The major municipal elections in Minneapolis have wrapped up and the City Council has a new batch of members for the new term. Political junkies looking for their fix in Minnesota won’t have much to follow for the first few months of the year, save for the special election to fill Third District Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman’s seat. Commissioner Dorfman announced her decision not to run last November and has since taken an executive position with the homeless advocacy organization St. Stephen’s Human Services. Several candidates have announced their plans to run for her seat. Your Examiner has been lucky enough to speak with two of them thus far: Anne Mavity, current Council Member with St. Louis Park, and Ben Schweigert, attorney with Hennepin County (see here for coverage of a recent forum with four of the candidates). Your Examiner was fortunate enough to speak with a third candidate in this race: Marion Greene, former Minnesota state legislator and health care finance professional.
Ms. Greene grew up outside the United States and lived in several countries, according to her campaign bio. One of her first positions was with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, where she worked on nutritional health policy and national organic standards. She also worked on food safety and labelling issues. According to her bio another early occupation was with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, working on “constituent services and grassroots organizing on human rights issues.” She also did some work in the New Mexico House of Representatives, serving on the Democratic Health Caucus. She moved to Minnesota in 1999 after attaining an MBA. She was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2010 and served one term. Ms. Greene has also been involved with several activist groups in the Twin Cities area including OutFront Minnesota and Minnesotans United. Ms. Greene is married to Bart Cannon, the son of radio personality Steve Cannon. They have two step-daughters in college. Ms. Greene has a degree in Biology and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Ms. Greene said her experience as a state legislator is something that sets her apart from the other candidates, saying she was able to “get things done” in a “tough working environment.” She helped write the bill that would create MNsure, the statewide health insurance exchange. She also wrote legislation to provide all-day kindergarten classes in the state. She also served on the Legacy Fund committee.
Asked what she considers to be Hennepin County’s role in local government issues in Minnesota, Ms. Greene described it as an “important partner in addressing issues on a broader scale.” She described some of these issues as transit, affordable housing, social services, and education. She said not everyone realizes that “counties do a lot” of this type of work.
The interview then turned toward some issues in the campaign. The first one dealt with the candidate’s goals for transit in the county. Ms. Greene said she seeks a “multi-modal” form of transit, including light rail, bus service, bicycles, and possibly streetcars. She said she will seek to “do what the data reflects” and would stress “connectivity” and “usability.”
The next question dealt with one of Ms. Greene’s campaign issues - ensuring a healthy environment for all residents of the county. The candidate said when the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center contract is up for renewal in 2018 an important goal will be to “reduce the burning” that occurs here. She also championed single-sort recycling, which has taken hold in Minneapolis, and stated the need for more organics recycling in the county. She said it’s important for recycling to “become a lifestyle” and spoke of her worry about too much construction waste going into landfills.
The next question your Examiner has asked of the other candidates in this race, and asked it again of Ms. Greene: Do you see a solution to the SWLRT mess? The candidate said that the future of much of this project depends on the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Hodges, as well as the Met Council, and not so much Hennepin County. While she “supports the project moving forward,” Ms. Greene said she made a point of staying out of the route battle between St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.
The following question dealt with how the candidate envisions using county data to affect policy changes. Ms. Greene said Hennepin County’s various bureaucracies have a struggle with “silos” of information not being shared and also said there are many privacy concerns with using county data. Despite this, she said she seeks to use data to “strengthen coordination” at the county level. She used an example of studying which teenagers had been in the county system since they were infants to find early education needs. She also spoke of using transit data to help improve the system.
The final question dealt with the legacy of the previous Hennepin County Commissioner in the Third District, Gail Dorfman. Ms. Greene spoke highly of Ms. Dorfman’s work on housing and homeless issues in the county, saying she hopes to “continue that work.” She also spoke highly of Ms. Dorfman’s work to combat sex trafficking in the county.
Marion Greene is running for the seat vacated by current Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman. The primary for the special election will take place April 29th. Stay tuned to the Examiner for more coverage of the 2014 elections in Minnesota.