City Council Q&A: School administrator McDonald would focus on the city’s budgetPublished 2:31pm Friday, August 10, 2012
City Council Q&A: Malcolm McDonald
Q. Why are you best qualified to represent Austin’s 1st Ward?
A. • Being raised on a farm in a rural environment puts me in tune with many of the concerns that are dealt with by the Austin City Council. I have worked in all levels of society during my lifetime — farm laborer, construction laborer, truck driver, trash collector, president of a farm implement dealership in Iowa, manager of a bowling alley in Iowa, teacher in Alaska and Colorado, owner and operator of a family resort for 18 years in Wilton, Minn., school administrator for 27 years in Austin, and soldier for 28 years, both active and reserve. During the 41 years that I have lived in Austin I have been on the Austin Public Library Board for three years, and the Cedar Valley Services Board for 16 years.
• Being a public educator has given me the opportunity to be acquainted with all segments of the population in Austin. As a result of my public school experience I feel that I can communicate reasonably well with all levels of society in Austin. Being a school teacher and school administrator has taught me to be a listener and a problem solver.
• Being a retired veteran with 28 years of service — active and reserve duty — gives me a perspective that others have not had the opportunity to acquire if they have not served at all levels of the military service. My military service has also afforded me many training opportunities that are not available to others.
• Being involved with many organizations as a result of my career experiences in Austin. Currently I am a member of the Austin Shrine Club and the Austin Oriental Band, Fidelity Lodge No. 39, Austin Noon Kiwanis, and the Austin American Legion Club.
• Being a responsible voter for a lifetime.
Q. Should city officials be more open to hearing public input? If so, what would you do to bring that about?
A. Yes, I believe that all city officials should encourage public input. It is my opinion that the city officials we currently employ are very open to public input. This has been demonstrated by their behavior at the council meetings, the coffee meetings that have recently been held by council members, etc.
Q. What should be the top three priorities for city government?
A. • Budget accountability — focusing upon keeping property taxes and other taxes that the city gathers at very reasonable levels. This focus will require constant attention on the part of all who are involved with the administration of the city budget to work closely together and to be in close contact with our state legislators to work for the maintenance of the cities current LGA level. LGA constitutes about one half of the revenue that the City of Austin has in its annual budget.
• Infrastructure of the city — sewer, water, power, streets, garbage collection.
• Protection of the cities’ citizens — police and fire.
Q. What steps, if any, can city government take to minimize tax increases?
A. • The city needs to take advantage of new technologies to become more efficient in every sector of city government. At a recent meeting of the council the business manager addressed the issues of updating the phone system in City Hall and the purchase of updated computers for the Engineering Department. We have forward looking, positive personnel in responsible positions in our city government who are on the move to make our city government more efficient and to keep in tune with the times.
• Continue to be a reliable employer that works successfully with employees who tend to stay with the city for a career. It is expensive to train new people in a variety of ways and since our city avoids that expense, to a significant degree, we minimize the need for tax increases. Also by having experienced, well-trained personnel on the staff we are able to do more with fewer people.
Q. What other issues do you believe the city of Austin must address, and how would you provide leadership on those issues?
A. The 2020 Project hopefully will provide many challenges for the council as they generate proposals to move forward with their projects. I am currently on the 2020 Bike Committee which to date has generated many interesting ideas that will move toward the overall goal improving the future bike trails in Austin and southern Minnesota. Other 2020 committees are active and I am hearing exciting ideas coming from several of these committees. I would see the council’s role in working with these committees as one of support and advocacy.