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Coalition wants Fairmont back

October 13, 2011
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Fairmont City Council was lobbied this week to join Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, a group that represents outstate cities at the state Capitol.

Fairmont has not belonged to the Coalition since the late 1990s. According to city administrator Jim Zarling, the council dropped its membership because of the fees and the feeling by some council members that the coalition was purely a lobbying organization.

"The council at that time didn't feel it was appropriate to spend that much on lobbying," Zarling said.

Bradley Peterson spoke to the council this week, asking the city to reconsider joining and offering to cut the first year dues in half, then increasing to the full amount of $15,212 in three years.

The coalition's "advocacy program" for Greater Minnesota focuses on five key issues: Local Government Aid, annexation, economic development, environment and transportation.

The organization's primary concern in these economic times is preventing further cuts in LGA and pushing for an equitable, sustainable LGA formula.

According to information Peterson handed out, the 16 cities in District 24A receive an average of $3.50 per person in LGA for every 1 point increase in a city's tax rate - much lower than metro areas.

Also speaking to the council on behalf of the coalition was Thomas Kuntz, the mayor of Owatonna. Kuntz has served on the coalition board and the League of Minnesota Cities board.

"Nobody represents us as well as the coalition," he said. "... I would encourage you to reconsider joining."

The coalition's efforts to convince Fairmont City Council to renew its membership continued with former state Rep. Dan Dorman of Albert Lea.

"Why belong to both the League of Minnesota Cities and the coalition?" Dorman asked.

He said the league represents all cities in the state - metro, suburban and rural, while the coalition lobbies only for Greater Minnesota.

"The large cities have their lobbyists," Dorman said. "... And there is pressure built by those groups. The only one there to counter them is often the coalition."

The council took no action to reconsider its membership. Zarling said if none is taken, in a couple years, the coalition will probably be back in a couple years, making the same appeal.



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