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Golden Valley City Council Candidates, 2021

A survey was sent by Valley Allies to all candidates for the Golden Valley City Council election which is Tuesday November 2, 2021 (voting info here). Larry Fonnest and Gillian Rosenquist currently have the two seats that are up for election. Larry is not seeking re-election, while Gillian is seeking re-election for a second term.

The full list of candidates (see filings here) in alphabetical order is:

Loretta Arradondo

Joanie Clausen

Andy Johnson

Denise La Mere-Anderson

Drew Peterson

Gillian Rosenquist

Orville Christian Satter

Valley Allies sent the survey with deadline, giving candidates several days to respond. We received responses from (alphabetically): Loretta Arradondo, Denise La Mere-Anderson and Council Member Gillian Rosenquist. The other candidates declined to send a response. Below are the answers to the member-generated questions.

UDPATE: Update, Loretta Arradondo has withdrawn her bid for city council to focus on the urgent needs in North Minneapolis. We thank her for her heartfelt work and for her care about Golden Valley. We look forward to continuing to partner with Loretta on these important issues affecting all our cities.

From left to right: Loretta Arradondo, Denise La Mere-Anderson, and Gillian Rosenquist

1) Tell us about your work and/or how you have worked for the community or in a governance role?

Loretta Arradondo: I started my career in the non-profit sector 29 years ago working to end homelessness and food insecurity, and advocating for victims of sexual and domestic violence. I work as a Gateway Family Facilitator for NorthPoint Health & Wellness Inc., providing supportive and preventive eviction services to families participating in the Minnesota family investment program. I also serve on NorthPoint Health & Wellness Organization's Development Team. I promoted and recruited for Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison's COVID-19 vaccine fair. I also assisted with community food drives with over 5000 donations, and supported individuals experiencing homelessness in the Minneapolis encampments at Martin Luther King Park and Hiawatha Avenue.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: For the past eight years, I have been proud to serve on the Golden Valley Human Services Commission, having served as both vice chair and chair for six years. I am currently serving as chair. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished on this commission for the communities of Golden Valley. We have balanced the commission’s budget; reformed our bylaws to better reflect the needs of the community; and authorized an emergency fund allocation to provide additional assistance to Golden Valley residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have created and held fundraisers to bring people together, like Run the Valley and the Greens Classic; and although we had to pivot our events due to social distancing, we have continued to find opportunities to bring people together to help do more good within our city.

Gillian Rosenquist: I've served on the Golden Valley City Council for one term and am seeking re-election. I have a J.D. and practiced IP law and later worked at a legal nonprofit running a pro bono program. I've served on the Open Space and Rec Commission and light rail citizens advisory council in addition to civic leadership, volunteering and fundraising with nonprofit organizations and schools.

2) How do you define equity? How do you approach equity work in your life (professional, volunteer, personal?)

Loretta Arradondo: To be fair and impartial, no matter an individuals background, race, sexual orientation, age or disability. Equity is part and parcel for advocating for diversity in the job I do on a daily basis. I approach my work with equity by advocating for and assisting families on the Minnesota Family Investment Program who face barriers to affordable housing, livable wages, health disparities.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: Equity, to me, is the ideal state in which members of a community can achieve a thriving standard of living, with unfair circumstances accounted for by government assistance that would otherwise prevent people from having a fair shot at achieving that standard of living. In my day job as a human resources professional, I strive to bring equity into my work by advocating for workers who experience discrimination, and holding management to account when they have created a discriminatory work environment, regardless of intent. I have partnered with our founder and CEO to create a diversity pledge and I am leading unconscious bias training for all people managers in our organization.

As chair of the GV Human Services Commission, I strive to incorporate equity into our work by ensuring everyone gets a chance to speak at the table. I do this because I know diversity is meaningless without its inseparable half; inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are like peanut butter and jelly on the commission; you can have people from many walks of life present, but if you don't make sure that each person can contribute, an equitable and inclusive discussion is not achieved. Conversely, I strive to ensure that our membership on commission reflects the diversity of our city when openings arise, as inclusion without diversity is tone deaf to the experiences of people without a seat at the table. Finally, when someone contacts me about the work we are doing on the commission who doesn't have a seat at that table, I make the time to sit down and listen to them so that I can intimately understand their perspective and incorporate it into the conversation at the next meeting. I understand that my ideas are limited my experience as a white person. I need the help of Golden Valley's residents of color, our LGBTQIA+ community, and anyone else with a historically-marginalized identity to teach me to be a better ally and advocate.

Gillian Rosenquist: As a lawyer, equity is defined as fairness. Fairness is the attempt to tailor justice to the person and the behavior to achieve a fair result. Equity, as a practice, is striving to match your efforts and work to the need so the result is fair for that person or group. For me, it means that I try to move our systems toward communicating and connecting with community members in intentional and different ways to meet people where they are in a way that is accessible and not expecting them to follow a traditional form or model. It means taking critical looks at our traditional ways of doing things so that we remove artificial, habitual or alienating barriers to inclusion in a strategic and effective way to move closer to fairness.

3) For you personally, how high of a priority is achieving equity for GV (relative to other city priorities).

Loretta Arradondo: I believe that making sure all voices are heard and understood would allow me to make equitable decisions for the city Golden Valley and its stakeholders.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: I think that inequity lies at the heart of most issues we face at the local level of governance. Thus, I see it as the highest priority for Golden Valley in this moment given the sheer scale of the problem. Just as all roads lead to Rome, it seems that a staggering number of issues we face as a Golden Valley community can be traced back to the scourge of inequity. It is foundational to the work I seek to do as a servant leader that we recognize the vast role of societal inequity in creating many of the problems we face in the city. At council meetings, I intend to use my voice to remind council members and the public at large when an issue before us stems from xenophobic roots, especially when it isn't inherently obvious. As I seek to be a vocal advocate for a more equitable and just Golden Valley, I recognize that I have blind spots as a white woman to the struggles of people with identities that have been historically oppressed. I am committed to fully integrating these voices into the advocacy I engage in as a councilwoman.

Specific ways in which I believe local government can carry us to the ultimate goal of equity for all who live in our city include:

  1. Working to reduce and ultimately eliminate homelessness by offering local assistance to those totally without housing security and those who have poor housing security.

  2. Enacting local ordinances that prioritize and financially incentivize the development of multi-family housing complexes so that we can have more neighbors in Golden Valley.

  3. Assisting those in Golden Valley who experience food insecurity by connecting them with community resources

  4. Ensuring access to job opportunities

  5. Confronting racism and discrimination

Gillian Rosenquist: Very high. Over the past two years, the Council has followed the GARE (government alliance on race and equity) and Rising TIDES task force recommendations, hired a D&I Manager and is doing comprehensive D&I work in every respect.

4) What would you plan to do to help improve police training so that we can all feel safe calling on the police? Also, what are your ideas on how to repair and heal the relationship with police and communities of color and other communities that have experienced trauma at the hands of police?

Loretta Arradondo: My plans to help improve police training are as follows:

  1. Implement de-escalation training for police officers annually.

  2. Provide trauma-informed care and conflict resolution training.

  3. Implement enhanced diversity and inclusion training.

  4. Implement "know your role" training with serve and protect training.

My ideas to repair and heal police and community relationships are as follows:

  1. Hire more BIPOC officers to GVPD

  2. I would increase the number of police and community social interaction by having community events: ice cream socials, meet-and-greets, Golden Valley PD vs. Golden Valley Residents baseball events, or vs. neighboring police departments, etc.

  3. Monthly QA with the police and community to discuss concerns.

  4. Support the Golden Valley Police Department, its been a rough year for all of them.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: This is a hard question, but it may be the most important question you've asked on this questionnaire. Everyone should be able to call the police without fear of harm. It is the job of police officers to make our communities safe. I know that experiences with policing shift from person to person on the basis of identity, among other factors. I feel safer than my BIPOC neighbors might feel in calling the police given the sum of my identities. I want everyone to feel the same security that I do in knowing that I can pick up the phone, dial three numbers, and have a public safety response that protects me in perilous situations. Every resident of Golden Valley is entitled to that.

Last week, the GVPD hosted "Coffee with a Cop" at the Golden Valley Starbucks. I see community engagement opportunities like this to be invaluable in building and repairing the relationship that our community has with our police department. The biggest factor hamstringing the success of these events is the relative lack of advertising and community outreach with event details. For these events to build community between the police and the people of Golden Valley, more people need to know where and when these engagement opportunities are taking place. In addition, I'd like to use these socials to collect direct feedback from the community for how we can improve policing in Golden Valley. After all, who is better suited to constructively critique our officers than the community they serve?

We need to come together to conceptualize and produce new, bold, and data-informed training regimens that will equip our officers to better respond. Take, for example, the Crystal Police Department to the north of our city. They have a class that all officers must take where are instilled with a knowledge of the cultural identities of refugee and diaspora communities which have a large presence in Crystal. This expands the capacity of police officers to be culturally competent and empathetic.

Gillian Rosenquist: I am confident that our community members and new PEACE Commission members, like our task force members, have better ideas for reparative practices than I could come up with on my own; I am here to listen and learn and support those recommendations. I'm happy that the by-laws of the new commission explicitly call on it to work on training, healing and bridge-building. Generally, it's my philosophy that connection and mutual understanding are foundational to transformation; we have so much to do so that we get to the place where police are trusted partners in safety to all of our neighbors.

5) Currently the newly-formed PEACE Commission is designed to have two non-voting GVPD as members. How do you feel about their non-voting status? Should they be allowed to vote or do you prefer they remain non-voting participants?

Loretta Arradondo: I believe it is important for GVPD to have a deciding vote on the PEACE Commission to have a comprehensive approach to decision making on behalf of the city.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: I think there are two camps on this issue, each with some validity in the concerns and arguments they make. On the one hand, an equity specialist made the recommendation to not give these officers the ability to vote with the desire to center voting power on the commission around residents of the community. On the other hand, there has been some criticism of this move, particularly as lacking sufficient precedent in the recent history of city commission composition by those who feel these officers should have a vote.

Here is what it comes down to in my mind: the purpose of these two police officers being present on the commission is to provide their expertise and experience in relation to discussions around public safety. They can do this with a vote, and they can do this without a vote. It would be unprecedented for city staff to be voting participants on any city commission, and the decision to have GVPD as non-voting members of the PEACE commission was made with considerable input from residents, task force members, DEI experts, and the city council — and I support the decision that was made. Given the composition of the commission, and the fact that they are ultimately unimpeded in fulfilling their purpose of providing advice based on their experiences, allows the GVPD to have a seat at the table but not unduly influence outcomes.

Gillian Rosenquist: I, like all of us currently on Council, struggled with this issue. The task force struggled with membership composition but not the concept of voting officers. I argued to follow the task force recommendation of two voting staff (one sworn officer and one staff) especially after an ex-felon advocate talked about his work with law enforcement and how important he had found it to have shared power and stakes for all when changing laws and practices. However, I was moved by the testimony that commission members from marginalized communities may feel unsafe with officers even in the room and frankly have concerns about that. Inclusion of non-leadership staff on any commission is new and the design of ex-officio GVPD members is a compromise I hope is the right balance. Ultimately, I voted yes to the non-voting member form, despite my support of trying to have voting police representation, because I believe strongly that this commission is the right direction for our community and city. I think we'll all learn a lot from how the first year or two goes as will other cities watching our progress.

6) Do you think the City is doing enough to protect our environment and combat climate change?

Loretta Arradondo: I believe Golden Valley can improve on protecting the environment and combating climate change.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: While we have made strides to be better stewards of the earth and its natural resources in Golden Valley, having a growth mindset means that we can always find room for improvement. The Golden Valley Environmental Commission is unique in its existence within our city's shared governance structure in that most of our neighboring cities, if not all of them, do not have any such commission. This alone is a testament to the resolve of our community in doing our part to fight back against the cataclysmic future that climate change represents for humanity.

The city made ambitious progress toward completion of step 5 of the GreenStep Cities program in 2020, having moved toward the ideal benchmarks under the program in 6 key topic areas of the program. This program is guiding our city in the right direction, and is an impressive blueprint to making Golden Valley into a model city for environmentalists across the globe to turn to as a model. While this may show my nerdy side, I highly encourage anyone reading this who hasn't seen Golden Valley's progress on the GreenStep Cities program to peruse our progress across tens of metrics at this link.

Even when considering how comprehensive the GreenStep City program is in guiding Golden Valley toward a more sustainable future, this is not enough. I would like to brainstorm with our neighbors and local activists to think of ways we can expand upon the work we are already doing through this excellent program, and through our city commission dedicated to the environment.

Gillian Rosenquist: Our strong Energy Action Plan and the focus on clean energy, sustainability and cost burden is the right direction. Coupled with the work done in line with the GreenStep Cities program (we are the highest, at Step 5), our flood and stormwater work, native planting with the help of DNR grants, working with People for Pollinators to improve our practices, solar panels, replacing vehicles with hybrid or electric where possible, minimizing impervious surfaces in projects, adding bike infrastructure, etc., are all excellent. But given the recent UN report, the situation is dire and I don't think we can say what we are doing is enough.

7) What ideas do you have to make real inroads on the climate change crisis and to protect our environment and wildlife?

Loretta Arradondo: Reduce environmental effects of emission through accessibility to public transit which reduces driving on the roads. Incentive homeowners and businesses to use solar panels. Promote recycling. Work with new and existing businesses to invest in power stations for electric vehicles.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: As I've said, I feel that the work of the Environmental Commission and the work being done through the GreenStep Cities program is ambitious and effective. However, one big, more abstract task before us which is often left out of the conversation is the task of incorporating the ideals of environmental justice into the work we do to promote sustainability and the environment in Golden Valley.

The American movement for environmental justice is widely considered to have started in 1982 in Warren County, North Carolina, when a corporate entity attempted to construct a hazardous waste landfill in the county meant for soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, a category of toxic compounds that can severely harm neurological processes after exposure to small amounts. Warren County had a majority African American community that was being purposefully targeted along racial lines for placement of this hazardous project. Since then, this is a theme which has repeated itself as recently as the 2010s, when the Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted away from majority white communities to go through sovereign territory belonging to Standing Rock, as well as areas considered sacred in the cultures of the Lakota and the Dakota. In spite of this disturbing theme, this movement has been pivotal in introducing the idea that environmental justice and racial justice are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, in nearby South Minneapolis (which hosts a sizable BIPOC community), air quality levels have been consistently below par compared to other areas of the city, which is a determinant of health that creates disparities in this community.

These sorts of connections between environmentalism and racial injustice are not always intuitive. That doesn't mean we cannot teach Golden Valley neighbors how and why these concepts find many intersections with one another. That is our duty as a community, and I want to help start more of these vital conversations.

Gillian Rosenquist: I'd like to see us tackle lawn chemicals and salt use — both commercial and residential. I also have been pushing to tie our licensure fees and permits to advancing environmental goals with incentives and penalties.

8) How do you feel about protecting existing green spaces in Golden Valley and creating new ones? How would you balance this with other demands on space?

Loretta Arradondo: It is very important to protect existing green spaces in Golden Valley and create new ones. I would balance other demands on space by researching and weighing the cost and equity of those demands.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: Green spaces provide important cultural ecosystem services and green space comes in many forms: parks, trails, pollinator-friendly habitats, and suburban common areas (i.e, "Market in the Valley"). The covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown has shown just how important it is for us to have easy access to open space for recreation and exercise. I would point you to my prior answer where I touched on Golden Valley's designation as a GreenStep city for further context.

We have an opportunity to celebrate the existing green spaces we have by making them accessible to all residents. Events like Run the Valley, Market in the Valley, and GV Pride help bring the community together to enjoy our green spaces.

We also have demands on space and there are, unfortunately, competing demands from those who want to build vs. preserve the green space available — and some of our green space is underutilized. That doesn't mean it is ripe for development, but it does point to opportunities.

Green spaces give a sense of social place, allow one to gain social recognition, enhance feelings of family kinship and solidarity, allow people to teach and lead others, provide opportunity to reflect on personal and social values, promote spiritual growth, and in general allow users to feel free, independent, and more in control than is possible in a more structured home and work environment. Green spaces foster a connection between community residents and the natural environment that surrounds them, thus allowing for a more livable city. This is essential in order for a community to be sustainable. Decisions about development must balance our GreenSteps goals and objectives with benefits/consequences to green space, and ultimately, we need to make decisions based on what is best for the long-term health of our residents and community.

Gillian Rosenquist: I'm pretty firm on keeping city green spaces green, but we are looking at lots returned by MNDOT for some affordable housing projects. Also, the Planning Commission is discussing allowing some additional density such as ADUs and row houses in R-2 zones. That density added to Golden Valley may take up green space, but if it reduces some urban sprawl, that's a net positive. If this alludes to building a fire station in a park, I'd have to hear a really convincing case and a dollar figure that shocks my conscience before even considering using parkland for a city facility.

9) How would you implement truly affordable housing in Golden Valley? What do you think is working/not working in the city's current approach to affordable housing?

Loretta Arradondo: What is working well is the task force advocating for affordable housing in Golden Valley. I would like the city to enforce the fair housing act to require developers to provide several units of affordable housing in their buildings. I believe the city of Golden Valley should invest in first time home buyers’ programs.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: The adoption of Golden Valley's 4d Affordable Housing Program, which offers incentives that reduce property tax liability, with the ultimate goal of preserving affordability and strengthening the bottom line for rental property owners is an important step in implementing affordable housing. 4d ensures that at least 30 percent of the units remain affordable to households making 60 percent of the area median income and up to 100 percent of the units in the building may be enrolled. This also protects against rent increases for tenants in affordable units by limited them to 5 percent or less annually, unless the unit is turning over to a new tenant or the owner provides evidence that a larger rent increase is needed to address deferred maintenance or unanticipated operating cost increases. If a building is sold, declarations remain with the property.

While an important step, when you search the city website, there have been no updates to 4d application processes or timelines since 2020, and it is unclear how the effectiveness of 4d is being measured. In addition, Golden Valley has a number of single-family, duplex, and triplexes that are being leveraged as rental units where 4d does not apply — thereby excluding many lower income tenants from renting in residential neighborhoods.

From a zoning perspective, I would also encourage the city to consider long-term commercial vacancies. For example, the former Optum campus has been empty for over three years. Is there an opportunity to convert this to affordable, multi-unit housing? Or is it really better to leave this large commercial building vacant for years?

To truly implement affordable housing, I think we need to do more with 4d, starting with more transparency in how it is working, and we should explore how we might expand this type of incentive program to smaller properties like duplexes, and single family rental homes.

Gillian Rosenquist: Right away when I joined the Council, I asked for us to speed up the conversation about activating our HRA to work on the issue and I'm glad to say we've gone from having it on a 5-10 year plan to having an HRA with a levy and goals in less than 4 years. Having a Housing and Economic Development staff and point person is a good start. The current budget has a $25,000 seed fund for programs and additional money for training, enforcing tenant protections and more. We'll need to work more with our senior population on fixed incomes on maintaining properties that are affordable, safe and in good condition. The Land Trust programs are great in that they build equity and wealth for families. And working with the MNDOT lots to see where nonprofits can build moderate and lower-income folks into our great neighborhoods is also the right direction.

10) Can you be honest and represent all of GV without being divisive? Do you have any examples of how you have handled potentially divisive issues to build consensus and help communities move forward productively?

Loretta Arradondo: I can represent all of GV without being divisive because I believe unity is the key to a strong community.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: If someone is unable to honestly, openly listen to ALL voices in our community and represent those voices in a respectful and civilized manner, that someone should not be running for a seat on our city council. Period.

It is the role of a leader to create an environment where people are free to speak their truth without judgment or reprimand. In my professional role, I am often asked to engage in issues where someone has accused someone else of wrong-doing, and these are almost always heated and confrontational. It is my job to objectively investigate, allowing each person to share their side of the story, and ultimately, to recommend a course of action. Emotions are often high and in many cases, someone's livelihood may be at stake. While I have my own opinions, it is not my job to judge — it is my job to obtain the facts and to listen to each person's "why." I explain the process and my role, and whenever possible, I work to give people a clear understanding of what to expect next. There are some times when, unfortunately, consensus cannot be gained. I have found, however, that in the majority of instances, even people who believe they are very far apart on an issue have more in common than they initially believe, and I work hard to build bridges between people. I believe in listening to all sides and ultimately using facts and data to drive decisions. Not everyone will be happy with every decision made, and as a leader it is imperative that I thank everyone for their input and that I explain how and why I came to the decision I did, using empathy and facts in my explanation.

After all of that, there are still people who will personalize the decision and demonize the decision-makers, often on social media. It is important not to internalize that negativity or to allow it to sway me from my approach of active, empathetic listening, civility, and fact-based decision making.

Gillian Rosenquist: I think that how I handled the police commission task force discussions and the difficult issues of especially the past two years is testament to how I've done this. The PEACE Commission discussion was difficult, but all were heard and considered in a thoughtful and respectful way. And in the end, we moved forward with a compromise that will move the city forward. I go into meetings, decisions and conversations informed, but not so firmly decided that I cannot be moved by a colleague or community member. I have a growth mindset and hope that I continue to improve and learn. And I work behind the scenes after listening carefully to fellow council members, community members and staff to think of compromises that will move us in the right direction even if it's not 100% what I think is best. I don't let my ego or perfection stop a move in the right direction

11) Do you have any comments on the high price of water in GV?

Loretta Arradondo: Not at this time.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: Minnesota's abnormally dry and hot weather this year has created drought conditions, which in turn, are impacting the price of water. I recently signed up for the EyeonWater tracking system so that I could better monitor consumption and usage, which has been informative in helping my household change our water consumption and behavior and would encourage others to do this as well.

Having lived in Golden Valley for over 10 years, I have not noticed big swings in my own water bill nor does it feel significantly higher or lower than what I paid for water while living in Minneapolis, but I am aware that other residents have concerns about their water bills. I would need to learn more about this to better understand it before commenting further.

Gillian Rosenquist: Minneapolis water is the best and the price is the highest. Re-visiting that contract and the Joint Water Commission will make waves. I don't know if we have great options for alternate sources without building a facility or reducing quality.

12) Should council members be able to promote their businesses, or that of their family, to the city?

Loretta Arradondo: I do not believe council members should promote their businesses or that of their family, to the city because it is a conflict of interest.

Denise La Mere-Anderson: Absolutely not. This is a complete conflict of interest. The Golden Valley City Council is a place to bring forward ideas and proposals that serve to further the public interest; it is not a space for commercial advertising for financial gain. 2017-2021 taught us that allowing public servants to use their position to promote their own business interests is the quickest way to tarnish public trust in the government of the day. Golden Valley deserves an ethical and trustworthy city council.

Gillian Rosenquist: A firm No. We fill out conflict of interest forms and additionally, I always want to be honest and transparent about my connection to our family business (Rosenquist Construction, a union commercial sub-contractor) so that there is transparency if my spouse bids on public work (usually done through a general contractor). Fortunately, in contracting public work, it's often blind or just by the numbers, so the potential for conflict is extremely low.

Valley Allies sincerely thanks each of these candidates for participating. This was a time-intensive survey, and your answers were thoughtful and informative. We encourage everyone to learn more about all your candidates, and to remember it is early days and candidate positions may evolve and grow over time. We look forward to an issue-based campaign season, and an outcome that moves Golden Valley forward together!

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