Mayoral candidates banter about neighborhood power, RCV and more at Parkway Theater

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September 20, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
(Video included below)

Seven mayoral candidates took part in a forum hosted by the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Community Association at the Parkway Theater at 48th & Chicago last night — a debate that was more jovial and Minnesota nice than many in recent weeks.

The candidates covered a lot of ground in the debate moderated by the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis. Here’s a recap of the highlights. For more information about upcoming debates, go to southwestjournal.com/elections/calendar.

>>> When the candidates were asked about the expiration of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program in 2009 and the city’s new approach to community engagement, here’s how they responded:

—   City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) said she’s supportive of the move away from NRP. She noted she has served on a neighborhood council and “understands the value of strong community organizations.” She said the new department ties the city and neighborhood more closely together. “It’s working well,” she said.

—   Former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes said: “I cut my teeth on neighborhood organizing.” She said the neighborhoods are the city’s strongest asset. “It seems to me as a citizen that the new system is very top-down,” she said. “The beauty of NRP was that it was bottom up.” She said the city needs to get back to “empowering” neighborhoods.

—   Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew said he was a founding member of the NRP board. He said “great ideas come from the neighborhoods.” He said the city needs a “stronger community voice” as development intensifies in Minneapolis. He said it’s unfortunate that NRP expired. “I want to be mayor of Minneapolis, not mayor of City Hall,” he said.

—   Planning Commissioner Dan Cohen said NRP was a “great asset to the city” and suggested it should be strengthened. He said the Planning Commission looks to the neighborhood groups for recommendations on proposed development projects.

—   Business executive Stephanie Woodruff quoted Harvey Milk: “The American dream starts with our neighborhoods.” She said leaders need to rally behind all of the city’s neighborhoods. “The quality of life is more important than the standard of living,” she said.

—   City Council Member Don Samuels (5th Ward) said the City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak were faced with serious budget issues when NRP expired in 2009. “We did a good job with the money we had,” he said, adding that city leaders had to make priorities and focus on the basics — fixing potholes and the police and fire departments. He said he likes the city’s new approach to neighborhood engagement because immigrants and other groups that haven’t traditionally been involved with the city have been invited to the table.

—   Wind power attorney Cam Winton told the audience: “You’re hearing a lot of pandering on this one.” He gave a hat tip to Hodges and Samuels, and said the city doesn’t have enough resources for NRP anymore. In era of social media, he said there is a range of tools available for people to do community engagement. “We still have a voice even though we don’t have NRP,” he said. 

>>> Here are their responses when asked about bringing more transparency and accountability to the Minneapolis Police Department.

—   Winton said he’s worked hard to get to know the police officers in the city. He said he advocates putting cameras on the officers, which has been shown to reduce instances of police misconduct in other cities. He said building trust with the officers is essential.

—   Hodges said: “We are not a safe city if people don’t feel safe calling the police.” She referenced  her police accountability plan, which focuses on creating an early intervention system to address problems with officers before they turn into misconduct issues and gives the police chief more power to deal with bad officers. She also said there needs to be more focus on community policing. “We need a high touch police department that builds relationships in the neighborhood,” she said.

—   Cherryhomes also advocated for more community-oriented policing. She said she doesn’t have faith in the current system in place for reviewing allegations of police misconduct. The community and police department need to have mutual trust, she said.

—   Andrew said the city has gone the wrong direction when it comes to holding bad officers accountable for misconduct. He said he supports a civilian review process that gives that group subpoena power and doesn’t give the police chief the tie-breaking vote.

—    Cohen said the “racist cops should have been fired on the spot” — a reference to an incident in July when MPD officers were caught on a video using racial slurs and homophobic language after a bar fight in Green Bay.

—    Woodruff said she’s a strong supporter of Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and her push for MPD 2.0 — a push to make the department more accountable and raises the standard for professionalism. She said the chief needs the authority to fire bad cops.

—    Samuels, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee, said he’s a strong supporter of Harteau and was the first one to denounce the bad behavior of the officers involved in the Green Bay incident. He said he’d work with the chief to help change the culture within the department.

>>> Candidates’ answers when asked about their second choices for mayor. (See video below to watch responses to this question.)

—   Cherryhomes said she hasn’t made up her mind about her second choice. “Everybody has a lot of good qualifications,” she said, adding many of the candidates are personal friends. “I do like the ranked choice voting system,” she said. “I think it’s completely changed how we approach doing this, and I don’t think you’d have forums like we have been having around the city under the old system because we would have been much more combative and argumentative. You would have much less of an opportunity to really get to know us and hear what’s on our minds.”

—   Andrew said: “I don’t know that you’re going to get complete answers from the candidates on this because truthfully all of the candidates have great qualities,” he said, later adding his campaign might encourage people to “bullet ballot.” (Bullet balloting is a voting tactic where you only pick one candidate despite having other options.) The comment drew some criticism on Twitter and later Andrew’s deputy campaign manager Marion Greene said it was a failed attempt at a joke.

—   Cohen said Hodges is his second choice, complimenting her on her work with the city budgets. He said his third choice would have been Gary Schiff if he was still in the race.

—   Woodruff said her second choice is Samuels “because we share the same passion to put children first, and to make Minneapolis the smartest city in America.” She said she hasn’t decided her third choice “because campaigns matter.”

—   Samuels said “vision” is his priority and he will be evaluating candidates based on their commitment to improving education and public safety in the city, but he declined to name second and third choices.

—   Winton said he hasn’t made up his mind, but went on to list all the things he liked about the candidates sharing the stage with him. He complimented Andrew for his “energy,” called Cohen a “wise sage,” said when Woodruff faces adversity she “gets right back up and keeps on trucking,” called Samuels “bravery incarnate,” said Hodges cracks him up and Cherryhomes has a “lifetime of commitment to the city.”

—   Hodges said she doesn’t know who she is going to pick for number two and three. “I’m not done deciding yet,” she said. “I’m looking for shared values, vision, integrity and a sense of humor — it takes all of that to govern in the city of Minneapolis.” She said she hasn’t had a chance to meet all the candidates for mayor and is especially interested to meet Jeffery Wagner — the candidate who has generated a ton of buzz for appearing in a video shirtless after he goes for a swim to promote his campaign. He pledges to stop going to strip clubs if elected.

>>> Responses when asked to use one word to describe the most important quality in the next mayor:

—   Samuels: vision

—   Winton: candor

—   Hodges: integrity

—   Cherryhomes: leadership

—   Andrew: leadership

—   Cohen: courage

—   Woodruff: leadership