the city should continue the progression of revitalization.
Miles said “I never liked the idea of north and south side. I don’t think the south side is low class, it is just as important as north side. We should try to erase that, this is Staples, forget the tracks.”