Six residents of Golden Valley sat in the hot seat Oct. 3, discussing why they were the best candidate for the three Golden Valley mayor and city council positions up for election this fall. The candidate forum, hosted by the Golden Valley League of Women Voters, allowed all candidates to introduce their campaigns to a wider audience, as well as respond to voter-submitted questions. The forum was introduced by league members Jackie Wells and moderated by Wayzata league member Patty Robles.
Incumbent Joanie Clausen and candidates Maurice Harris, Andy Johnson and Kimberly Sanberg were present for the city council portion of the forum.
The candidates were lukewarm to the use of tax-increment finance funding, which gives tax money back to a developer to help cover the costs of construction or major renovations over a set number of years.
Harris and Sanberg agreed that TIF is a tool that sometimes may be a good option, other times not. Sanberg said her feeling was that maybe Golden Valley had used TIF a lot and residents may be against more agreements in the future.
Clausen and Johnson agreed that the use of TIF should be avoided if possible. Clausen said she had voted against TIF agreements multiple times to keep taxes lower, but she had made an exception for a TIF agreement with Cornerstone Creek because it was “first-of-its-kind” development for people with disabilities.
Johnson said TIF was a tool that made more sense for an outer-ring suburb struggling to get development, but not for a city like Golden Valley. He added that TIF “exacerbates” the average of $2.5 million in property tax losses the city already experiences via the fiscal disparities policy.
Sustainability and climate change
Candidates had different ideas for how to better ensure Golden Valley is fighting climate change. Harris said being open to residents’ plans to build sustainable infrastructure on their properties was important, as was leveraging grant money.
Clausen said the answer had to do with housing density. If density increased all over the city, she said, the city would not be sustainable.
Sanberg said she was passionate about climate change and saw improvements through greater non-car transit options, easier and safer bicycle and pedestrian networks, an organics curbside pickup program and a decreasing number of garbage haulers in the city.
Johnson agreed that greater bike and pedestrian networks are ideal for a healthier community, though he didn’t necessarily want “a bike lane on every street or a sidewalk on every corner.” He said the biggest opportunity was creating a public-private partnership to get the 6,000 homes in the city more energy and water-efficient.
Overall, all were in support of smart additions to the bike lane network.
All acknowledged a commitment to creating more affordable housing options and a common recitation was the need to add 222 units to the city’s housing stock by 2030, as proscribed by the Met Council.
Clausen touted recent renter protections passed by council, and looking at Minneapolis’ 4d affordable housing incentive program and the sale of city-owned lots to be built into homes. Harris said as a renter, he supported creating more options for affordable housing if the area could support them.
Johnson said, on the planning commission, he was not in support of accessory dwelling units to assist affordable housing creation because it wasn’t in character with the city.
The relationship between the public and the police was brought about by the candidates.
Johnson said having a full, not overworked staff was important, as was making full use of body-worn cameras.
Sanberg said mandatory, routine diversity and bias training would work to improve relations.
Clausen said accountability goes both ways for police and the public and said the force has been upheld to a high standard since a high-profile arrest of a black man in the 1970s. Harris said transparency and better communication would be best.
When asked whether they would support increasing the number of officers in the city due to light rail and future retirement concerns, all four candidates said yes.
Candidates were asked about the future of garbage hauling in the city.
Clausen said the issue seems to come up every year, and though the council is weighing options, she doesn’t think the city is ready for organized garbage collection.
“Our community is torn. There’s still a lot of people that want choice,” Clausen said. She supported the current study of garbage hauling and any further drastic action wasn’t needed just yet.
Harris recognized that garbage hauling right now is a very “emotional issue,” but he sees issues with the current system and thought speaking with residents again would be the best path forward.
Sanberg said this was the single most common issue she heard from residents when door-knocking, and that everyone has an opinion, but was united by a dissatisfaction with the current system. She believed there was broad support to have fewer haulers on the street.
Johnson said he didn’t have a solution, but an indirect result of too many haulers on the road put stress on infrastructure. He added that businesses like monopolies, and he was sure some deals could be worked out in an organized system to make sure all needs were being met.