Jennifer Janovy, Candidate for Edina City Council, responded to our questions.
1. Briefly highlight why you feel you would be the best candidate for City Council.
This is an important time for Edina. The Edina community is incredibly strong, but our City government does not well enough reflect the intelligence, professionalism, and spirit of this great community. I believe that it can.
At this important juncture, we need a Council member with my experience and values — someone who will listen to you, work with you, and retain the independence and character to continue to be an advocate for residents and good city governance.
I am someone who believes that it is important to set goals and that it is always possible to improve. In that spirit, here are a few goals, and improvements I will work to make happen if elected:
Leadership — Leading from the community up rather than from the City Council down. City government works best when citizens have a voice and authentic opportunities to participate.
Budgeting and capital spending — I will seek to establish an independent Citizens Finance Committee, putting more eyes on the City budget and spending, improving financial transparency, and utilizing the financial expertise of Edina residents to ensure that the City budget and capital spending reflect community priorities and provide for a well-run city.
Redevelopment that enhances Edina's brand — high-quality, timeless architecture amid a vibrant and sophisticated public realm; residential redevelopment that preserves our neighborhoods, trees and green space.
City Council policies and processes — I will work to get a City Council ethics and conflict of interest policy adopted and to improve all City Council policies and processes with the aim of increasing accountability and transparency.
Traffic, transportation infrastructure and funding — A neighborhood traffic concern is what first got me involved in city issues 14 years ago. From that grew a passion for both transportation and serving our community. I will work for continued improvement in our approaches to neighborhood traffic, providing for changing travel modes, and the design, implementation and funding of transportation infrastructure.
Preservation of public assets — I will prioritize preservation of mature trees and restoration of natural areas, improvements to parks, park shelters, and trails, and attention to public infrastructure to ensure that Edina is not only a great place to live today, but also has a solid foundation for the future.
As your City Council member, I will advance a shared vision, stand for shared values, and give you a voice at City Hall. I respectfully ask for your consideration and vote. Thank you.
2. City of Edina policies have promoted greater population density in the community, especially in the Southdale area. This appears to be supportive of the Met Council's plan for greater availability of low-income housing. Increasing population density is already putting pressure on class sizes and school system resources in Edina. Do you support promoting greater housing density and greater availability of low-income housing in Edina? Where should it go within the city? How would you deal with the impacts on Edina schools?
According to census.gov, Edina’s population increased 4.6% between 2010 and 2015, going from 47,941 residents to 50,138 residents (+2,197 residents).
As of 2015, Edina had exceeded the population projection for 2030 as stated in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan (50,000).
According to the September 2016 issue of the City publication Edition: Edina, 466 multifamily residential units have been constructed in the past 12 months, 576 are in progress, and 1,164 have been approved or have filed for approval or sketch plan review—for a total of 2,206 new multifamily residential units, most in the greater Southdale area.
With the addition of these units, the number of households in Edina will exceed the Comp Plan’s 2030 projection.
The Comp Plan sets a goal of adding 212 affordable units between 2011 and 2020. Excluding any naturally occurring affordable housing, the City has added few affordable units to date, and only two of the proposed developments in the September 2016 issue of Edina: Edina reference affordable units.
Last year, the City Council adopted an affordable housing policy. I objected to this policy on the basis that it was not sustainable and that it would likely lead to developer incentives/concessions in exchange for a small number of temporarily affordable units (15 years). Further, it seems likely that TIF will be used to further affordable housing goals.
Response to Q2 continues below.
I would focus strategies on maintaining Edina’s existing more affordable housing stock and look at where it may be appropriate to allow more twin homes and other low-density multi-family options to bring new, more affordably-sized housing to our community. One good (and very important) thing about campaigning is that I see all kinds of housing close up. Edina should not shy away from affordable housing, but it needs to be done thoughtfully and, as much as I do appreciate affordable housing advocacy, I would like to see a more academic-based understanding of affordable housing vs. an advocacy-based understanding or a developer-influenced understanding. The fact is, we have many longtime residents who are living in homes that they could not afford if they had to buy the home today. If they had to move, they could not stay in the community. The most affordable place for them to live is the home that they currently own—but their incomes, health, or other factors may make it difficult for them to keep it up.
Much of the current high density residential development in Edina is in the Richfield school district and so does not impact Edina Public Schools; however, there are some sites eyed for redevelopment (Pentagon Park, Southdale Library site, 7200 France, Grandview) that are in the Edina school district.
The Edina school district closely monitors enrollment. In-district enrollment has increased in recent years, primarily due to the turnover of single family homes. This table from Edina Schools shows enrollment fluctuations over the past three school years (total increase of 71 students).
The City of Edina and Edina Public Schools are separate governmental entities. The City Council and Edina School Board have met infrequently in the past few years. Most contact occurs between City and school district staff.
When the City discusses redevelopment, it often focuses on the benefits—namely the increase in tax base. There is another side to the discussion that is omitted—namely, a fiscal impact analysis that looks at the public costs associated with private development. I would look to institute a fiscal impact analysis with each high density residential or commercial development that requires City Council approval.
The Edina community has invested in the Edina school district. The City has an obligation to do its part to protect the community’s investment. A fiscal impact analysis would aid the City in identifying how its development decisions may impact the Edina school district.
3. Should Edina’s city government continue to grow at a pace greater than the cost of living? How would you constrain the growth of the Edina city government?
The consolidated City budget is approximately $100 million, spread over 11 governmental funds and 10 enterprise funds, according to the 2016-2017 budget. Revenue comes from a variety of sources, including property taxes, special assessments, licenses, permits and fees, tax increments, grants and donations.
The property tax levies represent approximately 31% of budgeted revenues (2016 budget). Property tax levies include the General Fund levy, Debt levy, Arts & Culture levy, Equipment levy and, new for 2017, Capital Improvement Plan and Housing and Redevelopment Authority levies.
The total property tax levy increased 8.18% in 2015, 7.07% in 2016, and is proposed to increase 6.36% for 2017—a three-year increase of 21.61%.
This contrasts with an 8.31% total levy increase from 2011-2014.
To address growth in city government, we must understand the factors that have contributed to that growth, and that information is not readily available in sufficient detail.
In our form of city government, the city manager is required to present a budget to the City Council that includes all funds of the City. A few years ago, I discovered that this was not happening. I advocated for the city manager to present a complete budget to the City Council. In 2011, a complete budget was presented and has been presented since; however, the current budget format does not provide budget detail.
As a resident, it can be challenging to track City expenditures. By policy, the City Council delegates the payment of claims under $20,000 to the city manager. A record of claims paid and credit card charges can now be found online with the City Council packet, but this is a relatively recent step toward greater transparency.
The Council approves contracts and expenditures over $20,000. While this provides a readily available public record of the expenditure, it can still be difficult to track costs of larger projects. This is because some projects have multiple parts, bid separately and/or over time. There may be change orders. To help track costs and improve transparency and accountability, a record of all prior and related project costs should be included whenever the Council is asked to approve a new expenditure.
As a City Council member, I will work to bring more citizen involvement into the budgeting process and accountability into spending decisions. I will seek to establish an independent Citizens Finance Committee to:
Put more eyes on the City budget and spending;
Review financial policies, oversight and reporting;
Improve financial transparency; and
Utilize the financial expertise of Edina residents.
This will help to ensure that the City budget reflects community priorities, which, in turn will help to constrain unnecessary spending, while still securing the financial resources needed to keep Edina strong.
4. Do you or any member of your immediate family work with or for companies doing business with Edina? If yes, how will you avoid a potential conflict of interest?
No, but in the interest of full disclosure, my husband, Randy Meyer, has served on the Edina School Board since 2002. If I am elected to the City Council, Randy will have one year of his term remaining. He is not running again. As stated above, the City of Edina and Edina Public Schools are separate governmental entities. Over the past few years, the City Council and Edina School Board have met infrequently. The City Council and Edina School Board make decisions independently.
I do not anticipate any situation in the next year that would create a legal conflict of interest. If any situation has the possibility to create a perceived conflict of interest, I will discuss it and, when needed to maintain high ethical standards, avoid participating in the decision.
The Edina City Council does not have an ethics or conflict of interest policy. Last year, I asked the City Council to adopt and adhere to an ethics and conflict of interest policy. The request was not well-received. One has to wonder why. If elected, I will work to get a City Council ethics and conflict of interest policy adopted and to improve all City Council policies and processes with the aim of increasing accountability and transparency. Where confidence in our City government is lacking, I will work to restore trust.