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City Council candidates give their views on the issues

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news River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Star-Observer asked the five candidates for the Hudson City Council to respond to the following questions:

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1. What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

2. Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

3. What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

The candidates also were asked to provide some biographical information. Their responses are reprinted here.

Incumbent Mary Yacoub is running for re-election in District 2. Her opponent, Joe Allen, has dropped out of the race because he will be moving away from the city.

Allen dropped out of the race too late to have his name removed from the ballot. If he receives the most votes, the City Council will select his replacement.

In District 3, Tom McCormick and Dan Tjornehoj are vying for the seat currently held by Lori Bernard, who decided not to run for a fourth term.

In District 4, one-term incumbent Kurt TeWinkel is being challenged by Jim Webber.

District 2

Mary Yacoub

Age: 38

Address: 375 Valley Commons Occupation: Interior/exterior painter

Education: BA in social work and criminal justice from UW-Whitewater

Experience: City Council member since April 2010, chair of Public Safety Committee, Plan Commission member, serves on ad hoc downtown parking committee and the committee to improve the Carmichal corridor. Previous service on Police and Fire Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Family: Three children who attend or will be attending E.P. Rock Elementary.

What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I would like to see our infrastructure continue to improve. I also want to see continued support for our police department. Our taxes are meant to go for public safety and I want to see our council prioritize this.

The Carmichael corridor has been an issue for a long time. I sit on the committee working with the state to try and find a way to solve this problem. Lastly, the downtown parking issue. I am always trying to find new ways to improve our parking as we have a vibrant downtown. We need to be able to keep up with the growth and parking needs.

I am running for another term because I enjoy serving the city of Hudson and my constituents. I pride myself on the fact that whether you live in District 2 or not I am always willing to listen and address your needs.

Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

 We have various funding sources that contribute to our budget, for example park impact fees that come from building permits for construction and new growth. For Weitkamp Park, I would like to see a warming house put in and possibly a hockey rink for the winter.

I would also like to see a sidewalk completed along Stageline Road and Old Hwy. 35 towards the movie theatre. However, for this to be done we need cooperation from the town of Hudson. I also would like to see continued support for our police department and their equipment needs.

What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

My main concern regarding Super Walmart is infrastructure. I would expect Walmart to make the necessary improvements to Carmichael to handle the traffic. This is unknown until the traffic study is completed. Thus as a sitting member of Plan Commission, it would be premature of me to have a definite answer at this time.

There will be many meetings on this issue so I will listen with an open mind. Commercial property taxes are our main source of revenue which will aid in keeping property taxes lower for the residents of the city of Hudson. We are a town of 13,000 people, but at times it seems our taxes serve 30,000 people when you include the surrounding communities. I try to determine if it is a smart and economical community development for improving the city of Hudson, making it a better place for families to live, work and play.

District 3

Tom McCormick

Age: 65

Address: Didn’t respond

Occupation: Trial attorney

Education: Law school

Experience: Member of American Board of Trial Advocates, involved in YMCA Camp St. Croix, the St. Croix Valley YMCA and Hudson Rotary.

Family: Wife, Elizabeth, and two children

What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I want to keep Hudson an affordable, vibrant place to live. In order to achieve this goal, we must maintain effective public safety (police, fire and EMS), continue to maintain and improve our infrastructure (roads, water and sewer) and attract businesses and jobs to our city. The council must effectively prioritize spending in order for the city to continue to provide high quality services that residents deserve and can afford. Expansion of the tax base will provide additional revenue while relieving the tax burden on homeowners.

I want to serve in order to provide effective, independent leadership for District 3. The current council and mayor have done a good job making spending decisions and prioritizing city projects, and I would like to continue that effort on behalf of district residents. I am not beholden to any group or cause, and have no agenda beyond serving the citizens of Hudson.

Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

Providing public safety and building/maintaining infrastructure are the primary responsibilities of city government. We must maintain effective public safety services in order to protect the lives and property of our residents. To accomplish this, we must make sure that EMS, our volunteer fire department and the police have the equipment, training and personnel necessary to effectively perform their critical role in our community.

We also must continue to focus spending on maintaining and repairing as necessary an aging infrastructure. The city has adopted a five year plan –- which I support -- to address some of these critical issues.

In order to raise sufficient revenue to provide essential services, we must continue to attract businesses to Hudson and make sure that the city has sufficient commercially-zoned property available for development.

What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

I think it is important not to react to issues that arise like the proposed annexation before all the facts are known. The planning commission and community development department must consider the proposal and how it fits into the comprehensive city plan before the proposed annexation becomes an issue for the council to consider. However, I do think it is very important when dealing with this type of annexation to determine how the proposal will affect residents in the immediate area and in the city generally.

Whether the city’s boundaries should be expanded can only be addressed on a case by case basis. When such a proposal is made, we must ask: How does it affect residents? Where would the proposed project be located? What type of development is proposed? How would the project affect infrastructure -- waste water treatment, roads, etc.? What impact does the project have on traffic?

Dan Tjornehoj

Age: 56

Address: 104 13th Street

Occupation: Attorney and CEO of a nonprofit medical association

Education: BA from Luther College and law degree from William Mitchell College of Law

Experience: Hudson Board of Education member for 21 years, member of the Hudson Kiwanis Club and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church

Family: Wife, Kris, is a music professor at UW-River Falls; three children

What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I am looking forward to bringing the same energy and enthusiasm to the City Council that I enjoyed in my 21 years on the Hudson School Board. It is projected that this area will experience over 35 percent growth by 2025. With this expected growth the city of Hudson needs to plan effectively for the future and determine how it wants to prepare for the increased demands on its infrastructure, facilities and services.

Recognizing that the city's budget isn't able to meet these needs in the short term means that the city needs to develop a longer range plan that prioritizes how it will be able to meet these needs in the future. My motivation for running for this position is simple -- to help build a better Hudson not only for the residents of my third district but for all of Hudson, now and for the future.

Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

I do not believe in pushing problems and challenges off for future generations to deal with. If this city and community develop a long range plan for a better Hudson and community for the future, then this will dictate where we need to put our focus and spending.

With my experience as the school district's treasurer and finance committee chair, I am familiar with budget challenges and have managed to get things done affordably, within budget, and on a timely basis. I want to use these same strategies to explore grant funding as well as debt refinancing opportunities, and reallocation of resources as part of our annual budget process.

My plan for the future also includes ensuring for a safe and secure community, tackling drug issues, repairing our streets and infrastructure needs, maintaining our library, supporting our local businesses, and learning to work together to solve these and other issues.

What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

I support growth within this community if it brings value and opportunities to Hudson residents. However, it also needs to complement our current business and residential environment. I personally believe that we need to look at each annexation request individually to determine its overall value and impact on the community. If elected, I will research these issues on a case by case basis and reach a decision that will benefit Hudson in the short and long term.

District 4

Kurt TeWinkel

Age: 42

Address: 613 Diamond Drive

Occupation: Commericial project manager for a larger landscape firm in the Twin Cities

Education: BA in business law and ethics, with a minor in advertising

Experience: City Council member for two years

Family: Wife, Heidi, and two daughters in the Hudson public school who are involved in soccer and dance.

What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I'm seeking re-election and wish to continue serving on City Council so that I can work on projects that were in the works or even started in my first two-year term, including the Wisconsin Street reconstruction project and also a major LED street light conversion project which will save Hudson thousands of dollars each year, along with realizing energy conservation.

Development projects will be amongst the major concerns for me in the next two years, along with working alongside the school district as school construction proposals surface.

Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

I want to see a continued emphasis placed on street maintenance and repair/replacement. The roughly $5 million approved in the last budget season for street maintenance and repair will take Hudson in a very positive direction this summer, but there will still be more work to do. Roads are one of the most often commented on subjects I hear from my constituents, and I know that Hudson residents want and expect a better collection of streets in our city.

What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

The proposed Walmart Superstore and its annexation of land into the city has only been heard for a first introduction by the Planning Commission, and nothing further, so I feel it would be premature to form an opinion. There is a lot of information that will come to the city staff, commission and ultimately council, but I have heard nearly zero support of the proposal by my constituents, based nearly entirely on people's concerns over traffic in the Carmichael corridor.

Overall, I think the market should propose expansion of the city's boundaries as it sees fit, and then the city's process can determine the merits of each proposal. There is no way to draw a line in the sand to determine where the city ends its expansion.

 

Jim Webber

Age: No response

Address: 604 Grandview Drive

Occupation: Retired 3M Co. engineer and manager, former business consultant

Education: BS in chemical engineering

Experience: Former member of Troy Town Board, Troy Park Board chairman and Troy Park Board member; served in leadership at Hudson United Methodist Church; Daybreak Rotary Club member; volunteer for Willow River State Park, Hudson Hospital, Camp St. Croix and Operation HELP/the SOURCE.

Family: Lives with wife, Marian, and their dog, Hope. Has sons and grandchildren spread from Alabama to Fargo to Hawaii.

What goals or concerns do you have for the city, and why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I believe in working with people, and I have the skill, the time and the heart to make Hudson an even better place to live. I can help the council take leadership in partnering with others to create best solutions.

Two examples are: with the school board to establish a high school location; also with the multiple groups associated with the library to build a financial plan. My leadership experience, knowledge and skills gained from my business, town government and volunteer background apply directly.

One concern is insufficient long-term planning for projected growth. My goal is that Hudson revise and update its Comprehensive Plan so it more effectively addresses the infrastructure challenges coming from geographic expansion. Traffic increase, distance from emergency services, more miles of roadway and wastewater treatment are examples. The improvement costs must be balanced against the benefits.

Given the limited tax revenue available to the city, what would your spending priorities be?

I would apply even more resources to repairing and rebuilding streets now. Our public safety functions (police, fire, EMS) have resource and location needs. We’ve managed the budget too closely and now have to rebuild and catch up.

We also have to prioritize longer-term infrastructure projects such as downtown parking, waste-water treatment capacity, storm sewer improvements and a central public safety facility. Each project, once accepted, requires a financial plan to match. Again, costs must be balanced against benefits.

What is your reaction to the proposed annexation of land on Carmichael Road for the site of a Walmart Superstore? What are your views in general on expanding the city’s boundaries?

There are significant issues with the Super Walmart proposal. First, it will add significant traffic to an already congested roadway, and the Walmart traffic plan shown to date appears insufficient to correct this.

Second, there will be significant negative impact on the residences located behind the proposed building. Several homes will have commercial development on three sides and be connected to a through street instead of a cul-de-sac. Light and noise from late-night operations and increased traffic on Cedar Lane and Green Briar Road are inevitable.

Third, do we need a Super Walmart? Will it force out existing businesses? Are Super Walmarts in New Richmond, Woodbury and Stillwater enough? Will we be left with a big building to fill at the present Walmart site?

Finally, the feedback I have received from many residents, often spontaneous, has ranged from very negative to barely neutral. I cannot support the Super Walmart proposal.

The map shows Hudson’s six Aldermanic Districts. Seats on the City Council are up for election in districts 2, 3 and 4.

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