WARD 6 CANDIDATE FORUM // voter’s guide 2009

On Sept. 16, five of the six people seeking the 6th Ward City Council seat — Mahamed Cali, Andy Exley, Laura Jean, Robert Lilligren and Mike Tupper — took part in a candidate forum. Here are some highlights.

On neighborhood revitalization: Each candidate expressed support for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), which is about to undergo several significant changes. Jean and Exley both said they were concerned those changes — which bring oversight of neighborhood revitalization issues into a city department — are examples of unnecessary centralization. Cali said neighborhoods know best what’s good for them. Lilligren, who helped create some of the changes as the current Ward 6 council member, said neighborhoods will retain discretionary spending.

On the proposed 11.3 percent property tax increase: Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed an 11.3 percent property tax increase for 2010, a number none of the candidates threw their support behind. Cali said he needed to see where the money would go. Exley said council members should first consider cutting their own incomes before supporting that increase. Jean said there should be no more property tax increases. Tupper said he wouldn’t have even liked an 8 percent increase, which has been the norm over the past few years. Lilligren said he wasn’t ready to commit to a “yes” or “no” answer, but he said the 11.3 percent number likely won’t pass the council.

On reopening Nicollet at Lake: Exley called reopening the avenue at the K-Mart site “the great unmet promise of Ward 6 candidates.” He said if an opportunity comes along, he’d jump on it, but “I don’t unfortunately see it happening anytime soon.” Jean said she’d go ahead and meet with stakeholders and put together a timeline. Lilligren said plans and funding sources exist and that he has stakeholders on board. “I do believe it will happen in the next term,” he said. Tupper said reopening Nicollet seemed more like an example of the city “wanting” something rather than “needing” it right now.

On affordable housing: Lilligren expressed concerns about the ward’s lopsided amount of affordable housing, saying the concentration is too high. He said he wants to try creating incentives for developers to bring affordable housing to other parts of the city. That was echoed by Exley, who said the ward has more than its fair share. Cali said that if more affordable housing were to come into the ward, the units should be bigger to better accommodate large immigrant families.

On who should be chosen as No. 2: According to ranked-choice voting supporters, one plus of Minneapolis’ new election system is that candidates have to be more supportive of each other so that if they don’t pick up first-place votes, they can still get chosen as second or third. But when asked whom they would pick as their No. 2’s, most of the candidates hesitated. Only Exley immediately committed, saying it would be Jean. Others didn’t chime in until later, with Cali picking Exley and Tupper picking Jean. Jean put her support behind both Exley and Tupper. Lilligren, meanwhile, didn’t answer. He said he needed more time to get to know his opponents.