Minneapolis mayoral candidates answer questions


Updated March 28, 2013 at 6 p.m. in order to include Betsy Hodges’ responses. 

The race for mayor is on, with three city council members, a former city council member, a former Hennepin Count board member and an entrepreneur (the one Republican in the mix, who notes that he is pro-gay marriage and an advocate for wind energy) all vying for Rybak’s soon-to -e vacated seat. We sent questions to all the candidates, and invite you to send your questions, too. (We’ll pass these along and ask candidates to answer.) Keep reading for their answers to our first round of questions.

Significant dates in the race:

March 27 — DFL candidate debate at the Humphrey School, Cowles Auditorium from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, moderated by Humphrey School professor Larry Jacobs.

April 3 — Candidate debate moderated by the Minneapolis League of Women Voters from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Solomon’s Corner, 100 W 46th St.

April 16 — DFL caucuses

What will be your top priorities as mayor?

Gary Schiff:

Jobs—I believe Minneapolis can be the city that creates a local sustainable economy. As mayor, I will work with labor unions, businesses, non-profits and educators to strengthen job training programs so city residents can get the skills they need to compete for jobs on city projects. I’ll set a goal to fill 25% of jobs on city projects with well-trained Minneapolis residents.

Small Businesses— I believe corporate welfare is an inefficient way to create jobs. As mayor, I would get rid of rules that don’t make sense and simplify regulations on small businesses, helping the local economy to take off. I also believe that the city government should encourage entrepreneurs: I would simplify regulations so small businesses can succeed.

Kids—I believe an investment in our kids brings the best return. As mayor, I’d fight for the resources we need to close the achievement gap so that every child in Minneapolis has access to a quality, affordable education. I’ll work with the schools and Hennepin County to create a five-year plan to reduce youth poverty and youth violence in Minneapolis, with measurable goals and transparency.

Cam Winton:

1) Deliver essential services effectively: police, fire, road paving, and road clearing.

2) Make it easier for businesses to start and grow in Minneapolis — so that there are enough jobs for our citizens.

3) Ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to thrive. Right now, too many don’t — and this is a moral failing. I’d achieve this goal through implementation of priorities #1 & #2, plus advocating for changes to the school system that put the interests of students first.

Jackie Cherryhomes:

My top three priorities are insuring that property taxes are fair, equitable and provide for excellent quality services to Minneapolis residents; making sure Minneapolis is a safe and secure city; building a strong economy with strong neighborhood and downtown commercial districts and jobs for our residents.

Mark Andrew:

1.) Make Minneapolis the greenest city in North America;

2.) Care for every one of our city’s children by ensuring they are educated and trained for tomorrow’s jobs

3.) Foster an environment for businesses throughout the city to thrive and create jobs.

Candidates in the race (alphabetically): Mark Andrew, Jackie Cherryhomes, Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels, Gary Schiff, Cam Winton

By press time, we had not yet received answers to questions from Betsy Hodges. Those answers will be added when they are received.

Don Samuels: 

As mayor, I will work to keep our streets safe, by focusing  on data-driven, “smart on crime” solutions, that will not only more effectively catch criminals, but also help to stop crime before it even happens.  I will focus on economic development that makes Minneapolis a more desirable place to do business and bring family-supporting jobs into the city.  I will also work to make sure that every child has access to a quality education that prepares them for college or the workforce as they choose.  I believe these three priorities are inextricably linked, and must be tackled together to see real progress.  We know, for example, that a child in school, or an adult with a job is dramatically less likely to turn to crime and that an public safety and an educated workforce are good for business.  That is the focus I will bring with me to City Hall.

Betsy Hodges: 

As mayor, I will work with everyone to unify this city, its people and its neighborhoods. That is job one. We will unify as a city to create jobs in all neighborhoods so people can work where they live – and shop where they live and play where they live. We will unify the city through a more equitable transportation system that uses streetcars attached to light rail and bus lines allowing people to get from one corner of the city to the other safely, quickly, greenly and cheaply. We will stabilize homeownership for families, create fair wage jobs so parents do not have to work seven days a week to make ends meet, and we will work to ensure our children are safe and have an environment where they are thriving.

2. What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Gary Schiff:

I’m the most progressive of all the candidates in the race. For the last twelve years I’ve represented a ward that is 50% people of color and predominantly working-class. I have a plan to grow jobs, reduce homelessness, and invest in our infrastructure. My record on the Minneapolis City Council clearly demonstrates my commitment to commonsense solutions to make life better for the people of Minneapolis. I’ve been a leader in affordable housing creation, job development, support for small businesses, advocacy for low-income families, and public transit.

Cam Winton:

I am the only candidate not coming from a background in government.

My co-workers and I built a wind-turbine maintenance company that services wind turbines across the country and around the world. We sold ourselves to the largest utility in the country a few months ago in a way that preserved the jobs of all 120 employees and enabled all 120 employees to share in the benefits of the sale.

As mayor, I’d draw on that experience to provide essential services effectively and make it easier for people to start and grow companies in Minneapolis, which will create more jobs.

Jackie Cherryhomes:

I have a set of skills and life experiences that clearly differentiate me from the other candidates.

I am the only candidate who has broad city-wide experience; having lived and worked in neighborhoods throughout south, southeast, north and northeast Minneapolis. Throughout my life, as an involved citizen and an elected official, I have brought people together to solve difficult problems.

I have successfully run my own business and worked with the business community throughout Minneapolis. I have built and managed affordable housing. I have created jobs. I have worked to make our neighborhoods safer. As Council President, I have run the City of Minneapolis.

My experiences as a community organizer, business owner and former Council President give me the ability to hit the ground running as Mayor.

Mark Andrew: 

The other candidates are fine people and I would even call them friends. What I have more than they do are three main things: First, experience in both elected office (five terms on the Hennepin County Board, many of those as Chair) AND in the private sector (as Founder and President of GreenMark); second, a bold vision for the City of Minneapolis and how to make it work for everyone (with a track record of proposing bold ideas and then building the coalition to make it happen; and third, a collaborative leadership style that has given me a unique ability to work with elected officials across all levels of government to solve problems and build a great city. Collaboration is a key quality for a modern mayor. We have to bring together all government entities, business, labor and faith to overcome the obstacles we face as a city right now.

My bold vision with a track record for getting things done includes bringing forward recycling and domestic partnership benefits for Hennepin County, I worked to make sure Target Field is the greenest stadium in the world, and I also brought forward the plan and built the coalition which made the Midtown Greenway happen. I will bring this vision, passion and know how to City Hall to make Minneapolis greater for everyone.

Don Samuels: 

I believe my record of leadership on tough issues makes me the best choice for mayor.  Long before being elected to the Council, I moved into the most troubled neighborhood in the city to help organize people against the violence that was running rampant.  I organized vigils for the victims of these crimes to galvanize neighbors and shed light on the problem where previously there had been none, and co-founded the Peace Foundation, which became the Northside Achievement Zone, to keep kids off the streets and build strong
neighborhoods.  When countless others told me there was nothing that could be done, I put myself in the middle of pessimism and danger to help the community find a way out.  I have brought that same passion for getting things done, with me, every day in my role as Council member. I will be that kind of mayor.

Betsy Hodges: 

For over fifteen years I have talked to folks in Minneapolis about their biggest dreams for them, their families and this city. I am proud of my work to make Minneapolis a great city. I have the leadership to bring people, neighborhoods, allies and investors together around a great vision for this city and the experience to make it happen for all people and neighborhoods.


3. How will your mayorship be different than your predecessor?

Gary Schiff:

Twelve years ago I came into office with Mayor Rybak. With balanced budgets and fiscal discipline, we have restored the city’ s AAA bond rating and laid a stable foundation for the city’s financial future. I am proud to be part of these successes. My administration will be different because the challenges we face today are different. Job training for city residents, cutting red tape for small businesses, finishing the light rail system, building a street car network, and senior housing challenges all await the next mayor. I look forward to continuing to build on this city’s rich heritage, working together with community leaders and government officials in order to make our neighborhoods, our schools, our parks, our city even better. The diverse cultures and resources that make up Minneapolis are its strength, and as mayor I would focus on using that strength for the benefit of all residents. I would step into the job with twelve years of progressive leadership on the Minneapolis City Council and an ability to bring people together to make our neighborhoods stronger.

Cam Winton:

As mayor, I will build on Mayor Rybak’s great work — while bringing a fresh set of eyes to the challenges we face.

Too often right now, the City Council prioritizes bells & whistles over the basic functions of city government. I will restore a sense of balance.

As one example: the property crime rate is rising and we only solve 30 percent of burglaries. A city the size of Minneapolis should have 975 cops. We only have 850. So, as one part of the solution to crime, we need more police officers on the street — and as mayor, I’ll put them there.

As another example: our roads are crumbling and we are far behind the necessary pace of re-paving. We need to spend more money on road re-paving. As mayor, I’ll do so.

I’ll pay for these priorities by drawing on my private-sector background to reduce spending on non-priorities and to increase the efficiency of government operations.

Also, I will take greater steps to ensure that our school system is putting the needs of students first, including by advocating for the mayor to have four direct appointees on the school board.

Jackie Cherryhomes:

Rybak has done an excellent job of solving the pension problem, putting Minneapolis on firm financial footing and focusing on youth employment through the Step-Up Program. I am a different person, with a different personality and some differing priorities.

The Cherryhomes administration would build on some of the work of the Rybak administration, but would certainly not be Rybak 2.0. There will be differences in both style and substance.

I will reach into the private sector and community to identify individuals to serve in my administration. My administration will reflect the diverse communities in Minneapolis.

I will continue the Rybak focus on public safety, but with new initiatives and stronger community connections between the police and residents.

I will focus on building a strong economy, both in our neighborhoods and downtown and jobs for those communities where unemployment is a critical issue.

I will provide more opportunity for residents and businesses to share their opinions with City Hall and forge the initiatives I am engaged in. We have become too “top-down”; I am a grassroots person and my administration will reflect that focus.

I am known as someone who “connects the dots”, follows through and gets the job done. That is how I will approach any issue facing the city. I am also one who is known as a good listener, a collaborator and one who brings people together. A focus of my administration will be to build partnerships throughout our City and collaborate to solve problems.

Mark Andrew:

I think Minneapolis is great, but I want to make sure it is great for everyone. I think RT did a great job and was a champion for our community. I want to build on his green initiatives, but I want to go further and make sure we are the greenest city in North America. Not just because it is good for the environment, but also because it is the only way we can build and sustain future growth.

Don Fraser and I worked together to create the Youth Coordinating Board (YCB). I want to turbo-charge the YCB and other programs that can help our children and close our opportunity gap.

Don Samuels: 

RT has set a high bar for performance as mayor. I look forward to building on his accomplishments. I will focus more on education by nurturing a mutually supportive and accountable relationship with the Minneapolis Public Schools, driven by objective data. I will have an ongoing conversation with the parents of our students about their role in school readiness, their relationship with their child’s school and how to create a winning student. 
We are an increasingly diverse community. I will help lead our citizens into productive conversations about our common interests. We will achieve new levels of mutuality across class, race and geography for the common good. I will lead the  work to make us one city with compatible goals and shared prosperity.

Betsy Hodges: 

The past several years, the city has had to weather this recession and we have weathered it well. We are in better financial shape than nearly any city in the Midwest and I am proud of my role as the City Council Ways and Means chair in protecting the city’s finances. That said, we are poised to emerge from the recession with great opportunity. We will have the resources to invest in people, programs and infrastructure. This is not an opportunity Mayor Rybak was afforded and I look forward to growing neighborhoods, creating jobs, investing in children and making Minneapolis the great city of the 21st Century.

Related article: 

Who won the first DFL mayoral debate in Minneapolis?