Nick 'L.A. Nik' Pilotta pitches street smarts in his Ward 3 campaign
When he filed to form a Ward 3 campaign committee last month, Nick Pilotta, better known as the glam downtown scenester “L.A. Nik,” was joining an already crowded race to replace mayoral candidate Jacob Frey on the City Council.
The Council might seem like a step down in status for the self-described “mayor of Minneapolis after dark,” but Pilotta is building a campaign around his street smarts and downtown connections. Roaming the streets of the 3rd Ward, Pilotta has crossed paths with everyone from CEOs and restaurant owners to gang members and prostitutes, he said.
“I don’t think anybody else has their finger on the pulse of this ward like I do,” he said.
Pilotta, who lives in the Downtown East neighborhood, said a focus on crime and safety in the downtown entertainment district would be his top priority if elected. In similarly sized cities, he said, entertainment districts are one of the places where visitors and tourists feel safest, but that’s not the case in Minneapolis.
“People don’t understand how important our entertainment district is,” he said. “It could be world class.”
Pilotta said the North Loop’s transformation into a shopping and dining destination with a growing residential population “put the nail in the coffin for the Warehouse District and entertainment district,” comparing the effects of gentrification to the Brexit vote that began the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
“I want to bring us back to the community and the village of the 3rd Ward,” he said.
Pilotta said he would also focus on expanding access to affordable housing and limiting property tax increases, which he linked to the misplaced spending priorities of City Hall leaders, including the downtown projects speeding toward completion ahead of the February 2018 Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“This whole Super Bowl thing threw everybody on their ear. Now they’re spending, spending, spending and they want to make up the money,” he said. “Mayor Hodges and Meet Minneapolis want to impress everybody and have Nicollet Mall done and have Seventh Street done and Fourth Street done and everything done and the park done and the stadium done.
“Where does all that money come from? It comes from property taxes.”
Pilotta, who is retired, is making his first run for public office.
“I didn’t really want to have a job, but I had so many people come to me and say, ‘Can’t you do something for this ward,’” Pilotta said.
In February, there were six candidates vying for the Ward 3 seat. By March, two had dropped out of the race: Susan Higgins and Justin Adams, both of whom said they planned to seek DFL endorsement.
That left technology consultant Steve Fletcher and nonprofit executive Cordelia Pierson in contention for the DFL nomination at the Ward 3 convention on May 6. Two other candidates, activist and organizer Ginger Jentzen and former Medtronic technical services specialist Samantha Pree-Stinson, have the backing of the Socialist Alternative and Green Party, respectively.
Pilotta is running as an independent, and said he doesn’t have any political ambitions beyond representing his ward on the Council.
“I don’t want to go past the 3rd Ward,” he said.