Erica Zweifel - 2012 Northfield City Council Candidate (Ward 3)

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Erica Zweifel (email: ericazweifel@gmail.com, website: Facebook - ZweifelForCouncil) is a candidate for Northfield City Council, Ward 3. Erica's responses to questions prepared by Northfield Citizens Online in cooperation with the League of Women Voters Northfield - Cannon Falls are presented below:

Candidate Information

Political Experience: Third ward representative on the Northfield City Council.  My council appointments currently include; Mill Towns Trail Joint Powers Board, Northfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the Fire Service District Task Force. 

Employment: Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College as a project manager.

Family: I am married and have one child in middle school. I have lived in the third ward for twenty years and am surrounded by great neighbors.

I am seeking re-election because I enjoy serving the community as a city councilor.  I enjoy working with our city boards and commission, various community groups, constituents and other individuals to bring their many creative ideas to fruition.  I am interested in making policy decisions that will provide Northfield with a strong foundation as we move toward a sustainable and resilient future.

Questions

1. Comment on the impact of reduced state aid to the city and tell what measures the city should take to respond to the reduction.

Local government aid has become an unreliable funding source. It has been reduced without warning and may disappear altogether. The current council has prepared for a budget with reduced local government aid and it is our goal to eliminate our dependence on this unreliable funding source. This council has worked hard to reduce Northfield’s dependence on local government aid, focused our resources on core services and taken a systems thinking approach to our decision making process. We continue to review our priorities for core services and seek out financially stabilizing partnerships and collaborations. We budget model a two-year cycle and continue to look at cost saving measures and revenue opportunities. We have appointed an Ad Hoc Finance Committee to make recommendations on cost saving measures and revenue opportunities.

2. What are your economic development priorities for the city?

First and foremost, we should support our existing businesses. We should find out what would make them even more successful and recruit synergistic businesses and assist in identifying local substitutions for imported and exported items. Building strong relationships with our businesses is key. We should practice economic gardening, nurturing and growing small to medium size businesses. Now that we have a co-working space (Check out SPUR!) we should strengthen our business incubator model.  In terms of locating new businesses or expanding current businesses, we should make infill a priority (this is the most cost effective option for the city because the infrastructure already exists), focus on parcels of land that are already in close proximity to city infrastructure and have a parcel inventory ready for businesses.  All of Northfield’s economic partners need to work together on our community’s economic development goals.

3. What are the physical and facility needs of the city? How do you propose to meet them?

We are currently addressing our safety facility needs.  The new safety center will house our police department.  The outcome of our fire service district task force will likely decide the facility needs of our firefighters.  We continue to maintain city hall, with a new roof, windows and exterior paint.  The wastewater treatment plant also got a new roof this year.  This council has placed the maintenance of our facilities back on the radar and has prioritized a plan for moving forward.  We have also addressed the conditions of our roads and infrastructure, and have stepped up their maintenance to catch up for years of neglect.  Maintaining quality streets, infrastructure and facilities are a key part to the vibrant success of Northfield.  In the near future, we will be discussing a potential library expansion and studying our wastewater facility needs.

4. If elected, what regular methods will you use to get input?

from those you represent?  I have found that attending the meetings of our many community groups to be a very successful way to get input from the community. I attend the open houses for city projects that relate to my constituents and I seek out their input. I am available by email, phone, facebook or in person.  Our new city website will provide more opportunities for citizen input and you should look for the new website to roll out in 2013.  Many people have mentioned that they watch the council meetings on KYMN and I frequently get feedback from constituents who have watched our meetings.

5. Comment on the long-term relationship of the city and the Public Library, the Northfield Hospital and the Northfield Community Resource Center:

Our library, its staff and volunteers do an amazing job serving the community.  Space is tight and they make every bit count.  A library expansion is on the council’s Capital Improvement Plan and we will be discussing when and how this need fits in with our other capital needs.  I am in favor of a library expansion.  The Northfield Hospital is a city owned hospital and at our last council work session we discussed bringing a motion forward that would state the council’s commitment that the hospital remain a city owned hospital.  I am in favor of the hospital remaining a city owned hospital.  The NCRC houses multiple groups, including the Senior Center, Link Center, Community Action Center and Food Shelf.  The city currently subsidizes the operations of this building and we are looking for ways to reduce the amount of that subsidy without jeopardizing the tenant’s missions.

6. Comment on the value to the work of the council of the city’s many advisory groups.

These groups are extremely valuable to the community.  The current council has engaged these groups in the council process, has sought their recommendations and has tasked them with important topical research.  It is one of the many ways that the council gets input from those we represent. As a Bladin Leadership alumnus, I recognize the benefits of having many leaders within a community and having an engaged citizenry.  I see these groups as a way to grow our city leadership and engage our citizens.  Thank you to all of you who have served the city in this capacity.

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