Editor’s note: The Southwest Journal’s coverage area also includes portions of Ward 7, 8 and 11, but we’ve focused our reporting on the Ward 10 and Ward 13 races because they have been the most competitive. City Council Members Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) and Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) do not face challengers. City Council Member John Quincy (Ward 11) has two challengers: Bob Schlosser and Matt Steele. [This story has been updated with a correction; see below.]
Views diverge on Ward 10 City Council candidates
Two voters see a clear choice and make opposite decisions
Within Ward 10’s boundaries exist Whittier’s historic manses and the Wedge’s brand-new apartments, homeowner-dominated neighborhood organizations that are among the city’s oldest and a large, highly mobile population of students and young professionals drawn by the nightlife and transit service in Uptown.
It’s also possible to find very different takes on the candidates leading the ward’s City Council race.
Meg Tuthill, the incumbent, has spent just four years at City Hall, but she’s been an advocate for her neighborhood for four decades. In the early ’70s, Tuthill helped to found the neighborhood organization in the Wedge, where she raised a family and ran a small business with her husband, Dennis, for 30 years.
Her DFL-endorsed challenger, Lisa Bender, was still a girl when the Tuthills opened shop at 25th & Hennepin, but she’s already spent time as a San Francisco city planner and coordinator of Minnesota’s Safe Routes to School program. Bender and her husband, Ryan, bought a house in the Wedge shortly after returning to Minnesota from California. Bender just gave birth to the couple’s second child, Isabel Rose, on Oct. 13.
Sue Bode is, like the candidate she supports, a longtime resident of the Wedge who has spent years serving on the neighborhood organization’s board of directors.
“One of the things I’m not so keen on about Lisa is, while she uses it as a selling point, I consider it detrimental that she comes from a city planning background,” said Bode, who lives just a block or so from the booming residential development along the Midtown Greenway. Her caution arises from past experiences with Minneapolis planning staff: “It’s very rare that they support neighborhood residents over developers.”
Added Bode: “What I consider good development and what Lisa considers good development are probably not the same.”
At 32 years old, Shaun Laden is three years younger than Bender. Laden and his wife, Maria Cecilia, rent a house in Whittier, a neighborhood new to Ward 10 after redistricting in 2010. They both work in the public schools and don’t own a vehicle, relying instead on the bus or a car-sharing service.
Laden said, from what he understands of Tuthill’s history, she was a key player in helping to revitalize the Wedge and make it a desirable neighborhood. Now, though, he sees her as standing in the way of the neighborhood’s future.
“I think there’s kind of a sense of pulling up the ladder that I really disagree with,” he said.
Laden argued that Ward 10, with its amenities and transit service, must embrace density, both for the environmental benefits and its potential to grow the city’s tax base.
He noted Tuthill stood in the way of increasing density on two landmark council votes: one that saved a rundown Colfax Avenue boarding house some considered historic from demolition; and another that blocked Linden Corner, a five-story luxury condo development in Linden Hills. Both votes were unanimous.
“Global warming is real, and we’re going to have to change how development and how cities function,” he said. “I think that means we have to look at density differently than we did in the past.”
On the campaign trail, Bender has criticized Tuthill for only introducing one ordinance on the council, and has promised to be a more active policy maker. That one ordinance changed the way 300-foot minimum spacing requirement between liquor stores and schools or places of worship is measured, and its passage blocked the opening of a liquor store across Hennepin Avenue from Jefferson Community School.
Another Tuthill proposal that attracted a lot of attention, an ordinance crafted to limit patio noise, was withdrawn.
“It doesn’t bother me that she hasn’t initiated a bunch of new stuff,” Bode said, noting that Tuthill’s prodding led to voluntary agreements by Uptown’s bar and restaurant owners.
Tuthill said complaints from neighbors about over-loud patios and over-intoxicated patrons were concerns frequently raised during her first campaign. But Laden was incredulous: “In a city with the worst racial outcome gap, the worst housing gap” how could patios be her top concern?
“That doesn’t wash with me,” he said. “That’s not the city I live in. That’s not the city I work in.”
Laden said he believes Bender when she says she’ll be more open to new ideas than Tuthill. Bode said she’s “a little bit afraid” of what those ideas might be.
Last year, Tuthill voted in favor of a zoning text amendment that legalized, for the first time, many urban agriculture practices. But Laden noted Tuthill also added amendments that restricted the height of temporary “hoop houses” used for growing and the limited number of days growers could sell from farmstands.
On both amendments, Tuthill said she was acting in favor of neighborhoods. To Laden, they looked like unfortunate examples of “reactionary thinking.”
Bode looks at Bender and thinks of Ralph Remington, the one-term former Ward 10 alderman who was very active in authoring ordinances but is remembered by some constituents for his aloofness. In contrast, Tuthill views constituent service as her strong suit.
“What I like about Meg is she might have a personal opinion but she listens to both sides; she gets the facts before she goes off and votes,” Bode said. “I think she’s willing to work with people.”
// Candidates at a glance //
(Editor’s note: Our coverage has focused on Meg Tuthill and Lisa Bender because they have had the most active campaigns. Nate Grigg’s name will also appear on the ballot, but he has dropped out of the race.)
Name: Meg Tuthill (DFL)
Occupation: City Council member
Experience: Four years on City Council. Tuthill is a former small business owner and longtime neighborhood activist in the Wedge.
Top priorities: Tuthill says she will continue to focus on issues she emphasized in her first term, including public safety, economic development and improving city services for small business owners.
Endorsements: Police and fire fighters unions, Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, womenwinning
Money raised: $41,388
Name: Lisa Bender (DFL)
Occupation: Bender left her most recent position as Minnesota’s Safe Routes to School program coordinator before starting her campaign
Experience: Former San Francisco city planner
Top priorities: Bender says she will promote development that enhances the city, push for transit and bikeway improvements and advocate for sustainability.
Endorsements: Minneapolis DFL, Service Employees International Union, Sen. Keith Ellison, state senators Jeff Hayden and Scott Dibble, state representatives Frank Hornstein and Karen Clark
Money raised: $36,806
Name: Scott Hargarten (Pirate Party)
Occupation: Personal care assistant
Experience: Community organizer
Top priorities: Hargarten is promoting the concept of “liquid democracy.” Policy would be developed through regular community forums.
Money raised: None.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misindentified the ordinance proposed by Tuthill as a measure to limit patio noise. The ordinance had to do with minimum spacing requirements between liquor stores and schools or places of worship.