The City Beat was feeling particularly wrathful the other week. Spending hours and hours paying close attention to every word spoken by people you don’t necessarily agree with and writing them as faithfully as possible will do that to you. I’m talking about the interviews for City Council candidates, which I had to transcribe. And it was only two candidates for goodness’ sake.
So I made hateful, mocking notes, promising myself that I’d take my revenge on the blog. But, being that I have to maintain some semblance of balance, I’ve chosen to be more diplomatic.
Below, you’ll find the unedited version of our interview with one candidate; the other one will be in the following post. Half an hour seems like such a short time until you have to write down every single word. I’ve bolded my notes for easier reading.
Tim Behm, Ward 2 City Council candidate
Address: 1517 University Ave.
Job: General manager, Space Aliens.
Family: Wife Michele, children Megan,5, and Brody, 1.
Education: Attended University of Mary, University of Phoenix.
Leadership experience: Managed multiple restaurants with as many as 100 workers; former sergeant, North Dakota National Guard.
Q: Why are you running? Are there any particular issues that made you want to run?
A: I’ve always been interested in politics for many years. It’s something I kind of wanted to do. Never had the opportunity to do it. It seems like with [City Council member Mike] McNamara stepping down there would be an opportunity to get into the election. He was in my ward. I could’ve run against him, but I felt he was very popular candidate. Going door to door talking to a lot of the people in the community, it seemed a lot of people really like him and were sad that he was stepping down.
My wife and I, we’ve had many conversations about politics throughout the years and, there’d been a few projects that had been done in the Grand Forks area where I thought that it could’ve done differently. Not that I have all the answers or knew all the specifics of what had gotten done, but from my perspective, I thought we could’ve done something differently. And I just wanted to have the opportunity to help the city of Grand Forks be a better city.
Q: What kinds of projects are you thinking of?
A: Well, the pool project that we did on the north side [Riverside Pool].
I agree that we only had one pool in the city of Grand Forks and I agree that the north side and the neighborhood that I’m in did need something there. The thing I didn’t agree with was that we were putting money into a pool that was behind the flood lines. We would have to continually put money into that. [I agree with him it's hard to justify, but the voters have spoken...]
I understand how much it costs to build a new pool versus refurbish the pool that we had.
And I understand that, I think it was 72 percent of the community voted to do the pool, and that was the right thing to do. But that was one of the things I didn’t agree with personally at that time. [Actually, the citywide vote was 66 percent "yes," but in Ward 2 it was 77 percent "yes." Only Ward 3, where the pool is located had stronger support with 81 percent voting "yes." You know, it's kind of unusual to be griping about a decision voters made when you yourself are trying to get voted into office.]
And I was talking to one of the City Council members and he said it would cost roughly about $8 million to build a new pool versus $1 million to refurbish this one.
But, again, Riverside’s been part of the community for many years and we have these splash parks and things like that, but maybe University Park would’ve been a better place to put that.
I wasn’t part of the City Council at the time. I don’t know all the specifics as to why that didn’t happen, but it was something I didn’t agree with. That’s one specific example.
Q: What would you have done differently?
A: You know, I guess I would’ve looked at some other parks and some other communities. And I probably would’ve looked to where the city’s growing a bit. [Research fail. One of the big arguments for renovating Riverside Pool was because it's in a neighorhood that was hard hit by the flood and has seen its population decline. Another location was never really an option.]
Now that’s against some of the beliefs I have, too. Urban sprawl is not something that I agree with. I agree with fixing up some of the older communities so we have less crime and we have less urban sprawl so you don’t have to spend more money to build these new neighborhoods. [Not sure where he's going with this. How many private dollars private developers spend isn't anything city government ought to decide.]
So that’s a little bit contrary to what I’m saying, but there’s other neighborhoods that we could possibly put the pool in.
And I know that some of the City Council members, they’re all for this [The vote was rather persuasive...] and I don’t want to be a bull in the china shop and mess things up. I want to — talking to these City Council members, I want to be a student of the city and really listen and learn to the best of my ability and do what I can to reduce the excess spending that we do in the city.
And I know that we’ve gotten better. The city is a much better place than what it was in 1996 when I left, I think.
Q: That’s a good segue into our next question, which is what is your assessment of the city on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best job possible. Maybe you can explain why you think the city is at that point.
A: Well, I think that — I’ve lived in a lot of different cities. I’ve lived Minneapolis and St. Cloud and Fargo and Bismarck; Dubuque, Iowa; Davenport, Iowa; Chicago. And living here, I think that it’s a great community as far as families and raising families. That’s why I came back here from Chicago to Grand Forks to raise my family.
As far as city government goes, I think they’ve done a lot of good things. I think we have some good people in the City Council. I think there needs to be a little bit more diversity on the City Council. I would probably be one of the youngest, other than Dana [Sande, who's running unopposed in Ward 6], I think is a couple years younger than me, that would be on the City Council. They bring a lot of wisdom to the city, but I think we need to have a different perspective.
As far as a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a tough one to answer without knowing all the specifics.
I’ve been reading the minutes and watching the City Council meetings for a couple years now. It can be entertaining at times. You do have some different personalities in there, let’s say. I would say they keep it professional and that is nice to see that they have common courtesy toward each other. When I was in Minneapolis, I was down in Eagan, you’d watch some of the public access there and sometimes they’d get into a little bit more heated disagreements and you’d watch the City Council meetings. They’re still professional but there was…
Q: I think the perspective here is of someone as a citizen, who isn’t involved yet. We want to gauge your level of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with government and whether you think you can change that or not.
A: I would probably say about a 7 or a 7.5, right in there. The thing that I’m most dissastisfied — that is with the large population that has this binge drinking that goes on. The only other city that I’ve lived in that seems to have these problems is St. Cloud and I live there. [Hmmm. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but St. Cloud, like Grand Forks, is a college town where students make up a larger than average portion of the population.] That was another community that was bad with that. You’d drive through and you’d see kids passed out on the lawn at times. In my previous job [at Whitey's], last year, we had a girl come in from outside the business after Springfest that passed out in the bathroom with her pants down.
You know, so… Festivals are great but they have to be managed right. And I’m not saying that’s the way Springfest is managed in anyway. I’m just saying, go down on Third Street [in downtown Grand Forks] at any point in time after 10, 11 o’clock and it sometimes feels like a warzone. And you can even go down there in the winter time and people are dressed inappropriately. They’re out for clubbing and I just don’t think that’s the right thing for the community.
[What the hell is this? Footloose? No. 1, I didn't realize what people wear to a club is any of the city's business. No. 2, how do people carousing in front of a bar makes it a "war zone"? I happen to be an expert on Third Street because I live there, across the street from a very large, very popular bar. It's fine. By the way, there was a report on noise complaints downtown that came out a couple of weeks ago. Complaints are down.]
I think we have to have more responsible beverage service in the community. Winnipeg has a liquor commission and that controls the amount of drinks you can serve at a time. What the pricing is. I don’t think we have to get to that level right now, but… [A little more faith in government than me, I guess.]
The other thing is having more quality events. I know we have lots of events in town, but I think the private sector needs to get more involved in that. And I have talked about the downtown community partnership that they have in Fargo and I’ve talked to some of their people and… They don’t get any city funding at this time but I think if we can partner with the Chamber of Commerce and look at some of the things that the downtown community partnership does is they have some really good functions in Fargo.
We do here in Grand Forks, too, don’t get me wrong. But quality over quantity. Really taking a look at what we’re spending the money on. And getting the private sector to be part of that. I don’t think the private sector is part of that enough. We don’t have somebody that’s pulling these business leaders together to create these festivals and events that would benefit them.
Q: That kind of answers the next question, which is what do you think would move the city up on that scale that you’ve just laid out?
A: Move the city up on that scale?
Q: How do we get from 7.5 to — 10 is perfect so maybe not 10, but maybe 9, 9 1/2?
A: I think I have to really look at what the City Council is doing more. Like I said I want to become more a student of what the City Council has been doing and is doing.
I know there is a green initiative that’s going on through the mayor and I think that’s great. We need to continue pushing that. The lightbulbs that they’re doing. I know that we do have some things going on with the feasibility on wind energy and the methane from the city dump. And I commend them on that.
I just think that we need to look to trying to move that table up. We have LM Glasfiber [It's now called LM Wind Power.] in town, we have — I can’t remember the name of the company that builds the bases in Fargo [DMI Industries in West Fargo] — but if we could partner with them, get the state involved, get Minnkota, Xcel Energy involved. We more than enough wind here. I do understand that wind energy is very expensive and the return might not be what we’d be looking for, but it’d be green versus the fossil fuels… [Keep this in mind. I'll bring it up in a bit.] I know we have a lot of coal in North Dakota, too, and we don’t want to turn our back on that as well, but… So I think that’s something that we should do.
I think having more events that are family friendly in town — I think we’re very college-orientated in this town [Research fail. There are far more family-friendly events than "college-oriented" events. Fourth of July fireworks, Potato Bowl parade and French Fry feed, ArtFest, Winterfest or whatever that skiing event on the Greenway is called. Farmer's Market. Relay For Life at University Park. All family events. What do the students have? Springfest.] — partnering with the base more.
I was in the Army National Guards and went to several bases and I can’t say… I mean we have a pretty good relationship with the base, but I do think we can have a much better relationship with the base from what I’ve seen in other communities. I know…
Q: Can you be a little more specific?
A: Since I’ve been a little kid, there’s been a negative connotation with a lot of the base guys, you call “basers” and they’re not welcomed in the community at times, they’re not welcomed to come into town at times. They’re made to feel like they’re not welcomed in our community. Where in some of the military base, camps, whatever you want to call them, the revenue that they generate they come off the base a lot more — and it seemed we were welcomed in a lot of places when we went there — here I don’t think they’re welcomed as much, is an example I guess I could say. [This isn't much of an example at all. I don't know that many basers, but I know of a few current and former basers and have never heard this complaint. Anyone have anything more specific?
Also, I'd like to point out that a lot of base people are part of that boisterous bar crowd that Tim doesn't like. Kill the night life and see how much less they'll love Grand Forks.]
There’s a lot of money that could be generated from, revenue from the community out at the base. I think talking to some of the people in the military, they’d rather be stationed in Minot than they would in Grand Forks. I think Minot welcomes the people from the base a little bit more than what they do here.
I don’t think anybody wants to be stationed in North Dakota kind of in general! A young guy, they’d rather be stationed somewhere like Hawaii or something like that.
So we have to partner with the base and maybe try and create some sort of paradigm shift as to how we treat the people at the Grand Forks Air Force Base within the community.
Q2: On the current council, there’s kind of a spectrum of views about taxes and services and so on. I would say Terry Bjerke on one end, maybe Eliot Glassheim or something sort of on the other… Not on every issue, but just kind of in general, where on the basic issues of…
Q2: Yeah, taxes and spending would you put yourself?
Q: You’re jumping ahead of the game there. I was going to ask him the question: How would you describe your political philosophy? [This question had been lower on the standard list of questions the Herald put together for council candidates.] I don’t want to put a label on you, I don’t want to say is he Republican or Democrat conservative or whatever. But how would you describe your views? [I immediately kicked myself for saying Republicans and Democrats. That's just not relevant to a city race. This is an idiotic example.]
A: Democrats and Republicans, that has to all change in my opinion. I can’t say I’m a Democrat or a Republican. I agree with philosophies from both groups and what’s sad is you have to be pigeonholed into being one or the other a lot of times. I think that both groups have good points and, of course, there’s safety in numbers. I think, what’s his name, Jesse Ventura kind of learned his lesson there.
I guess, spending to me, I don’t think we want to be spending as much money. [Look back at what he said about wind energy.]
As far as services… I think we want to offer the basic services to the community. I would like the community, the business partners to be more responsible for their businesses and their streets and their trees and their grass, and everything, you know. They… We want taxes to go down. I think we have too much government and the government just continues to grow and that people continue to look to government to solve all their problems. And I don’t think it’s the government’s role to fix all of the people’s problems.
I don’t wanna… I’ll tell you this afterwards! [He may have meant to speak of this matter on background. I've forgotten what it was that he said.]
You know we just can’t be there handing out money all the time. People just have to be accountable for themselves, I think at times.
We just have to have the services to… I mean services to the community, I guess streets, water, lights, parks, police, ambulance, those are the main things. We keep on shelling out money and shelling out money.
Q2: Some of the ones Terry objects to along those lines would be leaf pickup, subsidizing the arts…
Q: Special events. Beautification. [Now that I think about it, I can't say for certain he's voted against those things. Terry does vote down economic development, so it's not a stretch, but I have to say I was being an idiot with this one, too. Research fail for the City Beat.]
A: I know that [Council President] Hal [Gershman] also has… the arts are near and dear to him, and I think it’s a great community thing to have, without a doubt. But my question is how much do we spend on the arts and what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. And that’s where I want to be a student of the city and really look at we’re spending some of those dollars on. And if it makes sense… We don’t wanna be throwing out money just to throw out money. [I challenge Tim to find an example of the city spending for the sake of spending. Sometimes people exaggerate to highlight a kernel of truth or to call attention to a higher truth. This isn't even exaggeration; it's slipped into completely made up territory.]
Q: Do you think that’s happening now?
A: We sat down and we went through everything. Hal gave me a list of all the money they spent, roughly $100,000 on the arts, and what I said was, when Jack Welch took over GE he got rid of all the businesses that weren’t one, two or three in the company of GE, and he took those revenues and he put them into the twos and threes to build better events, uh, better businesses for GE and GE became one of the largest companies in the world. And at that point in time, once they were ones or twos and all the business segments that they’re in, they’re able to look at other areas to get into. And get into it the right way and spend the money the right way. And I think that’s kind of the way I would look at that a bit, too.
I don’t want to antagonize anybody or anything like that. But I think you just have to look at things and see what makes sense. I’ve been in business, I haven’t been a politician a long time or at all, but I think you have to look at it and see what kind of returns on investment you get. Is there a financial investment? Is there an emotional? Is there a community on some of these different things? So that’s kind of how I’d look at some of those things. [There seems to be an assumption here -- very common in this country -- that business people make more sensible decisions than politicians. Perhaps that's a fair argument, if it weren't for the fact that three of the council members own their own businesses and have been quite successful, one is a partner in a law firm, one has been a small-business owner off and on as a side job and one is a manager at another business. Being on the City Council is only their part-time job.]
Q: So it seems like you’re not inherently opposed to some of the “non-basic” things. You want to be sure that the expenditures are not frivolous or something like that?
A: “Frivolous” might be a little bit of a strong term. But we just want to… that’s where I believe the Chamber of Commerce or a downtown community partnership, those types of businesses, or those types of organizations I should say, should be driving the ones that and coming up with monies from people that are interested in those types of events.
I think what we’re doing with the arts gives us more of a cultured city. But you can’t force something if it isn’t there, sometimes, too.
When I was with Whitey’s, we participated in the Art & Wine Walk and I thought it was a great event for the community. It gives us a little bit more of a cultured community. Was it real successful for Whitey’s when we did that? Not necessarily. It was something we did for the community. We partnered with the Empire to create a function like that.
Now I know that they’ve got some funds to put all that together but businesses have to partner with these people and they have to come up with some common grounds. How it’s going to benefit the business and how it’s going to benefit the community and how it’s going to benefit the artists. And that’s how I think that needs to be put together I guess.
It sounds like a lot of work — and it probably is a lot of work — but the people that have a love of something like that I think would spend the time to do that. There’s been studies that — again, we’ll talk about that after!
Q: My final question for you is why do you think you’re the best person for the job?
A: I don’t know that I am the best person for the job. It didn’t seem like anybody was stepping out to do the job.
I know that Tyrone [Grandstrand, his opponent in Ward 2] stepped out to do the job. And his aspirations are politics. Student Body president and that, but I felt that I may not have the same political experience that he has or I have felt I have more life experience than Tyrone. [Kind of funny to see the "outsider" argument at this level of politics. So Tyrone's an "insider," a member of the political class, but Tim's an "outsider" who just wants to help the community.]
I have more business experience than Tyrone.
And I felt that the community would probably… I have a family. I’m a business manager. Own a home. Grew up in the community. I just thought that I would be able to bring more to the table.
And that’s why I decided to run against Tyrone. ["It didn't seem like anybody was stepping out to do the job," eh?]