Scoggins hopes to earn another term on city councilExperienced. Amy Scoggins believes she earned that description over the last four years, her first four on the Woodbury City Council.
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.]
Experienced. Amy Scoggins believes she earned that description over the last four years, her first four on the Woodbury City Council.
The mother of three and wife to a sports writer, Scoggins, 38, moved to Woodbury with husband Chip eight years ago. In 2004, she ran for city council out of desire to get involved in her community.
“I remember I had been following some issues going on with the council at the time, and I decided this was our home and where we were going to be raising our kids, so why shouldn’t I get involved,” Scoggins said.
In addition to her duties on the council, Scoggins said she has kept active in volunteering with her church and coaching youth soccer.
Upon her election, Scoggins said she was aware of the issues going on with the city such as economic development and an increased demand for public safety. B ut looking back, she admits that she didn’t have a whole lot of experience in city government coming into her first term.
“It’s something where I can say I actually learned quite a bit on the job, but I feel like I worked hard and have done a good job,” she said. “I think the city has done a good job of planning for the future. This is a great place to live and that has a lot to do with people getting involved in the process.”
Four years ago, Scoggins remembers one of her issues was exploring the possibility of the city building a municipal swimming pool for the community.
She said that she’d still like to see idea come to fruition, but knows that now is not the time.
“It’s obvious that we’re not in the same economy now that we were in four years ago,” Scoggins said. “It’s kind of a trivial concern right now, but I still hope that some day it could be a reality. That seems like the only thing we are missing when it comes to recreation.”
Scoggins said she credits city staff and members of the city council for helping her cut her teeth during her first term in any elected position.
“There is just so much we worked on and accomplished over the last four years, from the comprehensive plan to working with the school district on the new high school and Bielenberg expansion,” Scoggins said. “I think there is something to be said for experience and I think the current council has a good working relationship.”
In terms of her prospects for another term, Scoggins referred to a an old quip.
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” she said. “Serving the community in this capacity is something I really enjoy doing and something I want to continue to be a part of in the future.”
AMY SCOGGINS 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’ve recently updated our comprehensive plans, which lay out the blueprint for how the community will absorb future growth, and provide the necessary infrastructure. These plans outline where the growth will occur, what types of growth (residential, commercial, retail, etc.) will occur and when it will take place. The growth process will be done gradually in phases. Our comprehensive plans are in place through the year 2030. They were developed over a long period of time, with a great deal of input from residents, commission members, council members and city staff. A lot of study was put into these comprehensive plans. As a council member, the best way to prepare our city for growth is to adhere to our comprehensive plans, and that is what I intend to do.
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?
I believe that some city involvement is necessary in order to preserve property values in our community. We don’t want these vacant homes to become havens for thieves and vandals. We also don’t want them to fall into disrepair. The city is working with the county to identify which homes are in various stages of foreclosure so that we can monitor them. We need to make sure these homes are maintained to our community standards. Also, to help the foreclosure situation, the Woodbury HRA has developed a foreclosure loan program that will be launched in 2009. On the positive side, Woodbury has been doing relatively well compared to other metro cities when it comes to residential home sales. The median residential sales price in Woodbury for September of 2008 was $20,000 greater than September of 2007. Compared to last year, the average number of days homes stay on the market in Woodbury has decreased from 74 to 68, which is an 8.11 percent decrease. The number of home listings has decreased while the number of closings has increased. Hopefully that points to the fact that our housing market is stabilizing.
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?
Nobody, including me, ever wants their taxes to increase. I do believe the city has been fiscally responsible during the time I’ve been on city council. When you compare Woodbury to similar cities across the metro, and to other cities in Washington County, we are not among the highest taxed communities. We usually fall somewhere right in the middle. Community surveys consistently show a very high level of satisfaction among our residents. We receive a high degree of services and amenities for our tax dollars. To me, that shows a great deal of value for the money. The unfortunate reality is that our non-tax revenues (investment revenues, building permits, etc.) have declined, which has put more pressure on property taxes. We carefully examined the 2009 budget and have trimmed it by more than $750,000 since the preliminary levy was announced. We have reduced spending in several areas. We had planned to hire four police officers in 2009, but instead will hire two. We’ve cut back our street maintenance budget as well. We’ve also reduced funding for city employee wages and benefits and employee training programs. It is going to require a great deal of thought and planning to ensure that our residents will continue to enjoy an excellent quality of life without experiencing increases in their property taxes, but that will be the goal. I believe that my four years of experience on city council has prepared me to face the economic challenges that lay ahead. I will continue to push for a government that runs efficiently and effectively, while preserving the lifestyle we enjoy in our community.
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?
As a city, we have encouraged environmentally friendly building practices. A wind turbine at East Ridge High School would be an excellent example of this, but we need to make sure it is appropriate to place a large wind turbine adjacent to a future residential development. The bigger issue, in my opinion, is that we’ve been encouraging sustainable development practices within our community, but we have not laid out specific ways for this to occur. We need to give direction to the school district, and to other developers, so that they can appropriately utilize environmentally friendly practices in our community. The school district is trying to be responsible and we need to help them do that, whether it’s allowing a wind turbine or making other suggestions that could be economically beneficial as well as environmentally friendly.
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?
I think that the fluctuation in the price of gas during the past year has been a wake-up call for all of us. More of us are looking for alternative transportation in order to save money on gas. Woodbury residents need to have ample opportunities for public transit to commute to Minneapolis and St. Paul. We need to work with other east metro communities in order to achieve this. We need to make sure that Woodbury and Washington County are part of the overall transit plan for the metropolitan area. We also need to provide a system within our own city for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely move about Woodbury. That means, when we reconstruct streets, we should include bike paths on both sides of the road. It also means that when we design new roads, we need to place an emphasis on safety measures for bicyclists and pedestrians.
6. Evaluate the city's current parks and recreation amenities. Are there any changes or additions you would address on this area and why?
My family is an avid user of Woodbury’s parks and recreation amenities. We enjoy the parks and trails, Lookout Ridge and many of the recreational programs offered by our city. Having a strong parks and recreation department can only help our community in the long run by attracting more residents and businesses. The one amenity that I believe we are missing is a community swimming pool. Every other year, an independent firm conducts a community survey, and the results have consistently shown that our citizens would strongly desire a community swimming pool. I think that we need to find a way for that to occur. Obviously, since the economy is suffering right now, it might be difficult to build a swimming pool in the short term. I do think there are ways to make it a part of our long-term plan. A public-private partnership of some sort could allow us to have a community pool without having to increase taxes.
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?
I think that promoting green initiatives is worthwhile, if done properly. To me, it must make economic sense. As a city, we have done a good job of trying to be environmentally responsible in our own building projects. Our recent expansion and renovation of city hall included many features that will save us money and are environmentally friendly. I believe the city’s role should be to educate our citizens and to provide incentives for builders who wish to utilize environmentally friendly practices. Our government should continue to explore ways to be environmentally conscious while saving money.