2012 Chandler City Council candidate questionnaire
Name: Nora Ellen.
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Educational, professional and political experience: Real-estate investor and multimillion-dollar producing Realtor. Chandler Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee. Government Affairs Committee for the Southeast Valley Realtor Association. Realtor Association Political Action Committee. Precinct Committeeman/Captain. University of Northern Colorado, Covenant College.
Current occupation: Real-estate agent and investor.
Family: Adult children: Son, daughter and son-in-law.
How long have you lived in Chandler? 10-plus years (Arizona for 22).
Have you ever been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, or been part of a matter in civil court? If so, what was the outcome? No.
What is Chandler’s greatest asset, and how can the city maximize it? I believe the people of Chandler are the city’s greatest asset. To ensure that the city remains a great place to live, work and raise a family, we need to focus on keeping our neighborhoods safe and creating a thriving job market for our residents. One way we can do this is to connect Chandler residents looking for employment with Chandler job openings. This will keep the city economy churning and benefit everyone.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Chandler City Council? I love Chandler. I began serving in Chandler not long after moving to Arizona more than 20 years ago. My involvement in the community ranges from being a commissioner on the mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee and four-corner retail committee to the Chandler Chamber Board of Directors. I am ready to take that service to the next level as a Chandler Councilwoman and continue building in all areas for our future prosperity.
What is your top priority, if elected? My top two priorities are to promote job creation and economic development, and to protect our neighborhoods. When our residents are enjoying successful businesses and jobs, every aspect of city life prospers. I want to ease the regulatory burden on business generally and streamline the business start-up process to same-day permitting. I will also focus on using Chandler’s excellent business network to create an efficient way of connecting those looking for work to the jobs that are available.
What differentiates you from your opponents? There is much that makes me stand out from my opponents. The most obvious differentiation between me and every other candidate is that I am the only female in the race. There is great value in having diverse backgrounds on the council; unfortunately, there is only one woman currently serving, and she is nearing her term limit. My combined experience as a business owner and mother, together with my involvement in the critical areas of business development and neighborhood safety, give me a unique perspective.
In addition, unlike some of the other first-time candidates, I’ve been involved with city policy and working in the community on a voluntary basis for years. For instance, I am a commissioner on Chandler’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and was part of the mayor’s four-corner retail committee. I’m also a member of the Chandler Chamber Board of Directors, and the Government Affairs Committee for Realtors. I have a balanced understanding of the needs of businesses and residents and a thorough knowledge of how to form public policy that enhances the lives of our residents. I also have great relationships with business and community leaders and enjoy their endorsements and support, which will make me an effective councilwoman from day one.
Discuss one recent council vote in which you agreed. Why? I agreed with the vote to provide the two-year labor agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local 493. This provides a 2.7 percent across-the-board wage and salary range adjustment in 2012-13 while staying within our budget goals. This is a well-deserved agreement for Chandler firefighters, fire engineers and fire captains for their great service to our city.
Discuss one recent council vote in which you disagreed. How would you have handled it differently? I would say that overall there have not been that many issues of significant controversy on the council over the last couple of years. However, one issue that has been a major focus lately relates to the contracts with public safety. The council decided to exclude merit-pay increases for police officers for the upcoming year. I realize that the budget is tight right now, but I believe that public safety is the paramount issue at the local level, and police officers are obviously at the forefront of that.
The council voted unanimously, which I do not take lightly. I’m just not sure I agree with that decision. In another area, I do oppose the current budgeting process. Departments need to be placed more under the microscope, validating and justifying each year why they need what they’re requesting and not just resubmit the old numbers. This is more akin to a zero-based budgeting strategy than the current broad-spectrum budgeting, and is a better process for council to use as stewards of taxpayer money.
Should Chandler consider increasing the property-tax rate to fund postponed parks and public-safety facilities? No. I do not believe increasing property-taxes on our residents is the best solution for generating funds for these areas. Many are struggling just to stay in their homes. I see it on a daily basis as a professional Realtor. We need to prioritize with the tax collections we have and live within our means. If we want to see revenue growth, it really comes down to jobs. A thriving job market will see residents better able to afford staying in their homes and paying their property taxes, thus generating revenue for parks and facilities.
What is one thing the city can do now to prepare itself for a more urban, pedestrian-friendly future? If it costs money, how would you fund it? Having covered pedestrian walkways would be helpful, especially for the summer months. Also, the creation of strategically placed parking structures would be helpful to save space while accommodating more visitors, and with the added benefit of covered parking. Preserving historic architecture and historic uses will complement the surrounding area. There are grants available for this kind of redevelopment, including federal funds. The Downtown Chandler Community Foundation has done a great job in finding grants and fundraising to help pay for these projects.
Chandler has more retail space than the market can support. What, if anything, should the city do in the short and long term to reuse these sites? I had the privilege of serving on the mayor’s four-corner retail committee, which was tasked with addressing this very issue. As our report states, any serious solution “includes fast-tracking reuse and redevelopment project permits in targeted areas at no additional charge.” This relates to the same-day permitting process I will push to achieve on council. In addition, one of the best ways to eliminate retail vacancy is to create a thriving business-growth environment that necessitates the use of more space. In other words, we need to grow our economy. As the economy grows, businesses will grow. As businesses grow, the retail space problem will shrink.
Are you pleased with downtown’s direction? Why or why not? Yes. The Chandler Art Walk, the Farmers Market and Summer Dash and Splash are some of the varied activities that attract tourism and make downtown the point of destination. Specialty stores and restaurants are what customers look for in a downtown setting. The Downtown Chandler Community Partnership has done an excellent job in attracting such businesses.
Do you support the city’s effort to attract college campuses? Why or why not? Absolutely! I support attracting college campuses because of the value I place on education for our future prosperity. Students will often choose to attend college where they live, if there is availability. Once finished, there is a great likelihood they will decide to work nearby and end up living in the city where they attended school. We should definitely expand on these partnerships with our higher-education institutions.
What kinds of businesses or industries, if any, should Chandler target to create high-wage jobs in the Price Corridor and Chandler Airpark? We cannot under-appreciate the value of past council decisions that created the potential we see today for these areas. They had vision, and we are seeing it come to fruition before our eyes. It has been exciting to see the corridor and airpark grow, and we need to make sure we stay focused on the goal: high-wage job creation. Areas in manufacturing, bio-technology, biosciences, defense, aerospace, information technology, renewable/sustainable energy and others are the future. In particular, we need to replicate the tremendous success we have had with Intel to bring more high-tech manufacturing companies to Chandler. Not only will such businesses bring more high-wage jobs to Chandler, but they will spawn job creation among the many small businesses that directly benefit as well.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/chandler/articles/2012/06/26/20120626chandler-election-nora-ellen-questionnaire.html#ixzz21lE9GX1l