Danene Provencher is running against Ray Salazar and Heidi Gesh for a seat on the Mound City Council. Ms. Gesh did not respond to Patch's invitation to participate in this segment. (Vote for two Nov. 6)
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
I have been a resident of Mound for the past 29 years and worked as a social worker when my son was small. As a single parent, I needed more flexibility in my work schedule and started a cleaning business 23 years ago. I have participated in my community as a past Cub Scout leader and Little League coach.
I have been an active independent politics volunteer for the past 12 years and a candidate twice before, in 2002 for Mound City Council garnering 26 percent in a three-way race and in 2006 as the Green Party Lt. Governor candidate.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
I enjoy reading books on the history of the Lake Minnetonka area, especially ones with old photos. Originally, it must have been an area of rich resources for the indigenous people, with all the lakes supplying fish and the forests providing multiple food sources.
As I walked around Mound delivering my campaign literature, I reflected on the transformation of many of the original cabins to permanent housing for the residents and enjoyed the uniqueness of the homes and sense of community. The resources have evolved, now providing a multitude of recreational opportunities, and I have fond memories of spending the day at the beach with my son.
I am fortunate to live on a small lake that is part of the Lake Minnetonka watershed, have enjoyed kayaking on it and seeing all of the wildlife. I wish that residents would keep more of the cattails on the shores, as they provide a filter system to keep the lake healthy.
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
I believe that invasive species are an issue at all levels, since water transportation crosses all boundaries. When thinking of water, I believe one should envision it from a wholistic approach.
Action can be taken locally, with diligence from the boaters, especially those being transported. People need to become the stewards of their resources and ask themselves how to preserve the quality of water for future generations.
I see the state level in the advisory/regulating role and regionally cities on the lakes should build a productive relationship with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District . Federally, the international waters need regulation, if not in place already, as similar to the air travel and the transfer of vegetation.
What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
I have heard repeatedly that the residents of Mound feel that they are not being heard by their elected officials. The majority of voters I have spoke with were not happy with four mom and pop shops and a low income apartment building being demolished for Walgreens, who already have a building where they are currently doing business.
The outsourcing of the police to Orono was another contentious issue (see question No. 7). Citizens feel, as taxpayers, that their money could be allocated more productively. Energy should be spent on working with small businesses to move to Mound where empty buildings are standing.
I have encouraged citizens to contact their elected officials and voice their concerns about such issues and to hold their elected officials accountable to the needs of the community.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the city council has no control over them)?
It is best to analyze the root of the problem, and I believe property taxes will continue to climb, even as values of properties decrease because of what I call “trickle down” economic dynamics. As the federal government continues to go bankrupt (currently with a over $16 trillion debt), funding is cut back to the states, who in turn cut back to the county and local entities.
More burden is placed on the localities and individuals. Continuous research can assist in analyzing where to cut back waste and what are the priorities of our city and school district. It is unrealistic to assume that costs will always remain stagnant and raising taxes at a reasonable level to justify necessities is inevitable.
Lobbying elected officials at all levels is important to the conditions in our city.
If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to?
I would like to see subsidies for renewable energy projects on the local level, as advocated in my 2002 run for Mound City Council, to offer Mound as a destination city where people would visit to come see the potential of a small town as a “city of sustainability.”
The Smart Growth principles: Mix land uses; take advantage of compact building design; create a range of housing opportunities and choices; create walkable neighborhoods; foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place; preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas; strengthen and direct development towards existing communities; provide a variety of transportation choices; make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective; encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions are a good template for the city of Mound to explore. More information can be found here.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to city residents?
This is a contentious issue in Mound, as a majority of the residents wanted a referendum to decide whether or not the Mound Police would be outsourced to Orono. I supported that position and was miffed as to why most of the council and especially the mayor were very dismissive to the citizen’s requests and voted against the citizen’s interests.
Most of the population and businesses are in Mound and I believe the police and fire should be close to where most of the calls will come from. A response time of two minutes can make the difference between life and death, so even though this concern was raised, it was not addressed.
There is still some questions about if and how much money this will save our city and at what expense to the safety of our citizens.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in local government?
While campaigning and speaking with residents, I have listened to their concerns and have encouraged them to share those with their elected officials at cityofmound.com under the government link. The mayor and council e-mails and phone numbers are listed and they should hear feedback from their citizens, keeping in mind that as elected officials, they are public servants.
Also, volunteer opportunities are available to serve on various Advisory Commissions, where there are opportunities to discuss and advocate positions for the council to consider. Currently the Advisory Commissions include the Planning, the Dock & Commons, the Parks & Open Space and a potentially new developing Community Development Commission.
I also have encouraged Mound citizens, who have engaged in local issues, or who have resided here a long time, to run for office.
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
It is time for some fresh perspectives. I support community-based economics where the money will continue to be circulated back into the community by supporting small/independent businesses, rather than going out of state to multi-national corporations. I look forward to more analysis when making decisions about what the community wants our city to look like and which businesses could prosper. I question why structurally sound buildings are tore down instead being given a facelift, instead of clogging our landfills.
Green initiatives can be introduced, as various cities have, including Albuquerque, NM, Oakland City and Alameda, CA, Rochester, NY. I also appreciate the efforts of the St. Paul, MN city council in recognizing the impact of bloated military spending and the effect on local communities with their new resolution.