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Scott Oney, Candidate for 4th Ward City Council
Submitted by Rob Hardy on Sat, 10/12/2013 - 3:59pm
I’ve lived in Northfield, in the same house, since 1987. Our neighborhood was in Ward 2 until the last redistricting, when it was placed in Ward 4. I’m a full-time freelance copy editor and proofreader, mostly for college textbook publishers. I maintain an office in downtown Northfield, but I’m not a member of the Chamber of Commerce or the NDDC.
What issues or council actions have prompted you to run for council? What relevant experience do you bring to the job?
I would like to bring some fairness and common sense to the council. It’s no secret that members of the present council haven’t been getting along well lately. They seem to have divided into two factions, hence all the 4-3 and 3-4 votes. I am not locked into either of these camps, but I would like to work with members from both.
Local government should focus on providing basic services and infrastructure for the community. I would like to see the council focus more on operating and maintaining the city we have, for a fair price. Before undertaking any more ambitious projects, we should always ask: How much will it cost, and how will we pay for it? Do we really need it? Is there a better way?
Zoning requirements in the city’s Land Development Code are being reexamined by the planning commission and council. What changes should be made and why?
The land development code should be as simple as possible. Any changes to the code should move it in that direction. Zoning some areas residential and others as commercial or industrial is a long-standing tradition and a good one. We don’t need much beyond that. And specifying how many windows you need in your garage doors, which was among changes recently proposed, is downright wacky.
The city’s relationship with surrounding jurisdictions for fire protection is under consideration by a task force. How would you recommend that the operating and capital costs of fire protection be shared? What is your opinion about adopting a joint powers agreement among the jurisdictions to govern fire protection services?
In general, I favor local control of public services, and public safety is a top priority. Our fire department does a good job now, and we shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that. At this point, the drive for change is coming from people in areas outside of Northfield, so the council needs to look closely at whether the proposed changes would be good or bad for Northfield residents.
What are your economic development priorities for the city?
Economic development should be left to the private sector. I don’t think the council or city administration needs to have much input. There’s a role for city government in encouraging economic growth, but it should be limited to simplifying regulations and providing basic information on requirements to folks hoping to do business here.
Parks, street maintenance, the fire hall and library are facility needs under consideration by the city. How would you propose to meet them?
Parks and street maintenance are important, and our taxes already more than cover them. Yet many of our streets are disintegrating before our eyes. The condition of West Second Street, for example, is deplorable. But poor management and lack of concern, not lack of funds, are responsible. I’m not convinced this is the right time to consider a new fire hall or expanded library facilities.
Comment on the value to the council decisions of the city’s advisory groups?
Advisory groups shouldn’t play as prominent a role in city government as they do now. Voters are always free to contact their elected representatives if they want to see policy changes; this is how representative government should work. The typical Northfielder doesn’t know how many advisory groups there are, or who’s in them. It’s wrong for significant policy changes to originate within these groups.
What is your view of the Charter Commission’s proposal for a charter amendment to create an ethics board?
They called it an “ethics code,” and who wants to be against an ethics code, right? It would make you look sort of unethical. But the city already has a perfectly good ethics code. The proposed change would have been more of a “grievance procedure,” which already doesn’t sound quite so high-minded. And when you look closely at it, the procedure most likely would have given virtual veto power over the council to anyone with access to the Internet and too much time on his hands. I applaud Mayor Graham for having the courage to cast the lone vote against it.
If elected, what methods will you use to get input for your decisions?
If elected, I will be representing the Fourth Ward, and I will work hard to represent all residents of our ward. I’d be glad to hear from anyone in the ward now or after the election. I’m in the phone book. Beyond that, I’d like to see ward meetings again in Northfield, at least every six months or so.