Steven Chavez is one of two Metropolitan Council members based in and representing Dakota County. The other, Wendy Wulff of Lakeville, a holdover from the Republican Met Council, sent an e-mail begging off of an interview, since she's not on the subgroup directing the 2040 planning process.
Chavez is an Eagan attorney whose northern Dakota district consists most notably of Eagan and Burnsville.
Q Do you expect this DFL-dominated council to change things, versus the Republicans before you?
A Yes. The tone, the direction so far, is much more action-oriented. We are moving beyond the vocabulary of what I might call 'wishes,' to more of what I'm accustomed to in the private sector, namely, 'outcomes.' We need to advance beyond a document sitting on a shelf to something useful. I want to look back at something we did and say it helped attract three Fortune 500 companies and fuel our economic engine.
You'll see the difference just in the wording we use. The old council spoke, for instance, of 'encouraging' expanded housing choices. That's nice. It's rather soft. It's not very -- it's challenging to set an outcome that can be measured.
Q It sounds like an outcome not everyone will agree with, and certainly not in some suburbs -- expanding beyond the conventional single-family subdivision.
A The '08 housing bust has changed things. Demographics are changing. What happens now with local communities' own strategies for growth?
We began to realize even in my tenure in Eagan [on the planning commission] that suburbs in certain rings or orbits have now reached the developed stage and are looking at redevelopment.
They are changing their thinking about housing as well. Many communities are thinking strategically, 'Where are we going with this?' I'm not sure they have the answers yet, but they are asking the question.
Q Do you see suburban reps on the council as being bludgeoned by urban folks?
A No. We need to take a look at the region, rather than merely Eagan or Burnsville or Coates. What is our role in the region's success? We're blessed in Eagan with major employers. Others don't have that. But because they are close, their small businesses support those larger ones, and they provide housing for people who work in Eagan, and that spreads out to transportation and education.
It's a self-fulfilling little engine. It's got to be our view that it's more than Eagan, it's more than Dakota County. I need to know how we're both going to succeed.