Mayor Q&A: Council member Clennon looks to change how Austin does business

Published 2:31 pm Friday, August 10, 2012

Mayor Q&A: Marian Clennon


Q. Why are you best qualified to be Austin’s mayor?

A. I have served on the Austin City Council for 3 1⁄2 years. I have a proven record for working with the general public and employees. I continue to ask questions in open meetings. Each year I have made large cuts suggestions on items that are not done in other cities.

I have been a member of the League of Minnesota Cities Delivering Services Policy Committee for the past three years. This is one committee which lets the LMC staff know what the cities of Minnesota want from their legislatures. I am currently the vice chair of the committee.

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I have attended sessions at the annual conferences for the LMC. I network with representatives from other cities and we exchange ideas on what has worked and not worked for our cities. One of the ideas that I brought back from the conference held in St. Cloud in June 2010 was starting the Yellow Ribbon project for Austin. I was a part of the initial gathering of community people in early 2011. Once a chairperson was selected, I stepped aside to let the community take over.

From this conference I also got information on the Community Conversations project which I sent to the city administrator. This was a project that got organizations in town talking about our city government and what people know and what is important to them.

I was invited to attend the Minnesota Redesign project. A meeting was held in various locations around the state to get input from cities, counties and school systems on how they can work to together more. I also testified at the Minnesota House Finance Committee on behalf of the LMC for this project.

I have attended many regional cities meetings which discussions have been made on economic development and what has worked and not worked for other cities.

I served on the Rules Advisory Committee for the Cedar River Watershed District in their first years. The rules made effect the water that flows through Austin and south. I also have served on the County Water Board for the past two years. The two committees have taught me a lot about flooding and what causes and doesn’t cause it.

I brought the idea of the Coffee with the Council to the city. It brought out people who did not feel comfortable to ask the questions at a council meeting. The people were eager to meet and hear from their council members.

I testified at the Minnesota House Redistricting Committee hearing in Rochester in 2011. I was asked questions on how much all of Mower County is connected and should have the same representation. I also attended the hearing held in Mankato where the judges heard testimony on what went wrong in the last redistricting 10 years ago.

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 is our first priority as elected officials.

First, I would immediately start Coffee with the Council again. People currently do not feel comfortable coming to the council meetings. I will do some re-arranging of the council chambers to make the people feel more comfortable addressing the council. Since the Mayor sets the agenda for the meetings, I would like to make some changes to help the general public see more of the discussion.

Q. What should be the top three priorities for city government?

A. For this city government I believe it is:

• Bring back the Rental Ordinance issue.

• Settle the unsettled city union contracts.

• Be more involved with new potential employers to Austin.

Q. What steps, if any, can city government take to minimize tax increases?

A. The city of Austin needs to find new ways to do business. I will have meetings with each department without department heads and get input from the employees. The employees who are out in the public eye every day have a lot of ideas.

I will have meetings with people around the city. I will start with civic organizations and expand to other clubs around the city to get their ideas on what they are the priorities of the city government.

I will meet with other governments (cities, county, school board, state) in finding ways that we can work together in cutting costs. The city and county elected officials meet quarterly. I would like to expand that meeting to also including elected school board members.

Q. What other issues do you believe the city of Austin must address, and how would you provide leadership on those issues?

A. Trust and respect for the city government. As I have done my past 3 1⁄2 years, I will continue to talk to people and explain why something can or cannot be done. I have found that people appreciate honest answers. I have recently found that some city departments need to have missing or outdated policies updated. I will meet with department heads and go over their department’s policies. I will also take input from employees who have concerns about department policies.

There needs to be more of an effort at getting information out instead of waiting for someone to get the information out for the city. I will provide press releases on information that would educate the general public. The city has ordinances that the general public does not know about until they are cited with violations.