Recap of Ward 3 candidate debate at Open Book

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October 9, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
(L to R) Michael Katch, Diane Hofstede, Kristina Gronquist, Jacob Frey
Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

The second Third Ward City Council debate was held Oct. 8 at Open Book as part of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association’s (DMNA) annual meeting. The candidates were sharper and more specific about their plans and viewpoints this time around.

Before the debate, Ward 7 City Council Member Lisa Goodman spoke to the DMNA for the last time before her ward is redistricted. Starting next year, Ward 7 will be scaled back away from the Mississippi River, losing 8,000 Downtown residents to Ward 3 in the process. State Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-59) also spoke briefly before the four Ward 3 candidates took the stage.

Below are some notable responses from the 75-minute forum. They have been edited for space and clarity.

What are the most pressing issues facing Ward 3?

Michael Katch, Libertarian candidate: We want to keep single-family homes in areas like St. Anthony West, Sheridan and Beltrami. We have to look at the small-area plans that neighborhood associations drafted.

I feel the Minneapolis plan is a plan made up of small-area plans, so that we’re working with and cooperating with each one of these neighborhoods, and not for some individual developer. We have to make sure the culture of our neighborhoods remains, and we don’t change things to the point where we look around and say ‘When did we become Manhattan?’

Diane Hofstede, incumbent DFL candidate: Some of the biggest challenges we face are related to public safety. Without public safety we don’t have economic development.

The stadium, which was a development I was an early supporter for, will bring us opportunities to fill in some of those vacant parking lots that have been in our neighborhood for over a decade. We can replace those with green space and bikeways and other kinds of transit options that are in the plan for the new stadium development.

Kristina Gronquist, Green Party candidate: We need to look at finding creative solutions with scarce resources, which is something I can attest to doing working at Eastside Food Co-op, we had a real tough go of it the first few years.

I was opposed to the stadium decision, that should have been put to a referendum. I think that having the stadium where it is, was a huge strategic error as a result of poor state and council leadership.

I think we have possibly the lowest crime rate now in the history of Ward 3, so I’m much more concerned right now about racial profiling and police misconduct and accountability.

Jacob Frey, DFL-endorsed candidate: We used to be a city of about 530,000, and now we’re at approximately 380,000. There’s no dispute that decline in population has contributed to economic decline, it’s contributed to safety concerns and it’s detracted from the overall vitality of our city.

We need to increase our overall population. Right now we have empty nesters and young professionals, but we’re missing that 30-year gap in-between. We need to find ways to retain families.

We do that by 1) We need safe streets 2) We need pedestrian-friendly areas 3) We need adequate green space and 4) and this may be most important, we need a great and viable option for a school.

I’ve been endorsed by and will work with School Board Member Jenny Arneson to make sure there is a school in the next year and a half.

What are your thoughts on the street cars plan that was recently approved by City Council?

Frey: To be very clear, I’m for it. They say street cars are great because 1) They’re low to the ground, so a disabled individual can easily get on and off 2) It’s a wider aisle and 3) It’s a smoother ride. But that’s not why I’m for them.

The reason I’m for them is the “cool factor,” and the investment it will trigger. Don’t you want to say to your friend who is visiting from New York: “Fly into MSP, take the light rail down to the Nicollet Ave. stop, hop on a street car and I’ll meet you for dinner about 30 minutes later.”

That’s the kind of stuff that makes a city dynamic. Not to mention if you look at the other cities that have invested in street cars, they’ve seen more than $1 billion in investment along those lines.

 Katch: Wow. Let’s talk about the wow factor. It costs $130/hour to operate a street car. To operate a bus it costs $85/hour. The truth of the matter is that street cars are another thing we just plain cannot afford.

We have to be concerned about not going down the road of every other urban destination – Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis – where you have dying urban cores because the City Council went ‘Wow, let’s have an arch, let’s build a new stadium, let’s have all of this wow!’

Then, in the end, wow, our seniors can’t afford to live here because the taxes are too high, wow, we can’t afford police officers, wow, the garbage can’t get picked up because nobody wants to work for what we can afford to pay, or wow, we tripled or quadrupled your property taxes.

Let’s start thinking about how to keep our most vulnerable members – our seniors, our disabled, our families with children – without being worried about impressing my friend from Manhattan.

Hofstede: You think these are easy decisions to make when you go sit on the council? It’s not! You think what you read in the newspapers is actually happening at the council meetings? No! It’s not! These are controversial decisions that demand for all of us to weigh in.

I voted for them. You want to know why I voted for them? Because based on analysis and research throughout the world it demonstrates that it delivers economic development.

The city of Minneapolis cannot stand still. We are competing with cities like Cincinnati. We are competing with the rest of the world, and in order to do that we have to have that ‘wow factor.’

Gronquist: I would support street cars with some reservations. I really would like to see street cars viewed separately from transportation. I would like to see street cars viewed as economic development and look at transportation somewhat separately, because I think they’re different things. 

How would you work to improve public safety in the ward, and address Downtown’s crime perception problem?

Katch: I believe that public safety begins with us. We have to work to not become victims. I think it would be good for our law enforcement to give us training on how not to become a victim through self-defense and conceal-and-carry courses.

The police can’t help you until somebody hurt you. I would prefer you never be hurt. I prefer that you be the toughest possible victim in the city and that criminals go somewhere else to commit crime because you’re just not an easy target.

Hofstede: I represented some of the toughest areas in North Minneapolis, so if anybody has an issue with crime I’ve probably dealt with it.

I’ve closed down businesses because they were so unsafe that people were not stopping at a stoplight, they would prefer to get a ticket or get hit by someone rather than stop because there was drug dealing going on.

I know what it’s like to put businesses out of business. I’ve done it. I’ve been there.

I know how hard it is to go a funeral of a two-year-old! What do you say to a family when their child has been shot? Those are the kinds of issues I’ve dealt with. That’s the area that I’ve represented.

You may look at me and say ‘look how small she is.’ I’ve heard that before and you know what? It doesn’t frighten me.

Every one of you are important to me, and there isn’t a day I don’t think or work on public safety.

Gronquist: One of the best things we can do is have a lot of mixed use development Downtown. When people live downtown, downtown is safer.

One of the issues of my campaign that I’ve been addressing is police accountability and police misconduct and I do think that when we talk about public safety and victims, we also have to recognize that there are people in our city that feel themselves victimized by police.

The city has paid out some $14 million over the last decade in lawsuits, and we have almost 500 cases of misconduct without any resolution and none of them being brought forward.

Do our youth feel safe Downtown? Are our youth of color welcome? We don’t need any more Trayvon Martins, we don’t need any more Terrance Franklins.

Frey: I am a proponent of diversity. It’s not just diversity in terms of people, but it’s also diversity in terms of use.

We need to be looking at mixed use. That is the future of every city and should be the future of Minneapolis.

We need gun control reform. People will say that’s just not an issue for the city, but I’ll say it is. There’s no reason we should have people walk around and unload 30 rounds before they have to reload. That’s ridiculous.

I’ve been the chair of the Protect Minnesota political action committee for the last few years and we’ve been going over to the legislature to be an advocate for people in our city to make sure that exactly what Council Member Hofstede was so happy pointing out doesn’t happen.

Journal Editor Sarah McKenzie moderated the debate. To see a full video of the debate click here

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