Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
I strongly support initiatives that focus on DEI within the village. Whether it be review of our ordinances for equity issues, availability of housing, equitable access for disabled persons to village resources, recognizing groups (e.g., Pride, Black History Month, Latinx History Month), or the promotion of cultural events within the village. A large part of this process is the direct invitation to marginalized groups within the village to participate with the village government. I would be proactive in this process, working with community groups and soliciting direct feedback from the community on our efforts. Addressing DEI issues should involve real, systemic change, and not just window dressings to cover up the more controversial issues facing the village in recent years. I will strive to introduce resolutions and ordinances to make real changes on these items.
Tax Incremental Financing (TIFs)
TIFs are by design complex and hard to understand, which should mean that we truly only use them if an applicant has exhausted every other option AND the benefit to the village makes sense. TIFs simply so a developer can make more money on a deal, or expand faster than they normally could, would not be deals I support. Additionally, I would push for maximum transparency allowed under Wisconsin State law, to prevent the perception of “backroom deals” on TIFs.
For everyone to have success in Waunakee, we must have a diverse housing mix. I support development of housing that meets the expected standards of the village. Having clear policy that lays out expectations to developers and homeowners will invite the type of growth that will allow us to meet the ever-increasing demands for housing in the village. We must also look to growing our commercial areas within the village, to not be punished if another housing bubble hits the nation.
Currently the village faces a significant housing gap for those making below 80% of the Area Median Income, which is $78,500 for a family of 4. These are our neighbors who live here now, and it is becoming increasingly harder for them to remain in the village, and it is a problem we have known about for over a decade. While the village has spent a lot of time on studying affordable housing over the past five years, it has not acted on almost all the recommendations made from multiple task forces and consultants. I will be a champion for implementing these policy recommendations, either through writing resolutions or ordinances, and introducing them to the village board for a vote. We must stop saying we are going to address affordable housing; we must address it through action.
Affordable Housing TIF/TID 1-Year Extension
I support the creation of a policy that always requires Tax Incremental Financing Districts (TIDs) that are eligible for closure to be extended for one year for the funds to be placed in a state law protected fund to be used only for affordable housing. This is the most equitable way that taxpayers in the village can be rewarded for up to 27 years of taxes not being spent to benefit the village and school district: by improving our housing stock. This money can be used to fund studies (such as zoning review), improve infrastructure around homes, or provide grants to keep homes up to code and prevent gentrification.
One of Waunakee’s main attractions is Main Street. We should be doing all we can to have a clear plan and direction for the jewel of the village. While the village’s Comprehensive Plan has very general statements about Downtown Waunakee, specific studies and guidance on development of Main St. is old and does not face the realities of the rise of technology (such as online shopping). In order to better support our business community, I support an updated needs study for the Downtown/Main St. area to give better direction to future development and maintaining the look/charm of Waunakee.
Waunakee is a car dependent village. While some of our neighbors downtown can walk to local businesses, most of us require a car to get around. While this may be convenient for some, a lack of public transportation options makes living and working in Waunakee a hard prospect. This also dissuades new and existing businesses from expanding within Waunakee, as our high cost of housing requires many of our employers to hire workers from outside of the village and not all of them have access to a personal vehicle. I would initiate communication with both the county and neighboring municipalities that have successfully implemented bus, ride share, and park and ride services to work on this problem.
Government is the property of the people, and everyone deserves to know as much as possible about the inner workings of the places spending their taxes. I pledge that I will maintain standing communication with constituents, either by mailing list, social media interaction, or (once COVID is over) with in-person meetings. I will also publish the thinking behind my votes on the larger issues to give insight as to why I voted the way I did. To the greatest extent possible, I will express my positions on items that go in to closed session, in the most general terms possible to avoid violating the law, on the record. Constituents should not have to accidentally hear a closed session meeting to know my opinion on a topic.
Waunakee’s zoning ordinances are relatively older, favor only specific types of development, and are largely ignored by developers as most approvals come with significant variances to our existing zoning. In order to foster equitable development within the village, I support a full review of our zoning code to give greater clarity for future development and provide an opportunity for citizen input on the future of Waunakee. Zoning ordinances should not be designed to favor only those with the ability to retain more expensive attorneys.
Working with Neighboring Governments\School District
I believe that the key to long term success for the village is having a strong relationship with our neighboring governments and the school district. When we lack a strong relationship with the policy makers of our neighbors, problems arise. For example, there is a question of a quarry in the area between Waunakee and Westport. Due to a lack of coordination, we now face the potential for blasting and mining to take place in some of our neighbor’s backyards!
Another example is the old Library and a special agreement that the village cannot sell the old library without losing part of the land back to the school district. With the poor relationship between the Village Board and the Board of Education, the village is now potentially $800,000 overbudget on the new Library without the sale of the old library.
While the village provides some data on policing actions, the Police Commission (civilian oversight) does not meet regularly. With the national focus on policing actions, and the role of the Village Board in oversight of the Waunakee Police Department, I would introduce a resolution to require the Police Commission to meet once per month. Additionally, there would be an expectation that the village actively seek out citizens from groups that have traditionally had more police contact as vacancies arise.
I would propose the restoration of citizen oversight to the village’s Finance Committee by repealing the ordinance that eliminated the four citizen appointees. The spending of tax money should have the most scrutiny possible, and currently we rely on an exceedingly small group (three trustees) to perform this function. I will also openly question expenditures presented to the village board as necessary, and not act as a rubber stamp for spending without explanation.
As the village grows our need for Fire and EMS services will as well, especially as we share these services with five other towns and villages (Dane, Vienna, Westport, and Springfield, known as WWDDVS). While we are currently served by a largely volunteer EMS and completely volunteer Fire Department, we must have long term planning in place to support the village. I would propose that we begin the process of long-term planning for the associated costs of professional public safety staff, to give adequate time to budget for these increased costs and not overburden taxpayers within the village.
Creative Economy (Create Waunakee)
I fully support the goals of Create Waunakee. I would push for more inclusive events that can be coordinated with organizations in and around Dane County to bring them to Waunakee. There are many opportunities for events honoring other cultures, which would bring more tourism to Waunakee’s businesses while promoting diverse events to residents of the village.
It is important that the village have a strong infrastructure for the benefit of all residents. I am supportive of budgetary measures that would continue to maintain a high standard, but I would also take a stronger look at the growth of the village to make sure we are not spending money on unneeded infrastructure. While certain features may look good aesthetically, they may carry a large cost to maintain, and may not be in the best interest of the village to do.
Climate change is real, and slowly the village is feeling those effects. While flooding is an expected occurrence, the intensity of it is increasing year to year. As we fill in more areas that used to absorb water with concrete and houses, more water flows in to Six Mile Creek, and some homeowners continue to see basement and home flooding issues annually where before they did not. It is also increasingly evident that flooding is disproportionately affecting the more “affordable” housing stock of the village. My stance is that we must work to identify ways we can mitigate increased flooding and protect homeowners from being negatively impacted by development they had little control over.
Project and Services Bidding
Most often the village has adopted an approach for soliciting bids for projects and services that is simply “the lowest vendor bid wins”. While this may sound as if it is good for the taxpayer, it can easily lead to situations where we get exactly what we pay for and end up paying more later. I support a review of this process and will not simply vote for the lowest bid presented. As this involves taxpayer money, I would want to know that the proposed vendor has properly certified staff completing the task, and understand the risks presented by use of the vendor. I also strongly support the use of municipal cooperative purchasing services (such as State and UW system negotiated rate services).
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