** (Note: Video highlights of the forum at end of story)
In six weeks the DFL will hold a convention to possibly endorse a candidate for City Council in Minneapolis Ward 10, where four challengers are looking to unseat incumbent Meg Tuthill in the Uptown area.
On Tuesday night the candidates squared off in a one-hour forum in front of roughly 100 people at the First Universalist Church. The League of Women Voters and the Southwest Journal organized the forum.
The debate was largely respectful and candidates restrained from attacks on their opponents.
While the candidates are in agreement on many issues – namely prioritizing public safety, improving transportation in the ward and opening Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street — the forum also highlighted some key differences.
Tuthill several times touted her history as the owner of three small businesses in Minneapolis prior to her election in 2009.
“I am the only one at this table who has owned any small business in Minneapolis, let alone in the 10th Ward,” Tuthill said. “I know what it’s like to open a small business. I know what it’s like to struggle.”
Kendal Killian placed lots of emphasis on his relationships at the Minnesota Capitol, where he works as a lobbyist for Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. He said that background would help him fight to restore the renter’s credit and state aid to Minneapolis.
Lisa Bender focused on transportation and urban planning, highlighting several ideas she has for improving infrastructure in the ward.
Ken Bradley, a former comedian, brought the crowd to laughter a few times, joking about when he lived above what became a Hustler store on Hennepin Avenue and how the plan to build a Kmart in between Lake and Nicollet was a bad idea.
Bradley said he wants to make Minneapolis a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Another candidate, Nate Griggs, did not attend the forum as he is currently working in Afghanistan.
Here are some policy points from the forum:
Tuthill: “I do firmly believe that we need smart development, and just because the zoning states one thing does not necessarily mean that that project is going to fit into that community.”
Killian: “There really is a progressive case to be made for increasing population in our community.” He added “If we gentrify and just kind of tear everything down too quickly, I don’t know if we’re maintaining that (Uptown) character.”
Bradley said the decision to tear down a three-level brick building to construct a one-level CB2 store at 31st and Hennepin was a bad idea. “When we do suburban style development, we fail our city because we’re not embracing who we are and what we are as a city.”
Bender: “We’ve seen over 1,000 new residents and we’re planning for more, but we haven’t seen any improvements in our transportation system. That’s why we need to improve transit access to downtown
Streetcars on Nicollet
Bradley: “I wasn’t convinced of them immediately, but I am now. I think a modern streetcar running down Nicollet Avenue is a pretty darn good idea and I think it will make that neighborhood even stronger and better. I didn’t come to that easily. There are some problems with it.”
Bender: “We should wait and see the data and look at the transit benefits and then do a real thorough cost-benefit analysis and see which one is a better investment for our community.”
Bradley: “In 2009 at the caucuses, about 90 percent of the people who attended were single family homeowners, probably like most of us here. The question is, will they participate in the political system? We need them to participate in the political system.”
Tuthill said she that when she owned a four-plex on Bryant Avenue, she would give her tenants one month of free rent if they would attend Lowry Hill East neighborhood meetings.
Bender: “We need to make sure that there are ways for people who don’t have time to attend a monthly meeting or serve on their board to get involved in the decisions we’re making.”
Killian said he would fight to restore cuts to the renters credit. “I think having someone in this roll, who has connections to the legislature like I do, and knows the halls of the Capitol and can really go over there and get things done, this is one area where I think particularly the Uptown area City Councilor needs to be at the Capitol advocating for renters and I look forward to doing that.”
Killian: “We had a lot of voting lines and things in November, during the election, because the city and the current Council reduced the number of voting precincts by 20 — 20 less voting precincts. Huge lines. Some precincts there were over 3,000 people packed into one precinct, including a monster precinct in the Whittier neighborhood, and that really makes it difficult for people to participate in democracy.”
Tuthill called the last election in November a disaster. “We had almost double the people do same-day registration. I don’t know how you plan for that.”
Bender:“I would like to work with businesses to open up cafe seating, sidewalk markets, to look at flexible use of our parking spaces to create parkletts and additional seating and open space.”
Killian: “We need to say yes (to entrepreneurs), and then we need to figure out the details and guide them through the bureaucracy that can often happen at City Hall and guide them through the regulation and truly be their ambassador, not just send them on their way.”
Video highlights of the 10th Ward forum