It was just this spring that David Schorn stood for election at the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association annual meeting, and now the Wedge resident and high school civics teacher is already eyeing a higher rung on the political ladder.
“After I got done speaking, a couple of neighbors came up to me and said, ‘Would you ever be interested in running for City Council?’” Schorn recalled in July, a few weeks after he registered a campaign committee with Hennepin County.
Schorn said he spent the months between that neighborhood meeting and his trip to the Hennepin County Elections office talking with ward residents and business owners. Those conversations convinced him something must be done about the rising cost of living in the neighborhoods around Uptown.
“I think the issue for everyone is the exploding rental prices,” Schorn said. “The neighbors have said to me, and even the business owners, that their rents have gone up, too. It’s hard to build a community when people can’t stay here so long because their rent gets so high they have to move out.”
About a decade ago, Schorn moved to the Wedge from St. Cloud, where he’d taught for 25 years. He had recently adopted an 8-year-old boy and wanted him to live close to his biological mother, a Minneapolis resident.
Schorn is one of two or three people seeking to unseat DFL-endorsed Ward 10 incumbent City Council Member Lisa Bender, who is running for re-election to a second term. Another is Saralyn Romanishan, a longtime LHENA board member who runs a website highly critical of Bender, and possibly a third is Scott Fine, although he never filed with the county after announcing his campaign this spring and recently did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
Schorn’s platform includes calls for protecting the Chain of Lakes — he takes a daily swim in Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) — and supporting small business. He would, for instance, support adding an exception for tipped workers to the city’s recently adopted minimum wage ordinance.
Other platform points — calls for “rent and development controls” and “parking and traffic solutions” — reflect concerns about the impacts of new construction and a swelling residential population in Ward 10, which stretches from just south of downtown to East Harriet.
Schorn’s former landlord, Pramol Mathew, described the candidate as friendly, helpful and understanding of different cultures. Mathew, who owns two properties on West 28th Street, said she’s supporting Schorn’s campaign because he shares her views on parking and will listen to her concerns about rising property taxes.
“You have all these apartment buildings here, and people who don’t even live here, their guests, come here and park on my street,” she said.
In 2015, the City Council approved a Bender-authored ordinance that reduced the minimum number of required parking spaces for new developments built near transit routes. Schorn argued it is hurting small businesses, because car-owning renters are taking up their customers’ street parking.
Asked to respond, Bender said the ordinance was meant in part to subtract parking facilities from the cost to construct new housing, since the expense is passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents. It also opens more lots to small-scale infill development, a type of housing Bender said her constituents in her 80-percent renter ward are demanding.
As chair of the council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, Bender is also required to sit on the City Planning Commission, which reviews and makes recommendations on new developments. Schorn criticized Bender for taking campaign contributions from developers, architects and property managers while on the commission and pledged, if elected, not to accept “any donations while in office.”
“It does not influence my decisions as a planning commissioner,” responded Bender, who added that she has consistently advocated for more housing because of Minneapolis’ low vacancy rate and growing population. She said it was “disingenuous” for Schorn to suggest he would take a harder line on development, “because unless you’re planning to change the law to make it harder to build new housing, it’s not really the role of a council member to say, you can do this project here, not this project there.”
Schorn cast doubt on the accuracy of the Minneapolis rental vacancy figures — which July report from Marcus & Millichap pegged at 2.2 percent for the Uptown area — saying they can be skewed by apartment owners, who self-report the figures. He alleged they are purposely driving up rents.
Schorn, who is endorsed by the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said he’s drawing early support from former students of his, many of who live in the Uptown area. Asked how he’ll balance campaigning and teaching when school starts again in the fall, he replied: “It will be fun.”