Erica Zweifel

Candidate for City Council, Ward 3

zweifelHello, My name is Erica Zweifel and I am a candidate for Northfield City Council.

I am running for the Third Ward Seat because that is where I spend the majority of my time. I live on Highland Avenue surrounded by wonderful neighbors. I work at St Olaf College in the Biology Department and yes the new Regents Hall is marvelous. My son attends Greenvale Elementary School and I am a frequent volunteer there, teaching challenge math and helping out when needed. My family has a plot at the Greenvale Community Garden where we enjoy growing vegetables and visiting with other gardeners and folks just passing by.

I am currently serving on Northfield's Environmental Quality Commission. I am very invested in the third ward and I am committed to making it an even better place to live. I would like to see improved connectivity and transportation in our ward and throughout Northfield. I will work hard to improve the sustainability of our community through implementing the ideas outlined in Northfield's new comprehensive plan.

Return to Election 2008 page.

Responses to questions submitted by participants:

1. Have you had experience as a landlord of rental properties? What do you think about the current rental ordinance? Would you recommend changes? What enforcement mechanisms do you recommend?

I am not a landlord of rental properties.  When the rental board of appeals was appointed a spot was left open for a tenant and I am in favor of having a tenant serving on this board.   I think that the legal issues surrounding the rental ordinance need to be dealt with because the ordinance was found to be unconstitutional.  We need to make sure that the 20% rule is solving the problem that it was meant to fix and not causing more problems in other areas.  Many of our rental issues could be dealt with through enforcement of parking regulations and our noise ordinance.

2. What will you do to help ensure the economic vitality of our downtown area? What vision do you have for what Northfield should be like in ten or twenty years?

We need to make downtown Northfield more business friendly by making it easier for business owners to start and maintain businesses and restaurants which draw people downtown.  I would like to see the library expand in its current downtown location.  Downtown should reach out to the west side of town by supporting a safe crossing at Hwy 3 and linking historic downtown to the Qblock.  My vision for Northfield would include a pedestrian bridge across Hwy 3 linking the Q Block to the rest of downtown, creating a safe passage for west side residents to historic downtown.  I know that my family and neighbors would increase our visits downtown if we had a safe and convenient way to get there.  I would work to improve the connectivity for all methods of transportation in and around Northfield.  I would incorporate the river as a focal point of our community.  I would use the comprehensive plan as my guide.

3. What are the particular skills you bring to the council? What are the most important personal attributes a council member can bring to the table?

Having served on several boards, I know what it takes to work on a successful board: it takes effective leadership, good speaking as well as listening skills, humility and respect.  I would bring all of those skills to the table.  I would also bring my enthusiasm for the city of Northfield and in particular my connections to the Third Ward.  I offer my experience as a member of Northfield’s Environmental Quality Commission and I bring a strong commitment to issues relating to the environment and sustainable practices.

4. Can you identify an area where you will need further information or experience before you can be an effective council member?

I have attended all of the voluntary candidate training sessions offered by the city and look forward to attending the remaining series.  I continue to study the documents provided including the CIP draft and the Comprehensive Plan draft.  I will do my best to educate myself on issues that are unfamiliar to me and will seek the advice of those knowledgeable in those areas.  I will seek out the opinions and advice of my constituents through my web blog, and by holding regular ward meetings.

5. What role does the city play in developing a sustainable energy supply for its citizens? What plans should be set in place?

I am a member of the Environmental Quality Commission and have had the opportunity to review the Energy Task Force’s report to the city council.  The document is an excellent resource full of ideas for developing sustainability in our community.  As a council member, I would actively support the ETF’s findings including the creation of a one-stop energy shop for Northfield residents.  I also would support adopting an emissions reduction target for a specific year, and our continued participation in The Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

6. What is the state of relations between the city and its major employers, particularly the two colleges and Malt-o-Meal? How should these relationships be improved and sustained?

We are fortunate to have good relations with these major employers.  My husband and I work for two of these employers and they are the reason we moved to Northfield.  The presence of these employers stabilizes our economy and draws people to Northfield.  We need to continue to foster open lines of communication and to work jointly on projects that are mutually beneficial.

7. As a candidate, what are your top two or three priorities for the next two years?

Given the current unsettling financial times, one of my top goals will be to prioritize and evaluate our city budget.  We need to maintain our infrastructure and protect the things that make Northfield a special place. I look forward to using the new comprehensive plan, transportation plan, park and rec master plan and adopting land use ordinances that will implement the ideas outlined in these plans.  I will focus on long term planning, improving connectivity and sustainability.

8. What steps should be taken to ensure that the city employs talented and motivated public servants?

The best employees want to work for the best organizations.  I believe that the City of Northfield has the potential to offer one of the best environments for employees.  Good employees should be recognized and rewarded for their performance.  The mayor and city council need to set the tone for leadership and productivity. We need to hire a city administrator who is also willing to lead through example and set a tone for achievement.

9. How do you think the council should go about hiring the permanent city administrator?

I see the hiring of the new city administrator as an opportunity for Northfield to employ an individual that shares our community’s goals as outlined in the comprehensive plan.  We need to be clear about the role of the administrator as stated in our city charter.  We need to look for someone with a track record of leadership and achievement.  Most importantly we need someone who understands our vision for Northfield and who is willing to take that journey with us.

10. What will you do to try to recover the missing 2.3 million city dollars.

(No response.)

11. Northfield and Dundas share a sewer plant that may be approaching its capacity. In an effort to not find out in 2012 that we "broke the plant" in 2010, the Dundas planning commission and city council have in place a simple worksheet that is used to evaluate every platting request to see if it would make us exceed the capacity. This should keep us from finding out after the fact that we have overpromised this growth-limiting resource to developers. This simple analysis will also let us not have to go to taxpayers and have them subsidize other people's profits in an unjust way. As a city council person, are you willing to ask for and use this question of capacity BEFORE you consider and approve new growth?

Yes, I think that sewage capacity is an important measure to use when considering new growth.

12. Given the fatal traffic accident that occurred at Jefferson Parkway and Division Street, if elected how would you prioritize the concern over the safety of this intersection against the other infrastructure plans?

(No response.)

13. What is your plan for integrating the working poor into the economic growth potential of our community?

This is an important issue and I would like to see that our industrial/commercial growth offer a variety of labor positions from un-skilled to semi-skilled and skilled.  As we look to improve our tax base we should also consider job creation and development.  We should improve our transportation options so that those without cars and those who choose not to use their cars can safely and inexpensively commute to work.

14. What is your position on North Avenue?

This issue comes up repeatedly while I am door knocking in the Third Ward.  I am familiar with the area involved and the history of the neighborhood. We need to find a way to improve the connectivity in this area.  My first goal would be to work with Dakota County to pave 320th which would create a paved route to Hwy 3 and divert some of the traffic that flows into this neighborhood.  It is unfortunate that the road was not put through at the time of development and we must now deal with the consequences.  As Northfield continues to develop, I will keep North Avenue as a reminder and advocate for connectivity in future developments.  Please contact me if you would like to discuss this issue further.