Dog track decision resurfaces as issue in City Council election
The Hudson City Council’s 2012 decision not to allow construction of a high school on the vacant St. Croix Meadows dog track promises to be an issue in the April 1 election.
Three council seats are up for grabs, and the city’s refusal to rezone the dog track for a school is a central reason why at least one of the candidates has chosen to run.
Joe Allen is challenging incumbent Mary Yacoub in District 2.
“My district voted in favor of the referendum and the city voted against it, and that was the initial thing that got me interested,” said Allen, a Heritage Greens resident and a director of advertising for the StarTribune newspaper in Minneapolis.
He was referring to the April 2012 referendum in which Hudson School District voters approved purchasing the dog track, 4,830 to 3,706.
In the city’s 2nd Aldermanic District, the margin of approval was 396 to 292.
Yacoub was among the five alderpersons who voted against the rezoning. Only District 5 Alderperson John Hoggatt voted for it.
Allen, 46, said that when he began thinking about running for the council he sent an email to friends sharing his ideas and concerns, and asking for their input.
“I started getting all this really positive, excited feedback from people in my neighborhood,” he said. “And I thought, wow, that’s great. I got more excited about running at that point.”
Allen said he discovered that his neighbors share his concern about overcrowded schools and the condition of city streets. He said Hudson needs to provide the infrastructure and environment needed to attract businesses, while at the same time preserving the fabric of the community.
“I think a lot of the things that make Hudson great -- the river, the community, the sense of place -- are going to be challenged by population growth,” he said.
“I want to do a lot of listening to the people who live in District 2.”
Allen and his wife moved to Hudson seven years ago. Their two daughters attended E.P. Rock Elementary School. The oldest graduated from Hudson High School last June. The youngest is a high school junior.
Yacoub, who has represented District 2 since April 2010, said she’s seeking another two years because there is more to accomplish and she would like to follow through on some of the things started during the past term.
The fire department is getting a full-time chief, she noted.
“I think we have some good commercial (businesses) coming in that could really make a difference for the future of our city, so I want to be a part of that,” Yacoub added. “I enjoy serving the people.”
She was working when contacted by phone. The 38-year-old mother of three is a self-employed painter. Her business is On A Roll Painting.
Her other goals for the city include construction of a public safety building “on the hill,” improved parking in the downtown, completion of a warming house in Weitkamp Park, and construction of a pedestrian path along Stageline Road from the Heritage Greens and Lighthouse subdivisions to Carmichael Road.
“I’ve been trying to get that for a long time,” Yacoub said of the walkway. “It’s slowly happening, but not fast enough.”
“I think it is important to have a strong advocate for the south side of town,” she added. “The infrastructure is growing so much, (and) I want to make sure that the roads are taken care of.”
Yacoub, who grew up in Wauwatosa and majored in social work and criminal justice at UW-Whitewater, has been a Hudson resident for 12 years.
The dog track decision also has the potential be an issue in the District 3 race, where Thomas McCormick and Daniel Tjornehoj are seeking the council seat being vacated by incumbent Lori Bernard.
Tjornehoj has served on the Hudson Board of Education for more than 20 years. He decided not to run for another term on the school board, opting to make a bid for a City Council seat instead.
Both Tjornehoj and McCormick are attorneys.
McCormick said it was a Star-Observer editorial that referred to service in local government as “civic duty” that moved him from thinking about running to filing nomination papers.
He said his two main reasons for running are to make wise choices about spending and be an independent voice for District 3 voters.
“Effective allocation of tax dollars involves prioritizing spending between what is needed and what is wanted,” McCormick said in an email response to questions from the Star-Observer. “Mayor (Alan) Burchill and the current council have done a good job making spending decisions and prioritizing city projects, and I would like to continue that effort on behalf of District 3 residents.”
McCormick, 65, said he isn’t beholden to any group or cause, and doesn’t have an agenda beyond serving the citizens of Hudson.
“I will make decisions based on the merits of an issue and its impact on the city, and not whether the decision will be popular or acceptable to a particular interest group,” he wrote.
McCormick also expressed a desire to expand the city’s tax base by attracting businesses to Hudson. When the value of business property increases, less of the tax burden falls on homeowners, he said.
“As part of this effort, we need to make sure that the city has sufficient commercially zoned property available for development,” he said.
His priorities for city spending, McCormick indicated, are public safety (police, fire and EMS), streets, and water and sewer service. He said he wants to make sure Hudson remains a desirable place to live, work and recreate.
McCormick his wife, Elizabeth, have been Hudson residents for 25 years. They have two children.
Tjornehoj, 56, said he decided to run for the City Council after being encouraged to do so by local residents.
“I am running as an independent, nonpartisan candidate with a focus on working hard for District 3 residents in making Hudson the best possible place to work and live in all of Wisconsin,” he said. “I believe that I can make a positive contribution to the council.”
Tjornehoj said that in his years on the school board he has been able to work effectively with other members and school administrators. He said he expects to do the same with other City Council members and city officials.
Tjornehoj said that a recent forum he attended on heroin and other drug use in western Wisconsin alerted him to the seriousness of the problem.
“We have, unfortunately, lost several lives to this problem, and I believe that the city and many other stakeholders in this community need to work collaboratively on this issue,” he said.
He noted that drug addiction leads to other community problems including theft, suicide, car accidents, domestic abuse and more.
Tjornehoj said public safety and crime prevention, street improvements and controlling property taxes would be his priorities if he is elected.
“Members of this district want to know that they will have someone on the council that is vested in this community who is willing to bring forward issues and concerns that are important to District 3 residents,” he said.
Tjornehoj and his wife, Kris, also have resided in Hudson for 25 years. They attend Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Lakeland, where he has served as vice president of the congregation.
The Tjorenhojs have three children, the youngest of whom is a middle school student. The two older children are Hudson High School graduates.
Kris is a music professor at UW-River Falls.
One-term incumbent Kurt TeWinkel is facing a challenge from former one-term Troy Town Board member James Webber in District 4.
TeWinkel, 42, has lived in Hudson for 13 years. He and his wife, Heidi, have two daughters in the Hudson schools -- a seventh-grader and a fourth-grader.
TeWinkel is a commercial project manager for a large landscape company in St. Paul. He’s also a registered Wisconsin auctioneer. He is in the process of purchasing a building in St. Croix Business Park, where he plans to host online auctions.
Webber, 71, and his wife moved to Hudson a year ago after residing in the town of Troy for more than 30 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.
He served on the Troy Park Board for two years and on the Plan Commission for three years, in addition to his two years on the town board.
Over a 37-year career with 3M Co., Webber advanced up the management ladder and served in several divisions as a leader. He is a chemical engineer by training.
TeWinkel said he’s seeking re-election because he’d like to see things through that he has been involved with during his first term. Those include an increased commitment to street maintenance, working to add downtown parking, the planned Wisconsin Street reconstruction project and several looming development projects.
He said the future of the Hudson Golf Club is important.
“Seeing that the property sits smack dab in the middle of District 4, this is an issue that very directly impacts many households that I currently represent,” TeWinkel said. “There are many unknowns with this issue, but when it becomes more clear I’d like to be involved to ensure our residents that we’re doing everything possible as a city to find the best solution to what promises to be a contentious time.”
TeWinkel said he hears a lot from constituents about the condition of city streets, and the City Council has responded by making a major commitment to improving them in 2014. Still more street repairs are needed, he said, but it isn’t possible to do it all at once.
“I’m interested in keeping the overall value of Hudson strong,” he said. “This involves many aspects including residential values, a solid base of businesses, and a strong school district for our residents. It’s literally a dance of sorts to find harmony amongst all of the needs, while maintaining an affordable place to live, play and work.”
Webber said he’s running for the City Council because he really likes living in Hudson and wants to contribute to it becoming “an even greater small town for families and businesses.”
He said that means “coming up with solutions in the areas of education, recreation, access to local businesses and safety.”
“There are several issues I’d like to improve for our city, but first we need to change our governing style from arguing to creating solutions,” Webber said.
He said that in his career at 3M Co. he gained experience facing difficult issues and finding solutions at both the local and international level.
“These skills in listening to all parties, minimizing conflict and helping find answers that work for everyone would serve us well in Hudson,” he said.
“With these skills, we could find a way to adequately fund our city library so it can better serve our community. We could discover ways to work with the school board to create solutions to the issues of overcrowding and inadequate space for education. We can come up with strategies that will result in better street maintenance, including snow removal. And we can develop long-range plans for our city that include listening to the public’s concerns and building an infrastructure designed for coming growth.”