vote 2020

This Richfield General Election Voters’ Guide provides space for candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot to briefly describe who they are, their accomplishments, and their stance on two prepared questions.

Featured in this guide are the Richfield City Council candidates for wards 1 and 2.

In Ward 1, Ruane K. Onesirosan is challenging Simon Trautmann for the incumbent’s council seat.

In Ward 2, Sean Hayford Oleary and Gordon Vizecky compete for the seat being vacated by Edwina Garcia.

In Ward 3, Ben Whalen is running for election unopposed.

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Richfield Ward 1

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Ruane K. Onesirosan

Ruane K. Onesirosan

Address: 2421 W. 65th St.

Education: University of Minnesota, two post-university degrees

Occupation: Spent 13 years in West Africa; life-long salaried employee now retired

Community involvement: A 30-year Richfield homeowner

Contact information: 612-861-5485

What do you feel is the number one issue facing the city and how would you address that issue if elected to the city council?

Replacement of 60-year-old water pipes and clean-up of contaminated groundwater. The city can provide no greater, nor more important service than tap water that is hazard-free and running through pipes in pristine condition. Richfield residents enjoy great tasting water - let’s keep it that way.

The tetrachloroethylene contaminants have been an issue for over 10 years. If there is a way to clean up the groundwater, let’s get at it and get it done. Stop passing the buck from city to state to feds and back again.

Funding of police departments has become a hot-button issue for all communities across the state and nation.

What are your thoughts about “defunding” the police? Are you in favor or against? If you’re in favor of the reallocation of funds for that department, specifically how would you reallocate funds?

Police departments are like families. Little kids don’t tattle when big kids break the rules. Do not expect junior officers to send senior officers to prison. Externalize the internal affairs piece of policing.

How to accomplish this is an important topic for discussion. Perhaps officers from Ely, Minnesota, should be sent to investigate alleged criminal policing centered on St. Peter, Minnesota. Or police departments in North Dakota should investigate alleged criminality in Minnesota.

Perhaps police chiefs should be excluded from all internal affairs investigations. Just a few thoughts.

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Simon Trautmann

Simon Trautmann

Address: 6618 Humboldt Ave S

Education: Juris Doctor

Occupation: Attorney

Community involvement: I am a third-generation Richfielder raising the fourth generation in Ward 1. I currently serve on the City Council, Friends of Wood Lake Board, and 494 Corridor Commission

Contact information: 612-205-6822.

What do you feel is the number one issue facing the city and how would you address that issue if elected to the city council?

The number one issue facing Richfield today is managing change and ensuring prosperity for our whole community as we grow. Richfield is experiencing demographic and economic changes.

Over the past three years, home values have increased over $500,000,000 collectively. This means a lot of wealth has been built for Richfield homeowners.

It also means that renting families are facing huge cost increases and this is contributing to an affordable housing crisis where often working families contribute 50% or more of their income to housing.

Also, Richfield has one of the biggest gaps between white homeownership and BIPOC homeownership in the state. I am dedicated to reducing this gap. I worked to start a down-payment assistance program to help renters in Richfield become homeowners. We passed inclusionary housing policies, and protections against mass evictions. I am committed to ensuring that Richfield is a prosperous, equitable and affordable community. 

Funding of police departments has become a hot-button issue for all communities across the state and nation. What are your thoughts about “defunding” the police? Are you in favor or against? If you’re in favor of the reallocation of funds for that department, specifically how would you reallocate funds?

There is a profound gap between how most white people and most people of color I know experience law enforcement. More recently publicized instances of violence by and against police bring to light a fault line that has existed for generations.

I do not believe simply defunding police (as I understand that phrase) will resolve these challenges. Since I have been in office, we have made a decision to fund body cameras for all officers and recently worked with Hennepin County to fund the addition of a senior social worker to join our police as an permanent embedded team member.

Additionally, I have worked with city staff to modify the criminal expungement process to make it quicker, cheaper and less complicated for people in need of a second chance. We continue to have work to do as a city and a community.

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Richfield Ward 2

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Sean Hayford Oleary

Sean Hayford Oleary

Address: 7229 2nd Ave.

Education: Masters of City Planning, University of Minnesota; BA, St. Olaf College

Occupation: Web developer

Community involvement: Planning commission, 2015-present; Transportation Commission liaison, 2013-present; Human Rights Commission, 2012-14; League of Women Voters, 2019-present; and Friends of the Richfield Bandshell board, 2019-present

Contact information: 612-325-8348

What do you feel is the number one issue facing the city and how would you address that issue if elected to the city council?

The number one issue is how to continue our forward progress in uncertain times, namely COVID-19 and a tougher economic environment. Richfield has accomplished a lot in the last decade – from new streets, to new housing, to being regionally recognized as one of the metro area’s most desirable suburbs.

I am proud of this work, and I want to be able to continue it. But we still do not know what to expect. I will ensure we are responsive to shifting needs, and that we meaningfully engage with residents, whatever comes next. One of the slogans I’ve used in campaign material is “Sean shows up” – and it’s true, it’s always been easy to spot me at public meetings. But “showing up” also means being responsive, taking a call, and seeing something through.

I have a solid track record of this, and I will continue it on the council.

Funding of police departments has become a hot-button issue for all communities across the state and nation.

What are your thoughts about “defunding” the police? Are you in favor or against? If you’re in favor of the reallocation of funds for that department, specifically how would you reallocate funds?

I think it’s unfortunate that this question is being framed in the context of a divisive national debate, and not framed in the context of what would serve Richfield best. Richfield police do a lot of good protecting our community – I have talked with voters who are personally impacted by crime; they have a right to feel and be safe, and our police are important in that.

But I have also spoken with many, particularly people of color, who have not felt that protection equally – a woman who was pinned on the ground during a welfare check, a Latino man who has felt targeted by police in traffic stops. We need to acknowledge this unequal reality.

To serve everyone better, I am open to shifting some proportion of funds to complementary programs for welfare checks, mental health crises, and similar. Uniformed officers will, of course, remain the core of our police department.

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Gordon Vizecky

Gordon Vizecky

Address: 7408 Bryant Ave. S.

Education: Juris Doctorate

Occupation: Attorney

Community involvement: Twenty year resident, President of the Richfield Tourism Promotion Board, High School Coach, Scoutmaster, Member of Woodlake Lutheran, 18 years on Richfield City Commissions, 13 years on the Richfield Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, 21 years of charitable foundation experience.

Contact information: richfieldgordon@gmail.com

What do you feel is the number one issue facing the city and how would you address that issue if elected to the city council?

I hope that I am wrong but I believe that the worst of the financial impacts of COVID-19 will hit Richfield city government next year. Managing the finances and service delivery of any large multi-departmental organization is challenging, but the next several years will be more challenging than most.

Our city will need strong leadership, creative problem-solving, and flexibility in order to protect residents and community institutions. None of the current city council members or candidates have as much experience in large organization crisis management.

Responsibly managing a crisis isn’t the most glamorous work, and it doesn’t get the same attention as making campaign promises and giving stuff away. Because I am committed to doing my part in managing the crisis, I will decline my council paycheck until the crisis is over and after that I will donate it to benefit Richfield.

Funding of police departments has become a hot-button issue for all communities across the state and nation. What are your thoughts about “defunding” the police? Are you in favor or against? If you’re in favor of the reallocation of funds for that department, specifically how would you reallocate funds?

I do not support defunding police departments. There are opportunities at all levels of our government to improve social justice. It starts with the laws we pass and continues through our response to emergency calls, prosecutorial decisions, penalties, and rehabilitation.

Our system is not perfect and there are clear and unacceptable examples of abuse of power. The law enforcement profession needs a better way to de-license problem officers and municipalities need a more effective way to remove officers guilty of misconduct.

Cities that defund law enforcement commit an unacceptable breach of the social contract with residents and will ultimately cause far more damage to the groups they seek to protect.

I have degrees in criminal justice and law, and work experience in community corrections, I know just how easy it is for someone to get caught up in the justice system and how hard it is to get out.

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