Op-ed: Broken promises in Ward 10

It’s hard to believe, but in just over three months, we will be going to precinct caucuses as part of the 2013 election cycle. It makes sense, therefore, to begin to think about what is at stake in Southwest Minneapolis in the elections next year.

It has been over three years since the 2009 Ward 10 DFL convention. Council Member Meg Tuthill won that endorsement and went on to win the November election easily. She won the endorsement with no voting record; only a series of issue positions and promises.

Now, following over two years of votes on the City Council, Tuthill’s actual positions are clear and worth examining.

In 2009, Council Member Tuthill claimed that she supported strong city services. She then voted against Mayor R.T. Rybak’s budget, claiming that the budget “didn’t cut enough.” She never specified what she would cut. I wonder if she would prefer more potholes or fewer firefighters? Or maybe longer waits for inspections or fewer cops on the street?

In 2009, she said she supported neighborhood scale development and opposed large-scale construction such as the Mozaic project. Today, the Mozaic project towers over Uptown, out-of-scale with the neighborhoods.

In 2009, she promised to be an advocate for the GLBT community, earning the endorsement of Stonewall DFL. A few months ago, she favorably described the impact of Promise Keepers’ members in a MinnPost interview. Promise Keepers is one of the leading anti-gay religious organizations in the United States.  

In 2009, Councilmember Tuthill promised to work to help the people in Ward 10 thrive and she assured voters that she would not be distracted by “personal vendettas and tangents.” Until recently, she has been pushing an ill-conceived ordinance that would limit one of the great business assets of our community: our restaurants’ outdoor patios.

In 2009, she promised to be an advocate for women and against the exploitation of women, earning the endorsement of the DFL Feminist caucus. Last year, Hustler opened a storefront on Hennepin Avenue and Councilmember Tuthill hid behind a misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution. Instead of actively working to stop this store from locating in our ward, she claimed that the "First Amendment protects this kind of store" and argued that there was “nothing” she could do about it. While the First Amendment certainly protects this kind of speech, the Constitution also protects the right of a community to limit where certain kinds of speech can be expressed.  Councilmembers have a responsibility to lead, to use their First Amendment Rights to set the tone for the kind of community we want.

To be fair, however, Councilmember Tuthill did keep one promise. In 2009, she promised to support the Minnesota Vikings in their quest to extract public funding for their new stadium. She won the endorsement of the Minneapolis Building Trades. Her vote in favor of the stadium was the tie-breaking vote in the City Council.

In short, with the exception of her ill-conceived position on the Vikings stadium, Councilmember Tuthill has failed to live up to her campaign promises. Instead of devoting her time to improving the quality of life and broadening the economic opportunities for the people of Ward 10 and our city, Councilmember Tuthill has instead become a voice of big developers, the NFL, and people who want to diminish one of the great assets of our ward: a vibrant, youthful and dynamic Uptown. Councilmember Tuthill’s priorities are wrong for Uptown, wrong for the people of Ward 10 and wrong for Minneapolis as a whole.

We have an opportunity in 2013 to change the direction of our representation on the Council. The promise of change is a promise we ought to keep.

Matt Filner is a political science professor and co-chair of the Social Science Department at Metropolitan State University and a former candidate for Ward 10 City Council. His views do not necessarily represent the views of his employer.