Photo submitted by Councilman Matt Little
Last week Lakeville Patch interviewed Matt Little about his upcoming appearance on the Lakeville City Council but concentrated mainly on the human interest aspect and especially his age rather than his planned policy. Being that I am not at all interested in age and have very little interest in the people behind the policy when in government, I decided to interview Mr. Little myself. While Councilmember Little‘s responses are noted in blockquotes, they may be considered paraphrased unless they appear in quotation marks (“”) within the larger blockquoted text.
1. Budget Cut Contest
LL: You are currently offering $250 of your own money to city residents, funded out of your city stipend, to find the best way to cut money out of the budget and balance the city’s budget. How do you believe it will be able to find a viable solution which the majority of councilmembers will agree to utilize?
Yes finding a viable budget solution can most certainly come from the public and persuading the other Lakeville councilmembers to agree to the plan is a definite possibility as all of the councilmembers are openminded. It’s not surprising that nothing has come forward as ideas have not been presented to discuss but any idea is welcome, even those that could be considered “ridiculous”.
LL: So far the response has been less than spectacular to your contest. Is this surprising to you or something you expected based on the lack of participation in tax discussions both in Lakeville and elsewhere across the South Metro?
No, it’s not really surprising being that not a lot of people are involved and/or informed but providing money can certainly be an impetus for providing an excellent idea. So far it has provided and opportunity for one person I have never heard of to become involved in the process. The contest will remain open until until Jan 20th so there is still time. Some may not even be doing it for the money being that $250 really isn’t all that much money but it’s something than just asking people to show up to a meeting. This will provide, “something different, shake people a little bit and wake them up.”
2. Citizen Participation
LL: How many residents have contacted you about what they want to see in Lakeville?
Approximately 25 residents over the past 8 months have provided input in one way or another. This number was much higher than expected (0) as it is very difficult to get people involved in politics, especially local politics.
LL: How many do you believe will contact you in the future? Would you be surprised if 5 contacts a week, total, would be a high number?
Being approachable is important and providing people a variety of options to get in touch with councilmembers is key. While none of the other councilmembers have turned to social media Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc are all available to provide that channel for residents if they so choose.
But another important piece to getting people to contact councilmembers would be to stream meetings online. Lakeville is, “a family community” if you have kids, “good luck getting to the meetings.” Providing a live question feed through e-mail, social media, phone, etc and while it would not be a massive influx of questions it would provide another avenue for citizen participation. We live in an age where, “people hiding behind the computer,” are more comfortable with contacting through that medium but the opportunity to be, “rude, heated or vulgar,” certainly becomes a reality.
3. Public Safety
LL: You want to increase public safety protection by energizing neighborhood watch. What does the Lakeville Police Department think about this plan?
Simply put, the city is better when the people are involved but this is only in the planning stages as the police department hasn’t really talked about it. Right now requests are into the department to do the research and provide a list of areas where crime has been higher. While there is no massive crime in Lakeville it is still a way to get people involved at little to no cost to the city.
4. Fiscal Responsibility
LL: You provide a plan for cutting spending which includes reduction/elimination of councilmember stipends and voluntary pay reductions for staff. Do you believe any of these will actually be viable?
There is little to no support for cutting the pay of councilmembers especially those who are not new. “If we want to start moving forward to cut (the budget) then we first have to look at ourselves (councilmembers).” There is no way the council can make deep cuts to balance the budget unless we practice “self-sacrifice.”
LL: Talking about voluntary pay reductions, what do you plan to do if the staffers refuse (which they very likely will)?
Staff members are unlikely to agree to take the reduction but without having yet spoken with the staff as of this time the outcome is unknown. However by agreeing to reductions jobs can be saved.
LL: Since you’re all for eliminating stipends do you plan to donate yours back into the general fund or even a specific department within the city such as the police department?
Donating the stipend back to the city is certainly an option but while the money is definitely needed, “more than any one else up there,” but by using it for the competition it makes a point and find a worthwhile way to use it. However, this is not something to be done unilaterally and it’s not something to, “bring up just to make others say they won’t do it,” as it should be a group effort. While the purpose is, “not to cut the stipends permanently,” it’s just until the budget situation turns around and lost positions are brought back into the fold.
So what do you think about Councilmember Little’s answers to my questions? Do you think that his plan for reducing/eliminating councilmember stipends is a good one? Do you think that voluntary pay reductions are a real possibility with staffers beginning to realize the reality of the economic situation’s longevity? How about putting an emphasis on neighborhood watch to help reduce crime while spending very little money? Any comments about Lakeville Patch’s own interview? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.