Of the eight candidates in the Minneapolis School Board race, Colleen Moriarty has the most experience in city politics. The former chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and the former Executive Director of the Youth Coordinating Board, Moriarty will tell you she’s the ideal candidate for the School Board. "I’ve run a large organization, I’ve dealt with city budgeting and I know how to coordinate services," said Moriarty.
Moriarty said her expertise coordinating services is most important for the cash-strapped school district, still reeling from $31 million in budget cuts with more on the horizon. "I think a lot can be gained from coordination," she said. "Nobody talks to me about core services. They talk about programs: in the arts, pregnancy prevention program, etc… Nobody says forget all those bells and whistles."
Moriarty believes the district may be able to keep these types of programs by coordinating with the city, Park Board and county administrations.
She said she knows how other governmental units operate after her experience crafting city budgets in the mayor’s office. "The School Board can’t pay for all of the services kids need. There’s a constant struggle over who is responsible for what," Moriarty said. "With my experience, I’ll be able to say where another body’s funding resources come from, and if they have the resources to pay for a service that we can’t."
Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward) disagreed with the Sayles Belton administration’s funding decisions when Moriarty was there, but he agrees that Moriarty knows how to work with complicated funding systems.
"Clearly, she was there to represent the Mayor, and she did a good job of that," Lane said. "I have a lot of respect for Colleen. Looking at financial documents is an art…you have to understand that there are various places where funding is coming [from], and Colleen understood them," said Lane.
Moriarty came to the Mayor’s office in 1998 from the Youth Coordinating Board (YCB), an intergovernmental organization authorized by the state in 1986 to coordinate Minneapolis agencies. During her tenure, the YCB was considered a national leader in coordinating city services to best serve youth. Moriarty points to the "Phat Summer" program as a shining example of coordinating Park Board, police and school resources to provide summer-evening activities for youth.
"Colleen’s leadership was at the height of [the YCB’s] importance," said Joe Barisonzi, who worked with youth as the Executive Coordinator of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association from 1994 to 1999, and closely observed the YCB during Moriarty’s tenure.
Barisonzi, who works for nonprofits, supports Moriarty for school board, though he’s not working on her campaign. He said at times the YCB overreached.
"The main challenges for YCB were political," he said. "It took on a lot of programming and that detracted from their policy and coordination efforts. The problem is, the YCB would identify a gap in service, and then who’s going to do it? There was usually a reason why another organization wasn’t doing it. So, the YCB did it themselves. Plus, it’s extraordinarily difficult to justify coordinating, and easier to justify programming."
Moriarty agrees that Barisonzi has a valid point, but said the reason why YCB housed programs was because they were the organization of last resort. "We were a neutral place to do it. For example Phat Summer was a collaboration between the Parks and the Schools, but if the funding had gone to the Parks it would have become a Parks program," said Moriarty.
Barisonzi said, "Colleen’s advocacy for insuring that youth are at the decision-making table will be extraordinarily valuable on the Board of Education."
Moriarty, a Tangletown resident, said that her youth advocacy comes from raising kids who went to Southwest High School. Her children’s teen years were difficult times for her family, (her children’s father — whom she divorced ten years before — was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease when the kids were in high school). Still, she said she loved having teenagers in the house. "I love their energy, how they have to change five times before they leave the house and change their plans at least 10," said Moriarty.
Knowing that a tight budget will force more changes for the schools next year, Moriarty said that it may be good if the schools cut down the number of things they do. "I think it means that we have to do fewer things and do them better and communicate them well to people.
"Choosing a school, it’s very confusing to people. It just seems like a monumental task when your kids are in kindergarten. There are so many choices, it’s like, ‘does my kid want to be an astrophysicist in kindergarten?’"
COLLEEN MORIARTY Address: 500 Prospect Ave. S., 55419 Phone: 827-0988 E-mail:[email protected] (no web) Occupation Fundraising for the Textile Center of Minnesota Family: Married, three children, two graduates of Southwest High School Endorsements: DFL, Progressive Minnesota, SCIU Building and Trades Central Labor Union, Women’s Political Caucus, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, AFSCME and MERF