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Council candidate wants to spur downtown growth

Published 3:59pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Candidate profile: Malcom McDonald, for city council


Malcolm McDonald anticipates the void that would be left by Austin City Council Member Brian McAlister even while the longtime council member still holds office.

“I had worked with Brian McAlister for years,” McDonald said. McAlister was a school board member during the time McDonald, now retired, worked as a school administrator. “No one was stepping up, and I thought, ‘Gee, not a good omen.’”

McDonald filed for the Ward 1 seat on June 5 that McAlister, who did not file for re-election, will give up. Three other newcomers to elected office run against him: Zeke Dahl, Aaron Jones and Michael Jordal.

McDonald said he would like to address issues like the strain of property tax increases and the threat of dwindling Local Government Aid.

“LGA is just a real long-going struggle,” McDonald said. “This whole budgetary process is something every citizen needs to address with legislators.”

Cities become accustomed to LGA being a part of their budgets, he said, which makes cuts in that funding particularly hard on them.

McDonald is an avid backer of the community betterment program Vision 2020. He said he likes how many people are getting on board and educated about Austin as a city.

“It’s a really exciting situation for the city,” he said. “There’s real potential to make some positive moves.”

McDonald is currently on the Vision 2020 committee to expand the biking and walking trial system in the Austin area.

“I’m really delighted with the membership there and where we seem to be headed,” he said. The committee will look at ways to bring the bike trail in from Rose Creek to connect with Austin, possibly near 28th Street. From there, the committee may encourage a way to connect the trail to the one leading to Albert Lea.

It’s a real opportunity to make the bike trail retail-friendly, McDonald said, calling it a “godsend,” especially for restaurants and strip malls.

The committee is currently working on identifying improvements it can make without needing the backing of a large budget.

McDonald also expressed enthusiasm toward other projects in the program.

“We’re sitting in a very comfortable place along I-90 and 218,” he said. The location alone lends Austin a lot of potential for growth, he added.

While McDonald has no previous experience in elected office, he said he was on the library board for about four years in the 90s. He also served on the Cedar River Watershed District Board for about 16 years in the 80s and 90s.

McDonald was a member of the U.S. Army for 29 years, and on active duty for two and a half of them.

“The remainder was reserve time,” he said. McDonald was called to serve during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when he was 57.

He was a school psychologist for about a year before a different position opened up and he decided to take it. It was the beginning of a 27-year career in school administration, where McDonald served as director of special services with Austin Public Schools. Presently, he is retired.

McDonald was born in Jefferson, Iowa. He was raised and graduated high school in northern Iowa. In the early 70s, he moved to Austin, and has lived in the city since.

“I’ve been working with some previous council members,” he said. He hopes to put together a brochure soon, and “walk the ward,” talking with people to see what their ideas and opinions are.

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