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Norton: Red Wing community is stronger together

Becky Norton, candidate for Red Wing City Council, ward 3. Photo provided by Norton.

Editor's note: This is a two-part story on the Red Wing City Council Ward 3 candidates. Find the rest of the story here.

Becky Norton

Age: 43

Address: 515 Stanley St., Red Wing

Website: www.nortonforredwing.org

Email: nortonforredwing@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nortonforredwing

Education:

• University of Minnesota-Duluth Bachelors of Biology and English

• Oregon State University Master of Education

Family: One son; 7th grade at Twin Bluffs Middle School

Occupation: 8-12 grade science, River Bluff Education Center

Civic involvement: Member of American Association of University Women (AAUW); Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance; League of Women Voters; First Presbyterian Church Red Wing; Member of Christian Education Committee and Sunday School teacher; Stephen's Ministry Caregiver; Negotiations Committee Member of Local 4583 Education Minnesota; Previously: Sustainability Commission; Red Cottage Montessori; Live Healthy Red Wing member. City Council Ward 3 Representative: Sheldon Theatre Board; Charter Commission; Community Recreation Joint Powers Board.

What compelled you to run for the Red Wing City Council?

I have been passionate about community service since I can remember. Recently, I have been increasing my community involvement, working for our community. A few individuals approached me about the Ward 3 vacancy, and I started to consider if this was the opportunity I was looking for. I decided to run because I care about Red Wing, and know I bring a fresh perspective focused on looking at information, considering it from various angles, working toward consensus to make decisions that work for our city.

Red Wing is a wonderful city and that foundation gives us the opportunity to build stronger, safer communities. There must be a voice for all residents including under-represented groups as well; I know that I can be that voice for our community.

What local issues are you passionate about? Which issue would you address first if elected?

We have great potential in Red Wing. We have done so much, but we have issues to address. I feel like I can help tackle them. I am a creative thinker, who knows we can build on the past and also consider our changing world through the opportunities in front of us. My goal is to balance the needs of our historic city by investing in healthy communities, maintaining infrastructure, while also working to make Red Wing an affordable place to live.

I have listened to residents calls for safe streets and sidewalks, growing businesses and housing, valuing our parks and natural areas, and the needs of our youth. Through work with at-risk populations, I have seen the cost of poverty in real terms.

I know that we are stronger when we come together to work for all our residents. My commitment to our community is working to that end for Red Wing.

What have you done to prepare for being on City Council?

In the classroom, it is essential to listen, and to hear and see what is not being said, work as a team, and be creative in seeking solutions that work for everyone.

As a Negotiations Committee member and as an associate dean, I have considered the implications of employee and institutional needs from both sides.

Co-founding the Red Wing Community Gardens introduced me to working with city staff and city council processes and lead to my initial membership on the Sustainability Commission.

Preparation for City Council has served me well; I have done a lot of reading and research on city topics, attended meetings, met with city employees and community to better understand the concerns of individuals and learn more about our city.

All of these experiences and other community involvement has given me a deep and rich understanding about what is important to Red Wing residents and how to be an effective leader. They have given me broad range of skills and knowledge that I know will be an asset to the City Council.

What unique skills and perspectives do you bring to the council?

I understand that it's important to look at preventative costs. What can we do now that will make us a stronger community today and into the future? How can we find and support business growth that strengthens our community?

The community gardens was a project that brought fresh vegetables to my family, reduced our family expenses, and connected me with my community. We need to continue to look for those types of projects. The city, with the help of the sustainability commission, has done a great job finding some already, like the solar panel installations and subscription to community solar gardens which reduced the cost to the city for utilities and also reduced our impact on the environment. The developing drug court is another example of looking at an issue and considering its impact and ways to reduce that impact to our community. It's my intention to bring this same perspective to the issues facing Red Wing.

How would you prioritize and scrutinize special projects and requests?

All projects and requests need a cost benefit analysis: what is the current cost of a project? Does the cost change if it's deferred or dropped? Which individuals, groups, neighborhoods, or populations benefit or are harmed from the project or request? How did the issue come about? All of these questions need to be asked and considered before any project is approved. For example, the city will be considering the 2040 plan and the input given by residents. Many residents are excited about growth and development near the riverfront. This is a vital area to our community is a corridor between Downtown and Old West Main, with connections to several of our parks. As a member of the City Council I will do the critical cost benefit analysis to ensure the project developments meet the needs of our community: reviewing plans regarding city goals, sustainability, viability, and development opportunities in these areas.

Red Wing has been facing a shortage of affordable housing. How should the city deal with this issue?

The City Council previously approved a housing tax-increment fund. First, this put the property back on the tax rolls. Second, the taxes on the improvements will help offset the cost of the project to the developer and be invested into the Housing Redevelopment Authority Fund for future housing projects. This development will be a mix of market rate and below market rate units including senior living. Seniors looking to downsize will be able to stay in town and will open family size homes. This is a win-win for Red Wing. The HRA fund will help provide support for future projects to provide affordable housing. This could be neighborhood improvement projects that will improve our available affordable housing. I'm excited to work with neighborhood leaders to identify potential areas they see in their communities to improve housing and to make those changes a reality.

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