Two running for Woodbury City Council seek spending cuts, mayor unopposed
When Bill Braun’s neighbor called 911 for an ambulance that didn’t arrive until 20 minutes later, he was irked.
“I’m sure there is good financial reason why the city is making those decisions,” he said. “(But) if I were the person dialing 911 and there is an idled Woodbury ambulance moments away, I would like that ambulance to help me.”
Braun, a Woodbury firefighter/ emergency medical technician (EMT), is running for Woodbury City Council this fall because he believes “somebody shouldn’t complain about the job someone else is doing until they’re ready to stand up and serve themselves,” he said.
Braun is joined by Emmanuel Obikwelu, who also filed to run against two incumbents, as soon as the filing period opened late last month.
The filing period closed Tuesday without challengers to Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens' seat. Braun and Obikwelu are running against incumbents Julie Ohs and Christopher Burns for City Council.
Obikwelu, a science teacher at Minnesota Transitions Charter Schools in Minneapolis, said high property taxes prompted him to run for local office.
“There is so much spending going on right now,” he said.
Plenty of residents are complaining about local taxes and “projects that aren’t necessary,” he said.
Obikwelu, a Woodbury resident since 2004, said he wants to get in on the discussions and figure out what exactly needs to be fixed to lower property taxes, bring more jobs and improve the local economy.
“I need to go in and find areas that need to be cut,” he said.
Braun shares a similar vision, but his experience as a firefighter and EMT is motivating him to focus on some of those services.
Although the city prides itself in quick response time when it comes to police, fire and medical calls, Braun said some of the low frequency occurrences aren’t included in the average data that’s frequently publicized.
“On average you may have a good response time,” he said. “But if you are one of those specific people who are waiting an extraordinary amount of time, then maybe we aren’t making good choices.”
Braun said the city’s many resources – attorneys and financial advisors – may be influencing the outcome and final decisions.
He cited the city’s pending sale of one of its two rescue trucks, which is used for severe auto accidents, as an example.
“They’re reducing the rescue capability or alternatively they’re reducing the proximity to rescue equipment,” he said.
Braun, however, acknowledged the work by city employees and said the city has been a good place to live and raise his five children.
But he’s asking to reconsider priorities, using the new Bielenberg Sports Center as an example of overspending without looking into partnerships with neighboring cities and local school districts.
“We’ve done some fabulous things in the past,” he said. “If we can extend that kind of shared use mentality rather than being in a position where we have to do it all, I think we can make better use of taxpayer resources.”
The last day to withdraw is Thursday, Aug. 14.