If elected to the Board of Commissioners, what will be your top priority and why?
Galen Malecha: To respond to the current situation, ensuring that the county considers all constituents in its COVID-19 recovery plan, and that all aspects of recovery are included: financial and business, health, mental health, public safety, food security, housing access, and that resources are allocated equitably throughout the county.
Once the immediate needs related to COVID-19 are addressed, the county needs to return to its comprehensive plan. This includes:
• Continuing to develop and execute its environmental protection and preservation strategies.
• A subset of this is developing multi-modal transportation options throughout the county.
• Addressing overwhelming needs for affordable and accessible housing.
• Supporting the mental and physical health needs of Rice County citizens and ensuring access to social services.
It’s widely expected that the state’s $2 billion shortfall will lead to cuts in state aid to counties. How will you determine where the county can make cuts?
GM: In preparation for this possibility, the county has increased the tax levy as a preliminary response. nWe will approach the departments, create a plan and present that plan to the citizens.
How will you ensure the voices and concerns of those in your district will be heard and accounted for?
GM: This is one of my strengths as a commissioner. Participatory governance is critical to our democracy. I regularly meet with a wide variety of citizens and citizen groups to hear both concerns and potential solutions. I then present these to the county board for consideration in our decision-making process.
What should be done to help the county recover from the economic damage done by COVID-19?
GM: Access federal and state funds available to the county and distribute them appropriately to those impacted. This includes businesses.
Advocate for additional funds and remedies with state and federal government.
What more should be done to maintain county roads and bridges?
GM: Rice County has 432 miles of roads to maintain. Currently we spend approximately $3.5million on roads and bridges on an annual basis. This is about $7 million per annum behind what is needed.
To improve this deficit, we need to:
• Advocate for the legislature to pass a bonding bill that will help to support our efforts,
• Advocate that the legislature index the gas tax to keep up with inflation.
• Advocate for the legislature to distribute sales tax equitably between states, municipalities and counties for roads and infrastructure improvements.
• Additionally, we need to create a multi-modal transportation plan that will decrease our reliance on automobile traffic, will improve bus, rail, bike and walking access for citizens throughout the county. Removing some traffic from these roads will decrease maintenance needs over the long term.