Seven candidates are vying for the two public seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, the least known of the city's independent boards.
The Board's seven members set levy limits for the city, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Library Board, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and the Board of Estimate itself. It also oversees city debt, issuing bonds to support capital projects.
The other five members are appointed: The mayor and two Councilmembers sit on the Board with one representative each from the Park and Library boards.
The Board of Estimate election tends not to attract those seeking the public spotlight. It is not a launching pad for higher office. The race tends to draw number crunchers and policy wonks, or those with a general interest in good government.
Incumbent Gordon Nelson, long-endorsed by the DFL but not this year, is running again (fellow incumbent Wally Swan is not). The six other candidates are: DFL-endorsed Carol Becker and Jill Schwimmer, as well as Geno Bassett, Matthew Jones, Ted Cabana and Dave Berger. The Sept. 13 primary will narrow the field to four.
Here is a biographical sketch of six of the seven candidates, including their credentials and goals. Efforts to contact Jones were unsuccessful.
Occupation: Systems engineer, Target Corp.
Education: M.A. (education), University of Minnesota; B.A. (economics), University of Wisconsin-Madison
Neighborhood: East Harriet
Web site: None
Phone: Prefers e-mail
Bassett counts among his credentials the fact that he is not a political insider. He uses the parks, takes the bus to work downtown and volunteers with the Red Cross, he said.
"My background is nothing more than your average concerned citizen. I am fairly well educated," he said. "I don't think you need a masters in financial policy to be a citizen representative on this board. It doesn't seem to be what those two positions on the board were intended."
His main goal is, "to offer another voice, a citizen within the community, somebody outside City Hall."
Occupation: Metropolitan Council, financial and policy analyst in transportation and transit
Education: M.A. (public affairs), Humphrey Institute, Ph.D. candidate (public administration) at Hamline University
Endorsements: DFL, Stonewall DFL,
DFL Feminists Caucus, AFSCME and Minneapolis Central Labor Union
Web site: carolbecker.net
Becker works for the Metropolitan Council managing the contracted transit services, such as Metro Mobility, she said. She has 15 years' public finance experience, including 10 years with the city of Minneapolis. She worked for the finance office and as Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton's budget aide (1995-1998).
The city's top priorities are restoring state aid cuts and addressing state law changes that shifted property tax burden from commercial and industrial property to residential, Becker said. "Something has to happen on the revenue side," she said. "Is there a good answer on the expenditure side? Can we pit cops versus libraries versus parks? I don't want to have to do that. I don't think ultimately it will make a healthy city."
Occupation: Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Inver Hills Community College
Education: M.A. (sociology), B.A. (political science and sociology), University of Minnesota
Family: Son, 13
Neighborhood: Prospect Park
Web site: www.daveberger.org
Berger said as a sociologist, he has done a lot of statistical and quantitative analysis, and he is comfortable with numbers and budgets. He once worked for the state Public Service Department, and did rate forecasting for the Public Utilities Commission. He ran for State Auditor in 2002 as the Green Party's candidate, getting 3.7 percent of the vote.
Berger would work to increase the Board's visibility and transparency, including monthly reports to citizens through local media, he said. He would also work with the other citizen member and the park and library representatives - a four-person Board majority - to shift more money to parks and libraries. "The health of the community is not just public safety," he said.
Occupation: Retired, former Minneapolis firefighter
Education: B.A. (ethnomusicology), Metro State University
Family: Married, two grown kids
Neighborhood: Diamond Lake
Web site: None
Ted Cabana wants to represent seniors on fixed incomes, he said. He criticizes the current Board for what he calls political back scratching and is concerned about fast-rising property taxes. (His 2005 tax bill is $2,309, up $686 or 42 percent from 2002.)
He doesn't have a financial background, Cabana said. He does not have specific ideas where the city, parks or libraries should cut. Getting elected to the Board would give him a good place to start looking. "It would really be nice if you could get a couple of other people to go along with you on the 'no' vote side and make these people be a little more fiscally responsible," he said.
Occupation: Retired; former sociology professor, Augsburg College
Education: Ph.D. (ethics in society), University of Chicago; M.Div. Luther Theological Seminary; B.A. and M.A. (political science), University of Minnesota.
Endorsements: AFL-CIO, Teamsters, Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades, UAW and AFSCME Council 5
Web site: None
Nelson has served on the Board of Estimate since 1974. He is running to provide continuity since Wally Swan, another long-term incumbent, is not seeking reelection, he said.
His top priority is working to regain the city's Triple-A credit rating from Moody's, Nelson said. The rating agency downgraded Minneapolis four years ago because of internal services fund deficits. (The internal services funds include self-insurance, and technology funds that had inadequate reserves.)
The Board is setting the property tax levy so the city has enough money to erase those deficits, Nelson said. The city has been increasing overall property tax revenues by 8 percent a year. "That is probably what we will look for in September," Nelson said.
Occupation: manager of financial reporting, Minnesota Medical Foundation
Education: M.A. (social policy), Humphrey Institute; B.S. (economics), Indiana
Endorsements: DFL, Stonewall DFL, DFL Feminist Caucus, Minnesota Women's
Web site: No.
Phone: Prefers e-mail
Schwimmer, a certified public accountant, touts her financial and social services background. She works for the Minnesota Medical Foundation and reports on its finances, including its $300 million portfolio, she said. For nine years, she led Accountability Minnesota, an organization providing free income tax assistance for low-income people.
Her top priority is to hold the line on property taxes while providing, "everything we need and restore the Triple-A bond rating."
How? She said the city would have to be more efficient but offered no specifics. "I am looking forward to being on the Board so I can investigate that," she said.
She would also like to investigate the effectiveness of the homeowners' credit, a state tax credit for low-income homeowners.