Marianne Stebbins is running against Mary Jo Fulkerson and Greg Miller for one of two four-year Excelsior City Council seats up for election Nov. 6.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
As an Excelsior homeowner for 12 years, I feel privileged to raise my kids in a genuine small town (that just happens to be on the edge of a major metro area). My seven-year-old is in Chinese Immersion at Excelsior Elementary, and my twelve-year-old goes to St John’s.
I have owned Classic Child, a children’s consignment shop, for the last three years, and was the Minnesota Campaign Chair for Ron Paul 2012.
While people are now supporting other candidates for President, there are few who don’t respect Ron Paul’s integrity.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
Sunrise power walks and yoga at sunset, fireworks bursting over the lake to the sweet tones of the Minnesota Orchestra, the hum of the motorboat and the cry of the loon, ice cream-dripped sidewalks and that green stuff the geese leave.
Other than the taxes, what’s not to love?
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
Local. In all matters, the government closest to the people is the most responsible, most effective. Florida shouldn’t be paying for our lakes any more than we should be paying for their swampland issues. The Lake communities which benefit/suffer are the ones best equipped to decide how and what to pay.
Obviously we need to work together with the other lake cities on prevention and containment procedures, but I don't believe in handing off our decision making power to the state or federal government.
What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
I hear two things: 1) concerns that the hotel developer is getting special treatment or that the hotel will significantly change our town or 2) concerns about how the city is spending money and that no one knows where it’s going.
On the hotel, as much as I believe in property rights, I believe in fairness. To change an ordinance for a particular developer, when everyone else had to abide by the standards in place, is questionable. And I entirely disagree with the current council about Tax Increment Financing for this property. Feasibility is uncertain, and failure would leave the taxpayers on the hook for the TIF-incurred debt.
On spending, I agree. It’s not the city’s money. The money is yours and mine, the taxpayers’, and we have the right to know how it’s being spent. I support the budget transparency Charter Amendment that will be on the ballot.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the city council has no control over them)?
At a time when people’s incomes have gone down, property taxes levied by either the city or school district should go down. They’ve gone up, and in Excelsior they’ve gone up at twice the rate of the county average the last several years.
Although we finally saw a 0 percent levy increase this year, it is because the city is spending down and transferring other funds. And the water bill continues to rise. While the water bill is supposed to only include the actual delivery cost of the water and waste services, it is heavily padded with additional taxes.
If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to?
City funds belong to the taxpayers, not the city, so I don’t view funds as being “available.” While there are truly necessary expenditures the city must make, a bath house or beautification of the Third Street Fire Lane are not on that list. I won’t be voting for unnecessary projects.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to city residents?
While I haven’t heard any recent complaints about service, I hear plenty about what we’re paying. Excelsior lost a lot of control over the budget with the Joint Powers Agreements that cover both police and fire.
Instead of cutting costs, our costs have risen as we do not have much of a say over the budget. I’m interested in options to bring these expenditures back under our own control.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in local government?
People are busy. Between running kids to activities and working to pay taxes, they can’t get to council meetings. I support several measures to bring the city to them.
1) The Charter Amendment will directly put information on where the City is spending money into their hands, 2) implement a forum on the city website to allow taxpayers across the city to interact with each other and council, 3) volunteer work days at the Commons with plenty of doughnuts and coffee can bring us together, strengthen our community and give us pride in our city.
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
I am running on transparency, fiscal discipline, fairness and liberty. Like most of Excelsior’s taxpayers, I am concerned about the budget and lack of available information. Like others, I question why the water bill has tripled in the 12 years I’ve been here and why our taxes are higher than surrounding cities.
Why are we spending $213,000 on the Third Street Fire Lane, and where does that money come from? It’s not the city’s money to spend.
City government is our servant, not our master. From staff to council, they work for us.