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Mayer is alternative to hurried expansion

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

James E. Mayer isn't impressed with Hudson's growth over the past decade.

He recommends that people take a drive from one end of the city to the other during rush hour, listen to the traffic complaints presented at a Public Safety Committee meeting and have a look at their property tax bills from the past 10 years.

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Then they can decide whether they've really received any net benefit from the residential and commercial expansion that has taken place, he says.

"The current mayor takes credit for and is proud of Hudson's hurried expansion. I believe that we need to be far more careful in annexing land and rezoning property," says Mayer, who is challenging incumbent Jack Breault in the April 6 election.

"I represent an alternative to growth that benefits developers at the expense of the people of Hudson, and which has not been demonstrated to be truly in the interest of the people of Hudson."

Anyone who has watched meetings of the City Council on cable access channel 15 over the past two years knows Mayer's position on city growth. Nearly every time annexation or rezoning has been proposed, he has asked, what will the net benefit to the current residents of Hudson be?

"I suppose everybody gets a little tired of hearing that," he says. "But doggone it, there are some things, like our mothers telling us to be responsible, that need to be repeated."

The consequences of Hudson's rapid growth, he says, have been traffic congestion, costly traffic fixes, parking problems, crime, escalating taxes and the controversy over how to accommodate a growing public school enrollment.

Mayer says that if he's elected mayor he'll continue to fight for what he did in his first two-year term as District 4 alderman - to change government processes that have allowed the city's rapid growth and for a full accounting of all the costs of future development.

"We need to stop long enough to comprehensively determine all the infrastructure and services we need now," he says. "We need to re-examine our 1993 comprehensive plan and create a brand new process and plan with much greater citizen input."

Personal background

Mayer is the director and owner of Academy Mayer Language Center in St. Paul. The school provides instruction in English for immigrants and instruction in Spanish and other languages for Americans.

His wife is Hudson physician Vicki Mayer.

Mayer grew up in Minneapolis. His father was a dispatcher for Edina Cab Co. and his mother was a housewife during most of his childhood. She occasionally worked in retail sales outside of the home.

He was the youngest of three children in the family and has two older sisters. "I was made very aware of the power of women," he quips.

He attended Minneapolis West High School, which later closed and was converted into a residence for senior citizens. He won't give his age but appears to be around 60 years old.

After high school, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota and then studied Spanish at the University of Madrid in Spain, where he earned a master's degree. He received a doctorate in Romance languages with a specialty in Spanish from the University of Washington in Seattle.

He met Vicki in 1980 and moved to Hudson when they got married 22 years ago. They don't have children.

Mayer founded his language school in 1978. He also has taught in public and private schools at the elementary through university levels. The Minnesota Supreme Court recently certified him as a professional court Spanish interpreter.

Getting involved

Mayer says he decided to challenge former alderman Bill Knuth for the District 4 council seat in 2002 election because he was concerned about the pace of Hudson's growth and an increase in his property taxes.

"I, like a lot of people, wanted to know why it was happening," he says.

He defeated Knuth by a vote of 99-71 in the election.

Mayer says he decided to challenge Breault for the mayor's office this time around to give people a choice on the future of Hudson.

"I'm the only guy we've got here for a choice. I ask questions. I learn. I work hard," he says. "The thing that people most often bring up to me is that they appreciate the careful questioning I do. And that I do it without being afraid to do it."

His accomplishments as District 4 alderman, he says, have been to:

  • Bring more public exposure to issues before the City Council;

  • Help defeat a proposal to annex 12.3 acres of property into the city for development of a water park, hotel and shopping complex; and

  • Win approval for two new full-time police officers and a reserve officer for the city.

    He says he has pushed hard against suspending City Council rules that require a first reading of actions in order to allow for citizen input.

    Too often, items put on the consent agenda should be getting "full exposure to public awareness from the very first step," he says.

    The proposed water park is an example of development that might have been approved if he hadn't taken it off the consent agenda, Mayer says.

    He said the Plan Commission, with Breault chairing it, had voted 5 to 1 to approve the annexation before he brought the issue before the public.

    It is rare for the City Council to reject a Plan Commission recommendation, he notes.

    "I think it's fair for me to say that my persistent pushing hard for both citizen awareness and greater care in planning led to an outcome that will be good for the people of Hudson," he says.

    Mayer says his role in the creation of new police positions is a matter of record, contrary to what District 5 Alderman Scot O'Malley said in a recent letter to the editor published in the Star-Observer.

    He was one of two alderpersons who opposed Breault and the rest of the City Council when they rejected the addition of any new police officers for 2002-03, he says.

    "I had already emphasized in my campaign for alderperson that the unchecked expansion of our city and its population required immediate attention to more police and emergency services based on judicial and police information," he says.

    Mayer says the police department was behind on the investigation of 200 drug cases when he joined the City Council. That number probably hasn't improved much since then, he says, and is one of the unreported costs of rampant growth.

    "We're headed to looking like anywhere, instead of looking like what we have as a heritage," he says. "A major concern of mine is that we truly preserve our small-town character, which is more than just words. That's a real challenge, given our current size and rate of growth and our position at the edge of Twin Cities expansion."

    Other issues he would focus on as mayor, he says, are zealously protecting the beauty of the St. Croix River and encouraging investment in the downtown.

    Randy Hanson can be reached at rhanson@rivertowns.net.

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