Hofstede, Frey face off in Third Ward candidate forum

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March 25, 2013 // UPDATED 7:16 pm - March 28, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Jacob Frey and Diane Hofstede at the Third Ward City Council candidate forum.
David Tinjum
Sarah McKenzie
(Video included)

City Council Member Diane Hofstede and Jacob Frey, her challenger for the Third Ward council seat, squared off in a candidate forum Thursday night at DeLaSalle High School.

More than 200 people attended the event co-sponsored by the Journal and the League of Women Voters. The candidates answered questions from members of the audience on several topics, including affordable housing, transportation, their leadership style, development trends and urban farming, among other things.  

Hofstede and Frey are seeking the DFL endorsement. The party is holding an endorsing convention at DeLaSalle High School on May 4.

Here’s a recap of some of the major issues covered by the candidates:

On challenges facing the ward over the next decade

Hofstede said city leaders need to continue focusing on public safety, noting Minneapolis has been blessed with reduced crime rates in recent years. She also said the city needs to continue collaborating with government partners to focus on riverfront revitalization.

Frey, meanwhile, said increasing the city’s population is crucial to facing the challenges of the next 10 years. At one point the city’s population was near 600,000 and now it’s roughly 387,000. He noted the ward is home to many young urban professionals and retired empty nesters and needs to attract more families. He said he supports efforts to secure a new downtown school and more green space as a means to make the ward more family friendly.

Transportation needs 

Frey said he’s a supporter of the proposal to add streetcars Nicollet and Central avenues. He said they would make the city more “dynamic.” Hofstede said she’s also supportive of streetcars and other transit improvements, like bus rapid transit (BRT).

Small businesses

Hofstede said she has been a strong advocate for small businesses in the ward, pointing to the Third Ward Neighborhoodfest, an annual event she holds at the Nicollet Island Pavilion to showcase local businesses and community groups. She said she’s worked to help business owners navigate the city approval process and said many corridors in the ward are filled with vibrant businesses.

Frey said “small and local businesses are the heart of our city and the heart of our ward.” He said the city’s regulatory process needs to be streamlined to make it easier for small businesses to get up and running. He said the city also needs to reach out to non-English speaking business owners to make it easier for them to launch businesses. 

Leadership style

When asked about what his public leadership style, Frey said being a public servant is about “being incessantly involved in the community.” He pointed to his work organizing the Big Gay Race — an event that raised more than $350,000 to fight the amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. He said if you’re not organizing, you’re not going to be an effective council member.

Hofstede said community organizing is part of her “DNA” and referenced her community outreach work through the Neighborhoodfest event and community meetings she holds throughout the ward. “This is not something new to me,” she said. “I have done this my whole life.”

Constituent services

Hofstede said constituent services is at the core of her work as a council member. Again she pointed to Neighborhoodfest and said she’s attended more than 1,000 community meetings. “It’s something you do every single day,” she said.

Frey, meanwhile, said if elected he would pledge to return phone calls and emails from constituents within 24 hours. He said a council member needs to be able to help facilitate a resolution for constituents who have issues that need to be addressed.

Block E 

When asked about a vision for the floundering Block E, Frey said the entertainment complex needs to carve out smaller spaces that could attract local retailers. He said the development has been a “total disaster.”

Hofstede said she pushed for the downtown library to be at the site now home to Block E before it was built. As for a new vision, she said she’s confident the owner of Block E will come up with a creative solution for the complex.

Community engagement

Frey said community engagement goes beyond outreach and having meetings. “It’s about affirmatively going out and talking to people,” he said, adding it’s important to reach out to people not traditionally engaged with the city. He pointed to his own campaign as an example of his ability to form connections with a diverse group of people.

Hofstede pointed to her work with the University of Minnesota as an example of her community engagement work. She’s reached out to students on campus moving day and engaged students on ideas for the riverfront.

Urban farming 

Frey said urban agriculture could be a “huge benefit” to the city. He said he’d like to see surfacing parking lots transformed into spaces for urban farmers. He also said more needs to be done to make sure all neighborhoods — not just upscale ones — have access to fresh, local foods.

Hofstede said she’s been a supportive of local, homegrown food her whole life. She has a garden in her backyard, is a supporter of the Northeast Farmers Market and has been involved in the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative — a citywide effort to increase the city’s capacity to grow and distribute local food.

Top three personal achievements

When asked to name her top three achievements, Hofstede pointed to her work collaborating with community partners to reduce crime, her leadership on efforts to improve the riverfront and her work on the development of the Central Library, which she called an “architectural wonder.”

Frey, a former professional distance runner, named the following as his top personal achievements: earning a spot running for Team USA, organizing the Big Gay Race to fight the marriage amendment and being named the city’s first recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. award recognizing outstanding work on social justice issues.


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