Schindler casting eye to transportation plan

Published 10:25 am Monday, October 24, 2016



A longtime educator running for the Minnesota House of Representatives thinks a comprehensive transportation plan is needed to address Freeborn County’s transportation funding deficit.

Gary Schindler is running for District 27A representative against Peggy Bennett.

“If the state keeps kicking this can down the road, there may soon be no need to kick it down,” he said. “Since we do not have a comprehensive state transportation plan, our county and counties across the state have been forced to raise revenues to address the needs. The revenues have come in the form of wheelage taxes, increased sales taxes and increased property taxes.”

Email newsletter signup

Schindler, dean of student affairs at Riverland Community College, said a comprehensive transportation plan is needed with reliable funding sources that can sustain an estimated $600 million of transportation work annually over the next 10 years.

“Once the state has a plan in place, the state may be able to leverage federal funding, as well,” he said.

Schindler said he has gotten a mixed reaction from voters about an increase in the state gas tax to fund transportation projects.

“Those that give a thumbs up to the modest increase want the assurance that it will be used for road and bridge maintenance, repair and replacement,” he said.

The lack of a comprehensive state transportation plan will impact residents’ ability to safely get to school, work or to access community services, Schindler said.

“The lack of a plan is deferring maintenance that will only result in higher costs in the years ahead if action is not taken now,” he said.
Workforce development and housing

Workforce development and housing were identified as other top state issues by Schindler.

He said the state is experiencing a shortage of trained labor that will continue in coming years in jobs requiring trades, technical skills and advanced degrees.

“Our workforce is not growing at a rate to fill vacant positions and to support positions created by economic growth,” Schindler said.

He thinks the shortage can be attributed to factors such as an aging population, smaller high school graduating classes, smaller family sizes and an ethnic gap in graduation rates.

“The seed that will grow a workforce that matches the skills needed to fill the job openings across the state of Minnesota is support for our schools and colleges,” he said.

Schindler said workforce housing is needed to attract and retain workers to build communities, and he thinks the best way to build workforce housing is leveraging the private sector by offering workforce housing tax credits.

“I would want the outcome of the credits to be the development of rental property and homes that would be affordable to middle-class workers,” he said. “I would also want to explore some regulatory review and reform of existing housing programs.”

Schindler said he wants a housing needs assessment to be offered as an option to qualify for housing grants or tax credits. He also thinks providing access to broadband internet is equivalent to rural electrification in the 1930s.

“I want all residents to have access to this resource,” he said. “Having access to high-speed internet can fuel economic development, increase business expansion and productivity, expand the trained workforce through access to online learning, and it would give every Minnesotan access to critical data, such as their health records.”
Reaching out to constituents

Schindler said he is strong enough to lead and smart enough to listen.

“To achieve the listening portion of that pledge, I must hear the voice of those impacted by the decisions that are made in St. Paul,” he said, noting he has met with area leaders who told him they want to be alerted to legislation that will impact them.

Schindler said he wants to use social media, phone calls, emails, text messages and town forums to connect with constituents.

“I want to maintain a personal connection with voters, and I would work with door to door efforts after the election and when I am at home once the session starts,” he said. “I am a resident of south central Minnesota first, a Minnesotan second and a Democrat third.”

Working with others

Schindler said his work at Riverland Community College and in the community has showed him that the only way to accomplish things is by bringing together people with different views for a common goal.

“Every individual has goals that they wish to accomplish, and those goals are based on their values,” he said. “The key to accomplishing anything has to involve listening and having a relationship to understand those goals, but also understanding what they value.”

Schindler described compromise as accomplishing shared goals and abiding by shared values.

“Compromise is not a dirty word,” he said. “It is the act of finding common ground.”

Schindler said he wants to continue to offer grants to school districts for pre-school education.

“It is clear that there is demand for such services when we see 60 percent of the applicants declined due to a lack of funds,” he said.

Schindler wants to expand the program, but he would not mandate school districts provide the service because of a lack of funding, he said.

He said he wants school districts to have a reliable source of funding that keeps up with inflation and serves as a means for districts to recover costs in providing special education services.

Schindler thinks kindergarten through third-grade class sizes need to be smaller, and he supports not diluting the granting of teacher tenure in order to attract and retain teachers.

Colleges need more support to provide a quality education and address facility improvements, according to Schindler, and he thinks financial aid reform is needed to provide more grants to children from working-class households to reduce student loan debt.

“I want to explore incentives to allow second year career-program students to intern in business and industry,” he said.

Schindler said he has been an educator and active community member who has raised his children in the area.

“In my role as dean of students and college administrator, I work with million dollar budgets, complicated state and federal regulations, but more importantly, I have to work with a variety of people every day and have to bring them together to achieve common goals,” he said.

Schindler said his wife and daughter, who both work in health care, provide him with perspective on the issue.

“I am a trained bonding proposal reviewer and have written bonding proposals,” he said. “Since the second year of the biennium is focused on bonding bills, this experience will set me apart from my peers in the Legislature.”

He cited his leadership in Riverland’s accreditation process and his role as a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission as proof he understands how to effectively operate a college.

Schindler said he wants to stay connected to south central Minnesota residents.

“They are my boss,” he said. “I take my marching orders from them.”

He said he wants to address local bonding requests, regulatory reform for small businesses, tax relief for farmers and private developers of workforce housing, and high prescription costs.

Schindler thinks taxes are too high, and he supports increasing local government aid, county program aid, financial support for schools and a transportation plan.

“Supporting these initiatives in St. Paul will have an immediate impact in lowering property taxes and reduce the need to raise other taxes at the county and local level,” he said.

Schindler supports providing a 24-hour period of review prior to voting on a bill, producing bills that exclude unrelated amendments or riders and limiting the number of bills a legislator can introduce or sponsor.

Schindler also supports limiting the number of committees legislators can serve on, suspending floor debates after midnight, requiring full disclosure of campaign spending from outside groups and political action committees supporting candidates for office.

Expanding tax credits to make child care more affordable and giving law enforcement tools to targeting dealers is also important, Schindler said.

He wants to address employment, housing, support and insurance coverage needs for residents with mental illness, and he supports the expanded use of renewable energy sources in the state.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Sam