Name: Marilyn Meinke
Residence: We are moving soon to our new home on Central Avenue.
Family: Husband, Mike Melstad; we share nine grown children and a granddaughter.
Public involvement: chair of Red Wing Sustainability Commission, Fairview
Red Wing Hospital Auxiliary, American Association of University Women, Chapter P of PEO, and United Lutheran Church.
Education: Minneapolis Public Schools and the University of Minnesota: Ph.D. in biochemistry
Work: Retired after 25 years as a research scientist and college teacher
Given the loss of state aid and other factors straining budgets at City Hall, what are some specific services, programs or types of capital purchases that you would advocate cutting?
For all proposed expenditures, I'll ask, "Is this something we need, or something we want? Will most citizens benefit?" If a service or program passes that test, we must find the least costly way to provide it.
One approach is, despite its difficulties, to consider sharing services with other agencies or businesses - if those actually decrease costs. And even though staff has been reduced we need to continue to find fair and creative ways to save on compensation costs. Capital projects like new roads, buildings or sidewalks and land/vehicle purchases should be deferred in favor of critical maintenance of infrastructure.
Along the same lines, are there new ways to raise revenue that you would advocate?
According to the state auditor, our citizens pay some of the highest per capita taxes in Minnesota. Property tax increases are at the bottom of my list for increasing revenues. We shouldn't use contingency and fund balance dollars except for emergencies.
I'd consider a local option sales tax and modest increases in fees to cover actual costs of services. These do pass to residents, but could potentially generate revenues from visitors who shop, eat and play here. Longer-term we can generate revenues by helping our business community grow. With interest rates low, cautious bonding might generate revenue for capital projects.
What are some specific ways you would invite and encourage citizen involvement as a council member?
In challenging times it's especially crucial that citizens voice their ideas and concerns. Involving folks from every neighborhood - all ages and walks of life - will promote better decision-making. Listening to citizens will be "job one" and I'll work hard to see concerns reflected in decisions. If a decision is contrary to expressed concerns, citizens deserve and will get an explanation for the decision.
I'll be available to citizens every way I can. Stop me on the street, phone or e-mail me. And I plan to schedule regular, casual 'join me for coffee and conversation' gatherings with citizens.
How as a council member would you promote cultural diversity and tolerance in Red Wing?
I grew up and raised my own kids in neighborhoods where diversity was not just tolerated but part of daily life. It's disturbing to observe behaviors, language and incidents that demonstrate intolerance.
Most of us are uncomfortable outside our own groups so I'd urge all organizations to create events where folks can have fun and simply and comfortably get to know each other. The Diversity Festival is great and should be expanded. I will advocate for diversity training in schools, churches and business and civic groups. I will support zero-tolerance policies toward all forms of discrimination.
What about Red Wing's government, economy or culture would you most like to change?
Economists predict our economy will improve slowly. Responding to the current budget crunch isn't optional, but I fear we're focusing too much on getting through this year or next. It's not about cuts in 2011. It's about changing government and how we budget, save and spend. To succeed now and take advantage of opportunities that lie ahead our planning must look into the future.
LGA is gone and we may as well accept that. Plans that reflect the "new normal" and aim for sustainable economic growth and development will help meet our current needs and those of future citizens