Candidate Q&A: Shorewood Hills Village Board

February 27, 2019
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Voters in Shorewood Hills will choose from six candidates, including one incumbent, for three open seats on the Village Board. The seats have two-year terms.

Cokie Albrecht

Age: 66

Address: 1231 Wellesley Road

Family: Married with two adult children

Job: Retired last year as Shorewood Hills village clerk/finance director

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: Member of Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, until retirement; Wisconsin League of Women Voters; Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve; Shorewood Hills Garden Club

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of California-Berkeley; master’s degree in public policy, University of Minnesota

Email: cokiealbrecht@hotmail.com

Tracy Bailey (I)

Age: 46

Address: 3311 Topping Road

Family: Married with two children

Job: Stay at home mom; previously, project manager at UW Hospital and Meriter

Prior elected office: Board trustee

Other public service: Village public works committee member, recreational committee chair, ad hoc emergency preparedness committee chair, land rec parent director, Fourth of July triathlon volunteer, ice cream social coordinator, unofficial coordinator of flood response 2018; Shorewood Hills Elementary School PTO, international week parade coordinator, student memorial organizer, classroom volunteer; CASA Volunteer; Sunday school teacher; hospice orientation volunteer

Education: Bachelor’s degree, UW-Madison

Email: tracysebailey@uwalumni.com

Dietmar Bassuner

Age: 38

Address: 1102 Shorewood Blvd.

Family: Married with three children

Job: Senior project manager, Krupp General Contractors

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: Committee member, Village Zoning Board of Appeals

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Purdue University

Website or email: None provided

Revere Greist

Age: 45

Address: 1309 Edgehill Drive

Family: Married with two children

Job: Commercial lead, MERET Solutions

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: None

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Wesleyan University; Master’s degrees in business and economic history from the University of Chicago, London School of Economics and political science, and University of California-Los Angeles

Email: rgreist@gmail.com

Shabnam Lotfi

Age: 36

Address: 923 Cornell Court

Family: Married and soon-to-be mother

Job: Attorney, small business owner

Prior elected office: None

Other public service: Co-chairwoman, Dane County, Our Wisconsin Revolution; board member, Wisconsin Conservation Voters

Education: Bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing, Pennsylvania State University; law degree, UW Law School; studied in France and Tanzania

Email: shabnamforwisconsin@gmail.com

Rocky Van Asten

Age: 59

Address: 3302 Tally Ho Lane

Family: Married with three children

Job: Engineer for life sciences projects

Prior elected office: Village trustee, April 2002 to April 2004 and August 2004 to December 2006

Other public service: Scoutmaster; village volunteer EMT for 20 years

Education: Bachelor’s degree, UW-Madison

Email: rock.vanasten@gmail.com


What makes you better qualified than your opponents for this position?

Albrecht: I was Shorewood Hills’ village clerk/finance director from 2006 until my retirement last year. I was involved in all facets of the administration of Shorewood Hills’ government. I served as staff to the Village Board and several committees. I acquired a thorough knowledge of village finances and operations, essential skills for evaluating issues before the board.

Bailey: I am up-to-speed as a current trustee and an active community member. I am deeply committed to this role, not the next. Our population has grown, demographics have changed and we need to look forward because preserving the status quo isn’t enough. I am qualified to help find new opportunities, objective in my fiscal decisions and I broaden the representation of the board.

Bassuner: I am motivated by a belief in the uniqueness of our community and a sense of civic engagement and duty; where everyday Shorewood residents step up, invest their time and energy, and cultivate the values we share, the children we raise, and the respect we extend to our neighbors. I will be transparent in my actions, diligent when I problem-solve, and thoughtful when I listen.

Greist: I can’t say I’m more qualified than the other candidates because I don’t know their qualifications. I would bring a unique perspective, having grown up in Shorewood Hills and now living here with a small family. I understand the remarkable continuity of experience that characterizes Shorewood. My education and experience working in entrepreneurial healthcare ventures have provided me with skills to listen to and represent village residents.

Lotfi: As a practicing immigration attorney, my full-time job is to listen to people, identify their objectives, and strategize ways to meet those objectives. Every day I’m entrusted to perform duties where stakes are high and the margin of error is non-existent. I’ve learned how to work under pressure with people of all backgrounds and personalities to deliver timely, cost-effective results.

Van Asten: I’ve always been known as that person who asks the uncomfortable question, essential for an effective board member. Looking ahead and acting now to avoid long-term costs/issues has been my style. Lately the Village Board has become a wait-and-see organization, saving a dollar today and failing to recognize future costs of inaction.

What is the top issue facing the village and how would you address it?

Albrecht: Shorewood Hills was severely impacted by the flood in August. The village needs to work with the city of Madison to determine effective ways to mitigate the consequences of similar future rain events. The Garden Homes neighborhood was particularly hard hit. With input from residents and planning consultants, the board must identify the best redevelopment options for our community.

Bailey: We are located at the end of a large watershed area, 85 percent of which is from Madison. Last year’s flood caused millions of dollars of damage and has no easy or cheap fix. We need to act progressively, avoid repeating the past, and have clear parameters to ensure remediation doesn’t adversely affect the character or revenue of our municipality.

Bassuner: A current and ongoing topic of conversation are the flood events that occurred on Aug. 20. This singular event had a deep impact on our community. The discussions and solutions will reach beyond village boundaries. It is vital to institute a comprehensive plan that succeeds for generations to come.

Greist: Although infrastructure projects or the Garden Homes development might top many candidates’ lists of pressing issues, I’m confident that the board’s experience will allow it to manage these challenges. I am increasingly concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety. Modern cars insulate the driver from road noise and encourage faster speeds. The village’s walkabilty is one of the things that makes it a great place to live.

Lotfi: Among the several issues our village faces, I would prioritize the channeling of stormwater because the flooding we’ve experienced comes with the most severe consequences. Other concerns, like renovations, are a luxury when compared to our neighbors losing their homes and all of their belongings. I would work with city engineers to identify alternative paths for channeling stormwater to Lake Mendota.

Van Asten: Flooding. There used to be a reservoir protecting the Midvale watershed. With it gone, flooding became a regular event. Watershed development increased the risk of flooding. Madison has proposed two tunnels directly into Lake Mendota, removing homes in the Garden Homes area and re-establishing the reservoir, along with other options. All would increase drainage speed and make things worse. We need to slow down the Midvale watershed.

What’s one new way the village could keep property taxes in check?

Albrecht: Shorewood Hills’ taxpayers enjoy some of the lowest property tax rates in Dane County. However, its homeowners and small businesses would benefit greatly if the state Legislature closed the “dark store” loophole. Currently, the dark store provisions allow large corporate retailers to limit their assessed valuations, raising property tax rates and shifting a portion of their tax liability to others.

Bailey: Property taxes account for a much higher percent of our revenue than national averages. This stress requires a long-term approach. We must take great care to make sustainable decisions about where we invest and where we don’t. As a municipality, we need to advocate for state aid changes and take a look at progressive revenue alternatives to offset our reliance on property taxes.

Bassuner: We want Shorewood Hills to be safe, to be welcoming, to operate efficiently, and to be economically viable for residents and businesses alike. These goals are not mutually exclusive; however, they do require a community, and its elected representatives, to work together, and balance priorities.

Greist: The board has done an excellent job of improving infrastructure while maintaining an exceptional credit rating. While the village will need to invest in infrastructure projects, it will be important to prioritize and schedule projects and leverage our low cost of borrowing. Unless we face an emergency, we should borrow to fund projects and avoid taking on too many projects at once so we don’t exceed our borrowing capacity.

Lotfi: The purpose of taxes is to raise revenues to be used for shared public good. Paying property taxes can be frustrating when the use of the revenues is not transparent or people believe the money is wasted. I treat other people’s money no differently than my own. The village should be resourceful, transparent about costs, and work to identify and reduce inefficiencies to keep property taxes in check.

Van Asten: State politics drive property taxes, with the village accounting for roughly 17 percent. Many of our costs are fixed and known. Focusing on lowering property taxes has its issues. The village has been keeping our equipment too long, delaying new purchases. This provides short-term property tax savings, but older equipment leads to higher repair costs and worker injuries. We should replace everything on a roughly four-year cycle.