Voter's Guide: Four competing for Third Ward seat

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October 16, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

The race for the City Council’s Third Ward has been one of the most competitive and expensive races in the city.

DFLer Jacob Frey raised $62,326 in campaign contributions as of late August, while incumbent Diane Hofstede reported just under $30,000 in contributions, according to reports filed with Hennepin County in early September. 

In addition to DFLers Frey and Hofstede, Green Party candidate Kristina Gronquist and Libertarian candidate Michael Katch are running for the seat held by Hofstede for two terms. 

Frey secured the DFL endorsement early May after Hofstede withdrew from the process, arguing it was flawed and discouraged some people from participating. Frey and his campaign team disputed Hofstede’s suggestion that the process was unfair and have countered that they have mobilized a diverse base through aggressive grassroots outreach.

The new Third Ward — post-redistricting — includes neighborhoods downtown and east of the river, including Bottineau, Sheridan, St. Anthony West, St. Anthony East, Beltrami, Nicollet Island/East Bank, Marcy Holmes, Downtown East, Downtown West and the North Loop.

The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association hosted a Third Ward candidate forum Oct. 8 at Open Book. Journal editor Sarah McKenzie moderated the forum. 

Below are some notable responses from the 75-minute forum. They have been edited for space and clarity. To see a video of the debate, go to journalmpls.com/elections.

What are the most pressing issues facing Ward 3?

Michael Katch: 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: 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: 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: 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.

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 hurts 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 2 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.

CANDIDATES AT A GLANCE

>> Jacob Frey

Jacob Frey is the DFL-endorsed candidate in the race. A former professional long-distance runner, Frey is an attorney and community organizer. He is the organizer of the Big Gay Race, which raised more than $250,000 to help defeat the marriage amendment. 

Party: DFL

Neighborhood: Nicollet Island/East Bank 

Campaign website:  jacobfreyforourcity.com

>> Kristina Gronquist

Kristina Gronquist, a St. Anthony West resident, is the assistant general manager of the Eastside Food Co-op, a treasurer on the board of the St. Anthony West Neighborhood Association, a founding member of the Northeast Investment Co-op (NEIC) and a volunteer mentor with AchieveMpls.

Party: Green

Neighborhood: St. Anthony West

Campaign website: gronquistforcitycouncil.nationbuilder.com

>> Diane Hofstede

Diane Hofstede is seeking a third term on the City Council. Prior to redistricting, the Third Ward included neighborhoods on the North Side and in Northeast. It has since been redistricted to included neighborhoods downtown. Hofstede’s top priorities include investing in public safety, economic development and riverfront revitalization. 

Party: DFL

Neighborhood: St. Anthony West

Campaign website: dianehofstede.com

>> Michael Katch

Michael Katch is a Libertarian candidate for the Third Ward seat. He has been a resident of the Downtown West neighborhood for seven years. He’s been critical of how city leaders have financed public projects, including the Vikings stadium. If elected, he would push for a referendum for every major project that would have a big impact on taxpayers. 

Party: Libertarian

Neighborhood: Downtown West

Campaign website: katch4council.wordpress.com