In a city known for being awash in “blue” politics, Ward 13 is the closest thing to an anomaly. Sure, it’s currently represented by a DFLer — who has secured her party’s endorsement for a second go-around — but Southwest’s southwestern ward has been known to swing in a different direction. That makes this a race to watch, especially since the incumbent’s most vocal opponent is running on a familiar parties-separating platform: less taxes.
The incumbent is first-termer Betsy Hodges, a former development director at a legal non-profit and staff member for Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman. Hodges plays several important roles on the City Council, but key might be her position as chairwoman of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. That job has her actively hopping between St. Paul and Minneapolis, sometimes Washington and Minneapolis, to keep the city’s needs on legislators’ minds. It also has made her an important middleman between the city and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, a position that puts her in the center of an ever-tense relationship.
She’s been a main spokeswoman for creating awareness of two pressures on taxpayers: the city’s ballooning pension fund obligations and the decreases in state-distributed Local Government Aid (LGA). Hodges has long advocated for pension fund reform, and she helped initiate an effort to research alternatives to LGA.
“I wish I could make promises about what the city will do in the next four years,” Hodges wrote in a letter on her campaign website. “I cannot.”
Opponent Kris Broberg, who is endorsed by both the Republican and Independence parties, was inspired by that dire tone. And while he said he agrees that the numbers are threatening, his belief is that first on the council’s financial to-do list should be to not increase property taxes.
Broberg said the city should go back to focusing almost exclusively on basic services, such as providing fire and police protection. The Community Planning and Economic Development department, for example, is too big, he said. And maybe the city should consider filing for bankruptcy, he said — at least before bankrupting its citizens.
His views come from a personal hope: to be able to continue affording life in Minneapolis. More property taxes, he said, are unacceptable.
“People can’t afford that,” Broberg said.
Joseph Henry, another newcomer, said there’s been too much complaining about taxes. His issues lie more with what he said Minneapolis seems to have lost, a culture that supports small businesses and the like. He said he understands that financial times are tough and that the answers aren’t easy, but he added that he’s willing to look for a new approach. A nine-year veteran of the Army Reserve, he said he learned a valuable lesson while deployed in Iraq.
“We didn’t always have the tools. And if we didn’t have the tools, we’d make the tools,” Henry said.
In Baghdad, that meant improvising a shower. In Minneapolis, that means coming up with a new thought process to stay a viable city, Henry said.
One idea he has: a $10,000 pay cut for each council member. That would open up $130,000 for other uses. Maybe, he said, the city would be able to hire more police officers.
Ward 13’s neighborhoods include Linden Hills, Fulton, Armatage, Kenny, Lynnhurst, West Calhoun and part of East Harriet.
Neighborhood: Linden Hills
Experience: concerned citizen; previously a City Council candidate in Robbinsdale, Minn.
Endorsements: Independence Party; Minneapolis Republicans
Occupation: manager overseeing installation technicians for telecommunications company
Experience: nine years in U.S. Army Reserve
Occupation: City Council
Neighborhood: Linden Hills
Experience: one term, City Council; former development director, Minnesota Justice Foundation
Endorsements: DFL, Stonewall DFL, Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, DFL Feminist Caucus, DFL Latino Caucus, Minneapolis Regional Labor Foundation, and more