Christopher Clark has a tough task in the 7th Ward City Council race: defeating a well-funded incumbent
Whoever wins the “new” Ward 7 in the Nov. 8 election will literally shape Minneapolis. They will represent the Downtown and Southwest lakefront neighborhoods at the heart of the condo boom, with an outsized say in how tall condo buildings should be and how traffic, density and affordable housing problems will be resolved.
The race pits two-term incumbent Lisa Goodman against political novice Christopher Clark.
The 7th Ward, which had included the Central Business District, Loring Park and Elliot Park, also picked up two other upscale Downtown areas in redistricting: nearly all of North Loop and the Downtown riverfront. The ward retained neighborhoods close to Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, though it lost the East Isles neighborhood to Ward 10.
The outspoken Goodman, who sits on the Council’s biggest campaign war chest, says she’s confident she can represent Ward 7 as she has for eight years.
Clark has volunteered on DFL campaigns and for gay rights organizations. The University of Minnesota dental school employee and sculptor knows he’s an underdog, but he called his “low-key” campaign “a good experience” that has taught him a lot about how things work in the city he’s called home for six years and the ward he’s lived in for seven months.
Despite facing a novice challenger, Goodman said she’s running an active campaign. She’s spent $30,000 and has almost $120,000 in the bank. Goodman has used the fund to spread her influence beyond the 7th Ward, and she hinted that she might continue to do so in the future.
“For me, this job is about representation,“ said Goodman. She called neighborhood meetings “the lifeblood of the job.”
She also brings “deeply held principals and priorities of my own to the position,” according to campaign literature.
The addition of Downtown’s North Loop “is a natural,” though she is “distraught” about losing East Isles.
Goodman terms housing advocates’ claims that condo conversions cannibalize affordable housing “ridiculous. The vast majority of condos converted in my area were not affordable to begin with.”
Affordable housing initiatives should “focus on people that need it most,” she said. “Multifamily rentals at 30 and 50 percent of the metrowide median income.” (That’s $23,100 and $38,500, respectively, for a family of four, according to the city).
Goodman applauded the Minneapolis Consortium of Community Developers for supportive housing projects built during her tenure, such as Downtown’s St. Barnabas Apartments and the Lamoreux, and a planned Bridge for Runaway Youth expansion in the East Isles neighborhood.
As for concerns that nave buyers are buying into buildings with only cosmetic improvements, saddling them with expensive shared repairs down the road, Goodman said state laws requiring notice of common-area conditions could be clarified. However, she put responsibility on the buyer, as well. “If [buyers] don’t realize the roof is part of the condo association, they shouldn’t be buying a condo,” she said.
Goodman’s campaign contributors include more than a dozen developers active in Downtown or South Minneapolis. The mayor, whom Goodman supports, has vowed not to take money from developers because he can make his own independent decisions. Goodman said contributions do not sway her votes about developments and that her record proves it.
“At any given time, I have been a critic of every one of these developers,
Goodman said. “The person who gave the most money to my campaign, I voted against,” said Goodman, referring to Stuart Ackerberg of The Ackerberg Group, whose partnership proposed a 13-story-high condo building at
Lagoon & Hennepin avenues.
The Council, including Goodman, rejected the initial proposal. A 10-story compromise may gain approval.
Goodman said she also “directly criticized” Target store and tower developer Ryan Cos., whose Jim and Colleen Ryan both contributed the maximum $300, according to Goodman’s campaign finance report, filed Sept. 6.
“If you are swayed by $300, maybe you shouldn’t be doing this job,” Goodman said. “If your decision is that you’re not going to take money from those people, then more power to you, you know your own limitations.”
Asked if she was talking about Rybak, Goodman replied: “Generally, I bet there other people who have this position; I am not one of them.”
Goodman said she would continue to encourage developers to work with neighborhoods on projects. “Developers shouldn’t be able to build whatever they want, whatever it looks like,” she said.
Goodman did not support the mayor’s hiring of the Police Chief William McManus. “I think, in the end, I will be able to say I told you so,” she said, although she thinks he’s doing a pretty good job, “given the circumstances.
“There’s a despair in the community… that hiring more police officers will not overcome,” she said. “That problem is resolved through programs like education, job training and summer youth programs,” Goodman said, calling crime “an economic development issue.”
Goodman cited the Health Careers Institute, a partnership with Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (both at 1501 Hennepin Ave. S.) and Allina Hospitals that matches healthcare students with Allina jobs. It is supported by Minneapolis Employment Training program.
A similar program exists for financial careers through U.S. Bank, Goodman said. She also cited the Step Up summer youth jobs program, through which 315 summer jobs were created by June 2005, according the city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED.)
She said Target-sponsored security cameras on Downtown’s public streets helped decrease Downtown crime this summer.
Overall, crime is up in the 1st Precinct, which includes Downtown and Cedar-Riverside.)
As of Oct. 11, Part 1 offenses (the most serious crimes) are up 13 percent compared to the same period in 2004, and 3 percent over the “three-year norm,” (the average for the last three years ).
Rape is up 55 percent over the three-year norm, robbery up 19 percent and aggravated assaults up 33 percent. There have been three murders in the 1st Precinct this year as of Oct. 11, compared to two last year.
Goodman said “the vast majority” of the $30,000 spent on her campaign was for postage, printing and her campaign manager. She printed 250 lawn signs and 25,000 pieces of literature — 15,000 were mailed before the primary.
Her campaign finance report shows that more than $12,000 went to such expenses (including a computer and camera). More than $5,000 went towards “visibility” expenses such as public events and Goodman’s Woman’s Club membership ($2,147.) More than $2,000 went back into fund-raising expenses. Goodman contributed $2,750 to organizations and other candidates — including Library Board candidates Alan Hooker and Rod Krueger; and Jeff Hayden, who did not advance past the 8th Ward City Council primary.
Asked if she supports Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform, a group critical of the current Park Board majority, Goodman replied, “I’m supporting a lot of candidates that are supporting them.”
Goodman supports Rybak because he “deserves four more years to show us what he can do without financial restraint. He spent so much time cleaning up the financial mess he was left.”
Her future priorities include:
- Reducing the city debt;
- Supporting arts facilities such as the MacPhail School for Music (which plans to move from near Loring Park to the Mill District) and the Shubert Center for the Performing Arts at 5th & Hennepin;
- Updating the Downtown 2010 Plan — a comprehensive transportation plan that includes a two-way Hennepin Avenue;
- Completing the Cedar Lake Trail in a North Loop railroad trench; and
- Reforming the city’s pension plan.
She also mentioned promoting a possible municipal energy utility.
Goodman said that she does not believe Xcel Energy is living up to its mandate to provide enough renewable and alternative forms of energy, “combined with the constant brownout problem in the 7th Ward. Clearly, the monopoly energy company that we have is not able to deal with the volume of use.”
She said that a municipal utility could make energy — and therefore housing — more affordable.
Goodman hinted that she might tap her remaining campaign funds — $119,550 as of Sept. 6 — to promote the utility and other “municipally focused issues,” to the extent the law allows.
If elected, Goodman does not want to be City Council president, a job now held by the 1st Ward’s Paul Ostrow. She said she did not know if this would be her last term or if she would ever run for mayor.
Clark said his campaign has been a learning experience. Clark has been a regular at Downtown neighborhood meetings since the summer, and he said he’s learning the issues in the ward and city — a slow process, he said. Clark is upbeat despite an uphill battle. He challenges people to get out and vote, “no matter [for whom].”
Clark believes the city lacks resources and should prepare itself for future cuts in state funding. He suggested partnerships with the county, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
If elected, Clark promised to only accept $50,000 of his $71,000 salary. He’d give the remainder to fund police or extend library hours. He suggested reducing the number of City Council seats from 13 to nine in the next redistricting to save even more.
Clark suggested that Goodman’s “excess” campaign funding could be used for “different city or state budget crunches… something you believe in for your city or county.” (Goodman hinted that she might do just that, by lobbying on issues such as a municipal energy utility or supporting other candidates.)
Clark didn’t have much criticism for his opponent, whom he said was “doing great at neighborhood involvement.”
The two do differ in their mayoral choices. Clark is likely to support Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin after voting for Green Party Candidate Farheen Hakeem before the primary. Clark said he likes McLaughlin’s experience and knowledge of the county. Clark is disappointed in Rybak’s record on the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and crime, although he applauded the mayor’s hiring of Bonnie Bleskachek, the city’s first lesbian fire chief.
Goodman said her opponent “sounds like he’s picking up on some of the things that [McLaughlin} is criticizing the mayor on, and that would make sense, since I’m supporting the mayor.”
Clark took Target to task for paying cashiers $7 an hour, with no benefits because they only work 32 hours a week. “People are always bashing Wal-Mart — we should start looking at Target, also,” he said.
Clark would like to see Downtown blocks developed “so they connect and make a better neighborhood where people feel safe,” he said.
He noted that the city lost its top-grade AAA bond rating five years ago. (Goodman lists regaining the AAA rating as a campaign priority.)
Clark has not sought endorsements but started a campaign fund after the primary. It has $100 — 1,200 times less than his opponent’s — and his only contributor is Christopher Clark. He has spent $50 on flyers, he said.