Rebholz cites experience in city council re-election bidLooking back 16 years when he and wife Laurie first moved to Woodbury, Paul Rebholz said his plans never included a run for local office. He just wanted to get involved with his community.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
[Editor's note: Six candidates will be listed on the Nov. 4 ballot for the Woodbury City Council race. The top-two vote-getters will be elected to the two seats up for election. Early this month the Bulletin sent the candidates seven questions and requested interviews with each one. Three candidates — Emmanuel Obikwelu, Shawn Wignall and Ryan Miller — did not respond to repeated requests for interviews or questionnaire answers. Three candidates — incumbents Paul Rebholz and Amy Scoggins and challenger Natalie Miller — did reply and their responses have been posted online.]
Looking back 16 years when he and wife Laurie first moved to Woodbury, Paul Rebholz said his plans never included a run for local office. He just wanted to get involved with his community.
“I really never thought I’d be running for city council once, let alone twice,” Rebholz said, reflecting on his decision in 2004 to run for city council upon learning that then council members Mike Charron and Peter Rekow would not be seeking re-election. “I just started getting involved and it kind of snowballed into what it is now.”
That snowball effect began when Rebholz, 44, became a member of the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. He then volunteered as a member of the city’s economic development commission, along with coaching his sons’ baseball teams, and getting involved with his church. The chamber named him “Citizen of the Year” in January 2004.
“I’d found myself pretty involved in a lot of different aspects of the community,” Rebholz said. “So I felt like I might as well get even more involved by taking on a city council role.”
The Hudson, Wis. native said he felt like he had a clear indication of the pressing issues in the community, but after his election in 2004, Rebholz said he realized there are some issues that a city can’t necessarily anticipate.
Water became a relatively large issue for the city over the last four years, Rebholz said. From the discovery of trace perfluorochemicals in the city’s drinking water, to storm sewer capacity discussions to issues with peak water usage.
The city’s cooperation with School District 833 to incorporate an expansion of Bielenberg Sports Center with plans for the new East Ridge High School is another issue that Rebholz said the city had not anticipated, as the school district was evaluating several possible locations at the time.
“Sometimes with the council, there are issues that come up that are not already on our radar,” he said. “That’s when I think you get a chance to gain that experience, to think through an issue and try to understand it before you make a decision about what is in the best long-term interest of the community.”
One of the issues Woodbury has been facing as of late is transportation. And Rebholz can personally attest to that.
For the last few years, Rebholz has commuted to downtown Minneapolis via Metro Transit Express bus.
A commercial and real estate banker for Wells Fargo, the father of two said he does a lot of his work on the ride into downtown and said he expects more Woodbury residents to use the Metro Transit buses in the coming years. With that could come expansion of Metro Transit services in Woodbury.
“It’s something that is one people’s minds, and it’s something that will probably increase in demand as we grow,” he said. “But I do think it is one of those things that has to be convenient for enough people in order to work,” he said.
At the end of the day, though, Rebholz said he is looking for four more years on the city council in order to help Woodbury maintain its community assets in a thoughtful manner.
“We have a lot of people who help make this community work,” he said. “A lot of people who are focused on keeping this a great place to live. I’d love to continue to do it this capacity and I think I have the experience to do just that.”
PAUL REBOLZ Q&A
1. Woodbury's population is anticipated to reach 60,000 by 2010 - triple the 1990 U.S. census figure of 20,000 - while its neighboring communities of Afton and Lake Elmo have remained relatively rural in character. The 2030 population is expected to reach 80,000. What would you do as a council member to prepare the city for such predicted growth?
We need to continue to follow and implement the blueprint for Woodbury’s growth our comprehensive plan. This plan is available for resident review at City Hall or on the City website. First drafted in the early 1980’s and most recently updated in 2008, our comprehensive plan lays out the vision for the community in 2030. The plan has guided our development to the terrific community and quality of life we enjoy today. I attended the comprehensive planning meetings held during 2007 and 2008 as a member of the task force. During 2006 and 2007, I chaired the task force updating the commercial components of the comprehensive plan. While short term adjustments may be needed, we need to maintain the integrity of the comprehensive plan so when fully develop our community resembles the vision and long range planning we have done for a generation, or two. As for specific recommendations, we need to plan for our public safety, public works (roads), and parks consistent with the plan. The comprehensive plan guides the decisions and work of the council and I believe guides how we will continue to deal with growth in our community.
2. Woodbury, like other cities in Washington County and in the Twin Cities area, has experienced a rise in the number of home foreclosures during the last two years. Should the city take any action regarding foreclosures from a developmental perspective and/or a public safety standpoint? If so, what actions would you suggest?
We need to and already have been taking a proactive management approach to the current housing situation, including establishing a Housing and Redevelopment Authority for the City. Our foreclosure numbers are certainly up in Woodbury, like many other communities. I have supported our city council directives on this issue to date – including code enforcement. We will do what we can to stabilize the situation in our community, but this also requires additional resources that are not part of the ordinary business of the city. Toward that end, we need to be balanced and thoughtful about how much we really need to do to achieve our desired goals – which is stabilizing housing values, and providing for public safety, among others.
Related to housing development, our growth management policy is designed to manage the number of units of production. We will review the phasing and staging of new housing developments to ensure new neighborhoods are built and sold out successfully, adding to our tax base.
The city council has actively discussed the Foreclosure issue in several workshops over the past year. Based on limited contact from residents to the city council related to this issue, I believe the marketplace in Woodbury is working this out.It is, nonetheless, something we are monitoring.
3. Citizens could see a slight increase in their local property taxes this year. Do you feel the city has demonstrated fiscal responsibility during its period of residential and commercial property growth? How should the city respond in the near future if these properties' market values decline or continue to slow in their increase?
I believe we have been fiscally responsible as a community and provide services to residents better than most of our peer Twin Cities’ communities. Our public safety department was recently recognized for their police office fire integration program. This was done to increase efficiency as well as public safety. Our emergency medical services are among the best in their group. Our parks and trails are commonly cited as the primary quality of life characteristic residents enjoy about the community. Those are a few examples of the services we enjoy in our community. Our tax rate is average among Twin Cities’ communities and we have managed a flat tax rate over the past several years, thanks, in part to continued development. As development slows and values decline slightly, the council will remain focused on managing the financial impact to our budget and how we respond. This is evidenced most recently with the adjustments made to the 2009 budget which eliminated some positions along with other budget reductions to reduce the impact to residents in the current economic environment.
4. Do you think the city should create an ordinance to allow school District 833 to build a 185-foot wind turbine tower to generate electricity at East Ridge High School? How should the city consider the concerns of the adjacent landowners who have expressed opposition to the turbine being built because they feel it will negatively affect future residential development opportunities?
I believe the policy discussion for the city council relates to alternative energy in a broader context, not just specific to wind turbines. I suggested we review the ordinance in this context during our workshop on this topic in October. Like all decisions the city council faces, we need to balance multiple perspectives and the long term best interest of the city. On this particular topic, the school district goals are similar in some respects to the city, yet different in others. We are currently doing more (homework) research on the pros and cons of wind turbines generally and our ordinance more specifically. We need to take into consideration planning, design, safety, financial implications, and impact on adjacent land owners, among others items. We will need the tax base generated by the residential development in this area so the financial implications to the city need to be understood. I also think it’s important to understand we don’t write ordinances for one specific development or project. So, the ordinance would not be specific to East Ridge. We need to understand where else and how we want to address these emerging alternative energy technologies. We have more work to do in this regard.
5. Do you believe the city of Woodbury needs more public transit opportunities for Minneapolis and St. Paul commuters? If so, how should the city accomplish that task?
On transportation opportunities, we are working with and I support another park and ride lot along I94 and Settler’s Ridge parkway, or that area generally. The city role here, however, is as facilitator with the Met Council, who would be responsible for a park and ride facility, or partnership between interested parties. We can and should promote use of bus service and other multi-modal transportation where it makes sense. I ride the bus to my full time job in downtown Minneapolis as often as possible. It’s very convenient
6. Evaluate the city's current parks and recreation amenities. Are there any changes or additions you would address on this area and why?
I believe most residents rate their overall satisfaction to the quality of life in Woodbury in large part based on our extensive park and trail system – our community assets. We have been fortunate to have many of our parks dedicated as part of the development around them. The open space referendum passed in 2005 is confirmation residents are willing to support our open space and park expansion. We need to ensure they are accessible to residents, safe, and promote community. We have been discussing neighborhood parks for outdoor skating and changing our current weather dependent rinks to a more consistent refrigeration technology system. We need more information on this before moving forward. We need to continue to add neighborhood parks as future neighborhoods develop. The Kargel park opening is an example of expanding our park system.
The Bielenberg Sports Center and field expansion in conjunction with East Ridge high school development will continue to be a focal place of gathering for recreational activities. Not just for youth athletics. We will need to replace the existing bubble (field house) at Bielenberg Sports Center soon. During 2009, we will be discussing our replacement of the bubble and other improvements, if any, needed as part of our longer range planning for the area. I hope we are able to facilitate and encourage greater community use as development there is finalized. We have a capital improvement plan for our parks and recreation department and I support those plans.
7. What are your thoughts on Woodbury's recent efforts to promote its environmental sustainability initiative? It has done this through various outreach activities, the formation of volunteer committees, approving resolutions of support for the U.S. to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol and asking businesses to voluntarily make green improvements to building design. Do you think promoting "green" initiatives is a worthwhile ongoing endeavor or a trendy civic gimmick?
In the context of stewardship, I support our efforts on sustainability and have supported the resolutions passed by the council to date. We need to continue dialog about what role the city does or does not have to play on this issue. We are in the learning phases, and personally, I am keeping an open mind about what our role should be. As this issue continues to emerge, we are studying the pros and cons, so we are prepared to address this issue in the future.