While most every political candidate offers a platform with ideas and promises if they get elected – which are often forgotten and unfulfilled once in office – Dixon City Councilman Devon Minnema has taken a unique tack this week.
On this past Wednesday afternoon he presented a package of reforms at a small rally he held in the park next to the library in downtown Dixon – six months after he was sworn in.
He calls his proposed reforms “Our Town 20/20” – in which he calls for seven reforms to encourage small businesses in Dixon, including home based business. He also proposes reforms to encourage owners of homes and businesses to upgrade their buildings without facing heavy financial and permitting burdens.
In his presentation, Minnema lamented in the past “You had to leave to make something of your life, because there was little opportunity here short of starting your own business, and even then you would have such a small market that you would certainly not be able to bring meaningful opportunity to any other Dixonites.” Still, he asserted, Dixon today has “more young people wanting to stay here and keep Dixon as their home than ever before.”
Minnema identified the root problem is “In the mindset of government controlling decisions, people lost sight of the reality that success is contingent on risk and, out of their fear, created rules that give bureaucracies the ability to preemptively stop free exchange. In passing ordinance after ordinance, adding another layer of zoning, and creating fees and restrictions on building, barriers to growing a business were inadvertently built … how many businesses considered Dixon but did not open here after all? Politicians wrapped themselves in platitudes about how they were “pro-business” while simultaneously voting for every new regulation that was presented – not realizing what they had done.”
Minnema said he will ask the City Manager to place specific code reforms on the agenda, and that he and his supporters will continue to work on specifically worded drafts that will accomplish the goals. “We intend to eradicate the false notion of centrally planned community and instead empower our local residents.”
“Whether it comes to housing, retail, or service, we must remember that innovation is innovation because it is not what is known. The government can only know what has already existed, and it creates policies that constrict individuals and enterprises to fall into a predefined category, while the whole of social progress is to reject categories and labels in favor of individual freedom, “Minnema said.
In a hand out, Minnema detailed his “Our Town 20/20” proposals including:
Home Based Business Permits: Noting more and more people becoming internet entrepreneurs, he supporting h\Home-based businesses by eliminating the Home Based Business Permit Fee to break down one of the barriers to entry. “We should not expect home-based businesses, which have a smaller footprint and lower municipal needs, to pay more than traditional businesses.”
General Business Permits: He urged lowering business permit fees that impact startups businesses and encourage small businesses to operate in a way that can facilitate growth, and by extension, jobs and careers.
Zoning Reform: “The City of Dixon currently has over 30 different zoning designations each with its own rules and guidelines, “ Minnema said, “This is stifling both commercial and residential innovation. By simplifying the zoning system to six or fewer designations, we can make sure that businesses can go where their customers’ want them instead of where the City’s bureaucrats will let them operate.”
Neighborhood Code Reform: “There is a certain point at which the idea of protecting harmony becomes farcical.” He proposes doing away with neighborhood codes for all neighborhoods that are collectively over 50 years of age, as well as eliminating them completely in custom-built neighborhoods.
Graffiti Enforcement Reform: Minnema opposes the current policy which fines the victims of graffiti (property owners) if they cannot remove graffiti a short time. “These victims should not be held responsible for the actions of criminal miscreants, “ he said
Non-structural Improvement Permits: Minnema said improvements not affecting the structure of a building should not go through the City Engineering Department. Rather he proposes “Over-the-Counter” permits to speed up the remodeling process.
“The engineering department does not need to approve these permits, whether it is adding solar panels to a structure, remodeling bathrooms, or electrical and plumbing efforts. Licensed contractors are already regulated,” he said.
Downtown Code Review (sign policy): Minnema noted, “While the city has never officially voted to give the weight of law to the downtown code that was drafted by the DDBA, several business owners have been subjected to those rules with the weight of law behind those unapproved policies. We, the council, and by extension the people, must decide whether or not to implement regulations, but we cannot outsource the policy-making process to unelected boards and give them powers of enforcement. Either it is law, or it isn’t, but it cannot be both ways.”
For more information on his Our Town 20/20 proposals, contact Dixon City Councilman Devon Minnema (530) 848-3786 or email: email@example.com