District 9 Challenger: Remove Residency Restrictions, Support Downtown
By Brandi Makuski
Polly Dalton is running for District 9 representative on the Stevens Point Common Council. Dalton, a 25-year-old who hails from Appleton, calls herself a “modern farmer” who grows organic fruits and vegetables on rented land in Custer. She said her job title is “member-owner” of Field Notes Farm & Upstream Cider.
Dalton graduated from Lawrence University with a degree in political science, and said following the election she’d like to join Emerge Wisconsin, an organization which trains Democratic woman to serve in elected office.
Dalton previously served on the Appleton City Council. She is single and has no children. She is challenging incumbent Mary McComb.
Her Facebook page can be found here.
Why are you running?
“I feel called to be responsible for my community by serving through city government. It’s something that’s become an interest of mine; I have experience as a business owner, as a recent renter, current home owner and landlord now, as serving on the city council, I think it brings a unique combination of experience to the council.”
How long have you been in Stevens Point?
“I moved here two years ago to start our farm, so I’ve been living in the community since then, and in starting a business there’s a lot of requirements to get to know the community, and understand your contacts. So I’m really diving in and getting to know the community.”
You’ve only been here for two years; how can you possibly vote on certain issues without knowing the history of the city?
“I’ve done a lot of research the past three months, actually reading the minutes up through 2011, basically. So I’ve learned a lot about the budgeting process; I’ve seen how far the city has come through their troubles a few years ago, to better managing the overall net, and the choices they’ve made on different proposals. So yeah, I’ve done my homework.”
How would you address the current financial issues the city is facing?
“I think the city budget management is always a balancing act; you do small, incremental investments so you don’t bite yourself 10, 20 years down the road. Things like street construction are a priority, but you have to come into it with the vision of, ‘How are we developing our community with a 20, 30, 40, 50 year vision in mind?’ That’s something I can bring. Looking at each department’s operating, how are we doing to have invest in technology in the future? This the 21st century, and you have to plan for that.”
There’s been a recent push on installing new bike lanes throughout the city; what are you thoughts on that?
“I’m definitely in support of bike lanes on Division St., but I’m in support of the project as a whole. One thing I understand from Appleton, I voted on reconstruction of Oneida St., and the funding from the state was dependent on bike lane development, so when you do reconstruction, like on Division St., sometimes you have to put the bike lanes in to get the funding. But, also, I think the reconfiguration of it would do alot to enhanve vehicle safety. Most of the constituents I’ve talked to about that, everyone has been in support of safer left turn.”
What about Stanley Street?
“Stanley St., I still need to do some more research independently on that one.”
What are you thoughts on the current staffing levels at the police department?
“It sounds like all police and fire departments are basically tight in terms on personnel. Especially in policing, more and more of their work is specialized, so it’s hard to create a good balance. I have talked with the chief and told him I was supportive of putting as many officers out on the beat, developing a personal relationship and a face in the community as possible.”
What are you thoughts on relocating city hall?
“I believe city hall should be downtown. This is another one of those large-scale investments that’s likely going to be necessary. The county courthouse doesn’t really function well as a building; not just aesthetically, but we’re talking about the actual internals of the building. Whether it’s upgrades, renovating the current building or reconstructing something, it’ll need to be downtown. And that’s going to take as much energy, research as a homeowner would put into buying a home — it’s the home of the city.”
What about having a separate city hall building?
“If that ends up being what we see as the best option, it should stay in that neighborhood or in the downtown central.”
How would you fix the downtown TIF? Right now it’s under water — what would you do to fix it?
“I don’t really have a good answer for that one. I’d have to do a little more research on that one.”
Why is there so much interest in the downtown as opposed to other parts of the city which desperately need attention?
“The downtown is a place where people are coming to visit, that they head to because there’s a concentration of businesses, restaurants, entertainment, and eve for community members it’s a gathering place for social activities — you’ve got the farmers market, the square, lots of businesses right next to the river. Where ever you live, you’re likely going there sometime.”
But what about the south side, Division St. North and the west side? There are so many parts of the city that need attention — do you feel they’re getting it?
“They probably are not getting the proper amount of attention. But I think the Division St. reconstruction, while it’s kind of arduous, it can help long-term in terms of helping people flow north and south of the community and experiencing different parts of the community as well.”
It sounds like you have a connection to the downtown — you do a lot of work for Farmshed?
“Yep, I do. We do have a farm; the Farmshed community was basically the reason we moved to this community. We’d gotten to know people involved in it, and it seems like a great community to be involved in.”
What are you thoughts on abstentions? When something comes up related to Farmshed, if you were elected to office, do you feel it would be your responsibility to abstain to avoid a conflict of interest?
“I think we take the ‘conflict of interest’ too far sometimes. It’s about a financial conflict and whether I have any personal benefit or gain from a vote. So I’m able to decipher, under the law, whether or not I would have a direct, personal, financial benefit from those votes. If I did have one, I would abstain.”
What are you thoughts on parking issues in the city?
“Every community has parking issues. Frequently it’s how [parking stalls] are allocated; sometimes too many are allocated for a specific business I think there are issues with over-allocating spaces, and some of those can be addressed in the zoning code. I think it may be better to stack parking on top of layers in some sort of specific building; that’s a very large investment and I think that would require a lot of research.”
You’re the only [candidate] to reference the downtown when it came to parking issues; how do you feel the city should handle on-street parking residential areas?
“I’m in favor of, where appropriate, alternative [side of the street] overnight parking, with all the contingencies appropriate for winter weather.”
How would you handle ongoing police-related issues in the Core? (The Core is the nickname given by police to off-campus residential areas surrounding the university)
“One of the reasons I’m interested in running is the rewrite of the zoning code; I think, in that process, we’ll be able to outline a better framework for expectations of property owners and landlords, and I’m also encouraged by the neighborhood development position (the city’s ordinance control officer) as someone who can be there proactively addressing situations, along with the work that the police department has been doing. It’ll be an ongoing relationship.”
University students, by and large, are not property owners in the city. Who is the priority when it comes to city business — the university, or property owners?
“Well the 7,000 to 9,000 students who come here each year are contributing economically and culturally to our community. I don’t think it’s beneficial to siphon them out as some sort of unique citizen. You should look at them as current residents, and hopefully long-term residents. And the conversation becomes a lot of antagonistic if we see the opportunity of them to contribute long-term to our community.”
How would you have voted on the east side town-home proposal?
“That was a tough one, because there are a lot of reasons to not develop on the east side, and I don’t agree with us continuing to move that kind of housing development further and further to our borders. But we’re currently constrained by how our zoning code is articulated. I think our [zoning code] rewrite will have a lot to shape that framework so we have a decision-making tool for a development that arises like that. I’m also interested in looking more as neighborhood development plans, in addition to a comprehensive plan; one, because we’re able to then work with citizens on a more targeted and localized realm within the neighborhood, and really give that time and dedication to neglected neighborhoods.”
You’ve mentioned the zoning code rewrite a couple of times; is there something specific you want to incorporate in there? I don’t want a generalized answer; something specific.
“I’m looking to address occupancy maximums and requirements. Specifically, I think there’s a gap for people who are moving here to rent and they’re not students, and not ready to buy that single family house, and there are very limited options for them. I think there are ways in other communities where they’ve addressed this; if a group of people is organized under a governance charter, and has a list of how they’re going to be living together, they can submit an application to be living together intentionally and be removed from the occupancy code, so there could be four unrelated people living together in a house.” (Current city ordinance allows for only two unrelated persons)
At what point do the needs and wants of the constituents outweigh fiscal common sense or a recommendation by a department head?
“I don’t necessarily think they’re at odds with one another. When you’re talking about a proposed development, the goal of the council is to scrutinize that development, but not just the dollars and sense it’ll bring to the tax base, but the long-term liabilities and challenges that it might have.”