Q&A with Minneapolis Ward 9 DFL City Council candidates

With the DFL caucuses coming up quickly, we wanted to find out more about the people running for City Council in our local wards. All candidates seeking DFL endorsement were invited to participate in our Q&A. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for the candidates!

First up, Ward 9. Candidates vying for DFL endorsement in Ward 9 are Jettie Ann Hill, Tim Springer, Charles Ryan Curtis, and Alondra Cano. Find more information about wards and the DFL caucus at the end of this article.

Questions

1. For people who aren’t familiar with you, will you please introduce yourself in two-to-three sentences?
2. In one-to-two sentences, why do you believe you are the best candidate for the job?
3. What are the top two issues you see in your ward, and how do you plan to address them?
4. What are the top two issues facing Minneapolis, and what do you think the solution is?
5. Should the Hennepin County incinerator (HERC) be allowed to burn additional garbage? What do you think is the solution for the HERC’s request to expand and how does that weigh against pollution and air quality issues in Minneapolis?
6. Do you believe that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be expanded in the city? If so, how do you plan to support continued development?
7. Do you support expanding transit service by adding rapid bus routes?
8. Should Minneapolis Animal Care & Control be reformed to follow a no-kill shelter model?

Answers

1. For people who aren’t familiar with you, will you please introduce yourself in two-to-three sentences?

Jettie Ann Hill: My name is Jettie Ann Hill and I have lived in the Corcoran neighborhood for 23 years. I have served as the Ombudsperson for Families with the State of Minnesota for 20 years, and I am an active fee-paying member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE). I am a political and civil rights activist. I am the person who can best represent the diverse interests of our ward.

Tim Springer: I co-founded and directed the Midtown Greenway Coalition for 19 years where I organized teamwork among different cultures and ages groups in 13 neighborhoods and with local businesses, public agencies, and elected officials. I have lived in the Central, Powderhorn, and East Phillips neighborhoods for the past 23 years. Other things that identify me: I’m proud to be gay, I use a bicycle for transportation, and I try to live my life according to my progressive values, including the pursuit of equal rights and opportunities for all groups and individuals.

Charles Ryan Curtis: My name is Charles Ryan Curtis and I was born and raised in Powderhorn Park. I am an attorney currently working in the area of employee rights. If you would like more information please visit http://curtisforcitycouncil.com/letter-to-you.html.

2. In one-to-two sentences, why do you believe you are the best candidate for the job?

Hill: My experience working on neighborhood issues, my experience working with statewide policy makers, and my experience working to elect progressive candidates like Patricia Torres Ray and Keith Ellison has uniquely prepared me to represent the interests of ALL Ward 9 residents. I have developed strong working relationships with key players in the fields of housing, juvenile justice, education, health care, transit, the environment, aging and the arts. I am committed that the voices of our new immigrants, the LGBTQ community and small businesses will be heard at City Hall.

Springer: My Master’s Degree in Energy and Resources from the University of California in Berkeley taught me to understand society’s challenges from four perspectives: social, environmental, economic, and technological. If elected, I would use these analytical skills and my proven relationship-building skills to effectively address the problems at hand, while also working to create a safer, more just and more sustainable city over the long-term.

Curtis: I believe that my ability, education, and deeps roots in our community make me a unique candidate. I am committed to serving the public good and am enthusiastic about the future of Minneapolis.

3. What are the top two issues you see in your ward, and how do you plan to address them?

Hill: I consider all of the issues identified on my website as top priorities for the ward and the City. The City’s investment in infrastructure, neighborhoods, crime prevention and small business growth is essential. Whether it’s finding a permanent home for the Midtown Farmers Market, or working with our congressman and lenders to help homeowners stay in their homes, or partnering with faith communities and others to develop strategies to address chronic homelessness, or proposing bold steps to secure jobs that will allow families to move out of poverty, I will lead, advocate and represent on behalf of ALL our children and families in Ward 9.

Springer: The top two issues facing Ward 9 are crime/safety and social equity. Crime is best addressed short-term by engaged residents who know each other and care for each other, and by effective and fair policing. Medium-term, as many of our police officers approach retirement, recruiting and training new officers to reflect the community they serve will be important.

Of course, the long-term approach to crime and safety is closely tied to the pursuit of social equity. If we are successful in valuing each Ward 9 resident and each resident has the support to succeed, we can chart a long-term path to wiping out the disparities that plague us and result in crimes against people and property. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, including accelerating our shift to a local green economy for more jobs, and improving biking, walking, and transit options to benefit individuals’ mobility, pocketbooks, and health. Walking and biking also improve safety by putting more eyes and ears on our streets (see more about biking in answer to question 4). Social equity also has to do with opportunities for self-expression and community building through art and events, and affordable housing choices.

As the City of Minneapolis does its part to improve our economy, transportation system, and housing stock, we must be mindful about bringing everyone along on this journey. While directing the Midtown Greenway Coalition, I created group walking and biking programs that successfully introduced new people to the Greenway including Latino and native families and neighborhood teens. I hired Latina and Somali employees to undertake outreach programs thereby expanding the Greenway family. We did cooperative events with MAD DADS and other groups. We didn’t just invite people to meetings, we reached out and engaged our constituents. As an example at the City of Minneapolis, the creation of a Latino Advisory Committee in 1999 and a Latino Engagement Task Force in 2012 are good starting points that can now be followed up on by achieving measureable outcomes.

Curtis: The top two issues in Ward 9 are the same top two issues facing Minneapolis; job creation and our responsibility to provide an adequate social safety net for our neighbors who are most at risk.

Work is about more than just money. It is about dignity and finding our place in the community. Our next City Council member should understand this. In order to create jobs we need to help small businesses grow and encourage entrepreneurial activities. Our focus should be on removing rules, obstacles, and red tape that don’t make sense and merely make it harder to do business within the City. This includes simplifying licensing, streamlining inspections, and decreasing the turnaround time for the City’s responses. The business community should find the City an able partner rather than problem in the way.

Ward 9 and the City as a whole have far too many people living at or below the poverty line. This includes many seniors who deserve better. Our homeless population has doubled in recent years. And many of our neighbors have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. It is our responsibility to provide an adequate social safety net for our neighbors. Minneapolis needs to partner with non-profit organizations, charities, and educational institutions to maximize the benefits each has for our community.

Addressing the need for jobs and working to help our neighbors requires concerted effort toward many other goals as well. Education, vocational training, public safety, and issues of social justice and equal opportunity are essential to accomplishing the creation of jobs and taking care of our neighbors.

4. What are the top two issues facing Minneapolis, and what do you think the solution is?

Hill: Same as 3.

Springer: The top two issues facing Minneapolis are economic development and transportation. An important economic development strategy is to accelerate the shift to a green economy. In an area that includes Ward 9 and part of Ward 6 (the three Phillips neighborhoods plus Ventura Village, Central, Powderhorn, and Corcoran), we spend $63 million annually on electricity, heating, and gas. By investing in conservation, co-generation, and renewable power we can keep these dollars in our community, with even greater benefits if these energy changes are made city-wide. The opportunity to capture these dollars and create jobs, and the need to act on global climate change, compel us to think creatively. We should explore how to power and heat our buildings without fossil fuels, such as with photovoltaic panels on our roofs and geo-thermal loops under our roadways.

Our transportation deficiencies require more cars per household than should be the case. This negatively impacts our household budgets, our health, our global environment, and our local streetscape. We need to make bicycle transportation fast, safe, and pleasant (see more in answer to question 6). More rail transit lines (LRT and streetcars) are also needed. I support reclaiming our identity as a streetcar city where it is very convenient to live without a car, and economic development is spurred along rail transit lines.

Curtis: Same as 3.

5. Should the Hennepin County incinerator (HERC) be allowed to burn additional garbage? What do you think is the solution for the HERC’s request to expand and how does that weigh against pollution and air quality issues in Minneapolis?

Hill: Minneapolis residents recently paid for 95-gallon recycling carts so the City could create a new single-stream curbside program to collect recyclables. Over 30,000 residents will have recycling bins by the end of spring 2013. The rest of the City’s households will get them by the end of the year. Our City also invested $9 million dollars in purchasing new collection vehicles and retrofitting current trucks to collect recyclables. The City estimates the new program could more than double the City’s recycling rate. As a result, Minneapolis residents will be recycling in larger quantities, reducing the volume of waste that needs to be incinerated or sent to landfills. I do not support burning 1,212 tons of garbage at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) and further polluting the City’s air with dioxins. HERC is currently located in one of the most densely populated areas of the state, and immediately adjacent to an open air stadium. Minneapolis residents are working hard and investing real dollars to reduce the amount of waste they produce in order to reduce the need to burn or use landfills. They should not be penalized by allowing HERC to burn garbage from outside the City in order to keep the plant working at full capacity. Burning large volumes of garbage from outside the City in our backyard is irresponsible. The gas emissions from this plant are affecting the public health of our residents, especially our children and the elderly.

Springer: I concur with the Planning Commission’s action to not increase HERC’s throughput above 1,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day. HERC’s estimated emissions were studied in 1986 prior to its initial operation and analyzed again in terms of potential health impacts on visitors to the new Twin’s ballpark. Those studies determined that HERC’s pollution would be below EPA levels of concern. That said, an agreement for the facility’s permit was struck in 1987 to limit its throughput to 1,000 tons per day and I believe we should honor that. I have concerns about the combined and cumulative impacts of the air pollutants from HERC and other sources on nearby residents. This is a matter of environmental justice. Although I support the production of electricity from fuel sources other than fossil fuels, garbage as a fuel is not at the top of my list.

As with most issues, if we think long-term, we can figure out how to avoid these problems. Some of the solutions are not immediately controlled by the City of Minneapolis, such as designing our waste stream so that all of our discards can be cleanly burned, composted, reused, or recycled. Some aspects of a long-term solution are within the city’s control, such as education programs for residents to generate fewer discards by changing what we buy and how we use it. As a solid waste management consultant, I conducted a waste reduction education campaign in the City of Blaine. We achieved a decrease in the tonnage of discards (the sum of recyclables and garbage) in the experimental hauling zone compared to a control hauling zone.

Curtis: Those most likely to be impacted by the increased burning are the residents who live near the facility in Ward 5. As a City Council Member, I would listen to the decision of Ward 5 as expressed through their Council Member; just as I would expect other Council Members to defer to the opinions of Ward 9 residents on a topic of equal importance to the quality of our life here.

In general, emissions from the increased burning have been deemed by the State, through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as being unlikely to have negative health effects. However, placing waste in a landfill or burning it are both bound to create pollution. The real long term solution to waste and resource management is to find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

6. Do you believe that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be expanded in the city? If so, how do you plan to support continued development?

Hill: I will support continuing to invest in bicycle infrastructure. The number of bike commuters who ride to school and work is growing. We need to make streets safe and open to bikers of all ages. I’ll support efforts to develop a network of protected cycle tracks to provide increased safety for cycling.

Springer: Yes, I strongly believe that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be expanded in Minneapolis. Based on my work as a bicycle transportation consultant and my 19 years with the Midtown Greenway Coalition, I believe we need a tiered system of bikeways. Just as our interstate highway system offers selected corridors where motorists may travel nonstop, our system of bikeways should include selected routes with few stops per mile. All routes where bicycles are legally allowed to travel should be safe, but that is not enough. If we are to encourage cycling rather than just accommodate it, we must have a grid of east-west and north-south spines offering very high levels of service. Fast, safe, and pleasant bikeways, like the Midtown Greenway, enable people to move about the city efficiently while breathing clean air.

We do not have enough underused railroad corridors to create all the greenways we need, so creative problem solving will be required again. For example, some or all of the pavement on selected low-traffic side streets could be taken up and replaced with greenspace and wide bike lanes while keeping sidewalks in place. About 40% to 50% of selected Minneapolis residents surveyed would like to live on a street converted to a greenway.

If elected, I would propose to my colleagues that we conduct a one-day event when we re-purpose a linked set of roadways over a great distance to be used for biking, walking, commerce, and gatherings. This event would allow cyclists to travel from Richfield, through Minneapolis, to Brooklyn Center without stopping, requiring a wide variety of temporary treatments at intersections. We would engage community groups involved with cycling, health, youth, art, landscaping, and business development to help plan and conduct the event. Such an event would demonstrate to us and the world how this type of facility might operate and feel if it were permanent. Then we would set about creating such a facility permanently.

As we make Ward 9 and all of Minneapolis more attractive and user-friendly for people on foot and on bikes, property values will likely rise and housing may be come less affordable. If we don’t pay attention to this, a few decades from now there may be no places for low-income families to live in the city. I believe the land trust model should be explored to assess its feasibility on a larger scale to offer below-market home purchase prices while still allowing for equity building by low-income families.

Curtis: Minneapolis has always valued open spaces. Parks and pedestrian facilities benefit the residents of Ward 9 as well as the City as a whole. A well-connected, accessible, safe, and well-maintained walkway system is and should remain a priority for the City. Further development of pedestrian walkways should focus on connecting commercial corridors, public transportation, and cultural institutions.

Minneapolis has been ranked among the best biking cities in the country on multiple occasions. We have hundreds of miles of on-street and off-street bikeways. In recent years we doubled our on-street bikeways. The continued expansion of bicycle lanes and facilities needs to be balanced against economic, commuter, and infrastructure needs in the City. A balance can be struck. One current project, not perfect or yet complete, demonstrating a genuine attempt by the City to achieve this balance is the Above the Falls Plan. The plan works towards park and trail improvements while recognizing the legitimacy of other land uses.

Any continued development of bike or walk ways needs to make safety a top priority. There are hundreds of bicyclist-motorist crashes that occur in our City every year including twelve fatal crashes in the last decade. These collisions occur primarily at major intersections because either the motorist doesn’t see or yield to the bicyclist or the bicyclist isn’t riding in a predictable manner. Any further development of bikeways should attempt to separate motor and bicycle traffic and avoid the most common causes of crashes.

7. Do you support expanding transit service by adding rapid bus routes?

Hill: I support expanding transit service by adding rapid bus routes.

Springer: I support new or improved rapid bus routes in selected corridors, but prefer rail transit as the long-term solution. I do not support a rapid bus route in the Midtown Greenway. I support rail transit in the Midtown Greenway if it is done in a way that does not degrade the trail user’s experience or safety. More specifically, the rails should be surrounded by turf to keep the Greenway green, and bike lane widths and trail user escape routes should not be decreased. A greenway rail transit line would be a critical link in our planned regional rail transit system, allowing people to move about the metro area quickly without cars. I believe such a line would spur far more development along the Midtown Greenway/Lake Street corridor, bringing more disposable income to support businesses and services in Ward 9. I also support improving travel times for buses on Lake Street such as reconfiguring stop locations, fare collection systems, traffic signal pre-emption, and other measures. However, I would not use the term “rapid” because the buses on Lake Street would be sharing lanes with cars and therefore would not travel faster than traffic.

Curtis: Public transportation is a vital public service. I, myself, ride the bus for work every day. Public transportation should be accessible, affordable, and convenient. The metro area’s first bus-rapid transit (BRT) line on Cedar Avenue is not in use yet. Before I would support the expansion of such services I would have to see how it works. I can’t judge it until it has been in operation. It seems like a potentially good idea and I’ll be interested to see the current projects results.

8. Should Minneapolis Animal Care & Control be reformed to follow a no-kill shelter model?

Hill: My dog was a rescue. I am thankful to have been his human for 14 years. I support reforming the Minneapolis Animal Care and Control to a no-kill shelter model.

Springer: I am a dog lover and my dogs have all been rescue dogs and have all been spayed or neutered. I do not like the idea of putting down healthy animals. While in college, I interned at an animal shelter in Montana that had to euthanize many dogs and cats because the number of pets coming in the door was far greater than the number that could be adopted or otherwise harbored. It was heartbreaking given that the animals lost their lives through no fault of their own. That said, before offering an opinion, I need to understand the feasibility of a no-kill policy and the resources required for it. Could it be something phased in over time with the first phase including more resources for spaying and neutering? I look forward to being educated on this issue.

Curtis: I support a no-kill policy because animals deserve it and alternatives to killing exist. Adopting a no-kill policy is also consistent with our shelter’s public safety mandate. Through partnerships with private non-profit rescue organizations, returning strays to their families, comprehensive adoption programs, public involvement, and medical and behavioral treatment we can improve our City’s services and save animals.

A no-kill policy can also be implemented in a cost-effective way. Impounding, warehousing, killing, and disposing of animals is an entirely revenue negative activity. In contrast, a no-kill policy through its reliance on private philanthropy, adoption revenue, other fees, and through the subsequent spending on animals by their adopters not only accomplishes the goal of saving animals but can also generates revenue and supports local business.

There are two exceptions to this policy. The first exception is where an animal is hopelessly ill or injured and in need of relief to stop their incurable suffering. The second exception is where a dangerous or vicious animal has little or no prognosis for rehabilitation and poses a danger to the community. Minneapolis Animal Care & Control and the Police Department should be able to investigate reports of such dangers as they can indicate underlying criminal behavior such as gang activity, dog fighting, drug trafficking, or domestic violence. I support the aggressive prosecution and punishment of those who make animals dangerous or vicious through abuse, neglect, and torture. Such cruelty should not be tolerated in our City.

More Information:

  • Minneapolis was recently redistricted. Check out the City of Minneapolis maps to find your ward.
  • DFL Caucuses are happening April 16th. To participate, you need to be registered with the DFL party. Find your caucus location.

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Rebekah Peterson's picture
Rebekah Peterson