Voter's Guide: City Council Ward 13 race

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October 17, 2013 // UPDATED 9:20 pm - October 21, 2013
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

Editor’s note: The Southwest Journal’s coverage area also includes portions of Ward 7, 8 and 11, but we’ve focused our reporting on the Ward 10 and Ward 13 races because they have been the most competitive. City Council Members Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) and Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) do not face challengers. City Council Member John Quincy (Ward 11) has two challengers: Bob Schlosser and Matt Steele.

Candidates competing to succeed Hodges as Ward 13 City Council member 

Five candidates will be on the ballot for the Ward 13 City Council seat — an open seat since incumbent Betsy Hodges is running for mayor. Hodges has represented the ward, which includes southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, for two terms.

Candidates Linea Palmisano and Matt Perry were the first candidates to launch campaigns and both sought the DFL endorsement in May. Palmisano secured the DFL endorsement, causing Perry to lose some of his earlier endorsements from elected officials. Despite saying he’d abide by the DFL endorsement, Perry relaunched his campaign in June. Missy Durant also jumped into the race in June, followed by Bob Reuer later in the summer. David Regan is also running, but has not participated in debates or responded to requests for information about his campaign.

With similar ideologies, Ward 13 candidates provide a choice in personality and experience. Palmisano and Perry have backgrounds in neighborhood-level community organizing, with Palmisano recently working for UnitedHealthcare, and Perry owning a small business. Durant carries a corporate background; she worked in senior director positions at Best Buy until 2009, and she currently works with the Salo staffing agency. Reuer is also a newcomer to local politics; he runs a sewer and drain contracting business.

— Michelle Bruch 

 

// Candidates at a glance //

Name: Missy Durant (DFL)

Occupation: Executive consultant at Salo staffing agency

Experience: Senior human resources director for Best Buy. She wrote the book “What Matters... Gratitude.” She also serves as “room mom” at her kids’ elementary school, has coached track & field and baseball, and volunteers at Camp Erin.

Top Priorities: “This is a hard question for me,” she said, explaining that she prefers a multi-pronged approach to make Minneapolis a world-class city. She highlighted education and investment in infrastructure.

Endorsements: Individuals including MariAn Klein, Harry Adler, Perry Moriarty

Money raised: $16,065

Website: www.missydurant.com

Name: Linea Palmisano (DFL-endorsed)

Occupation: Palmisano recently worked at UnitedHealthcare as senior project manager to help internal teams prioritize multi-million dollar remediation work in support of health care reform. She left the role in July to focus on the campaign.

Experience: Linden Hills Farmers Market board member, founder of Southwest Pedal Power, former Linden Hills Neighborhood Council board chair, Southwest High School track coach, IBM account manager in “disaster recovery” unit.

Top priorities: Palmisano wants a city that is prosperous, sustainable and connected. Improving public transit is the most equitable investment the city can make for all its citizens, she said.

Money raised: $31,845 (includes a $6,000 loan)

Endorsements: DFL; Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; Sierra Club; Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis; Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82; DFL African American Caucus; Council members including Barb Johnson, Elizabeth Glidden, Kevin Reich, Lisa Goodman, Betsy Hodges and Gary Schiff; Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman; Congressman Keith Ellison; State Rep. Frank Hornstein; mayoral candidate Mark Andrew; Women Winning; State Rep. Susan Allen; former Council members Lisa McDonald, Jack Newton, Scott Benson; Park Board Commissioner Brad Bourn; State Senators Kari Dziedzic, Melisa Franzen, Patricia Torres-Ray; School Board member Rebecca Gagnon; Stonewall DFL; MN Women's Political Caucus; SEIU MN State Council; MN Voters for Animal Protection; Minneapolis Building Trades; New Americans Political Action Committee; Minnesota Young DFL; Minnesota Asian-Indian Democratic Association

Website: www.lineapalmisano.org

Name: Matt Perry (DFL)

Occupation: Owner of a small business providing technical service to other small businesses

Experience: Chair of the Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment, member of the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee, former chair of East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association, background in engineering management, small business owner providing technical services to other small businesses

Top priorities: Perry wants to address the ward’s property tax burden and service level; further revise zoning code to deal with widespread teardowns; deal with future and present airport noise; and encourage smart growth while preserving neighborhood character.

Endorsements: Restaurateur Kim Bartmann; Thatcher Imboden, Kenny; Sierra Club; Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection; A-rated by Stonewall DFL; Jim and Julie Graves of Linden Hills; Lydia Lee, Former Minneapolis School Board Chair; Dave Luger, Former Chair Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, Former Chair Linden Hills Business Association and Georgie Yiannias; Jeff Alden, Board Member, Fulton Farmers Market, Former Board member, Fulton Neighborhood Association; Angela Amundson and John Shefchik, East Harriet; Jason Blumenthal, Lynnhurst; Jen Borger, Former Chair, Linden Hills Neighborhood Council; Mary Brozic, Vice-Chair, Kenny Neighborhood Association; Brian Ciccone, Armatage; Kathy Cobb, Board member, West Calhoun Neighborhood Council; Joel Criner and Loran Meccia, Linden Hills; Dave and Janet Delvoye, Fulton; Adam Faitek, Chair, East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association; Jeremy Fink, East Harriet; John and Beth Finlayson, Fulton; Mary and Jim Fischer, Former Board Member, Linden Hills Neighborhood Association; Craig Gustafson and Karen Page Gustafson, East Harriet; Donovan Hart, East Harriet, former Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary; Denis Houle, Board member, Armatage Neighborhood Association; Liz Johnston, East Harriet; Bill and Jane Minge, Linden Hills; Brian Nalezny, Vice President, East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood; Peter Nussbaum, Vice President, Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association; Suzanne and Mike O'Brien, Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association; Alicia Phillips, Lynnhurst; Judy Schermer, Past President of DFL Feminist Caucus, Linden Hills; Aaron Schaffer, West Calhoun; Bryan Simmons, Chair, Kenny Neighborhood Association; Kevin Terrell, Lynnhurst Board Member, co-founder of MSP Fair Skies; Jim Tincher, President, Fulton Neighborhood Association; Betty Tisel, Kingfield; Chance and Keiko Veasey, Board Member, Linden Hills Power and Light, Former Board Member and Vice-Chair, Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, Founder and Director, Linden Hills EcoParents; Jon Velie, East Harriet; David Weingartner, East Harriet; Emily Winter, Armatage; Steve Young, Treasurer, Fulton Neighborhood Association

Money raised: $26,782 (includes a $9,000 loan)

Website: www.votemattperry.org

Name: David Regan (Libertarian)

No website

No campaign finance filing at press time

Did not respond to calls or emails to discuss campaign 

Name: Bob Reuer (Independent)

Occupation: owner of a sewer and drain contracting business

Experience: Small business owner of a towing company and auto repair shop. Reuer said he’s turned his life around 180 degrees since felony convictions that include receiving stolen goods in 1990 and 1997. He donates time and plumbing work to area churches.

Top priorities: The Police Department and education. Crime has increased on the North side, and property crime is up, he said.

Money raised: No campaign finance filing at press time

Website: www.reuercitycouncil.com 

 

Here are highlights of candidate responses to questions posed by the Southwest Journal for this Voter’s Guide. 

Question: Why should you get the job ?

Durant: While working as senior human resources director at Best Buy, Durant oversaw 140,000 people, more than the population of Ward 13. As a result, Durant said she’s not afraid to tackle difficult problems. As an example, she described a day at Best Buy where she was informed she must lay off 3,200 workers.

“I said, ‘Can you tell me the problem we’re trying to solve?” said Durant. She learned the company needed to quickly save several million dollars in a matter of weeks. Durant and her team delegated the cost-savings problem to the stores, found the savings, and averted layoffs.

“I’m not going to shy away from problems,” she said.

Palmisano: “I am the only candidate that has applicable, current private sector professional experience combined with a decade of community organizing efforts,” she said.

Perry noted his experience on city boards and commissions, including the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee. He also serves as president of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association. “This gives me the ability to step into the job on day one, be effective, and get things done,” he said. 

Reuer: “I’ve been in the community longer than all of them — almost 50 years,” he said. “I’m actually out on the streets seeing what goes on more than they do.” Reuer also mentioned his experience owning his own company.
“I know what it takes to make a dollar, and make things balance out,” he said.

Question: What would you do to hold the line on property taxes?

Durant: “Taxes should be manageable and predictable,” said Durant, noting that she’s not advocating to lower existing rates.

Instead, she wants to grow the tax base so a few wards don’t bear most of the tax burden. In addition, Minneapolis should enjoy the service level Edina does, she said.

“People talk about how frustrating it is to pay this level of taxes, and in their eyes, they don’t get the level of service they expect,” she said.

Palmisano: Property taxes in the 13th Ward have been too high for too long, and they threaten the age diversity of the neighborhood, she said. Proximity to the lakes increases property taxes in the ward, she said — perhaps the same should be true for other areas, like the riverfront, which are experiencing large-scale development.

Palmisano said her first focus is the 13th Ward, but she would invest time in improving North Minneapolis as well.

“What’s good for north Minneapolis is good for Minneapolis, and the people of the 13th ward know this and it is important to all of us,” she said.

She’d like to see the tax base expanded to transit corridors like the Hiawatha light rail line, with tax increases going into the general fund to decrease the tax burden for all.

The city could do a better job attracting new businesses to Downtown, she said, by marketing specific sites for specific types of companies.

Businesses provide another opportunity for more revenue, she said — former Gov. Jesse Ventura dramatically cut taxes to businesses during his tenure, and businesses comprise a quarter of the tax base they once provided.

Perry: “Multiple people have told me their property tax bills are as large, or have started to eclipse, their mortgage payment,” he said.

For a short-term solution, Perry thinks he can work with legislators to increase local government aid, boosting the city’s general fund. For a medium-term solution, he wants to see more dense development Downtown to help boost the tax base. And instead of pouring money into large, capital projects, he’d like to see city money invested in areas that are not doing as well as Ward 13. That move would also increase the property tax base, he said, so the tax burden is more evenly distributed.

Reuer: “I think the wasteful spending in our city is totally ridiculous,” he said. “Taxes should be a lot lower.” He compared the current situation to giving a teenager a credit card with no limit.

“If you had $100 in your account, you wouldn’t spend $200,” he said. “We can only have so many bonds out there.”

Question: What’s the appropriate level of density for future development in Ward 13?

Durant: Tied to the question of density is the need for economic diversity in the ward, she said. She worries about the ability of people on fixed incomes to continue paying the tax rate.

“If we create a condo complex that’s really pretty expensive to purchase, $650,000-$700,000, that only appeals to a small percentage of the people in the ward,” she said,

The Waters on 50th, a new senior living complex at 3500 W. 50th St., is an example of development done well, she said.

Palmisano said it’s important for people to age into the neighborhood in their senior years.

“I probably wouldn’t be a homeowner here if I hadn’t come as a renter in my 20s,” she said.

She said teardown home developments can escalate property values of immediate neighbors very quickly.

“We want people to be able to age in place in our city, not drive them out of our city,” she said.

Regarding the controversial Linden Corner project (now called Linden Crossing), Palmisano said she initially liked that an early version of the project included affordable housing units. But the final project, expensive condos, doesn’t help seniors age in place in the neighborhood, she said. She said the project’s three-year decision process took too long, and public information around the project became uncivil and disingenuous.

“The Small Area Plan work for Linden Hills is the right way to go about figuring out appropriate density,” she said, referring to the neighborhood-based guide for future development.

Perry said the city needs more density to grow and accommodate seniors who want to stay in the city. He’d like to see higher-density development in surface parking lots Downtown, and along transit corridors in Ward 13. Single-family homeowners comprise 80 percent of Ward 13, so options for increasing density here are limited, he said. Perry is interested in “micro-density” options like garden-level units and mother-in-law units over garages, where the bulk of buildings don’t change much.

“Density does not mean higher building density, it means more people,” he said.

Senior planners should help facilitate community conversation in high-profile, controversial projects, he said.

Reuer: “I want to see our community grow,” Reuer said. He said he’s happy to see condos in areas where they are today.

“I don’t want to see single-family homes wiped out in extinction,” he said.

Question: What should be done about Southwest Light Rail?

Durant: “One thing that’s frustrating for me as a resident of the metro is I would like to see all areas and organizations get together in one room and see if we can solve the problem together,” she said. If we are working on a timeline to secure federal funding, she said, we should probably be working quickly to make sure we don’t miss it.

“I am totally flexible on how to solve the problem,” she said. “We will have to spend some money to help update our transit system.”

Palmisano would prefer not to see light rail tracks co-locate with freight tracks.

If LRT happens, Palmisano wants planners to make a firm commitment to betterment projects. The area around the potential West Lake Street station has been a traffic nightmare for decades, she said, and it isn’t pedestrian-friendly. The LRT station would provide an opportunity to rethink traffic flow through the area.

Perry: “When something gets really expensive, we’re probably not doing the right thing,” Perry said. He does not support co-location of freight tracks and light rail tracks.

Perry said the community needs light rail, and he doesn’t want any group to voice so much opposition it ends the project. He said the entities should find a new consultant to study other route options.

“I do not believe that by taking a pause we’re actually at risk of losing federal funding,” Perry said. “This is a century decision. Taking a little more time to make a century decision is wise and appropriate.”

Reuer: In a perfect world, the light rail would run down the middle of the highway, Reuer said. He said it isn’t ideal to run the light rail next to bike trails.

“How much do we have to destroy to put it in?” he said. “Hopefully somebody can come up with a happy medium for it.”

 

Note: This story has been changed to update endorsement lists, include Bob Reuer's charitable donations, and delete duplicate mentions of Reuer's background details.