Mount Vernon City Council: Marty Christensen
October 28, 2013
• Age: 49
• Education/military service: BGS, BS in Computer Science, MS in Computer Science, University of Iowa
• Occupation: Business Architect at ACT, Inc., and Restaurateur; former Software Architect, Software
• Family: Son, Beckett, 13; daughter, Matisse, 18
• Community involvement/elected service: Almost eight years on the Mount Vernon City Council, MVCSD Superintendent Search, Iowa City Downtown District Committee, Vision Mount Vernon (pre Main Street) committee, Trails Ad
Why are you running for a position on the Mount Vernon City Council?
I'm running again to continue to improve the efficiency of city services, improve planning for street and other infrastructure maintenance, and to build momentum on trails, housing, and economic development.
What is the role of the city council?
The council serves the community as it establishes policy, appoints boards and commissions,
passes laws, and sets the annual budget for the city of Mount Vernon.
What experiences/background would make you a good city council member?
With eight years on council, I have a very good understanding of city finances, infrastructure issues, the function of staff, boards, and commissions, the laws of the city, our past challenges,
and our opportunities.
I have run a business with 43 employees for over 10 years, a small software development company for six years, and I currently do analysis and advise on capability investment and development for a $300 million company.
What are top three strengths of the City of Mount Vernon, and how should the city capitalize on those strengths?
Our greatest strengths are our historic architecture and treelined streets, our excellent educational institutions, and our proximity to two major cities.
We can build on these strengths by continuing to provide an exceptional small town living experience to current and future residents supporting continuous residential and small business growth through careful land use planning, investments in infrastructure and quality of life amenities, and targeted incentives and marketing.
What are top three biggest challenges facing the City of Mount Vernon and how should they be addressed?
Our greatest challenges are the rapidly rising costs of healthcare benefits for employees, some very old sewer and water infrastructure in the historic parts of town, and future sources of funding for street repair after LOSST 3.
Employee benefits are paid from the general fund and utilities revenues, so we need to keep the tax base strong with moderate growth (infill and high density, not sprawl) and try to maximize the production from our utilities to serve more customers without having to increase the number of employees.
Our current practice is to replace water and sewer when streets are reconstructed. As the streets work progresses, so will the water and sewer work. Unless the state provides new sources of funding for city streets, we are left with moving to use of the general fund for street repair. That is probably 10 years away, but I am hoping that through increased efficiency and moderate growth we might be able to afford $300K of street repairs from the general fund annually without raising property tax rates.
I believe we should immediately leverage TIF investments to help build the property tax base so we can gain the needed general fund headroom for streets.
What should the top three budget priorities be for the City of Mount Vernon?
It goes without saying: The top financial priority is to spend less than you have. We always have to work to minimize utilities, general government, and public safety operational costs, while not being penny wise and pound foolish you need to invest in good people and the equipment they need to give excellent service to the community.
Next, there must be a well-planned and continuous investment in maintenance of infrastructure, streets, water and sewer, sidewalks, and trees.
Last, there must be financial investment and staff effort to create future revenue growth without increased tax rates, leveraging grants, fundraising, and collaboration with other local entities. This includes incentives to encourage private investment according to city plans, and city built amenities.
All three dimensions of the budget are necessary, and over the years on average, the amount of funding should correspond to that order.
Often times council members have a niche - or an expertise - they bring to city government. What's yours?
I'm interested in all aspects of our government.
What's your position on the proposed Mount Vernon community/wellness center?
It's worth more investigation. If I had to vote today it would be a no vote because there are too many unknowns. That might change.
This election is not about a community center, or any other single issue. This election is about having the best possible future for a town of 4,500 people made up of 25 percent college students and a lot of young families, working middle class, and retirees. It is about continuing the good work of the current elected officials as a proactive, accountable, and transparent city government.
What should be done, if anything, to resolve sharing issues between the Mount Vernon and Lisbon police departments?
Staff, elected officials, and a lot of citizens of Mount Vernon have felt for a long time that both cities could benefit from the efficiencies of sharing public safety services. I've only lived here 16 years, so I don't understand it, but as Jamie Hampton said in a recent council meeting, there are some deep divides between the communities that have been in place a long time. I think we need to have a lot more positive engagement on smaller issues before we can make much progress on shared services.
If elected, what actions, if any, should the city council take immediately?
If I am elected, I think council should immediately get into the business of budget work in alignment with strategic and capital plans.
Are you supporting either of the candidates for mayor, or any other candidates for city council? Who?
I am a big fan of Scott Peterson. I think he has been a very hard working and effective mayor. I also have had some great conversations with Kevin Carpenter and I think he has a lot of good energy, experience ideas, and a positive outlook.
Why should citizens vote for you?
I'm a bright guy with a lot of direct and very relevant experience. I believe in getting facts, working with staff, outside professionals, and council to examine all aspects of an issue, laying out well considered plans, and making well informed decisions.
I'm not running because I am for or against some single issue, or want to impose any particular political ideology. I'm running because I think I can help shape a better future for the community as a whole.