Mark Andrew kicked off a 100-day campaign tour of 81 city neighborhoods today, saying he wants to add 100,000 residents to the city as mayor.
He also called a controversial resolution to have the city run its own energy utility “reckless” and said his opponent doesn’t have the private sector experience to negotiate a new franchise agreement with Xcel Energy.
Andrew made it clear he does not, at least in the near future, support the idea of municipalized energy in Minneapolis. The City Council on Thursday will hold a public hearing on a resolution to put on the ballot this November the authorization to move forward with such a proposal.
“It’s reckless and irresponsible to put something on the ballot that win or lose is going to dramatically set back the mayor’s ability to strike a deal on the franchise agreement next year or the year after,” Andrew said.
The former Hennepin County commissioner owns a green marketing company and also owns two food booths at the Minnesota State Fair. Andrew said one of his opponents does not have the private sector experience to negotiate with Xcel. He didn’t name the opponent, but it was clearly City Council Member Betsy Hodges (Ward 13).
“The City Council Member who is running for mayor who is behind all of this has zero business experience,” Andrew said. “She has never worked in the private sector a day in her life and doesn’t understand that when we have to negotiate a deal that’s going be worth billions of dollars to our people, that you have to have constructive engagement. You can’t go into a discussion in a toxic atmosphere and having this ballot initiative on the ballot accomplishes that and nothing else.
(Note: Hodges worked for the Minnesota Justice Foundation and Take Action Minnesota, both private nonprofits)
Andrew said municipalized energy could also cost the city 2,000 jobs that Xcel has downtown. Xcel told the Star Tribune it would move those employees if the city went with municipalized energy.
“I’m not going to be a part of driving 2,000 jobs out of the city,” he said.
Andrew's Greenmark marketing firm lists Xcel Energy as one of his clients, Hodges campaign pointed out.
Andrew’s campaign manager, Joe Ellickson, said Andrew last worked for Xcel in 2008, marketing a wind energy program. Andrew doesn’t have any current contracts with Xcel, Ellickson said.
Ellickson also said that Greenmark is doing work on a solar project at the airport for the Metropolitan Airports Commission and could potentially partner with Xcel on that project.
“He’s in green energy. It would be pretty tough for him to not work with our state’s largest energy provider,” Ellickson said.
Andrew made his comments at the Fifth Street Towers Downtown. With 100 days to the election, the candidate said he would be making stops in every neighborhood while highlighting local businesses and entrepreneurs.
He’ll do so in a Toyota Prius, which was painted green and named the Energy Express.
UPDATE: Betsy Hodges released the following statement:
"I’m proud of my record representing Minneapolis in taking its toughest 21st-century challenges, whether it’s saving the City $20 million by taking on pension-fund middlemen, or protecting our key priorities while responsibly balancing our budget.
"Unlike Mark Andrew, who tells different people different things about the franchise agreement, my position has always been that Minneapolis needs to negotiate the best deal possible by considering all options for energy that is affordable, green and reliable.
"I’m not going to negotiate the City’s position with Mark Andrew. The next step is for the people of Minneapolis to have their say at Thursday’s public hearing."