Lisa Goodman is tied for longest tenure on the City Council, and while her three opponents say it’s time for change, the incumbent is leaning on her longevity as she asks voters to return her for a sixth term in office.
“One of the reasons that I believe that I’m the best person to represent the 7th Ward on the City Council is experience matters,” Goodman said during a mid-September interview.
Goodman prides herself on constituent service, and it has paid off at the ballot box. She took 68 percent of the vote in 2009 and more than 80 percent in two previous elections. She ran unopposed in 2013.
This year, she’s facing three challengers and maybe her steepest re-election climb yet. They include Republican Joe Kovacs, a downtown resident who works as a training specialist for a software company, and DFLer Teqen Zéa-Aida, co-founder of a local modeling agency and a gallerist who lives in Loring Park.
Janne Flisrand, a consultant and Lowry Hill property owners, vied with Goodman for the DFL endorsement this spring, before Zéa-Aida entered the race. No endorsement was awarded because delegates split between Flisrand and Goodman.
When discussing access affordable housing, one of the hottest issues of the election cycle, Goodman turns to her long legislative record. She founded the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, co-authored the city’s Section 8 anti-discrimination ordinance and has proposed another ordinance that would require apartment owners to give the city advance notice of a potential sale, opening an opportunity for the city to step in and preserve affordable units.
Goodman said property tax hikes driving up rents was “one of the bigger issues” in the affordable housing shortage. She said she had asked city staff to study one potential solution to that issue.
Affordable housing projects built with government subsidies through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program are also taxed at a lower rate. Goodman proposed extending that property tax break to the owners of so-called naturally occurring affordable housing — buildings where rents have fallen below market rate over time — who, in return, would agree to charge the same below market rate rents as LIHTC projects.
“This is a real, tangible, potential solution to the naturally occurring affordable housing issue without having to get involved with buying up every building, which we don’t have the resources to buy, but making it easier for those owners to keep their rents low and rewarding them by lowering their … tax rate,” Goodman said.
Flisrand, who has extensive contacts with housing programs through her consultancy and was program manager for Minnesota Green Communities, an energy-efficiency initiative targeted to affordable housing, said the city needs to dedicate more resources to “aggressively” preserving naturally occurring affordable housing. She would explore inclusionary zoning policies that require affordable units in new developments, and has also proposed zoning code changes to open more areas of the city to duplexes, triplexes and other small multi-family developments, which she and other advocates refer to as the “missing middle.”
Goodman views such changes warily.
“When you buy a house, which is your single biggest investment, one of the things that you take into consideration is the location and what the neighborhood looks and feels like surrounding you,” she said. “To upend that and make a dramatic change without the neighborhood and neighbors agreeing to it is, I think, unconscionable.”
In a recent candidate forum, Flisrand, a co-founder of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, now Our Streets MPLS, was critical of Goodman’s 2016 vote on the redesign of Third Avenue in downtown that added protected bike lanes. City staff initially proposed a “road diet” that would have reduced motor vehicle lanes to one in each direction from two. Citing business community concerns, Goodman sided with a majority on the Council who voted for a two-lane plan, disappointing cycling advocates who said it fell short of stated city goals to use street design to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety.
“In the end, we need to put bike facilities where there is a good amount of support for it,” Goodman said. “We can not use bike facilities as an attempt to punish people for driving and think that we’ll change their behavior.”
Kovacs, the conservative in the race, said he stands apart because he would have fought against the recently approved paid sick time and minimum wage ordinances, which he said put an undue burden on business. While she voted in favor of both, Goodman said the minimum wage debate “could have used a lot more a lot more compromise and nuance.”
“We’ll see if the minimum wage ordinance has a negative effect on business, and if it does we’ll have to adjust,” she said.
One of two council members representing downtown, Goodman said the city’s economic engine requires “a safe environment where people feel comfortable working.” That’s why she supported additional funding for beat cops and Downtown Improvement District ambassadors in the 2017 city budget, “and that’s made a pretty big difference,” she said.