Seven candidates attended UpTake’s mayoral forum last night: Mark Andrew, Don Samuels, Dan Cohen, Stephanie Woodruff, Betsy Hodges, Cam Winton and Jackie Cherryhomes. The candidates primarily discussed the Vikings stadium, poverty and job creation, and how they would improve the Minneapolis Police Department. University of St. Thomas law professor Nikima Levy-Pounds moderated the forum.
Cohen has repeatedly criticized the Vikings stadium deal, making it one of the two major issues he is running on. If elected, he would challenge it in court and do everything in his power to divorce Minneapolis from the deal.
Woodruff piled on, citing “a shameful lack of transparency” and calling it a “billion dollar boondoggle.” When pressed by Levy-Pounds about what she would do about the deal if elected, Woodruff said she is not a lawyer and had not looked into any options the mayor might have.
Andrew said the stadium deal should have gone to a vote, and “it was a bad deal all-around,” but Minneapolis needs to make the best of it now and move forward.
“The contracts are signed. The deal is done…if you want a lawsuit that’s going to last a decade and maybe bankrupt the city, go back and try to undo what’s been done,“ said Andrew.
Hodges cited her vote against the stadium deal, saying that the money Minneapolis committed could have been spent on more important things. She also cited the fact that she is the only elected official that was against the stadium sitting on the Stadium Implementation Committee, and she will continue to work to bring development to Downtown East.
“It wasn’t a project I chose, but it will be a project I lead,” she said.
Samuels countered, saying while he appreciates the work Hodges has done on the deal, “leaders initiate, administrators administer. I’m the leader that made this difficult decision.”
He said his vote for the stadium was a “calculated move” and a “rational decision.”
“We made a decision to avoid being rolled over and bowled over because the state had the legal right to build the stadium without us,” he said.
Cherryhomes said that “there are some serious issues about the financing of the stadium…but the fact of the matter is this deal is moving forward and the jobs are real.” She also touched on the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra lockout, describing how she would create a task force headed up by former Gov. Arne Carlson to put an end the ongoing dispute.
“Right now there is no leadership – other than Gov. Carlson – around the issue of figuring out how we’re going to save the orchestra.”
Winton said that the Vikings stadium could end up being a good thing for Minneapolis, but he doesn’t like the content of the deal and was critical of its approval process.
“This deal was built on quicksand…it’s clear as day in the City Charter that this deal should have gone to a referendum.”
Hodges emphasized that closing the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is her top priority.
“Everything, everything that we do in the city of Minneapolis has to be seen through this lens. Our health department, affordable housing, our employment options and opportunities, building the city and partnerships in education.”
Later she singled out investing in transportation, like streetcars on West Broadway through North Minneapolis, as a way to increase investment in economically struggling areas.
Cherryhomes pressed for policies that make an immediate impact.
“I live more in the here and now. We need to do some things now. I love the idea of having streetcars on Broadway, but you know what? It’s not going to happen fast enough to save West Broadway.”
She pointed to her founding of the North Side Job Creation Task Force two years ago as evidence of her commitment to jobs and the economic revitalization of North Minneapolis. As mayor, she would reinstitute the Industrial Development Commission and the Small Business Assistance Program, and hire someone who is solely responsible for creating jobs in Minneapolis.
Samuels repeatedly brought up the fact that he chose to move to one of the worst neighborhoods in North Minneapolis because he wanted to make a difference in the struggling community.
“My wife and I live it. We do not just talk about it, we dream it, we sleep it, we eat it, and we are it! You will be getting a mayor who is bringing a level of passion for closing these gaps that nobody else on this podium possesses.”
He touted he plan to start the City of Lakes Investment Fund, which would use money from the state and downtown business to provide grants to small businesses interested in opening in Minneapolis. He also talked about his Project Green Light proposal, which would allow veteran developers to pass through the city’s regulatory process in expedited fashion.
Winton has made cutting red tape and eliminating unnecessary licensing requirements at city hall a cornerstone of his campaign, and continued to hammer his points on Tuesday.
Winton said as a leader of a wind energy business, he’s invested in places where the level of taxation and regulation is predictable and reasonable.
“Right now there are 160 different types of licenses that city hall maintains…If I can make money by hiring people in Minneapolis I’m going to do that. If it’s going to be easier in Bloomington, then guess what? I’m going to go to Bloomington.”
Woodruff said luring companies to Minneapolis is less about reducing regulations and more about offer tax incentives.
“We need to be more business-friendly in terms of extending a hand to make [companies moving to Minneapolis] more of a win-win.”
She also is strongly in favor of making investments into transit to create jobs and help people get to work.
“I listen to people on the north side all the time and actually people on the south side, and a lot of these families have only one car, and [transportation] their biggest, biggest challenge.”
Andrew called himself an “expert collaborator,” and said that his long history and experience in building partnerships would help him close minority income and achievement gaps.
“My belief continues to be education and jobs, jobs and education. And the way to accomplish those things, if you’re running for mayor, is to be a proven, progressive leader.”
He wants to focus on developing the riverfront and Hennepin Ave. and reiterated his support for streetcars, more efficient buses, and more bike paths.
Cohen has pushed hard to hold a referendum on building a casino downtown. He says it would be a tourist attraction and it would create hundreds of sustainable jobs.
He also said that his campaign manager and the majority of people working for his campaign are African-American, and as mayor he would work to place African-Americans in leadership roles.
“There should be black people, people of color, people with different backgrounds on these city boards and agencies, and we’re not doing that.”
Winton said improving the police department boiled down to culture, cameras and improving its oversight commission. He would give the current oversight commission a little more time out of deference to Samuels, but would lose his patience quickly if results didn’t change.
He’s also in favor of police wearing cameras, although he would prefer to continue to work out the details with the police department before moving forward.
Andrew wants to give the oversight commission subpoena power, develop more rigorous protocol for dealing with the handful of officers that are repeatedly in trouble, and recruit more officers of color.
Hodges was also in favor of hiring a more diverse force and is strongly in favor of officers wearing body cameras. She didn’t support the current oversight committee, but she is willing to give it more time to see if it works.
Woodruff expressed her 100 percent support for Chief Harteau and her disgust over an incident in June, in which Minneapolis officers used racial and homophobic slurs during a confrontation with some African-American men in Green Bay. She said she’s not sure about body cameras, but would never roll them out without the support of Harteau.
Cherryhomes also expressed disbelief that the officers involved in the Green Bay incident were not fired. She is “not interested” in the current oversight commission and said that any oversight commission must have subpoena powers.
Cohen said the officers in the Green Bay incident “should have been fired on the spot.”
Samuels said that he is not in favor of firing someone when they will just sue, create legal headaches and eventually be hired back.
At the conclusion of the debate, each candidate was asked to write down their second choice for mayor, and Cherryhomes and Winton tied for first with two votes apiece.