Here’s part four in our series of Voter Guides for the open seat in Hennepin County’s 3rd District.
1.) As a Hennepin County Commissioner, what would be your top transportation or land use priority?
My initial transportation priority as Hennepin County Commissioner will be to ensure strong community engagement towards successful development of a LRT line that benefits the people of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park in addition to other communities. The timing of this election leads me to believe that I would be taking office just as plans are finalized. There has been much community frustration with this project, and loss of faith in a listening and responsive government. My number one priority is to rebuild that trust to make this a successful project.
In the context of SWLRT and other projects to come, I’m a huge fan of interdisciplinary decision-making as a way to reach the strongest decisions for our community and to have our public dollars go as far as possible. Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) are one framework to focus design around creating healthy livable communities. LEED for Neighborhood Development is another. I’d like to see the County use a framework like one of these to make sure investments operate on multiple bottom lines – improving community health, benefiting the environmental impact, lowering health costs and creating economic equity and access to jobs, to name a few.
2.) Hennepin County includes rolling farmland near the Crow River and fifty story skyscrapers near the Mississippi River. What strategies would you use to reconcile the competing needs of these very different constituencies and their representatives on the county commission?
Hennepin County is gloriously diverse, and balancing competing needs across a varied county is at the heart of the work of the County Board. I will use the strategies that I used at the Legislature, where I emphasized what I had in common with my fellow legislators, and advocated tirelessly on issues where more education was needed. The beauty of the County Board, with seven members, is that political isolation is not an option if you want to get things done for your community.
At the Legislature I reached across party lines to work in partnership with Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R) on domestic violence issues. If you don’t know Representative Gruenhagen, please imagine someone who could not be more different from me politically, and whose community in rural McLeod is very different from St. Louis Park and Minneapolis. Looking beyond party lines, our communities wanted the same thing – fewer guns in the hands of violent people. Together he and I championed a bill which limited gun ownership rights for repeat domestic violence offenders. This is the type of cooperation I will bring to the County Board.
3.) In 2009, Hennepin County adopted a Complete Streets Policy, and today they’re moving forward with a Washington Avenue reconstruction that accommodates all modes of transportation. In your opinion, what road or street in District 3 would be a candidate for this kind of consideration? How would you make it happen?
Frankly, all streets in District 3 should be candidates for Complete Streets. The National Complete Streets Coalition defines Complete Streets as “… streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. People of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across streets in a community, regardless of how they are traveling.” Over my career, my passion has been improving people’s health – what better way to do so than taking streets back from cars and encouraging people to walk and bike? Complete Streets also make “complete sense” when you factor in other opportunities to improve our community by decreasing the effects of the urban heat island effect, infiltrating storm water, growing canopy for shade, providing habitat, and incorporating things like district energy, smart grids and public art. Streets are our public space and it’s time we start designing them for people instead of just cars.
4.) Hennepin County has jurisdiction over many major thoroughfares in Minneapolis including Lake Street, Lyndale Avenue and Minnehaha Avenue. What would you do to balance regional mobility with local quality of life?
Historically the County has been responsible for regional mobility, and local quality of life has been left to cities. In Minneapolis, the County’s regional mobility infrastructure comes together, like the hub of a wheel, and the City has an additional challenge of maintaining local quality of life while absorbing the impacts being the hub for many channels of regional mobility. Minneapolis is a regional resource, not just in transit, but also in arts and entertainment, jobs and the economy. Past emphasis has been on regional mobility (and commuting though the core of our city in particular), over local quality of life. My goal at the County would be to restore more balance between the two by emphasizing local quality of life.
5.) What, specifically, is your stance on the current Southwest Corridor colocation vs. relocation debate? Or do you support reconsidering the process that selected the Kenilworth corridor, or do you support another plan?
Regarding the colocation vs. relocation debate, I look forward to further analysis of the SWLRT study released yesterday, which examines freight-rail alternatives. The ideal plan for the SWLRT line is one that can safeguard important local and regional assets (e.g., St. Louis Park High School, and the Chain of Lakes). This would lay the groundwork for securing municipal consent from both St. Louis Park and Minneapolis, which would show increased regional commitment to multimodal transit.
6.) Tell us about a formative experience you’ve had using transit, cycling, or as a pedestrian.
Right after graduate school I had some time off before I started work, and used the time to visit a friend who was living and working in Amsterdam, Holland. My plane landed in the morning there, and I took the train into town during rush hour. I was blown away by the number of bikers and by the complete absence of cars. That to me is the dream.
There are factors to be considered in the US that are different from Holland (e.g., the degree of cultural connection to the automobile and our misprioritization of designing our cities around cars, and cultural connection to bigger everything [houses, serving sizes, cars, spaces]), but still – there’s a way forward that preserves our magnificent outdoors and farmland, and embraces well-managed density, environmentalism and sound public health policies encouraging walking, biking and transit in the urban core.