Recap of Ward 3 Council candidate debate on NE artist issues

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September 10, 2013 // UPDATED 4:12 pm - September 12, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The four candidates for the City Council’s Third Ward seat — Jacob Frey, Diane Hofstede, Kristina Gronquist and Michael Katch — shared their visions for helping bolster the arts community in Northeast at a debate Tuesday night at the Ritz Theater.

Hofstede, a two-term Council incumbent and DFLer, is facing competition from Frey, the DFL-endorsed candidate in the race, along with Green Party candidate Gronquist and Katch, a Libertarian.

The new Third Ward includes neighborhoods downtown, Northeast and near the University of Minnesota campus. The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District hosted the debate. Here are highlights from the debate moderated by Scott Coran. (To watch a video of the debate, see below.)

Note: The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association is hosting a Third Ward Council candidate Oct. 8, 6 p.m., at Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S.  

Question: Why is the Third Ward important? 

Katch: We start with the Mississippi River. The Third Ward is where it all started — where it all began. … If you look at the Third Ward this is where economic growth is happening. … If you look at the last Census, the city is actually shrinking population outside some areas — downtown is growing, St. Anthony is growing, but the rest of the city was shrinking. That’s how we lost a state House seat because population is leaving the rest of the city and we’re the only place that’s really growing.

Hofstede: The Third Ward is important because you’re here. You’re here because it’s a thriving neighborhood. It’s grown and it’s become one of the third fastest growing neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis. Why? Because we’ve all worked together. We have made it important by adding new businesses, by making the arts one of the core ingredients by which we define our ward, by having places to come and eat … by adding additional housing and bikeways. We’ve become the bike capital in the Third Ward. Nice Ride bikes started in our ward.

Frey: The Third Ward is absolutely where it’s all going on. Just think what we have. We are the economic engine of the entire state. We’ve got most of the downtown. The Wells Fargo building generates more tax revenue than other wards in their entirety. We’ve got professional sports teams. We’re the art mecca of the entire state. We’re the theatrical capital. We’ve got the university. We’ve got Dinkytown. We’ve got the oldest neighborhood in the entire state. We’ve got the Northeast Arts District — we have so much. I think it’s the job of the Council member to connect people to people. We can connect young professionals in the North Loop to artists in Northeast; we can connect students at the university to empty nesters downtown. Whether you’ve lived her 50 years or 50 days, grown up in Northeast Minneapolis, Northern Virginia or East Africa, we can bring you to the table so you’re part of the process. That’s when great ideas take shape, and that is when our city is really going to rock.

Gronquist: For all those reasons, the Third Ward is a great place to live. It is exciting because we have this wonderful arts community. We have the river — we have all of those things. We also have some disparities — some economic gaps and problems that need to be addressed. So it’s sort of like a smiling face that has some teeth missing. We need to fill in those gaps, and as much as I love the Third Ward the City Council [member] also has to look at the city as a whole.

Questions: How can the city help develop arts patronage in the [NE] Arts District?

Hofstede: … One of the ways we do that is the 1 percent for art. I instituted that as a policy as a member of the Minneapolis Library Board over 25 years ago. It’s been so successful that it’s now been adopted by the City of Minneapolis and now Hennepin County. That’s how you can encourage patronage. In addition to that we have the Great Streets program and a number of other initiatives in the city that encourage patronage.

Frey: I think it’s important to first recognize that oftentimes regulations, ordinances, permits, licenses — they detract from the ability of an artist to open shop and in some cases, remain in business. Picture for a moment an art opening on some random street in Paris. I know Paris isn’t Northeast, but work with me for a second. The artist comes down from her loft right out on to the street, sets up a card table and throws down three to four bottles of wine and four of five glasses. Hits some tunes to lift the ambience a little bit and walks over to a vacant industrial building and puts up four or five beautiful pieces of art. Twenty-five minutes later maybe 30 patrons start coming and add to the ambience. They artist makes maybe $1,500 and pays for the next several months of rent.

How many of those things do you think you could do in Minneapolis without being sacked with tickets, right? You can’t put the card table up because you can’t open a small local business without a permit. You can’t have the wine without a liquor license. … We need to enable artists to practice their trade. It’s important.

Katch: I agree with what Jacob was saying. The city does a lot to get in the way of small businesses. … I don’t think the city does anything toward promoting the arts. I think the artists promote themselves. The city just creates a climate for them to operate. This is where government becomes limited. We’re not supposed to be taking your tax dollars and dedicating them to any of these other venues. Property taxes are not progressive. Therefore every time you raise property taxes, there’s somebody on a fixed income who won’t be able to buy dinner. We have to keep that in mind. This is not our money that we’re spending at City Council — this is your money, and there are people who are struggling and need that money.

Gronquist: I don’t have a lot of criticism about what the city has done to support the arts. I’m actually pretty impressed with that. I think we can continue to develop arts patronage along those lines and just make it stronger. I know the city has a longtime Arts Commission that’s operated for almost 10 years. We have our own arts coordinator and we have an index that measures the economic impact of the arts and creative businesses. With that index we can show the arts community and creative industries actually have a huge positive economic impact on bring people to our city. We definitely need to advertise the arts a lot better and do more marketing.