Four candidates share visions for Ward 13

(From left) Ward 13 City Council candidates Matt Perry, Linea Palmisano, Missy Durant and Bob Reuer. Credit: Photo by Michelle Bruch

If you didn’t make it to the Ward 13 debate at Washburn High School last night, watch your doorstep.

Candidate Matt Perry said he’s “literally knocked on thousands of doors” on each block of Southwest Minneapolis. During a September “birthday door-knock,” 19 supporters of candidate Linea Palmisano knocked on 1,948 doors in a six-hour shift. Candidate Missy Durant also has a door-knocking team, and she’s visited parks and neighborhood festivals.

The candidates are competing to occupy the Council seat currently occupied by two-term City Council Member Betsy Hodges who is running for mayor. 

There are many issues on which the Ward 13 candidates agree: they want to hold down property taxes by broadening the tax base, they want to boost the North side, and they wouldn’t have voted for the Vikings stadium. 

They disagree on whether the city needs more fire and police officers — Palmisano and Reuer said we need more officers, and Perry said he isn’t certain more are necessary.

On a question about the campaign’s most pressing issues, Durant said she often talks with Ward 5 candidate Brett Buckner, who is campaigning on the North side of the city.

“His issues are not my issues, which I think is actually the problem,” she said. “If we want lower taxes, we have to make sure other parts of the city are thriving and growing like our neighborhood.”

In an opportunity to comment on others’ remarks, the other three candidates echoed support for Durant’s point.

“What is good for North Minneapolis is good for Minneapolis,” Palmisano said.

Perry emphasized his experience on city committees.

“I’m not only qualified for this job, I’m ready for this job,” he said.

Palmisano said the last time she was on the stage, she accepted the DFL endorsement.

“Living my values is what makes me the best choice for this City Council seat,” she said.

Candidate Bob Reuer emphasized the need to bolster police and fire services. He said he was nervous at the forum — “It’s an experience I can tell you right now I’m not going to forget,” he said. “I’ll have something to tell my customers tomorrow.”

Libertarian candidate David Regan did not attend.

The following summarizes candidate responses to some of the questions submitted by the audience:

How can you meet the city’s long-term goal of increased density, and still preserve neighborhood character and balance citizen concerns?

>>Durant: Focus density around transit corridors, she said.

>>Palmisano also wants to focus density along transit corridors, as well as Downtown.

“What can we say yes to?” she said, promoting small area planning processes and community engagement. She promoted development that caters to all stages of someone’s life.

>>Perry said we should encourage development in Downtown surface parking lots. We should support “micro-density,” he said, by changing the zoning code to allow development like “mother-in-law units.”

>>Reuer: “I’m for the density for people to get around the area easier, but how far do we go, and who’s going to pay for it?” he said.

Do you have experience with the city budget?

>>Durant joked that insomniacs might enjoy reading the city’s 400-page budget. She said she managed a $10 million payroll budget while working at Best Buy. “I was sitting at the table making multi-million dollar decisions every day,” she said.

>>Palmisano said she recently worked with Public Works to enhance existing road projects in her neighborhood. “The city in some ways is really cut to the bone,” she said. Palmisano said she can leverage other dollars, noting that the $300 million Neighborhood Revitalization Program has leveraged $1 billion in outside investment.

>>Perry said he’s worked on the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee, which advises the City Council and has a budget of $170 million-$200 million.

>>Reuer said he hasn’t had experience with the city budget.

How would you mitigate the risk to Minneapolis residents of the failure of Vikings stadium funding to raise enough money?

>>Durant: I wouldn’t have voted for the Vikings stadium, she said, but now we need to make sure that women and minorities have a greater share of stadium contracts.

>>Palmisano also wouldn’t have voted for the stadium. She said it would cost $60 per person in Minneapolis, per year, for the next 30 years.

“We need to make absolutely sure that when we do grow our tax base we aren’t allocating all the money from the General Fund into special projects like this,” she said.

Now that the project is approved, she said, “let’s make it the best project we can possibly make it.”

>>Perry also wouldn’t have voted for the stadium. “I wasn’t very happy about public funding for [the Twins] stadium either,” he said. He said we must find the best possible benefit to come out of the stadium work.

>>Reuer said he would support a Downtown casino to help offset the cost to taxpayers.

How would you pay for more police and firefighters?

>>Durant said no one should immediately answer the question of how they would pay for more police and fire workers, because it’s a complex question. She’d make sure she’d have the personnel to keep the city safe, she said.

>>Palmisano: “Great, here’s something we disagree on,” she said. More officers will be needed as the population of the city grows, she said, and she wants prompt 911 response times. She said the city paid $2 million extra in overtime last year, something that threatens the health and safety of the workers. Police need better training, more accountability, and more cadet classes, she said.

>>Perry: I’m not quite certain we need more officers, he said. We have 221 police officers potentially retiring, he said, and we need to make sure that when we fill those spots it doesn’t bust the budget.

>>Reuer said more officers are necessary to keep crime down. He disagreed with the Minneapolis Police Department’s recent decision to dismantle the traffic unit, which he said generated $3 million a year. “To me, that was a big mistake,” he said.

How do you feel about the Southwest LRT proposal?

>>Durant said world-class cities need modern transit. We need to move forward on light rail plans, she said.

>>Palmisano said she’s opposed to co-location, and she’s still a fan of Lyndale and Hennepin Avenue reroutes. “It’s a 1.5 billion dollar project,” she said. “We’re not going to do many of these. … So [let’s] make sure that we do it right.” She’d like to see Minneapolis “betterment” projects attached to the plans.

>>Perry said he does not want co-location of freight and light rail tracks. “On a project that’s this expensive, I think it’s time to take a pause and look at other routes.”

>>Reuer: “I don’t think it’s the greatest thing to tear up all that land and put a tunnel there,” he said. He’d prefer to see HOV lanes on I-394 handle the light rail.

What’s your opinion on the 2013 ballot’s two charter amendments?

[Editor’s note: One amendment would redraft charter provisions for brevity and plain language; the other would rewrite provisions in plain language related to the sale of liquor and wine.]

>>Durant said she’s glad the measures will be put to vote.

>>Palmisano said she’s supportive of both. One is a good housekeeping measure, and the other alcohol-related measure needs more public support.

>>Perry said he supports the measure he’s familiar with, regarding plain language, which would make government more accessible. The same cleanup should be done with Regulatory Services, he said.

>>Reuer said he isn’t familiar with the amendments.


Remarks from opening and closing statements

>>Durant said she appreciates the quality of life in Minneapolis, because she and her partner moved here from another state [Florida] that made a series of bad decisions. When she worked at Best Buy, she said she prevented the layoffs of 3,200 employees in a role where she oversaw 140,000 employees. 

>>Palmisano saidshe’s passionate about better education, safer streets, and improving the environment. “You want value for your tax dollar? Elect me,” she said.

>>Perry said his grandfather was a public employee for 46 years, his dad was an elected official and teacher, and his mom recently retired from public television at the age of 78.

“Public service is in my blood,” he said. “I know how city government works, and because of that, I will not need a two-year learning curve to be an effective voice for you on day one.”

>>Reuer said he’s lived in the city for 58 years, and he compared it to watching a child grow. “You hope it’s going to get  better and better. I don’t see that. I think we have to do something to really make that happen. Do I have all the answers? No. I’m going to have to go find them.”

“A lot of it is personality,” said one attendee after the forum.

“Missy Durant had a lot of sparkle,” remarked Cathy Milota, who was one of the few voters in the room unaffiliated with a campaign.

Cathy and her husband Bill declined to post a candidate’s lawn sign so they could hear everyone speak at the forum, and they plan to attend the next Oct. 22 forum as well.

“One candidate has a great deal of experience,” said Bill, saying he was referencing Perry. “To understand the political function as it currently functions, that may or may not be a good thing.”

He said Reuer may have been out of his league, but it’s “good to have ordinary citizens step up.”

Cathy said she was impressed with the quality of the candidates.

“Every single one of those candidates has been at our door,” she said.

The next Ward 13 forum is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at Burroughs Community School, 1601 W. 50th St.


Missy Durant (DFL)

Occupation: executive consultant at Salo staffing agency

Experience: Senior human resources director for Best Buy, overseeing 140,000 employees. She wrote the book “What Matters… Gratitude.”

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


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.


Matt Perry (DFL)

Occupation: Perry is president and founder of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association

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 priority: 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; encourage smart growth while preserving neighborhood character.


David Regan (Libertarian)

No website

Did not respond to calls or emails to discuss campaign 

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 says he’s turned his life around 180 degrees since felony convictions that include receiving stolen goods in 1990 and 1997.

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