The Future of Shakopee is Bright
We have great days ahead of us in Shakopee. Unlike many other outer-ring suburbs of other cities, Shakopee isn’t just a bedroom community with very few places for people to work and earn a real living. However, like many suburban communities, there are challenges we face both as a city and as a region that we must play our part in overcoming.
Priorities & Positions
Shakopee has the potential to be and remain an economic engine for the southwestern metro region. However, we must avoid “growth at any cost” and instead focus on “growth that is good for Shakopee and our region”. My guiding principle for any economic discussions will be how is this going to impact the people of Shakopee, both positively and negatively. Decisions rarely are cut-and-dry and there will always be some trade-offs, but it is my priority to make sure that economic decisions regarding the future of Shakopee represent a net positive to our city and our people.
Housing & Affordability
If you have been shopping for housing, whether to purchase or to rent, you may have been surprised by the costs. Shakopee lacks adequate housing for all the people who want to live here, and most importantly, housing that most working people can actually afford. As we look to the future of Shakopee, I want to ensure that people who work here can also live here, instead of being pushed further and further out seeking affordable housing and contributing to endless sprawl. Shakopee is a town with a vibrant working class, and it is my hope to see that working class be able to be prosperous and safe, not driven further away. New housing construction is focusing more and more on market-rate or luxury apartments. We need to look at embracing density and focusing on affordability while maximizing comfort and livability. I also believe that if the market cannot offer affordable housing, it is up to the city and county to find a way to solve this issue.
I’ve lived along many rivers, so the transportation network issues of Shakopee are nothing new to me. The city I graduated high school from, Wenatchee, Washington, is approximately the same size as Shakopee and has only two ways in and out of the city, both over bridges built decades ago. Shakopee is better situated, not nestled up against the foothills of a high mountain range, but the same issues effect us: few ways in and out of the city to the major population center. We must be able to meet the needs and reduce traffic congestion without relying on a singular approach. Additional lane miles sound great on paper, but traffic science has proven over and over again that additional lane miles do not actually reduce congestion long term: if anything, it just perpetuates the problem. As a city councilor, it is my priority to make sure that our bridges and highways be improved to make them safer and more reliable, to reduce the potential for accidents and other factors that contribute to congestion, and to push for better, more robust and reliable public transportation to actually help alleviate that congestion. We also need to make sure that people who live in town and cannot drive can get around safely, cost-effectively, and timely, so we must improve our local transit capacity and encourage the use of that service.
Parks, Open Space, Ecology, and Sustainability
I believe that all of these things go hand-in-hand. Our parks must provide adequate spaces and opportunity for recreation for all of Shakopee’s citizens, and be spaces that foster environmental responsibility. Our public infrastructure, including highways, civic buildings, and more have the ability to be multi-purpose: meet the immediate needs for which they are designed, provide space for trees or renewable energy collection. Shakopee has the ability to be a regional leader in innovation in the ecology and sustainability realm while at the same time having parks and open spaces that are the envy of the entire region. Not just protected areas, but a combination of recreation and conservation that is logical and is a good use of our parks budget. This is why I volunteered to serve on our Parks, Recreation, Trails & Open Space Steering Committee to help leverage our community resources to benefit us all.
Our downtown city center is a beautiful, historic space where neighbors can meet, visitors can enjoy the history of Shakopee, and our local enterprise can thrive. However, despite improvements, there is still more that needs to be done. There are many factors playing into this: from what exists in the area to draw people in, lack of adequate parking and transportation options, and more. These aren’t new to Shakopee. The very same issues impact cities I have lived in or near, such as Downtown Littleton, Colorado or Leavenworth, Washington. Both cities though have something Shakopee does not have: passenger rail. Littleton, Colorado sits on a light rail line connected to Downtown Denver and the southern suburbs. People often hop the light rail to go to the numerous festivals and events, or to have a night out at the area’s restaurants, wine bars, and shops. Leavenworth, Washington is a city that bills itself as the Bavarian town of the American Alps. Nestled right in the picturesque Icicle Valley, it comes close. The city has more than it’s fair share of festivals and the entire downtown is an attraction itself, unique shops and boutiques, restaurants and public houses all decked out in Bavarian themed design. It’s not uncommon for people to drive for hours over Stevens Pass from Seattle only to spend 40 minutes or more looking for parking. The city, however, recently tapped into the Amtrak line that runs along the edge of the town and built a rail station, and now, passengers from Seattle as well as Wenatchee arrive by train to many of the local festivals, and the local transit authority, Link Transit, improved bus service between the Station and the downtown area. While parking and traffic persist as problems at peak times, many more people find they can enjoy the sights and sounds of Washington’s own Little Bavaria with a little planning, choosing to make it a car-free weekend instead of a single day full of frustration.
For Shakopee, we need to think to the future: from considering commuter rail connections that can help people get to and from Downtown without ever driving, to improved parking, to encouraging the development of businesses that provide a unique experience that just can’t be found anywhere else. When my wife and I lived in Englewood, Colorado, we spent a lot of time in Littleton because of the atmosphere and the shops that were in Downtown, compared to our own city’s downtown which practically closed up shop at 6 PM.
Downtown Shakopee has a charm that we can build upon.