Eldon Spencer, Candidate for Bloomington City Council, District 2, responded to our questions.
Bloomington is being advised that it needs more affordable housing and more housing for senior citizens. If you agree, what actions would you support to meet those needs?
RESPONSE: With as many as 50,000 more jobs than its current population of almost 90,000, Bloomington obviously cannot provide housing of any sort – affordable or otherwise - for all of its workers, and all its retired senior citizens.
Presumably that is one of the reasons that Bloomington, through its disproportionately large contributions to the fiscal disparities metropolitan area "pool," has provided significant dollars for transportation infrastructure and public transit options for allowing better access to its job sites.
Also, while "affordability" of housing – always a relative concept – often means higher density, at least one of the types of housing that Bloomington's seniors with mobility challenges find to be in desperate shortage within the City are single story townhouses. Therefore, it may be critical to be sure that these special needs are considered as options for any areas subject to redevelopment, while assuring that housing options offering a greater range of affordability because of permissibility for greater density be located in ways that do not unduly clog already overburdened streets or detract from the valuation of existing housing in contiguous areas.
I would also explore availability of funds through state or federal programs for assisting qualified first-time home buyers with advances/deferrals of down payments where they could demonstrate adequate ability to pay ongoing periodic obligations on their new homes. Such programs should be coupled with educational programs both as to availability and qualifications for obtaining such municipal assistance, and as to proper maintenance and budgeting responsibilities of homeowners of all vintages.
Bloomington is a mature community that is essentially fully developed. What do you feel should be sustained, and what should be added/changed/redeveloped?
RESPONSE: City green space should be sustained, with particular sensitivity to providing adequate facilities for newer outdoor sports and recreational activities with needs unaccommodated by existing park designs. Redevelopment of large lots with "twin homes" or other styles that reflect only modest deviation from existing housing stock should be preferred over high density uses in areas where neighboring properties appear inconsistent with such added density.
Should Bloomington gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 or ban cigarette sales to anyone under 21?
RESPONSE: Bloomington SHOULD NOT assert itself into the business of establishing wage levels or other terms and conditions of employment. While I believe a similar non-intervention policy should apply to most workplace health and safety rules, the health benefits (and externalities) associated with a ban on cigarette sales to the same age groups unable to purchase alcohol makes good sense to me.
Provide your opinion on housing development on Hyland Greens.
RESPONSE: Since cars owned by residents of the most likely development area in the northeast corner of the affected City park land would inevitably not be allowed to exit onto Normandale, the already difficult traffic situation on 102nd Street would be exacerbated, as would traffic seeking to enter Normandale from 98th Street to a lesser extent. The land itself could never again be recovered for public use, despite the potential that its location along a major transportation route offers in terms of public access, and to satisfy the enhanced need for recreational options contributed to by the more dense commercial and residential development across Normandale.
What will you bring to the City Council if elected?
RESPONSE: I bring over 40 years of working with largely small and medium-size business clients to address their governance, finance, and in many cases expansion needs. Before that, I had an opportunity to work in all three branches – judicial, legislative and executive – of state or federal government, such that my background in law and economics was supplemented with a significant exposure of ways in which government can assist in helping, or at least avoid "playing favorites" among citizens who rightfully expect a rule of law and equal and fair economic opportunity for all.
My extensive work with nonprofits – in environmental conservation and preservation, fine arts, and community service areas – has also enhanced my attentiveness to separating intellectually the questions of whether or not good public policy supports government involvement in an area, from the second question of whether, given the need, such intervention is most cost-effectively delivered through government, private, and/or non-profit entities, or appropriate partnership arrangements between/among them.
Finally, I have attended every minute of every Council meeting since my appointment became effective in March, 2017, and hope to continue that service with the perspective of a parent and taxpayer, the patience and vigor of the athlete's heart that still beats within me, and a respectful and continuous attentiveness to the legitimate needs and identified concerns of my fellow Bloomington citizens.