Mike Fischer, Candidate for Edina City Council, responded to our questions.
1. Briefly highlight why you feel you would be the best candidate for City Council.
- 30 years of architecture, city planning and real estate development expertise helping communities of all sizes throughout the United States evolve through comprehensive planning and visioning processes
- Master Degrees in Real Estate Development and City Planning with an emphasis in Urban Design from MIT
- Leadership courses at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
- Bush Fellowship Award Recipient
- One of four architects in the Country to receive the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Young Architect Citation in 1997
- Recognized throughout the Midwest for leadership in sustainable design
- Co-Chair of the AIA Minnesota Council of Firms
Experience in Edina
- Edina Planning Commission from 2004 to 2013, including two years as Chair
- Edina Housing Task Force in 2005/2006
- Zoning Board of Appeals 2004 to 2013
- Comprehensive Plan Task Force from 2006 to 2008
- Greater Southdale Area Land Use and Transportation Study in 2004/2005
- Local Traffic Task Force in 2002/2003
- 12 years coaching 31 girls and boys sports teams in Edina
- 7 years volunteering in the Edina middle school and high school theater programs
- Member – Our Lady of Grace. Served on a strategic planning committee, leadership teams for several Men’s retreats, and a current member of the OLG Men’s club.
Edina is about excellence. We have solid infrastructure with well-maintained streets, beautiful parks, livable neighborhoods, quality healthcare with fast emergency response times, and a desirable business environment with clean government.
We accomplished all of this because we have had a tradition of strong leaders willing to be visionary, yet practical when it comes to spending our tax dollars. I have the leadership skills to carry on this tradition of excellence in Edina.
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?
I am supportive of the Edina Affordable Housing Policy which took effect on November 1, 2015. This policy does not meet the goals currently required by the Met Council, but is a reasonable compromise given the challenge we have with high property values. I do believe it is important to provide housing opportunities for all members of our community. We want to have opportunities for our teachers, police officers and other essential members of our community (not to mention our own children) to live here.
The Greater Southdale Area — which is about the size of downtown Minneapolis — has been constantly evolving since the mall was built in the late 1950’s. It will continue to do so whether we want it to or not; the questions is whether we will be involved in pro-actively shaping that or will merely react parcel-by-parcel to the inevitable redevelopment proposals that are made by property owners. Pentagon Park, Grand View and the Cahill industrial park are also likely to change over the next several decades, providing opportunities for new development including housing.
Changes in our population (now over 50,000) will affect our schools, which is why I believe very strongly that we need to eliminate the silos between the City and our school districts. I have experience building bridges with school districts and would welcome the opportunity here in Edina.
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 vast majority of the operating budget (75-80%) is wrapped up in wages and benefits. Typically, even if the City doesn’t increase the number of employees year to year, the wages of employees rise by 2-3%. I do not currently have access to information from other cities, but I would assume if we want good people working for our city, we need to pay them competitively. The remaining increases in the budget each year are a function of decisions the City makes about amenities we all desire. The big picture strategy ought to be how to manage the economic health of our community in a way that ensures that our tax base continues to grow benefiting property owners throughout the community, maintaining our traditionally low tax rates when compared with other cities.
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?
I work for a company that consults with cities and sometimes work for clients that propose development in cities. We will not pursue work with the City of Edina while I am on the council. If my company is involved in a private development proposal in Edina (this has not happened in the 14 years I have volunteered here), I would recuse myself from participating in the council’s decision making on that proposal.