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Election '09: Meet your At-Large City Council candidates

Editor's note: We asked candidates to keep their responses to 50 words or fewer for the print edition of the Budgeteer, but promised to published the entire answer online. Some sent longer answers; others didn't. These answers are largely unedited.

Becky Hall

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth City Council?

B.A. Degree - International Relations/Soviet Studies, Minor- Russian Language; Work experience - U.S. Senate staffer, MN State Senate researcher; Business/Community Development rep. (MN Dept. of Trade & Economic Development), Chairwoman/Import Business (Okinawa, Japan), Navy wife and mom of 5 great kids, and member of several local boards and committees.

If elected, what top three things do you hope to bring to the attention of the council in your first year?

1. Make job growth and business development a priority.

2. Insist that road repair and other city infrastructure needs are a priority.

3. Balance our budget without increasing taxes and fees.

While door knocking and meeting with the people you want to represent, have there been any surprises? What issues do you think are most important to voters?

Many have had it with increases in government spending and taxes. Some of my opponents, who have said tax increases may be necessary to balance our budget, apparently think the recession is over. Times are tough, our neighbors expect government to tighten its belt as they must.

Our government has spent irresponsibly in recent years, funding special-interest pushed projects that did not fall under the "core services" expected of a city. The result is that now, during harder times, we have a budget shortfall and no way of providing our core services adequately. People want the city to run itself like a responsible home, by not spending more than it has and by saving for tough times.

Why should someone vote for you?

My background includes working with cities across Minnesota to help them become "Star Cities in Economic Development." I brought the players together -- higher education, government & the private sector - to work in unison to make a community more attractive to potential employers. End result - job creation!

I also have experience managing a budget of $1 million+ as president of an overseas charity. I've also tried to help improve the community I love as a volunteer with the Junior League, London Road Advisory Council, and several other local organizations.

Also, unlike my opponents, I seek only one special interest endorsement in this race - the voters of Duluth .

Dan Hartman

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth City Council?

I graduated from UMD with a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in advocacy and political leadership. I currently work for the St. Louis County Historical Society as the Program Director for Veterans' Memorial Hall. Also I serve as the Board President for Neighborhood Housing Services.

If elected, what top three things do you hope to bring to the attention of the council in your first year?

Jobs and streets, and I would like to improve the communication between the city and its citizens.

While door knocking and meeting with the people you want to represent, have there been any surprises? What issues do you think are most important to voters?

The biggest surprise to me is how poorly the city communicates with its citizens. There are many great things happening all over the city, but sadly most don't hear about them. The most important issues to voters I hear are jobs and streets.

Why should someone vote for you?

Someone should vote for me because I will proactively work on city issues. The day after the election I will begin to work on the issues of our city. The first one will be on job growth because we need to figure out why Rochester, St. Cloud, and Fargo have experienced more economic growth than us in the last 10 years.

Beth Olson

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth City Council?

I have worked for the past 17 years in non-profits advocating for victims of crime and supporting families in crisis. I have developed policy with the city, state and school board, making positive changes for our community all while on a very tight budget.I hold a master' s degree in social work.

If elected, what top three things do you hope to bring to the attention of the council in your first year?

I will actively support economic development and revitalization efforts and investment in public safety. I will work to find creative ways to reinstate our parks, recreation and library services. For example, I propose we adopt a sliding scale fee to operate youth recreation programs, making them accessible to all neighborhoods and families.

While door knocking and meeting with the people you want to represent, have there been any surprises? What issues do you think are most important to voters?

The top issue on everyone's mind has been the state of streets. Their disrepair is a reality and an expression of people's feelings that the city has not been adequately cared for. Trust in the council's ability to take care of basic city business needs to be restored.

Why should someone vote for you?

I have years of experience working within tight budgets to do more with less. I've brought diverse individuals and groups together to solve difficult problems, even when finding common ground seemed impossible. I put aside my own biases, ask tough questions and lead the way to finding solutions.

Jim Stauber, incumbent

First, can you please tell us about your educational background, work experience and any other experience relevant to serving on the Duluth City Council?

Eigth-year City Council incumbent, four years as DEDA president, Mayo Clinic Risk Manager, Adjunct Faculty at UMD since 1986, retired Lt. Col., Minnesota Air National Guard, Board member Animal Allies and Northland Red Cross, father of four, Eagle Boy Scout and Duluth resident for 56 years.

If elected, what top three things do you hope to bring to the attention of the council in your first year?

My voting history opposing runaway taxes, growing government, revenue generating schemes, borrowing to pay off debt and creating new-fangled fees is well recorded. Cut expenses, end borrowing, stop the tax increases. In 2009 the property tax levy is $15.4 million with $5.6 million going to pay off debt service alone.

While door knocking and meeting with the people you want to represent, have there been any surprises? What issues do you think are most important to voters?

Compare your income increases to the city's. The council passed a 15.7 percent property tax levy increase for 2007, a 10.9 percent increase for 2008, and 13.99 percent increase in 2009. The proposed increase for 2010 is over 11 percent. That's more than a 50 percent city property tax levy increase! I voted "no."

Why should someone vote for you?

Come January 2010, the Mayor, the Executive Director of DEDA, at least 8 councilors and our top five administrators will have 2 years or less experience on the job. I bring institutional knowledge and eight years experience. I also bring a "balance" to council deliberations.

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