Tim Behm, Grand Forks City Council candidate, Ward 2Age: 41
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 many restaurants with as many as 100 workers; former sergeant in North Dakota National Guard
By: Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald
Q. Why are you running? Are there any particular issues that made you want to run?
A. I’ve always been interested in politics. It’s something I kind of wanted to do but never had the opportunity to do. It seems like with (City Council member Mike) McNamara stepping down, there would be an opportunity to get into the election. I could have run against him in 2006, but I felt he was a very popular candidate.
My wife and I, we’ve had many conversations about politics, and there’d been a few projects that had been done in the Grand Forks area where I thought that it could’ve been 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.
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 and that the north side and the neighborhood I’m in did need something. 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 understand how much it costs to build a new pool versus refurbish the pool that we had.
And I also understand that, I think it was around 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.
Riverside’s been part of the community for many years, 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.
Q. What would you have done differently?
A. I guess I would’ve looked at some other parks. I probably would’ve looked to where the city’s growing.
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. So that’s a little bit contrary to what I’m saying, but there are other neighborhoods that we could possibly have put the pool in.
And I know that some of the City Council members, they’re all for this, and I don’t want to be a bull in the china shop and mess things up. 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 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. What’s 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 so.
A. 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. 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.
Q. The perspective we’re looking for is of someone 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 dissatisfied is 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, Minn. 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 (managing Whitey’s in East Grand Forks), last year, we had a girl come in from outside the business after Springfest who passed out in the bathroom with her pants down.
Festivals are great, but they have to be managed right. And I’m not saying that’s the way Springfest is managed in any way.
I’m just saying, go down on Third Street (in downtown Grand Forks) at any point in time after 10 or 11 o’clock, and it sometimes feels like a war zone. 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.
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...
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. We can partner with the Chamber of Commerce and look at some of the things that the downtown community partnership does in Fargo, where they have some really good functions.
Q. That kind of answers the next question: What do you think would move the city up on that 1 to 10 scale?
A. I think I have to really look at what the City Council is doing. Like I said, I want to become more a student of what the 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. 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 timetable up. We have LM Glasfiber in town, but if we could partner with them, get the state involved, get Minnkota, Xcel Energy involved.
We have 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... 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...
I think having more events that are family friendly in town. I think we’re very college-orientated in this town.
Partnering with the base more. 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.
Q. Can you be a little more specific?
A. Since I’ve been a little kid, there has been a negative connotation with a lot of the base guys, they're called “basers,” and they’re not welcomed to come into town at times. When I was in the National Guard and we went to other bases, it seemed we were welcomed in a lot of places when we went there. Here, I don’t think they’re welcomed as much.
There’s a lot of money that could be generated from the community out at the base. 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.
Q. How would you describe your political philosophy?
A. I don’t think we want to be spending as much money.
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.
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.
We just can’t be there handing out money all the time. People just have to be accountable for themselves.
Q. Are we talking about funding for special events? Beautification?
A. I know that for (Council President) Hal (Gershman), 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. We don’t want to be throwing out money just to throw out money.
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, and he took those revenues and he put them into the twos and threes to build 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 were able to look at other areas to get into, and to 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, too.
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 that’s where I believe the Chamber of Commerce or a downtown community partnership, those types of organizations, should be coming up with monies from people who 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.
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.
Q. 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 up to do the job, and his aspirations are politics, Student Body president and that. I may not have the same political experience that he has, but I have more life experience than Tyrone. I have more business experience than Tyrone.
I have a family. I’m a business manager and 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.